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If you're planning a Hawaiian vacation soon and hope to rent a car to get around, you might want to think again. With much of the Aloha State easing its travel restrictions, visitor numbers — and rental car prices — are skyrocketing.
During the pandemic, rental car companies were forced to sell vehicles and thin out their fleets when a lack of visitors left them with nowhere to park all of the unused cars. Now that visitors have returned — and done so quite quickly — the companies that usually service them have been left with a much smaller inventory than usual.
Some companies in Honolulu had only large vans for $500 a day and convertibles for $1,000 a day or more, Hawaii News Now reported on Monday. On Maui, another tourist hot spot, the cheapest available rental car was $722 a day. According to the Associated Press, rental car fees on Kauai are still under $100 per day, but some suspect that's because the island still has stricter quarantine and testing rules in place until April 5.
Some locals say the rise in visitors is already reminiscent of pre-pandemic days.
"It feels like we went back to 110 mph just in the last couple of weeks," Lindsey Dymond, owner of Kalapawai Cafe, told Hawaii News Now. "I was over here at the Kailua town location over the weekend on Saturday, and it looked like Kailua from 2019."
Beyond increased rental car prices and traffic that Dymond described as a "nightmare," the sudden rise in visitors to Hawaii has also caused a spike in COVID-19 cases in some areas, like Maui.
After police had to shut down an illegal concert on Maui, Mayor Mike Victorino issued a stern warning to visitors.
"You see these people on the beach back here, they're visitors and they're not wearing masks," he said, Hawaii News Now reported. "I tell you right now, as far as I'm concerned if you can't obey our rules, don't come if you can't wear a mask or do what is right."
He added, "I don't care if you come from Texas, I don't care if you come from Mississippi, or any state that doesn't require it. Here in Hawaii and Maui County, it is a mandate."
According to Hawaii News Now, Maui saw more than 25,000 visitors last Friday to Sunday alone.