Roads in the “rough” will give you insight to the neighborhoods and will help you to experience Puna’s sometimes completely untouched side!
The bus connects only major villages with Hilo once or twice a day, and organized tours will not let you stop whenever you want. So a car is a must in Puna.
So where do you get a car? Hilo Airport car rentals.
Pretty much all of the major car rental companies are offering their services at the airport in Hilo, but we suggest a local company called Harper Car and Truck Rental.
Why? Harper has good cars that are suited to the area and that’s what you need in Puna. You don’t want to get stuck in some upcountry subdivision with some fancy car because you would be wasting your time.
Harper is definitely our #1 of all the Hilo Airport car rentals. And it’s not even at the airport! But they do offer free airport pick-up and drop-off. Plus they have affordable daily, weekly and monthly rates.
The smartest choice for the Puna countryside is definitely a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Not that you need it everywhere, but especially for those people who are checking out properties, they will have more flexibility and less stress with one of those cars.
Another good reason to choose Harper is that they are the only company on the island that allows 4-wheel drive rentals to be driven on Route 200 (Saddle Road) and up to the top of Mauna Kea – elevation: 13,800 feet! So if you are planning a trip there, this is definitely the company you will want to go with.
A word to the wise on car rental reservations in Hilo - always make sure that you plan your trip ahead and to reserve a rental car well in advance. Car shortages can really screw up your plans.
The first time we went to Puna, we learned this the hard way. We had our car rental booked through an online offer from one of our credit cards and for some reason our online reservation didn’t go through. Anyway, we printed out what we thought was a confirmation of our reservation, but found out that there was no reservation for a car.
It was a 3 day weekend, (President’s Day – not a major holiday) and after questioning every car rental company twice, there was only 1 car available in the entire city! It was 3 times the price of what we had reserved and way over our planned budget, but what can you do? We were desperate and grateful to have anything at all. A guy at the airport told us about Harper and so we called them. There was no car available there either, but the rental agent told us to leave her our phone number, so that they could call us as soon as there was a car available. Promptly, the next day they called us and we were lucky, because the 4- wheel drive car we got from them was really a lifesaver.
Over the long weekend we came to see how lucky we were to have gotten a good vehicle as we witnessed groups and families stranded by the side of the road in front of their hotels and B&B’s calling for taxis on their cell phones just so they could go somewhere. That would have been a disaster for the things we had planned and could have ruined our trip. So, we cannot stress enough that you have to be very careful to book in advance and double check via telephone if you are booking online!
Harper is the Hawaii’s leading truck rental company and they offer a variety of models for 4WD SUV’s, passenger cars, vans, motor homes, trucks and buses.
If you would rather check out the rates of other Hilo Airport Car rentals, go toPriceline.com