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We Rented an RV Camper in Hawaii. Here’s What We Learned

We Rented an RV Camper in Hawaii. Here’s What We Learned

Many RVers want to be able to say they’ve RVed in every state, but it’s not quite that simple. When it comes to RVing in Hawaii, you may need to plan a bit more carefully to check that box. We took the plunge on an RV camper van rental in Hawaii and learned a lot.

Today, we’re sharing some of our learnings, so you know what to expect when renting a camper in the Aloha State.

Beachside camping in Hawaii
When renting an RV in Hawaii, you’ll mostly be limited to smaller RVs or SUVs with rooftop tents.

Does Hawaii Have RV Rentals?

Yes, Hawaii does have RV rentals, although they may not be what you’d expect. Across most of the country, it’s fairly easy to rent just about any size or type of RV. RV options in Hawaii are much more limited because of the very nature of the state. You’ll be driving around an island with roads that are among the worst maintained in the country. There are also restrictive vehicle camping laws to navigate.

Which Types of RVs Can You Rent in Hawaii?

If you’re used to traveling in a Class A or Class C motorhome or pulling a fifth wheel behind a dually truck, tone down your expectations. Larger options are rare, if not impossible, to find. Instead, reset your focus on exploring van life. The vast majority of RV rentals in Hawaii are camper vans. Overland rigs with rooftop tents are also becoming quite popular.

How Much Do RV Rentals Cost in Hawaii?

Camper van rentals in Hawaii include anything from quaint VW Westfalia vans to newer Sprinters. They also range in quality. Some are shiny and new, while others are decrepit and falling apart.

➡ Sprinters likely won’t be your cheapest option for renting or even buying a travel van. Learn why here: Why Are Sprinter Camper Vans So Expensive?

interior of camper van rental in Hawaii
Depending on demand and availability, prices for RV and van rentals will vary.

There’s also a wide range of costs when it comes to Hawaii’s RV rental options. We found they range from as low as $99 per night to upwards of $299 per night. The largest segment of rentals falls in the $150 to $200 per night category. Price isn’t always synonymous with quality, however, so do your research.

You’ll find some popular local rental companies, a few North American or global rental companies, as well as private parties that offer RVs for rent in Hawaii. Let’s take a look.

Airbnb

You might be surprised to learn that Airbnb is an option for camper van rentals in Hawaii. The company is a go-to resource for unique travel opportunities. Camping in an RV or van is one of its latest offerings. One of the best things about Airbnb is that it has a robust rating and review system, which helps with peace of mind.

Did You Know? You can Airbnb an RV rental just about anywhere across the United States.

Camper van rental in Hawaii
Vans allow you to camp and travel in areas you wouldn’t be able to in a larger RV.

Outdoorsy

If you’ve ever rented an RV before, you’re probably familiar with Outdoorsy. Many RVers call this company the Airbnb of RVs. It’s similar to Airbnb, with a robust website and app that makes searching easy and provides many user reviews and ratings. The biggest difference with Outdoorsy is that the company specializes in RV and camper van rentals.

RVshare

RVshare is the original peer-to-peer RV rental network. Started in 2012, RVshare has stood the test of time as a reliable source of RV rentals. Like Airbnb and Outdoorsy, RVshare makes it easy to zero in on exactly what you’re looking for with loads of information about the owner, the vehicle’s amenities, rates, availability, and add-ons such as insurance.

Local Rental Companies

There are also several popular local RV rental companies in Hawaii. Remember that eight main islands comprise Hawaii, so be sure that whomever you’re contacting is on the island you want to visit.

Maui Camper Rentals

Campervan Hawaii is one of the larger outfits, with operations on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. It has options ranging from traditional camper vans to raised roof pop-ups, including Jeeps.

Hawaii Surf Campers is a small company located on the North Shore of Oahu that tries to deliver a true taste of van life. Its fleet ranges from vintage ‘70s campers to an in-house-built conversion van and a few choices in between.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, Huakai Campers is popular, though it doesn’t offer camper vans. It primarily offers truck bed tents and rooftop tents. One of the best things about this option is that many of the vehicles are trucks, Jeeps, or SUVs that can make it easier to get to almost anywhere you want to go on the island.

Cait working in our Hawaii camper van rental
Van conversions are a popular RV rental option in Hawaii.

Maui Camper and Van Rentals is a great choice on Maui. It has old-school Westfalia vans, as well as newer camper vans and even a Honda Pilot. Its mission is to allow you to be a traveler in Hawaii, not a tourist.

Our Choice: Class B Camper Van Rental via Airbnb

When you want to go small, a Class B RV is the way to go. Most Class B RVs sit on van chassis and measure between 18 to 24 ft. This is why people commonly call them camper vans.

RV rental in Hawaii
We rented a Chevy 2500 Express camper van from Airbnb.

Their nimble size and amenities, which often include a bed, kitchenette, and sometimes even a toilet, make them perfect for people who are less experienced with RVs. They’re also great for places like Hawaii, where larger rigs simply aren’t an option. Our rental was a Chevy 2500 Express camper van, which we found on Airbnb, and it served our needs perfectly.

What We Learned from Our Hawaii RV Camper Van Rental

We wanted to explore the island of Oahu for a few days and decided a camper van would be a good option. This was our first time trying out van life. Renting allowed us to live the experience without committing to it. Here’s what we learned on that trip.

Camper Van Rentals Allow You to Try Van Life

Like us, you might be new to van life and just want to give it a go. Renting a camper van is a fantastic way to try the van life on for size. Some people need the space of a full-sized rig, but until you experiment with downsizing to a camper van, you might not realize how well it suits you.

Camper vans have the luxury of not needing a tow vehicle. They can serve as your main mode of transportation, and usually fit in conventional parking spots. 

Ocean view out the back of our camper van rental
While the van itself was pretty average, the views out the back were spectacular!

Waking Up to Ocean Views Is Spectacular…But You Might Need a Permit

Hawaii has its limitations, particularly when it comes to RVing. State, county, and local laws prohibit camping inside any vehicle in most parks, public places, and even many campgrounds. Most state and local parks require visitors to sleep in a tent, even if your vehicle is an RV or camper van.

➡ Sleeping in a vehicle in pulic areas where camping is prohibited is called stealth camping. Explore your alternatives here: Is Stealth Camping Illegal?

Locations that allow camping in a vehicle typically require a permit, usually around $3 to $5. But these locations are limited. In addition to state and local parks and campgrounds, there are a few other options, including private campgrounds and private property. Always get permission before camping on private property, though.

Hawaii Camper Van Rentals Are Great for Short Excursions

With the restrictions on camping in vehicles in Hawaii, camper vans aren’t really a great option for long-term travel. But for short-term travel, they can still be a tremendous way to experience Hawaii. A long weekend or even several days of driving across Oahu, Maui, or the Big Island is still a rather easy feat to accomplish. 

Chevy 2500 Express camper van rental in Hawaii
Our camper van rental was a good option for our short adventure around Oahu.

Not All RV Rentals in Hawaii Are Created Equal

There aren’t a lot of large camper van rental companies in Hawaii. Many of the local companies are small outfits with only a handful of vehicles. There are also individuals renting out camper vans directly. So do as much research as you can on what you’re renting and who you’re renting it from.

We might have made a different choice if we knew we were getting an older van that had not been well maintained. It was falling apart in places, and we even found cockroaches.

Most renters have websites or use one of the services like Airbnb, Outdoorsy, or RVshare. Don’t simply look at the photos. Check out the ratings and read the reviews. If there’s anything in your research that you’re unsure of, ask questions. If you can’t ask questions or don’t get a timely response, move on.

Van Life Isn’t Always as Glamorous as It Looks on Instagram

There are lots of little not-so-glamorous things that come with van life. You still have to stop for fuel. Tires go flat. Dragging sand in from the beach and having to clean it is a real struggle. You’ll have to dump that convenient portable toilet at some point.

Rae and Cait hanging out in camper van
We met up with Rae and Jason of Getaway Couple in Hawaii and invited them to check out our rental van. Heres the Glam Shot!

But don’t let that dissuade you from camper van travel. Although those glamorous Instagram shots are rarely representative of real life, you can have some great experiences. Even if you can’t stay overnight at some spots, you can travel to campgrounds close to where you want to be and maximize the time you have to explore.

Is Renting a Camper Van in Hawaii Worth It?

Even though the rig we rented wasn’t perfect, we would do it all over again. Renting a camper van in Hawaii was a memorable experience. We explored the island of Oahu in a way that we otherwise couldn’t. We also learned a lot about van life and van rentals.

Despite the camping restrictions, the wonderful outdoor experiences you’ll have make traveling Hawaii in an RV rental a dream come true.

Tom and Cait in Hawaii

Alaska is another dream destination for many RVers. If RVing the 49th state is on your bucket list, here’s Your Complete Guide to Alaska RV Rentals.

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