Mommy Needs A Mai Tai

Last Updated on February 3, 2024 by Florabeth Coble

Baby sitting on a car in Maui, Hawaii.

Do you need a rental car on Maui? I’m a busy mama raising two kids on Maui, and we’ve taken just about every mode of transportation possible. Keep reading to determine if your family actually needs to rent a car while you’re here.

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Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian island, and its landscape is diverse, with five distinct regions to see and explore. I describe each in detail in Maui with Kids: The Ultimate Guide.

Maui is called the Valley Isle because of the jaw-dropping mountains that bookend the east and west sides. It’s possible to guess where you are on the island just by noticing if you’re looking at the West Maui mountains or Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world. 

Maui is also home to the best resorts, some of the best kid-frieindly beaches, and the most famous road in Hawaii, widely known as The Road to Hana.

Do You Need a Rental Car on Maui?

In most cases, yes, I recommend renting a car while visiting Maui. 

But do you really need one? Every family’s vacation will look different, and like most things in life, it depends. 

If you want to explore the island in any capacity, renting a car is worth it. This is especially true if you are staying for a week or less. Maui may be a small island, but there’s a lot to see, and waiting for rides can be expensive and eat up much of your vacation time. In addition, there are parts of the island where you may not have cell service or where ride-sharing may not exist.

Most importantly, a rental car pays for itself if you plan to visit three or more places while visiting Maui.

When You Don’t Need a Rental Car on Maui

If your main attraction is the resort and you don’t plan to leave, you can easily get a ride to and from the airport without a rental car. Most resorts would make you pay a daily parking rate for a vehicle you don’t even plan to use. 

Staying in a popular resort area like Kaanapali, Wailea, or Kihei will provide easy walking access to food and entertainment.

If the only two things you want to see on Maui are sunrise at Haleakala and/or the road to Hana (Maui’s most popular destinations), opt for a tour that offers transportation to and from your hotel.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car on Maui? 

The average cost of a rental car on Maui is around $60/day. However, that can double during peak holiday season, so be sure to book far out in advance and with a reliable company that will do your research for you.

Discount Hawaii Car Rental is my favorite company to book a car with. We like them because they offer reasonable rates, no prepayment, and zero cancellation fee. They also allow an extra driver.

A kid waiting at a bus stop in Maui, Hawaii.

Is There Public Transportation on Maui?

Yes. While public transportation on Maui is somewhat lacking compared to what you may be used to, Maui has Uber, Lyft, and Hawaii’s first locally-owned ride-sharing company, Holoholo

If you are staying on Maui’s west side and hoping to only bop around there, consider looking into the Kaanapali Trolley and/or the Lahaina Cannery Mall Shuttle.

Maui also has numerous taxis and a public bus system. 

My son, Wilder, and I spent a day on the Maui bus recently and he thought it was the most incredible adventure of his life. (This kid’s entire life is an adventure, and I’m pretty sure he considered taking the bus way cooler than seeing daily rainbows or attending school on the side of a volcano.)

A kid requesting a stop on Maui Bus in Hawaii.

“Island time” is a real thing here, but I was surprised at how timely the bus arrived. The entire experience was prompt, clean, and comfortable. Of course, it still took us 35 minutes to reach a destination that would only take 5-10 minutes in our own vehicle.

A one-way bus ticket is $2. Daily and monthly passes are available. Kids 5 and under travel for free. You must have exact cash to deposit into the box. 

If you plan to take the bus to another part of the island, expect to make numerous transfers, most of them in and out of Kahului. There are no transfer tickets available. 

The Maui bus system has 14 routes and runs 7 days a week, including holidays. 

How Do I Get From the Airport to My Hotel Without a Car?

If you are not going to rent a car on Maui, I recommend booking either shared or private transportation through Roberts Hawaii, a great employee-owned, island-wide transportation company. You could also consider a ride-sharing service like Uber, Lyft, or locally-owned Holoholo. Like most airports, it’s relatively easy to grab a taxi to take you to your hotel.

Most airlines allow car seats to be checked for free. A car seat bag with backpack straps can make lugging it to and from your destination much easier.

Is It Easy to Drive Around Maui? 

Yes. While Maui is well known for its jaw-dropping mountains and valleys, the roads are easy to navigate. The only exception to this is the road to Hana

Know that people may drive slower than what you are used to. Many bumper stickers read, “Slow your roll, this ‘ain’t the Mainland!” Try to abide by island time and take your time.

Don’t be surprised if a shaka gets thrown your way to signal you are being let into traffic. Kindness on the road can feel suspicious when you’re used to driving in a city! It took me a long time to shake off my San Francisco “every woman for herself” mentality.

Budget-Friendly Tips For Renting a Car on Maui

•If you’re on a budget, check out reliable car rental sites like Discount Hawaii Car Rental. Other car-sharing options, like Turo, are also available.

•Do your hotel research and find a place with free parking. Most resorts will try to charge you a nightly fee. However, the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea allows you to self-park for free (and valet for $40/night).

•If you’re a member, fill up your tank at Costco. It’s located near the Kahului airport, and gas is almost a dollar cheaper per gallon!

Foot hanging out of a car with ocean in the background in Maui, Hawaii.

Freedom to Vacation in Your Own Way

While I don’t think renting a car on Maui is 100% necessary, I recommend doing so, especially with kids in tow. You never know when you might want to grab some shave ice, hit up a grocery store, or check out a new beach. Having a car allows you to experience your dream vacation on your own timeline. 

Helpful Resources

Maui With Kids: The Ultimate Guide

Flights: Expedia

Cars: Discount Hawaii Car Rental

Baby Gear Rental: Baby Quip

Picture of Aloha, I'm Florabeth Coble

Aloha, I'm Florabeth Coble

Most people call me Flo. I'm a busy mama raising two young boys in Hawaii. We share our adventures, travel tips, itineraries, and honest reviews so that you can plan your own family-friendly trip to Hawaii.