Having four wheel drive on a car rental is not necessary on any of the Hawaiian Islands. This is because the car rental companies
Yes. I have been advised by Avis, Budget, Dollar, Thrifty and Enterprise that it is 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 Road Cautions.
This road is also paved between Saddle Road and the Mauna Kea Visitor's 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 portion of the road.
Rental cars are not allowed to travel beyond the visitor's center. If 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 sickness.
Saddle Road Driving Restrictions
|On Saddle Road between Hilo and Kona:||Ok||Ok||Ok||Ok||Ok||Ok|
|From Saddle Road to the Visitor's Center:
This road is called the " Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road." It is the paved road that goes between between Saddle Road and the Visitor's Center.
|From the Visitor's Center up to the Observatory:
This road is not paved and can be hazardous in poor weather conditions such as rain, fog, sleet, snow. See Saddle Road Cautions below.
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 a rental car breaks down, stalls out, quits running or won't 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 don't work in most places around there.
If 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.