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Old October 24, 2007, 10:59 PM   #1
Carol C
 
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Question Big Island/Rental of Jeep or 4WD?

My friends want to go to the green sand beach on the Big Island. It sounds like it's pretty remote and a fair walk from where one would park...and one must have a 4 wheel drive vehicle to even get into that area. Is this the case? Have any TUGgers done this trip? Where is the best place to rent a road-worthy vehicle for such an adventure when staying at a t/s resort in Kona? Mahalo!
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Old October 25, 2007, 12:10 AM   #2
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We have not gone to the green sand beach. But our trip last summer took us by the green sand parking lot, on the way to South Point. The road becomes one lane, unpaved, but is much better than it sounds. We had a standard economy rental car and made it to South Point with no problems. But it was dry. It might be different if the road was muddy.-Also, as a side note, South Point is not that exciting. We went just to say we had been there, and that is about all there is to the drive. IMHO
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Old October 25, 2007, 12:38 AM   #3
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While a 4WD is fun, it isn't really necessary, and it will cost you close to twice the cost of a standard size car. So I guess it all comes down to how important it is to you to get off-road. I know that Tuggers DavenTrina always rent a jeep and have a heck of a good time. They even drove themselves down into Waipi'o Valley!
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Old October 25, 2007, 09:07 AM   #4
Werner
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I wouldn't spend all that extra money for a 4WD just to do Green Sand Beach. You can get to South Point and a bit beyond in a sedan. We went to the parking area (beyond the South Point parking area) and and many people were walking to the beach.

I agree with "jlr10" that the South Point area is not that interesting. Since it is on the way from the Volcano its worth the diversion off the main road (about 1/2 hour each way) to go there but the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach is much more interesting and you are likely to see turtles on the beach.

You will, however need a 4WD, if you plan to get to the top of Mauna Kea.
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Old October 25, 2007, 11:18 AM   #5
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I was thinking of a Jeep 4WD for our upcoming trip this spring, until I started reading the Trip Advisor Big Island Forums.

There are lots of areas that are not allowed by the rental car companies and they are not covered by insurance if you do rent a 4WD. As I remember from the forums, most of the areas that are off the beaten path are NOT covered. So if you do get to one of these sites and have a problem, you may have an even bigger $$$ problem.

There are stories over on Trip Advisor of people renting a 4WD, getting it stuck or having a problem and then getting back to the rental office facing a very large car payment (thousands of $ as I remember).

I suggest you go over to Trip Advisor and either ask there as well or read the forums, they are very good.
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Old October 25, 2007, 12:44 PM   #6
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Anyone who drives a 4-wheel drive vehicle, either at home or on vacation, must accept the risk of damage to the vehicle. If you rip out the exhaust on your own SUV at home you're going to have to pay for it, likewise on vacation. This should not be a show stopper, just know your risks and costs. We taken rental SUVs through deep sand in the southwest and down Mohihi road on Kauai. In each place the ranger told us that getting stuck would cost us $500 to get out. We knew the risk and took the chance.

Once on ourr first trip to Maui about 12 years ago we did get stuck in the sand below the high water mark. A hiking group came along and about 8 of us lifted the small 4 wheel drive out of the rut.
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Old October 25, 2007, 02:41 PM   #7
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Another point - if you are not an experienced 4-wheeler, just renting a 4WD is not enought to make you a competant off-road driver.

A couple of years ago, on Kauai, we were way out at Polihale Beach which is 10 miles from no-where, when we saw a middle-age, overweight couple, drive out on the beach and down to the waterline in their rented 4WD. My husband and I both thought, Uh oh! When they wanted to leave the wife got behind the wheel and promptly buried the wheels clear up to the undercarriage in the sand! Not only that, but the tide was coming in and they were just a few feet from the edge of the water. They got lucky, a local guy with a big 4WD with high clearance came and pulled them out. They immediately buried their vehicle up to the undercarriage AGAIN! Fortunately, the local guy was still there and this time after he pulled them out, he drove their car to higher ground and onto firm ground for them. Then, ironically, these two out-of-shape people could barely walk the 500 yards to their car! In other words, in every possible way, these two were unfit for 4-wheeling!
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Old October 25, 2007, 03:58 PM   #8
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In other words, in every possible way, these two were unfit for 4-wheeling!
Reminds me of a traffic accident I saw in Norfolk, VA in the early 70s. A freak snowfall dumped several inches of snow on the city, and roads were a mess. I was walking to a neighborhood grocery store, and had to cross a major street. The stoplight had changed green for me to walk, and as I was ready to step off the curb, I saw a sedan slipping and sliding its way through the red light at the intersection, with a wide-eyed older woman behind the wheel. She missed me, but her car collided at slow speed into a few cars waiting to go in the opposite direction. Nobody was injured, but the police were called anyway.

I stuck around in case they wanted a witness for the police report. And I can still remember the defiant look of shock and disbelief on the face and in the voice of the poor older woman, who kept repeating, "But I STEPPED on my brakes!" She had no clue as to why her car didn't stop when she told it to.

Denise, your 4WD story of the couple on the beach is so true. People get behind the wheel of a car like that, and think they can do anything. Same with fast cars - driving a Porsche or Ferrari doesn't make someone a race car driver.

Carol, skip the 4WD unless you really need it. Any rental sedan will get you close enough to the Green Sand Beach to make it fun. And be sure to check out the wind farm on the way down to South Point. It's kind of creepy, in an "otherworldly" sort of way. Made me think of all those weird 50s sci-fi movies I saw as a kid.

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Old October 25, 2007, 07:22 PM   #9
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A Long Ways

I walked it with my girlfriend and her female friend almost 2 years ago. Her friend dropped out after a while due to a bad knee and my girlfriend quit also after walking a long way. I went on and kind of jogged to hurry up so they did not have to wait long and it was still quite a ways. I got to the rim, took some pictures and went back since it looked like the sun would go down in about an hour or two. The rim was rocky and I did not see an easy way to go down except to climb down carefully. There might be an easy way but I was not going to chance it and I had no time. So unfortunately I turned around and hurried back. Would I recommend it? Only if you really want to see it and go to the bottom to the beach. Leave before noon from the parking lot or don't go at all. The walk has sand a lot of the way and it is not flat; sometimes the ground is very uneven too. So, a pain in the rear and quite a ways to walk . . . and back too. I also worried about the rental car in the parking lot but it was fine when we returned . . . good luck!
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Old October 25, 2007, 08:23 PM   #10
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Denise(or anyone), How about on Kauai? Did you need a 4 wd to get to Polihale Beach? Also would it be beneficial for the grand canyon of the Pacific or anywhere else on Kauai? I asked because I have already reserved a Jeep for Feb and it isn't too late to change. Thanks, Tombo
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Old October 25, 2007, 09:35 PM   #11
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I bought a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon as my 4th car last year and I love it, even thought I only drive it about 2,000 miles per year (mainly off-road). It has a soft top and 1/2 doors and every option in the book. I developed a LOVE of Jeeps after I rented on in Cayman and took it off-roading. This is one of the BEST cars made in the USA. I did not like all the changes with the 2007 model and felt the 2006 would be a classic.
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Old October 25, 2007, 10:51 PM   #12
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Denise(or anyone), How about on Kauai? Did you need a 4 wd to get to Polihale Beach? Also would it be beneficial for the grand canyon of the Pacific or anywhere else on Kauai? I asked because I have already reserved a Jeep for Feb and it isn't too late to change. Thanks, Tombo
Nope - you don't need a 4WD for Polihale or Waimea Canyon. We did both in a midsize. The last few miles of road to Polihale are dirt roads, but they aren't steep or rough enough to require 4WD. Wiamea Canyon is a good road but steep and winding. Drivers who are inexperienced with mountain roads sometimes burn their brakes out, coming down, but 4WD won't help with that!

Here is a picture of the road into Polihale Beach and the people stuck in the sand!
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Old October 26, 2007, 05:20 AM   #13
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4-wheeling on Kauai

If you want to drive the extra 1 1/2 miles to the top of the canyon trail, or the ditch trail, or down the 5 miles of the Mohihi road to the beginning of the Alakai Swamp trail and the Kohua ridge trail, all of which are at the very top of the list of wonderful trails on Kauai, or if you want to go through the back muddy roads towards the base of Waialeale, you will most surely need a 4-wheel. If the road to Polihale is muddy you will also need it.

Other than the above a normal car will do it.
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Old October 26, 2007, 07:41 AM   #14
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....and they are not covered by insurance if you do rent a 4WD.
You need to read your credit card agreement carefully to see what is or is not covered. We have one card that did not exclude 4WD and one that did. We are careful which card is used for car rentals. Also check any updates you get to the card's agreement as the conditions change, especially if the card is changing the bank that is backing the card.

The latest update for the card that excluded 4WD vehicles now states "Excluded rental vehicles: All trucks, pickups, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, campers, off-road vehicles, and other recreational vehicles. ......." Since most Jeeps can be "family cars" (along with many other vehicles that simply have 4WD or all-wheel drive) and can also be used "off-road" but are not specifically only off-road, does this card now cover 4WD?
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Old October 29, 2007, 03:11 PM   #15
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Cool

Thanks for all your postings, especially the depictions of tourists stuck in sand and whatnot. The play-by-play was just too funny...and no I do not want to follow in their footsteps and do anything that foolish. I really appreciate all the tips, since it's been many years since I've gone to islands where many of you are "regulars". What a great group you are...a big mahalo to all who took the time to respond!
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Old October 30, 2007, 10:04 AM   #16
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I agree that for Kauai 4WD is needed primarly when roads are wet with deep muddy puddles. When they are dry they are just as deep but more easily passable. On the mountain it could rain at any time so I would be leery of taking a sedan in there and getting stranded by a sudden torrential rain (they are all torrential rains on the mountain). Polihale can even get impassible for most low clearance "crossover" SUV's if the recent rain has been hard and long. We got almost to the end one year keeping at least one wheel on the high side of the puddles but a few hundred feet passed the Monkeypod tree the "puddle" stretched from the dunes on one side of the car into the fields on the other side. There was no way to tell how deep it was and no way to keep a wheel dry so we gave up. When we passed that spot again this summer it was clear that the jeep, with its high clearance, would have made it without flooding the engine but we didn't know that then.

A 4WD doesn't make you invincible. Many off-roaders who drive on beaches, reduce their tire pressure to 15 lbs or so to get more tire surface on the sand. They carry 12V portable compressors to refill the tires when they hit pavement. The hapless tourist sees all the cars and trucks driving on the sand and just heads on out there thinking that the magic of 4WD will save them. Don't do it.
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Old October 30, 2007, 06:55 PM   #17
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I have NEVER seen anything other than an suv, 4wd pickup or jeep on the Mohihi road and I go there every year, likewise for the dirt roads behind the aboreatum on the east side. Some years the ruts and wash aways are 3 feet deep on Mohihi. There is a long uphill over volcanic soil to get out that turns to grease in rain. DON'T take a regular car back there. If you want rent a jeep for a day!
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