Trip in Hawaii: itinerary and budget for 3 weeks

  1. Hawaii
  2. Trip in Hawaii: itinerary and budget for 3 weeks
Written by SandrineUpdated on 05/03/22

Having just returned from Iceland, we had to think about what to do next! Yes, always this primitive instinct that pushes us to find new projects as soon as the last one is completed.

So we left in search of a new destination. This time, the choice was not difficult. We already had a lot of ideas and on our short list, Hawaii and New Zealand were in top position. We were also very motivated to take advantage of the World Tour ticket offered by Air New Zealand and leave for 3 months to discover New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, Tahiti and Okinawa. But this 3 months trip is not possible in the immediate future, so we opted for Hawaii. After the cold of Iceland, we were inevitably attracted by a little more heat!

1Looking for the best price airline tickets to Hawaii

Before planning this trip, we imagined Hawaii as a financially inaccessible destination, being located for us on the opposite side of the globe. But after some research, we were pleasantly surprised by the price of airline tickets. We expected something exorbitant, in the same prices as Australia or New Zealand, but in the end this is not the case.

To claim the lowest price, we prefer not to define dates. The average prices are in the 900€ range but can skyrocket to more than 1200€ over certain popular periods, especially during the summer holidays or the end of the year. It remains a budget, but given the distance to be covered, it seems consistent.

So we start by placing an alert on Skyscanner to inform us of price variations. The wait was short, because after a week, the prices decrease from 900€ to 720€ with Bristish Airways and American Airlines departing from our provincial city (Toulouse, France) in February, March and April, all with reasonable stopovers (3h30 in London and 4h in Los Angeles). The best! Neither one nor two, we are taking the opportunity!

Total price of our long-range tickets departing from Toulouse (France): 720€ or 1440€ for 2

Sunset in Maui - Hawaii

On the spot, we thought we had found the rare gem! But we continued to check prices to determine the trend. Towards the end of 2016, flights at 550€ appeared for a few weeks from France over a long period of time, then the unmissable deal happened in July 2017 with 400€ round-trip tickets from several cities in France! The opportunity was so good that we almost succumbed again (but it wouldn't have been very wise).

Since then, other promotions have been successively offered, usually in the 450€ to 550€ range. As for the frequency, there aren't many of them, I tend to say about every 2 to 3 months, but regularly enough to claim to benefit from them. To do so, you will have to take advantage of the opportunity because promotions never stay online very long.

In summary, if you're going to travel during the summer or end of year periods, expect high prices and book as soon as possible. But you should know that it is possible to find a great promotion by travelling between the seasons (February to May or September to November).

2The choice of the period and number of days

Now that we have our opportunity between February and April, we must determine the best time to discover Hawaii.

After a lot of research, we opted for the month of April in order to take advantage of the pretty colors of spring, a warmer weather, a calmer ocean as well as a still weak affluence at this season and therefore prices rather affordable. The disadvantage is that there will probably be no more whales at this time of year (they will already be gone), but we prefer the weather aspect. It turns out that this choice will have paid off!

Regarding the duration, we have chosen to spend 20 days in the islands, which is the maximum we can afford in terms of budget. Afterwards, we will realize that a 4-week stay would have been more appropriate because in 3 weeks, it will be impossible for us to discover the whole archipelago (but as we had no choice, no regrets!).

Honolulu from Diamond Head - Hawaii

Neither one nor two, we book return flights to Honolulu, from 30 March to 22 April. That's it, in the pocket! Except 10 minutes later, we realize that it was a great mistake. By reserving too quickly to avoid that the beautiful promotion escapes us, we completely forgot to think of taking a multi-destination flight that would have allowed us to gain half a day of travel and thus avoid a domestic flight and therefore less money to spend... Too bad, we're going to have to deal with it, it's going to be a lesson for the next time!

Our tip: Choose a multi-destination flight if you plan to visit several islands. They are generally at the same prices. For example: one way to Kona and one way back from Lihue.

3The choice of circuit and islands

The choice of islands is not a simple matter. It will often be cornelian because depending on the time spent in the archipelago, it is very likely that there is not enough time to discover all the islands. So we'll have to make a choice.

From the beginning, we pre-select Kauai and Big Island. We are very interested in both of them. Kauai for its wilderness, rugged and unspoilt coastline, hiking and Big Island for its volcanoes, Manta rays and diverse landscapes. As for the other islands, we had selected Molokai for its beautiful wild coves, Maui for the beaches, the snorkeling and its relief of the west and finally O'ahu for its sites like Pearl Harbor, its pretty bays and Waikiki. Finally, we had to rule out Molokai, because in 20 days the timing was too tight.

Waikokos beach on Kauai island.

Nevertheless, 4 islands in 20 days is really very short. We therefore preferred to spend a maximum of time on Kauai and Big Island with 6 days and 8 days respectively. We then had 6 days left, which we split between Maui and O'ahu with 3 full days on each island. The pace on these islands will probably be more rapid, but we had to make a choice.

We have therefore privileged to discover as many islands as possible at the expense of spending more time to deepen only 3.

Now that we are back, I can tell you with certainty that 3 days to discover an island is not enough! We were heartbroken when we left Maui and O'ahu with the impression of flying over them, probably missing some beautiful discoveries. Nevertheless, if we had to do it again, we would do the same trip again, because even if time ran out, we really enjoyed discovering these 4 islands which are all different.

To learn more about our experience feedback and the durations that we consider "ideal" for each island, you can read our article: Feedback: our opinion after 3 weeks in Hawaii

Wailua Falls, Kauai island.

4Domestic flights

Hawaii being an archipelago, it is also necessary to think about planning inter-island flights (to be sure not to forget in your budget). We decide not to wait to book because prices tend to increase rather than fluctuate, as with long-haul flights.

After conducting our investigation of the various airlines offering inter-island flights, we selected Hawaiian Airlines. We then looked for all possible combinations of route scheduling in order to obtain the best possible price. Why? Because a wise choice can save a lot of money! And yes, according to the order of the routes and the timetables, the prices are not the same! Thus we were able to see a difference of up to 200€ per person for all 4 flights depending on the dates and routes.

In the end, we chose the following combination, which was the most advantageous: O'ahu => Kauai => Big Island => Maui => Oahu.

For more information on domestic flights, you can consult our article: Prepare your trip to Hawaii: itinerary, budget, hotels...

Total cost of domestic flights for 2 persons without luggage: $723 plus $60 for checked luggage (price for 4 flights, with Hawaiian Miles membership card discount).

5Our 21-day itinerary in Hawaii

Our 3-week itinerary to Hawaii.

Here is our daily itinerary:

  • Day 1: Departure from France in the early morning. Arrival in O' ahu late at night. Night in Honolulu.
  • Day 2: Day on O'ahu, in Honolulu (the time to acclimatize to the jet lag) then domestic flight to Kauai (Lihue) at the end of the evening. Night in Lihue.
  • Day 3 to 8: Discovery of the island of Kauai for 6 days. 6 nights in Lihue.
  • Day 9 to 11: Inland flight to Big Island (Kona) early in the morning of the 9th day, then 3 days visit of the western and northern part of Big Island. 3 nights in Hilo.Day 12: Ascent of Kilauea, night at the Volcano Center and discovery of the lava field at nightfall.
  • Day 13 to 16: Discovery of the south and west part of Big Island. 3 nights in Kona. Domestic flight to Maui on the 16th day at the end of the day. Night in Napili-Honokowai
  • Day 17 to 19: Visit of Maui Island for 3 days. Accommodation in Napili-Honokowai for 2 nights. Domestic flight to O'ahu late in the evening of the 19th day. Night in Honolulu.
  • Day 20 and 21: Discovery of the main points of interest of Oahu. 2 nights in Honolulu.
  • Day 22: Departure from O'ahu early in the morning.
  • Day 23: Return to France at the end of the day.

Why did we split the O'ahu discovery into two parts? Simply because of our mistake when booking plane tickets which forces us to go twice to O'ahu at the beginning and end of our stay (and also to take an additional domestic flight). So we preferred to have a calm first day in order to recover from the 12-hour jet lag and the long flight, the opportunity to start off smoothly by discovering Honolulu. And since we didn't want to come back to O'ahu the night before our return in order to avoid the risk of a last-minute hazard, we chose to visit the rest of O'ahu at the end of our stay. This fractionation will be more complex from a logistical point of view but will allow us to end up with two more quiet days (or not!).

6Selection of rental cars

We took the time to look for the best rates for the rental of our various rental cars. Two sites stood out by far: Hotwire (the equivalent of Expedia but for the USA) and Discount Hawaii Car Rental (formerly Discount Hawaii Car Rental, one of the first Hawaiian reservation center, which has since expanded throughout the United States).

What was interesting about Hotwire was the price of the combo package "car " hotel" which was generally much cheaper than renting a car and a hotel paid separately. But then we found accommodation at more competitive prices than on Hotwire, which made us look at Discount Hawaii Car Rental for all our car rentals.

The advantage with the latter is the possibility of cancelling the reservation without charge and above all to be able to make a reservation without paying in advance. This gives us the opportunity to change our rifle if we find cheaper until we leave. Finally, knowing that we are already covered by our Gold Mastercard for damage, we have not taken out optional insurance.

Total cost of all our car rentals (excluding insurance): 627$ or 588€. See details by island at the end of this article.

We were very satisfied with the service provided by Discount USA Car Rental. They were very reactive when we made a mistake in our reservation email. Our 5 rentals went very well, and despite the fact that we had not paid anything in advance, all our cars were waiting for us at each rental company (Budget, Dollar and Thirfty). We recommend them!

On the other hand, we realized only on the spot that our Gold Mastercard did not cover us for liability! Therefore, we were not covered in the event of an accident for which we were responsible. Knowing that there is no maximum amount in the USA and the sums in case of bodily injury can be astronomical! As a result, we decided to take out "liability" insurance at the counter for our Big Island rental at Thrifty, the longest of our stay. For 8 days, we had to pay $108 of insurance on site, which turned out to be much more expensive than if we had purchased the insurance at the time of booking.

In addition, we also had to add an additional $200 to be upgraded to a 4x4, because having chosen the "mystery car", we got a huge 7-seater van, the size of a mini-bus. It was a poker shot to lower the rental costs, but finally we lost to this game! Rental surcharge: $308! The pill was hard to swallow. This expense alone accounts for half of our excess.

You will find more details on these subjects in our article: Prepare your trip to Hawaii: itinerary, budget, hotels....

Na Pali Coast from the Kalalau Lookout - Kaui - Hawaii

7Choice of accommodation

This last part took us the longest, because with our tight budget we had to find accommodation at very affordable prices. Unfortunately, some islands like O'ahu and Maui are very expensive and we had a hard time getting into our budget. But finally, after several weeks of research, we finally found all our accommodations.

I take this opportunity to inform you about the accommodations we have selected. We were generally satisfied with the services, regarding the price paid.

Remember that most prices on Internet do not usually include taxes and/or resort fees. So look for the amount of these taxes/fees or make sure they are included in the price.

On Kauai

We have opted for the Kauai Palms Hotel with a free cancellation offer in case a great promotion would come, which was the case after a few months, for the same hotel! When you reserve long months in advance, it is better to keep this opportunity.

Recommended for small budgets. The hotel is located in Lihue, perfect for the whole island. It is clean and the bedding is very comfortable. The bedroom and the bathroom are very small, but we slept very well during our 6 nights despite the blinds in the doors and windows. We had a room with a ceiling fan, enough not to be too warm in April. It should be noted that the hotel is located in an unattractive neighbourhood, away from the shopping streets, but it is an excellent compromise for a cheap stay in Kauai.

On Maui

The best deal on Maui was to rent a condo (Hawaiian holiday apartment). Strangely, even with the extra cleaning costs, it was much cheaper than 3 nights in an ordinary hotel and we are in front of the sea! We had selected it from the Vrbo site which offers a multitude of condo that the owners rent (but ours seems to have disappeared from the site).

On Big Island

On Big Island, we selected a rental via Air B& B on Kona, the best price we could find in the western part of the island, knowing that in Hawaii the prices practiced on Air B& B are often more expensive than the hotels!!

Cozy Sunset Studio Kailua-Kona
We fell in love with this charming studio rented by Air B& B. It is located in annex of the house of the charming owners, on the heights of Kona (it climbs!). The studio is completely independent and fully equipped, with a beautiful kitchen, sofa and garden furniture, all leading into a beautiful garden perfectly maintained. We had the pleasure of finding the refrigerator full of good products when we arrived! Every day Cori (the owner) used to bring us succulent wild avocados that she collected. Their dog, Bella, a handsome Husky was also adorable. In short, we recommend!

In Hilo, we have selected a Bed& Breakfast and a kind of youth hostel at the Volcano center. As our accommodation was not very satisfactory at the Volcano, we prefer not to mention it here.

We stayed 3 nights at Aaron's Cottage in Hilo. It is a cottage that the owner (Aaron) has arranged in such a way as to create several rooms and independent studios with outside entrance. Our room was very spacious. We enjoyed our stay, despite a slight lack of cleanliness in the bathroom when we arrived, but Aaron quickly made the necessary arrangements. A fully equipped common kitchen is located on the other side of the units. It's very practical for preparing meals. Every morning, the owner brings fresh fruits (papaya, pineapple, bananas...) as well as bread and cereals for breakfast. The cottage is located in a small, quiet subdivision, only a few tens of meters from the sea (rocky coast), in a luxuriant vegetation near Hawaiian frogs! The place is a very good compromise for a quiet and cheap stay in Hilo.

On Oahu

Here again we chose the hotel solution because we only had 1 night and then 2 nights to take separately. We have therefore selected a hotel with Honolulu car park, convenient to move easily around the city..

Ilima Hotel Honolulu
We enjoyed this hotel located 700 meters away from Waikiki Beach. Its location is very interesting because it is close to lively neighbourhoods and therefore convenient for walking, but also close to the canal to easily reach the motorway by car. Too bad the street where the hotel is located is not very attractive. For the rest, special mention for the welcome and kindness of the staff. As for the style of the rooms, it is certainly a little old-fashioned, but they have the advantage of being very spacious and have a small kitchen, ideal for making a few meals. Finally, the big advantage of this hotel is the presence of a free covered parking (most car parks are charged in the 20$ per night in Honolulu). We always found a place there, even if sometimes it was a little cramped, but the hotel wasn't full.

Total budget for 21 nights in Hawaii in 2 star hotel, Air B&B and condo: 2086€. See details by island at the end of this article.

More generally, to get an idea of the different types of accommodation and prices in Hawaii, we advise you to take a look here: Prepare your trip to Hawaii: itinerary, budget, hotels...

8Total budget for our 3-week stay in Hawaii

The total budget for our 23-day trip, including 21 nights on site, amounts to 6790€ for 2, or 3395€ per person.

The exchange rate was around 1$ = 0.95€. The €/$ conversions are therefore carried out with this rate.

The balance sheet for 2 people:

Aircraft: 2183€

  • Flights Toulouse / Honolulu: 720€ x 2 = 1440€
  • Domestic flights (4 flights with 1 hold baggage item included): 723$ / 686€
  • Check-in baggage: 60$ / 57€

Car rentals: 935$ or 888€

  • 1 day in Oahu: 26$ / 24€
  • 7 days in Kauai: 187$ / 177€
  • 8 days on Big Island: $241 / 229€: 8 days on Big Island
  • On site (not planned): Supplementary insurance " supplement 4x4:308$ i. e. 292€.
  • 3 days in Maui: 97$ / 92€
  • 1 day in ahu: 76$ / 72€

Gasoline: 187$ / 177€

Accommodation (all taxes included): 2086€

  • 4 nights in Honolulu (Oahu)  parking " taxes: 671€
  • 7 nights in Lihue (Kauai): 483€: 7 nights
  • 3 nights in Hilo (Big Island): 237€: 237€
  • 1 night at Volcano Center (Big Island): 66€)
  • 3 nights in Kona (Big Island): 249€
  • 3 nights in Napili-Honokowai (Maui) in Napili-Honokowai: 400$ or 380€

Food and restaurants: $984 / €935

  • 9 Restaurants (small huts, sushi, one "gastronomic"restaurant: $366 / €348)
  • Fast food, shave ice and grocery store shopping: $618 / $587

Hobbies: 394$ / 374€

  • Canöe-Kayak on the Wailua River: 72$ / 68€
  • Snorkeling Manta Raies in Kona: $282 / €268
  • Cycling rental in Kanapala (Kilauea): 40$ / 38$

Garden & parks: 155$ / 147€

  • NP Volcanoes: $20 / 19€
  • Haleakala NP: $20 / 19€
  • Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NP: 5$ / 4,5€
  • Diamond Head: 5$ / 4,5€: 5$ / 4,5€
  • Pearl Harbor: 69$ / 66€
  • Hawaii tropical botanical garden (near Hilo): 36$ / 34€

Update of 10/05/17:

It should be noted that our initial budget was 5850€ and finally we exceeded it by 900€. A cruel dilemma because we couldn't afford to go beyond that and at the same time we didn't want to miss out on a little bit of the spot. This is the first time we have exceeded our budget so much!


Our food budget exploded! We didn't expect grocery shopping or even restaurants to be so expensive. We had planned to make a restaurant every day, but we were forced to lower our expectations, making only a "van or fast food" restaurant every 2/3 days and despite this we exceeded our budget of 135€. For the rest of the meals, we bought sandwiches or salads. We also ate pasta regularly in the evenings that we cooked on site.

We also had to add nearly 300€ at the counter of our car rental company in Kona to take out the civil liability insurance and the 4x4 upgrade.

We did not have a sufficiently large budget for outings and activities. At the base, we had planned only 400€ for the helicopter overflight in Kauai that we didn't do. Instead, we preferred the exit to swim with the rays in Kona. In the end, we exceeded this budget by €120.

More generally, the euro weakened against the dollar and lost 0.10% of its value between the purchase of tickets and D-day. On the final bill, it's almost 290€ of increase.

Hawaii remains an expensive destination and even more so during the peak season! Keep in mind that the cost of living is expensive on site: restaurant, food, petrol, excursions, hotels... The prices have nothing to do with those of the American continent.

If you would like more information on the budget for a trip to Hawaii, I suggest you read our dedicated article on the subject: How much does a trip to Hawaii cost? Price and estimated budget

9On the way to Hawaii

On April 30th we flew to Hawaii, a fabulous trip of which we came back enchanted. One of our most beautiful trips! You can follow us in Hawaii through the daily Vlog or also read the details of our opinion with 21 days spent in the archipelago: Feedback: our opinion after 3 weeks in Hawaii.

Did Smartrippers help you? Do you know that you can thank us by making some of your reservations directly from our links (activities, hotels...)? This sometimes allows us to earn a small commission without changing the price for you. Don't forget that with Smartrippers everything is free, no advertising, no placement of links at the request of brands... Every little click makes us so happy! Thank you so much!

About us

We are Sandrine and Flo, French thirty-somethings. In 2019 we quit everything to live our dream, become nomads and travel around the world. We left with our baby, Lena, who was only 5 months old at the time. After a first trip around the Pacific Ocean by plane and a long 3 months stay in Hawaii, we left to discover Iceland for 3 months on board our 4WD pickup truck and truck camper. Then we continued our adventure in North America.

Today, if we can continue this adventure, it is above all thanks to our blog, Smartrippers! We created it one day in 2016, with the desire to share our good travel tips, without thinking that it would lead us there! We have developed it a lot over the years and have become experts on our 3 favorite destinations: Hawaii, Iceland and the American West. We now guide you to these destinations to help you plan the trip of your dreams!

Follow our adventures!