4WD rental cars allowed off-road in Hawaii or on Saddle Road on the Big Island?
I need 4WD? | Can I drive on Saddle Road? |
to get to Mauna Kea Observatory
Policies | Saddle Road Cautions |
Insurance Coverage |
Breakdowns | Alternate Route
March 18, 2013
Update - November 15, 2012:
Enterprise says Okay!
In one of the online travel forums, it was stated that someone checked with Enterprise over the phone and was told it was NOT okay to travel on Saddle Road or it will "invalidate the contract..." I, Steve Parquet, owner of this website, checked directly with my Enterprise corporate rep again and TODAY, Nov 15, 2012, he said in an email to me,
"Customers are allowed to go on the paved portion of Saddle Road and up to the Visitors center. The information you have is current and everyone locally has been told
I need 4 wheel drive in Hawaii?
wheel drive on a car rental is not necessary on any of the
Hawaiian Islands. This is because the
car rental companies DO NOT
allow any of their cars to
be taken off the pavement, even if they are
4-wheel drive (4WD). Going onto any unpaved area in
Hawaii is a car rental contract violation. So as long as
you stay on the paved portion youíre fine.
I drive my rental car on Saddle Road?
I have been advised by Avis,
Budget, Dollar, Thrifty and Enterprise that it is now okay to take
their rental cars on Saddle Road. Saddle
Road, which is State Route 200 on the Big Island, is now completely paved from the Kona
side all the way to the Hilo side of the Big Island. It takes
approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes to travel Saddle Road
between the Hilo and Kailua Kona sides of the Big Island.
Please take note of Saddle
The Mauna Kea Observatory Access
This road is also
paved between Saddle Road and the Mauna Kea Visitorís Center.
However, beyond the visitor's center and all the way up to the
observatory, it is not paved. It can be very dangerous to
travel beyond the visitor's center, especially in foggy
conditions. It is forbidden to take rental cars on this unpaved portion.
How to get
to the Mauna Kea
you want to go all the way up to the Mauna Kea Observatory,
you will need to find a commercial tour company or a car
rental company in Hilo to rent you a 4WD and that also allows
their vehicles on this unpaved portion. But be advised that
this section can be treacherous, especially in inclement weather.
Mauna Kea is a 14,000 mountain and you can also get altitude
rental company policies for the Mauna Kea Observatory Access
Road to the Visitor Center:
Please be advised of these possible road conditions and challenges:
There are no street lights.
There are no services whatsoever; no gas, no food, nothing. It's a country road.
Repair and construction:
The older paved section of Saddle Road can be hazardous because of rough pavement and possible potholes.†
Feral critters like goats, cattle, turkeys and pigs wandering on the road, day and night.
Visibility can be poor due to weather conditions; heavy rain, flooding, fog with zero visibility.
Little to no cell phone reception.
If you break down, it could be hours before a tow truck arrives to help.
vehicles cross, enter and leave this road. You may also encounter
slow-moving military convoys.
Does car rental insurance cover me on Saddle Road?
As long as there is no evidence of going off
the pavement, you should be covered. Going off pavement would be considered a contract violation at which time the coverages would be null and void.
if my rental car breaks down on Saddle Road?
If a rental car breaks down, stalls out, quits
running or wonít start on Saddle Road, does the rental car company pay to come and get it?
If the customer purchases roadside assistance protection and there are no contract violations, then yes. But be aware that Saddle Road is in a fairly remote area of the island so it would be hours before anyone
would be able to get to you. If the tow service company that
is called doesn't take the
insurance coverage then the customer may be charged for the tow depending on the situation.
It is suggested that the customer call their own insurance company or auto club for a tow. The Rental locations really try to discourage customers from going this
way because it is dangerous and so far from anything.
Cell phones donít work in most places around there.
there an alternate route to Saddle Road?
you're traveling between Hilo to Kona and you enjoy
beautiful tropical Hawaiian scenery, Saddle Road is not the
way to go. Though it has it's own special scenic beauty, it is quite barren, dry and rocky. It's probably
better to take the north coast highway so you can stop off along the
way in the small towns, botanical gardens and small beach
parks along the way.