How much does a trip to Hawaii cost? This is one of the questions I get asked the most often. While for many people, Hawaii is the ultimate vacation destination, a lot of people don’t even have a vague idea how much a Hawaiian vacation costs. Most conversations go something like this: “I know airfare is really expensive because it’s so far away. And all of those fancy beach resorts can’t be cheap right? And I’ve heard the food is really high. Tell me, how much does it cost anyways?”
Well that’s a loaded question. There are so many factors that can determine the price of a trip to Hawaii least of which would be: what time of year are you going? Where are you flying from? What kind of place do you want to stay at? And are you willing to do less touristy things to save money?
As you can imagine, there’s a pretty large spectrum of what a trip to Hawaii can cost, but here are some general guidelines of what you can expect plus what to budget when you’re planning your trip.
Airfare: This is the big one. No matter how you break it down, just getting to Hawaii is usually the most expensive part. As a general ballpark figure, I always assume that a plane ticket to Hawaii will cost me around $1000. That’s flying from the middle of the country (airfare from major Californian cities is often MUCH cheaper). Of course, if you’re flexible with your travel dates and willing to stalk some of the sites that track promotions and deals then you may be able to get that down to $800-$900. And of course your route also determines the price. Flying through Honolulu (even if you’re not staying on Oahu) will often get you a better deal than flying direct from the mainland to Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island. Also, routes that connect through LAX (as opposed to flying direct from Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, or another Californian city like San Diego or San Francisco) are also often a lot cheaper. This is because you’ll have to jump through a lot more hoops if flying through LAX (changing terminals, rechecking bags, etc.).
Rental Car: Rental car pricing in Hawaii can seem insane when you’re first pricing it out but generally it’s anywhere from $40-$80 a day depending on the type of car and how far out you book. Prices during the holiday season can skyrocket but if you’re willing to dig around and use Priceline as well as discounts like AAA, AARP, and Costco, I’ve heard of people getting them for as cheap as $10-$20/day. This of course depends on the time of year and type of car. And don’t wait too long to book or during high season you may find yourself with low to no availability.
Taxis and Public Transportation: If you’re going to forgo renting a car and try to get around using cabs/Uber/buses (I’d only recommend trying this on Oahu) then you’ll need to factor these costs in. I honestly would never go to Hawaii and not rent a car. If you’re looking to go somewhere and never leave your resort, save your money and just go to Mexico.
Hidden Costs: Don’t forget to add in the costs of checking bags, parking your car at the airport, or taking a cab to get to and from the airport at home.
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This is likely to be the biggest cost variable of your trip. In Hawaii, you can go cheap, middle of the road, or downright lavish. One of the cheaper options is usually to rent a condo through VRBO or find a smaller property to stay at. Hotels on Waikiki (Oahu) are some of the cheapest you’ll find. If you’re going with a bigger group, even another couple, renting a two-bedroom unit and splitting the cost will usually save a lot more than getting two one-bedroom units. Hawaii also has tons of “ohanas”-small apartments/guest cottages that sit on a larger property-that many locals will rent out for pretty reasonable prices, especially if you’re willing to stay off of the beach. If you go this route, you should have plenty of options in the $100-$200/night range.
In the mid price range, ($200-$400/night) you’ll be able to start finding rooms at a lot of nice beach resorts, especially chains (think Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.). To find the best prices, you may have to scout around and look for specials or promotions. Also, if you’re part of a loyalty rewards program for Starwood Resorts or Marriot, that may be a good option to pursue.
And you can go up, up, up from there. Hawaii has some of the best luxurious beach resorts in the world (Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, Waldorf-Astoria) and you’ll pay through the nose for them. These will usually fall into the $500-$800/night range and up.
Hidden Costs: Many resorts will include a daily resort fee ($25+ that covers things like Wi-Fi, etc.) and it’s not uncommon for many of them to charge for parking. Many of the Waikiki properties charge up to $40/day for guests to park, which is why it can be a popular choice to forego a rental car if staying there. Also, if staying in a condo, don’t forget to factor in the cleaning fee.
Food and Drink
This is another category where you can spend as much or as little as you want. Most people make Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, or a grocery store their first stop to pick up some staples and even if you’re not going to be cooking full meals, you may want to grab a case of water and snacks to have in your room or pack in your backpack for the day.
As a general rule of thumb, restaurants in resort areas will be pricier than elsewhere and they may not be the best quality for the money either. If you want to go out for a nice dinner, it’s worth doing your research ahead of time to make sure you pick a good spot. If you’re sticking to resort areas and not sharing meals, you can expect to pay $15-$20/person for breakfast, $15-$25/person for lunch, and $30-$50/person for dinner. If you’re willing to veer off the beaten path and go to more “local” places, you can do MUCH better pricewise. And the nice thing about Hawaii is that there are sooooo many places to eat that you’ll always be able to find something to suit your tastes and budget. While there’s definitely plenty of high priced resort restaurants, that’s definitely not all there is.
How much you spend on things to do in Hawaii is entirely up to you. It’s possible to keep these costs at basically $0 or spend up to $1000/person. If you’re a true beach bum, you won’t find better free entertainment. The awesome thing about Hawaii is there’s so much nature to explore. Every beach looks different and each island is so diverse that it’s possible to spend at least an entire week on each island just driving around, hiking, and exploring.
When you start throwing in excursions is where it can start to add up. There’s so much to do in Hawaii! Snorkeling tours, surf lessons, helicopter tours, luau…the list is endless! Pick and choose your favorites or go all out! Since there’s so much competition for tourist dollars on the islands, they probably won’t cost as much as you might think. Shop around to find the best prices and don’t wait too long to book. Depending on length of trip and a bunch of other factors, plan to spend $50-$100/person for these types of activities, except helicopter tours. You’ll pay more for those and don’t EVER go with a cheap one!!
And then factor in shopping. You’ll find it all in Hawaii from tacky souvenir shops to Billabong and Roxy to high-end designer resort wear. The sky’s the limit. If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs, check out ABC stores or Whaler’s Village on Maui.
Now that you know the components that you’ll need to factor in to your budget, here’s a sample budget for a 7-day trip to Maui for two people. This is middle of the road. You could make it higher or lower, depending on which choices you make.
Like I said, this is a median representation of a Hawaii trip budget and depending on what you like to do and what’s important to you, this could go way up or way down. Maybe you’re a foodie and you’re willing to up your food budget in exchange for cutting back on your accommodations or activity budget. You’ll just have to play around with the numbers to see for yourself!
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