Do we need a car to get around Kona? Can we use public transportation or cabs?
For late August I have a Budget intermediate car booked through Costco for $660 for 23 days, taxes and fees included. You goal should be to find a car for about $30 day but understand that demand might be high during Ironman and Christmas.
The island offers a lot to see by car. I recommend the Alamo agency at the airport. We have had the best luck with them.
This thread dates to last July, so the original poster has likely come & gone. Wonder what they ended up doing...?
No matter what it costs, rent a car. There is so much to do all over the big island that you want to be able to get around. The volcano national park is amazing, but all the way across other side of the island and that's a 1.5 hour drive. There are incredible beaches all up and down the west coast, such as the City of Refuge. For the cost of parking, you can walk on the great beaches at each of the major resorts. The east coast is completely different and more 'local'/'old school'. Northeast there are spectacular waterfalls and tropical forests. Don't miss out on the wonders this island has to share if you go looking, and you need wheels to do it. BTW, you're better off getting something with some ground clearance for some of the waterfalls!
NOTE: The parking at the hotels offer "free" parking for beach access. They don't all offer very many spots though, and they tend to fill up early in the morning.
Also, be aware that this is an older thread, as Colleen already pointed out.
"you're better off getting something with some ground clearance for some of the waterfalls!" There is absolutely no way a rental car should be anywhere near a place if you need ground clearance due to a waterfall!
We visit Hawaii twice/year and specifically the Big Island 5 times since 2010, each visit for a week, and I couldn't imagine not renting a car. The Island has huge areas to explore--volcanoes, the Waipio Valley, Kamuela/Waimea, Kealakakua Bay, Hilo, black sand, green sand, coffee plantations, etc etc. If you are here to sit on a beach and work on your tan for 7 days, or if you like to sit in a bus and be chauffeured, then my advice does not apply.
We refer to Tripadvisor and trusted guide books and decide each day which adventure we'll pursue, or the occasional day of shopping in town. Of course being self-guided we sometimes go off course, but we feel that we've really experienced each island by driving and being able to stop and smell the roses (=drink in the views). In particular we can visit the beaches, hikes, and restaurants that are off the beaten path, and our discoveries have made our trips. Rentals are relatively inexpensive, but we always spring for a convertible to enjoy the tropical air.
Check both Costco and Discount Hawaii Car Rental. I am renting a mini van for a month and paying less than $1400. The downtown area of Kailua-Kona is closer to 5 miles from Keauhou. From the Surf and Raquel Club, it is an easy walk to the Keauhou Shopping Center where there is a Super Market, Longs Drug, and several restaurants.