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Big Island The Island of Hawaii
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Old 06-07-2013, 11:39 AM
 
15 posts, read 32,890 times
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I`m visiting the Big Island at the end of July. Is a 4WD rental necessary? Is a standard SUV (e.g. Ford Escape) or car sufficient? I have no intention of driving all the way to the Green Beach, although I do intend to hike/hitch a ride in to see the beach. I'm not a hard-core adventure seeker. What do you suggest?
Thanks!
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Old 06-07-2013, 12:18 PM
 
Location: Volcano
12,969 posts, read 28,443,557 times
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The only places visitors commonly want to see that really require 4WD to get to are Waipiʻo Valley, and Southpoint. It's recommended but not required going up to the observatory on Mauna Kea.

Saddle Road (200) between Kailua-Kona and Hilo is recently widened and resurfaced, and is the only high speed road on the island. The Belt Highway (11 & 19) that rings the island is two-lane blacktop most of the way, with speed limits of 55 and 45 in most places. Main arteries off the Belt, like 130 down to Pohoa and the coast, are similar, as are main feeders off of them in populated areas. But get off the main roads to look at real estate in less populated areas like Mountain View and Fern Forest and you'll encounter gravel roads and potholes.

Unless you plan to get out to back country areas a standard car is fine.
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Old 06-07-2013, 01:29 PM
 
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
5,528 posts, read 12,672,056 times
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Southpoint does not require 4WD. We drive down to the end of the road several times a month in our Chevy HHR. The County has made a lot of improvements to the road surface, altho it is still narrow.

A 4WD is required for anyone foolish enough to try driving to the Green Sand Beach, but OP has already said that he/she intends to walk there.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:22 PM
 
Location: Puna, Hawaii
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With exception of Green Sand beach (which I have done in my Jeep Wrangler... not worth it) the only place that would "require" a 4WD is Waipio Valley.

It is my understanding that rental agencies don't have any 4WD options, all their models that "should" be 4WD are the 2WD or AWD versions. (And since you are not allowed to take a rental car off a road, it makes sense) Only exception I know of would be Harpers.

There are some rough roads like the park just North of the Kona airport where a 4wd would be nice, but not required. Go slow and any minivan can handle it.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:37 PM
 
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While yes, many of the less maintained roads, are doable with a car, I'll bet that not many of us who live here would take our "good car" on those roads. Instead we will be driving our beater car... the car/truck where a few more scratches or dings or knockabouts won't matter. My warning would be that if the OP is thinking of driving on the rougher roads, they take out full car rental insurance. One unlucky dip, one unlucky rock, one unlucky bad scratch, could be costly otherwise. (Overly expensive insurance vs car rental repair fees imposed at the rental return .... the repairs could be wild.)
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:02 PM
 
Location: Ormond Beach, FL
1,615 posts, read 2,142,497 times
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We were on the big island in January for a vacation, and the compact rental car was fine. We went to South Point, Kona and to Kalopa all no problem. We were with my siblings and their spouses 4 rental cars in total, even a nice mustang and no one reported any need for an off road vehicle and some folks went all over.

As mentioned above we could not go down the Waipio Valley road. I think it would be a waste to rent a vehicle that could go down to Waipio Valley as the rest of the time you would be wasting a lot of $4 a gallon gas.
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Old 06-07-2013, 11:01 PM
 
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Much depends on where you will be driving. "Regular" tourist routes will offer a great vacation, doable in a regular car. The wilder roads, especially to more secluded beach areas, are bumpy from the start, so you can kind of figure out quickly that "this road is not OK for my rental car".
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:20 AM
 
Location: Volcano
12,969 posts, read 28,443,557 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredesch View Post
As mentioned above we could not go down the Waipio Valley road. I think it would be a waste to rent a vehicle that could go down to Waipio Valley as the rest of the time you would be wasting a lot of $4 a gallon gas.
Make that $4.35 today, in Hilo, or $4.55 in Kona.
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Old 06-08-2013, 08:45 AM
 
Location: Hilo, Big Island (Waiakea-Uka)
189 posts, read 282,945 times
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Maybe it's just me but that walk down into Waipi'o valley is one of my most favorite childhood memories. Have done it in a vehicle but nowhere near as amazing.

...now, that walk back up...

as we say 'okolemaluna, e hele aku kaua!'
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:26 PM
 
1,730 posts, read 3,811,154 times
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Waipio Valley can be scene by horseback, and they provide the auto transportation into and out of the valley. I've used this company, Naalapa Stables, and it was totally fun and beautiful.
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