Hawaii is a dream destination! There is a good chance that you will fall in love with the islands of Hawaii at first sight, but you should warn yourself now: Hawaii is an expensive destination, or even very expensive if you want to enjoy local activities or stay in one of the beautiful resorts along the ocean.
To succumb to the charms of Hawaii you will have to spend money. We suggest to detail in this article the different types of expenses to be expected with our tips to reduce the price.
1How much is a plane ticket to Hawaii?
Contrary to what one might think, your flight ticket to Hawaii will not be your highest expense item. By anticipating and scrutinizing promotions, you can find a ticket at a very attractive price
On average, prices for a flight to Hawaii from Europe are in the 900€ range. This can go up to 1200€ or more during traditional summer school holidays and Christmas. However, it is not uncommon for airlines to make promotions to Hawaii during the mid and low seasons. Thus by scanning the prices, it is possible to find flights in the 750€ from Europe with prices which can go down until 400€.
In addition, it is also possible to reduce the bill by combining two flights, the first to a city on the west coast of the United States or Canada (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oackland, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver...), then a second to Hawaii. Thus, expect fares around 600€/700€ round trip almost all year round, or even around 500€ in off-peak periods.
Be careful, in the case of tickets purchased separately, connections between flights are no longer guaranteed, which requires you to have enough time to make your stopover, or even to spend a night near the airport.
From North America
Good news! Since early March 2019, Southwest Airlines has been operating on the Hawaiian market and offers very affordable fares between Hawaii and a few cities in California.
Thus, it is possible to find reasonable rates on a regular basis. You can expect prices starting at $270 from a few west coast cities and $500-600 for the east coast. Sometimes, certain promotions allow you to obtain tickets starting at $200 for the west coast and $400 for the east coast, except Toronto which benefits from very attractive prices to Hawaii.
Concerning Canada, from Quebec, $500 round-trip special offers are available a few times a year from Montreal. On the Vancouver side, prices sometimes drop to $300.
2How much do domestic flights in Hawaii cost?
Here is another expense to consider when travelling to Hawaii: domestic flights. It is very likely that you will have to move from island to island. You will therefore have to add the cost of domestic flights to your budget.
The immediate impact of Southwest's arrival in early March 2019 on the Hawaiian inter-island market was a drop of a few dollars in Hawaiian Airlines' call prices on the islands served by Southwest (Oahu, Maui and Big Island). Now, we can find attractive prices on flights operated by Southwest which include 2 checked luggages, unlike Hawaiian Airlines.
Expect now between $29 and $150 for each domestic flight, knowing that you may have to add the cost of your checked baggage from $15 to $25 if you choose Hawaiian Airlines or Mokulele (free with Southwest).
Our tips to save on domestic flights
- If you are planning to visit several islands, consider a multi-destination flight when you come to Hawaii, which will save you an internal flight. Their prices are generally the same as classic round trips.
- Prices on domestic flights generally tend to rise rather than fluctuate. For this reason, book your domestic flights as soon as possible.
- If you choose to travel with Southwest, the displayed price includes 2 free checked bags.
- If you choose to travel with Hawaiian Airlines, you will be able to benefit from a discount on your checked bags if you subscribe to the company's Hawaiian Miles program before check-in.
3How much does it cost to stay in Hawaii?
On the accommodations side, expect relatively high prices compared to the rest of the USA. Prices vary widely depending on the type of accommodation and comfort desired. The more unusual your hosting is, the higher the potential price will be.
For a stay in a hotel
Hotel prices vary by island. For a classic unpretentious 2-star hotel stay (sometimes without air conditioning), prices start at around $80 per night on Big Island (around Hilo), the cheapest island, followed by Kauai (starting at $85 per night) and climb to Oahu and especially Maui where it will be difficult to stay for less than $115-125 without going through another type of accommodation. On Molokai the prices start at 190$ and on Lanai, the choice will be made quickly because you will have only one affordable hotel (Hotel Lana'i) which starts at 200$ the room.
More generally, for a night (double room) in 2 or 3 stars, count 105$ on Big Island, 125$ on Kauai, 135$ on Honolulu (where you will probably have to add the parking fees), 160$ on Maui, 210$ on Molokai and Lanai.
For a luxury stay, like a honeymoon, prices can explode because in Hawaii, luxury is expensive. For hotels of 4 stars and more, prices start from 210$ per night for the least expensive, without forgetting to add the taxes. In some very luxurious establishments, prices soar above $1000 per night! You've been warned.
Youth hostels and Airbnb
If you have a smaller budget or travel alone, you can push the door of youth hostels that are rather welcoming, but whose price remains relatively high (between $30 and $42) for a person. Here are some of the youth hostels in Hawaii.
On the Airbnb side it is not much more advantageous because the prices practiced in the islands remain rather expensive (it is systematically necessary to pay the cleaning fees). Prices start at 55$ for a room of 2 people on Big Island, to which must be added the service fee of 15% per night. However, this can be profitable for stays of several days (3 days and more).
On average, count 75$ for a night at 2 in a youth hostel and 85$ per night all included via Airbnb. Note that prices will be higher on Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
For smaller budgets, you can opt for camping. Expect between $3 and $10 a night per adult. To be allowed to camp in State Parks or County Parks, you will need to acquire a permit knowing that each island has its own regulations. Applications for permits must be made in advance via application forms depending on the area where the campsite is located. There are private campsites outside the parks, but there are relatively few. Also take care to choose your campsites carefully as some are unfortunately not very well frequented.
Tip: Consider renting a condominium
Condos are an excellent alternative to hotels. A condo rental can be very interesting from 3 days and even more if you stay longer or with your family. Below 3 nights, the owners probably won't rent it to you and the cleaning fees will not be advantageous. You will be able to find many rentals on booking sites, such as VRBOor Booking.
The advantage of a rental is that you will almost always have a small kitchen, or at least a fridge and a microwave. So you can cook at home and lower your budget (restaurants are very expensive in Hawaii). In most cases, a parking space is provided with the rental.
4How much does it cost to eat in Hawaii?
Here's a factor not to be ignored: the cost of food is very expensive in Hawaii, which is mainly due to the fact that the archipelago is located in the middle of the Pacific and that the majority of food must be supplied by plane or boat.
You might as well know that if your budget is tight, you won't eat out often. The rates are high, knowing that it will be necessary to add between 15 and 20% of tip according to the quality of the service. Of course prices vary from simple to triple depending on the restaurant, so it is difficult to give an estimation here, but keep in mind that this is a budget that should not be underestimated.
To give you an idea, we made once a restaurant a little "chic" without being gastronomic, and we paid 80$ for 1 dish and a drink each! More generally, we had about $50 for two by being very reasonable and often taking only one dish with a drink.
But fortunately there are many small food trucks where it is possible to eat locally and for a fairly low price (on average $15 dish + drink) usually served in polystyrene trays (polystyrene is fortunately starting to be replaced by recycled paper, but it is still not the same for plastic cutlery...
It is also possible to buy Ahi bowls (hot rice bowls covered with raw fish), a Hawaiian specialty for about $10 a bowl in supermarkets like Safeway, Big Save or Foodland.
Also expect an average of $5 to $8 for a Shave Ice, the must-have Hawaiian flavoured crushed ice.
At the market and supermarket
If you want to travel cheap in Hawaii, we recommend shopping in markets and supermarkets. The market option is the first choice for eating good local products whose prices will be much cheaper than in supermarkets. These markets are called farmers markets because local producers come here to sell their fruit. Some are very popular like Hilo's farmers market on Big Island. Still, count $2 to $3 for a pineapple, this will give you an idea of local prices, the same pineapple is often displayed between $4 to $5 in supermarkets.
At the supermarket the prices will be much more expensive than those of the mainland. Some products are even overpriced there like milk, chip packs, cakes... basically all the products that can not be manufactured locally. You will need to completely review your diet if you want to stay within a decent budget.
Finally we noticed that the prices in the supermarkets differed according to the islands, the Kauai island is the most expensive.
Our tips for saving money when you are shopping
- Some stores have preferential rates for certain types of products: For example, we found a gallon of mineral water at $1.25 at Big Save Market, the same one was sold at $2.50 at Foodland and $3.5 at Safeway. Another example: the pineapples, at $0.89 per pound at Safeway and often much more expensive elsewhere. Sometimes we have even found huge discrepancies for some products, ranging from simple to double depending on the supermarket.
- Take items that are about to expire. There is usually 30% to 50% on it.
5How much money do you need to move around Hawaii?
How much does a car rental in Hawaii cost?
Except on the island of Oahu where it is possible to use the bus network, we recommend you to rent a car to be able to move in the islands. For that you will have to go through a rental agency, which will have as a direct consequence to increase your budget.
Rates start at $25-$30 per day excluding insurance for a small car during low season and increase according to the type of vehicle chosen, the season, the rental company or the Intermediary chosen. More generally, expect an average of $50 a day to rent your car.
To try to find a cheap car rental in Hawaii, feel free to have a look at Discount Hawaii Car Rental, a broker founded by Hawaiians in 1999. Thanks to their local history, their prices are among the most competitive in the archipelago.
What's the price of gas in Hawaii?
Then you'll have to give your car something to drink. But again, expect to pay more for your fuel than on the mainland. To give you an idea, here are the average prices per island end of 2019:
- Oahu: 3.30$ to 3.80$ / Gallon
- Big Island: 3.65$ to 4.00$ / Gallon
- Kauai: 3.83$ to 3.90$ / Gallon
- Maui: 3.73$ to 4.05$ / Gallon
But fortunately, the islands are not very big (except Big Island), your fuel consumption will remain rather limited.
6How much for leisure and activities in Hawaii?
It's hard to go to Hawaii without enjoying some activities in the islands. You may want to fly by helicopter, take a boat trip, attend a Luau or do one of the many sporting activities available in the Hawaiian Islands.
But having fun in Hawaii has a cost, because who says Hawaii, says expensive! So expect to pay a lot if you decide to let yourself be tempted by a little excursion or activity.
It is difficult to put the price list here as the number of activities and excursions is so important. But for your information, helicopter tours start at $250. The price will be the same if you wish to approach by boat the lava flows flowing into the ocean. To see Manta rays it will be from 100$ and renting a kayak will cost you about 40$ per person per day. You will have understood that the bill will rise quickly, while not forgetting that gratuity is advised for supervised excursions.
7How much does it cost to visit Hawaii?
The Hawaiian Islands include a number of State Parks, County Parks and 3 National Parks. The advantage is that many State Parks and County Parks located in the archipelago are free, but the tendency in recent months is towards paid parking. More and more payment terminals are flourishing in the various State Park parking lots, generally at $5 per day ticket. As for the National Parks, they are not free and prices increased significantly in 2018 and 2020.
Nevertheless, we can understand the great efforts of daily maintenance, which explains the need to charge visitors for their services.
National Parks fare in Hawaii
Here are the rates for 2020.
- Volcanoes NP: 30$, pass valid 7 days for 1 vehicle
- Haleakala NP : 30$, pass valid for 3 days for 1 vehicle
- Pu’uhonua o Honaunau Historical Park : 120$, pass valid 7 days for 1 vehicle
You can save money by buying the annual Hawaii Tri-park pass sold for $55 at each park entrance, which will give you unlimited access for 1 year to the 3 National Parks listed above. Note that the America the beautiful pass is accepted in Hawaii's National Parks and will be very useful if you combine the Hawaii visit with other mainland parks.
The price of the visits on Oahu
Oahu is the most expensive island for visits. Here are some of the prices:
- Hanauma Bay State Park: 12$ per person + $3$ for parking
- Diamond Head State Monument: $5 per person or $10 per car
- Nu'uanu Pali Lookout: 3$ per car
- Waimea Valley : 16$ per adult / 8$ per child
- Pearl Harbor: Access to the memorial is free, but admission to visits and museums ranges from $12 to $27. There are many passes, see our dedicated article: Pearl Harbor: everything to know to organize your visit
8How much money do you need to go to Hawaii?
The price of your trip to Hawaii will depend a lot on the length of your stay, the services you choose and the activities and visits you wish to do. To give you an order of magnitude, we spent 7130$ for 2, or 3565$ per person for our 3 weeks trip in 2017, choosing services at low prices. You can read our detailed budget in this article: Travel to Hawaii: itinary and budget for 3 weeks
By reducing our budget by the day and removing international flights, we arrive at the average price of 140$ per person per day for a moderate budget trip.
You may consider that this budget will be larger if you plan to travel during the high season when domestic flights, hotels and car rentals will be more expensive. You can also greatly reduce this average cost if you opt for the camping solution and by shopping daily at the market/supermarket.
We hope you found this article useful! Feel free to share your feedback in the comments.