Is Hawaii Expensive? Tips and Tricks for Visiting Hawaii on a Budget

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With endless coastlines, plenty of sunshine, and constant good weather, Hawaii is the ultimate relaxation destination. The tropical paradise is located in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Side fact: It’s the only U.S. state to be comprised entirely of islands.

However, it does have quite a reputation for being a more pricey place to take a vacation. So, how expensive is Hawaii? Well, the answer to this question really depends on you.

We’ve broken down all the cost of a budget-friendly vacation, so you know exactly what to expect money-wise. From the price of milk in Hawaii to your flight tickets – and everything in between, it’s all here.

Depending on which island you will be staying, the costs and expenses will be different (generally speaking, the more tourists, the more expensive). Follow our tips and tricks to be sure that your money stays in your pocket!

We’ll get into a more detailed break down in this guide so you know what the expect. The good news is, as long as you travel wisely, you can easily visit all beautiful islands on a budget.

So, let’s unravel the question “Is Hawaii expensive”?

 

So, How Much Does a Trip to Hawaii Cost on Average?

In this post, we’ll go over a few key things that will help you calculate your Hawaii trip cost. These include:

  • Accommodation options
  • How to travel around in Hawaii
  • Fun activities to enjoy during your trip
  • Where to eat and drink in Hawaii on a budget
how much does a trip to Hawaii cost

The white sand beaches will take your breath away!

Just keep in mind that all costs in this guide are estimates and are subject to change. All the prices we’ve listed are in USD, which is the currency of Hawaii, and what you’ll be using while visiting.

Also, to lay things out a little more simply, and help you better understand the prices you’ll encounter, we’ve included ball-park estimates for the costs of traveling in Hawaii.

 

3 Days in Hawaii Travel Costs

ExpensesEstimated Daily CostEstimated Total Cost
Average AirfareN/A$470
Accommodation$35-165$105-495
Transportation$4-80$12-240
Food$15-45$45-135
Drink$5-20$15-60
Attractions$0-30$0-90
Total (excluding airfare)$59-340$177-1020

 

Cost of Flights to Hawaii

ESTIMATED EXPENSE: $470 for a round trip ticket

Step one of planning a trip to Hawaii is booking your airfare. Depending on which country you’re coming from, flight prices will fluctuate.

Seeing as Hawaii is made up of several islands, there are several major airports. The top three are:

  • Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
  • Kahului Airport (OGG)
  • Kona International Airport (KOA)

The Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is usually the cheapest airport to fly into. To give you a rough estimate of airfare costs were going to be using this airport for the example.

Flights to Honolulu from the USA, the UK, Australia, and Canada are all priced differently. The prices change based upon the time of year you plan to visit.

Peak travel time to Hawaii is usually from June – August. This is the Northern Hemisphere’s summer holidays and Hawaii’s dry season. Flight prices also increase during the month of December, as these tropical islands are a very popular place to spend the holidays.

Usually, the cheapest time to visit Hawaii is outside of these months. Refer below to see when is the most affordable month to fly to Honolulu, according to Skyscanner:

 

Here is a list that provides the average cost for a round trip ticket to Honolulu International Airport (HNL). Remember these are average prices, and subject to change.

  • New York to Honolulu: 515 – 770 USD
  • London to Honolulu: 575 – 785 GBP
  • Sydney to Honolulu: 490 – 1,525 AUD
  • Vancouver to Honolulu: 360 – 635 CAD

It’s always good to check Hawaii’s other airports too when booking a flight. Depending on where you’re coming from, this can sometimes work out cheaper. Keep in mind that airline prices dip low all the time, and there’s always the chance of grabbing a sweet deal with an error fare.

 

Price of Accommodation in Hawaii

ESTIMATED EXPENSE: $35-$165/day

Let’s have a look at accommodation options! Picking where to stay depends on personal preference and budget. If you’re low on finances, you’ll want to book a dorm in a hostel. But, if you prefer privacy, and don’t mind paying a bit more, budget hotels are also an option. We’ve put together a list of the best treehouses in Hawaii, and you’ll be surprised to know that there are some awesome budget options available if you’re looking for a unique place to stay!

You’ll have three main choices when looking for places to stay in Hawaii: hostels, Airbnb, and hotels. Let’s go over all three, so you can decide which style of Hawaii living suits you best.

In each of these categories, we’ve included an option for the Big Island, Maui, and Oahu, – the three islands you’re definitely going to want to check out. This will give you a general idea of the prices you can expect on each island.

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Hostels in Hawaii

Hostels are going to be the cheapest choice of accommodation in Hawaii.

In fact, the cost of your trip will drop dramatically by staying in shared dorms. Hostels come with a lot of great perks that make budget traveling easy too. They’re also a great way to meet fellow travelers. And trust us, there are a couple of amazing hostels in Hawaii. Be sure to check them out!

cheap places to stay in hawaii

source: My Hawaii Hostel (Hostelworld)

The average hostel will cost between $35 and $45 per night. Again, keep in mind that prices might differ, depending on which island you’re staying. Here are our top three hostels in Hawaii:

  • My Hawaii Hostel – You’ll find all your hostel requirements here: self-catering facilities, free coffee/tea, a social atmosphere, and friendly staff.
  • The Northshore Hostel Maui – If you’re trying to keep your trip to Maui cost down, this hostel offers free breakfast (perfect for budegt travellers), free airport transfer, and self-catering facilities.
  • Polynesian Hostel Beach Club Waikiki – At this hostel, you can take advantage of the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle. It’s located right next to the beach and you have access to free snorkel gear (if you find Nemo, let us know!).

 

Airbnbs in Hawaii

Airbnbs are another great option for accommodation. Since you’ll be staying in a local’s house/apartment, you’ll get a more personal feel of the islands.

If you’re traveling with a group, just split the bill at the end of your stay. This could actually end up saving you and your friends a lot of money.

hawaii accommodation prices

source: Beautiful Condo in Downtown Kona (Airbnb)

Airbnbs are also a great way to have some privacy during your travels without having to empty your bank completely. Whether it’s an entire apartment or a private room, you can enjoy your peace and quiet after a long day of exploring the island.

A budget Airbnb in Hawaii will cost between about $55 – $85 a night. Here are three options that are on the cheaper side:

  • Beautiful Condo in Downtown Kona – Stay in this private apartment and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. You’ll also enjoy easy access to the beach, restaurants, Kona coffee houses, and shopping.
  • Bungalow paradise in Molokai – You’ll really feel the aloha spirit staying at this Airbnb. Your bungalow comes with the use of an on-site swimming pool, hammocks, private lanai, and more.
  • Private Room with Private Entrance – This Airbnb is a great value for money. You’ll have access to all the necessities like a kitchen, free use of beach gear, and bed and bath essentials.

 

Hotels in Hawaii

If you’re planning on staying in hotels during your vacation, the answer to “how much is a Hawaii trip” is going to be: “expensive”. Hotels in Hawaii are very common, but unfortunately, they won’t be the best for your budget. The average price of a budget hotel can range from $130 – $165 per night.

cheap hotels in hawaii

source: Kona Islander Inn Hotel (Booking.com)

Although staying in a hotel will add more to your Hawaii cost of travel, being able to relax in your own space and having luxuries like room service can be very appealing.

Here are three great budget hotel options:

  • Kona Islander Inn Hotel – This hotel will put you into full vacation mode. All rooms feature a balcony with a scenic view, a kitchenette and seating area, and barbecue facilities.
  • Maui Beach Hotel – This beachfront hotel is very modern and in a great location. Guests can wind down with a drink at the poolside lounge, or enjoy a dinner buffet at the restaurant.
  • Holiday Surf Hotel – this family-owned hotel offers spacious accommodation with full kitchens, a patio or balcony, and much more.

 

Cost of Transport in Hawaii

ESTIMATED EXPENSE: $4-$80/day

Next up, let’s talk about the cost of transport in Hawaii. There are a few ways to get around and explore the islands: by air, by land, and by water. All of the islands are relatively small, so travelling around shouldn’t be a problem.

Driving will give you the most freedom, but renting a car can be expensive. Bus companies service the larger islands and are very affordable. Then of course, if you plan to island hop, you’ll want to know about flights and ferries.

To help your trip run as smoothly as possible, here is everything you need to know about how to travel around Hawaii on a budget.

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Bus Travel in Hawaii

Currently, the only option for public transport in Hawaii on land is via bus. There are no trains, trams or subways on any of the islands.

The larger islands all have public bus systems that service certain areas. However, the bus companies in Hawaii are not unified, and each island’s bus system will be slightly different.

how to get around hawaii cheap

Here is a quick break down of the bus companies you’ll have access to on the larger islands:

  • Oahu: TheBus – this is the most reliable bus system in Hawaii. It has over 103 routes and provides good coverage of the island.
  • Maui: Maui Bus – offers good coverage of the island with the exception of Hana and the Haleakala? National Park. Make sure to check out the different bus routes.
  • The Big Island: Hele-On Bus – is probably the least reliable of the bus systems in Hawaii. Even though schedules are posted online, it’s common for the buses to run late.

Bus tickets on each island are very affordable, with one-way fare ranging from $2 – $2.75. Day passes to ride the bus’ are only between $4 – $5.50.

On most buses, you can pay when you get on. Just make sure you have small money or the exact amount, as drivers usually don’t carry cash.

 

Island Hopping in Hawaii

Each of Hawaii’s islands has its own list of attractions and unique allure. We recommend checking out as many as your time and budget allows. If you need help with planning your trip, be sure to check out our Hawaii Itinerary.

For island hopping in Hawaii, you’ll just have just two options:

Flying – An inter-island airline service is mainly provided by Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines. The flight times can range between just 20 minutes, to 2.5-hours, depending on which islands you are flying between.

island hopping in hawaii

There are airports located on six of Hawaii’s main islands. They are Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and the Big Island. Flying between the major islands/airports is the cheapest. For example, a roundtrip plane ticket from Oahu to Maui will cost between $70 and $150. A one-way ticket can between $40 and $85.

Flight prices between the smaller islands are more expensive. For example, a roundtrip ticket from Kauai to Molokai will cost between $200 and $260. Or, between $90 and $110 for a one-way ticket.

Ferry – Currently, there is only one inter-island ferry in Hawaii. The Maui-Lanai Expeditions Ferry services Maui and Lanai. It takes about an hour and costs $30 for a one-way ticket.

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Renting a Car in Hawaii

Renting a car in Hawaii is the best way to sightsee and explore an island. Although buses are more affordable, they tend to keep more to the touristy areas. A car can take you anywhere you want to go, giving you great freedom and independence.

Car rentals can get pricey though. Having a group of travelers to split the car rental price can save you quite some money.

renting a car in hawaii

Most of the major international rental car companies are found in Hawaii. These include Alamo Dollar, Enterprise, National, and Thrifty  You’ll have the most options for car rental companies at the major airports in Hawaii.

Car rentals prices start at about $40-50 a day for a basic 4-door vehicle. However, if you want to add a driver, you’ll be charged an extra fee of about $15 per day.

Car insurance will cost about another $8 per day. Then, you’ll also need to pay for your own petrol. The average cost for petrol as of January 2020 is 0.93 a liter ($3.52 a gallon) in Honolulu.

The problem with renting a car is that you can only use it on one island. Island hopping with a car isn’t possible yet, so unless you want to stick to one island or rent another car, using public transport might be the better option.

Want to save some cash and explore Hawaii by rental car? Use rentalcar.com to find the best deal possible. There are some great prices on the site and they aren’t difficult to find.

 

Cost of Food in Hawaii

ESTIMATED EXPENSE: $15-$45/day

When it comes to eating out, the food prices in Hawaii can be very high. A meal in a cheap restaurant alone can cost between $10 and $15. Maui is going to be the most expensive island when it comes to dining out. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways you can save money on your food expenses.

An obvious way to stretch your dollars is to avoid restaurants. Eating out is going to add up fast. Luckily, grocery prices in Hawaii are more affordable. Farmer’s markets and food trucks are also a cheaper alternative.

how much does food cost in hawaii

Here are some local Hawaiian food items you can find pretty much everywhere:

  • Laulau – is made from pork, wrapped in layers of taro leaves, and cooked in an underground rock oven. This results in a tender and juicy meat with a smokey flavor. This will cost you around $9.
  • Poke – Hawaiian poke is raw fish served in bite-sized cubes. Different kinds of fish can be used, but the most common type is tuna. You’ll find it in different flavors, from lime to spicy mayo. A basic poke bowl will cost between $6 and $10.
  • Pineapple – Hawaiian pineapple doesn’t taste like the stuff you buy in your local grocery store back home. In Hawaii, this fruit tastes like candy – it’s mouth-wateringly good. A whole pineapple will cost between $5 and $8.

Carrying on, here are a few more easy ways that will help you save money. This information will especially keep your Maui vacation cost down.

  1. Accommodation with free breakfast – Usually hostels are the only type of cheap accommodation in Hawaii that offers free breakfast. Fill up on a free meal in the morning and then you’ll only need to spend money on two meals per day.
  2. Self-catering accommodation – Cooking for yourself is going to be a huge money-saver. Most Airbnb and some hotels offer at least basic kitchenettes.

 

Where to Eat Cheaply in Hawaii

The best way to eat cheap on your trip is to purchase your food from grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Eating out can cost between $10 – $30 per meal. Whereas food from a supermarket will cost between $5 and $10 per meal.

cheap places to eat in hawaii

source: Lucas Gustavo Duarte (Shutterstock)

Here are a few of the best places that offer budget food prices in Hawaii

  1. Safeway – this grocery store chain is found on all of Hawaii’s main islands. It’s well-stocked and offers lots of inexpensive grocery items. You’ll need a Safeway Club Card to get the best deals in the store. To sign up for one, all you have to do is provide your telephone number. It’s super easy and worth it.
  2. Foodland – this is another budget grocery store with general groceries and Hawaiin specialty food items.
  3. Local Farmer’s Market – Generally speaking, local farmer’s markets in Hawaii will be less expensive than grocery stores for items like produce and take-away meals.

Keep in mind that food prices can vary between islands. If you’re asking yourself something like “how much does a gallon of milk cost in Hawaii?”, there are two different answers. In Maui, it’ll cost around $6, but in Oahu, it’ll cost about $3.

 

Price of Alcohol in Hawaii

ESTIMATED EXPENSE: $5-$20/day

Hawaii has a high tax on alcohol which means regular drinking can do some damage to your budget. The average drink at a regular bar or restaurant will cost between $10 and $15. If you’re looking for a wild night out, the bigger cities in Hawaii will have more of a party culture compared to the smaller island towns.

how much does alcohol cost in hawaii

If you do go out, here are some prices you can expect to pay for drinks:

  • Beer – $5 – $9 for a pint of beer is about the standard amount.
  • Wine – A regular glass of wine will cost between $10 and $17.
  • Cocktail – Cocktails will cost about $15 – $20.

To save money on alcohol, here are a few options:

  1. Find a hotel, bar, or restaurants with happy hours specials – happy hour is very common in Hawaii
  2. Buy alcohol from a grocery store or an ABC Store
  3. Stock up on duty-free alcohol from the airport you’re flying into

 

Cost of Attractions in Hawaii

ESTIMATED EXPENSE: $0-30/day

There are some amazing places and things to see in Hawaii, no matter on which island you’re staying. Knowing how much money you have to put aside to see all of the hotspots is essential for a good trip.

But, let’s just start off by saying that Hawaii’s main attraction, its beaches, are completely free. You’ll also find plenty of free hiking trails in Hawaii too.

The National Parks in Hawaii charge an entrance fee. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, for example, charges $30 per vehicle. But, this fee admits all of the vehicle’s passengers. So, if there are five people in the car, each person will end up only paying $6.

cost of travel to hawaii

If you’re not arriving by vehicle and taking public transport or cycling into the park, the entrance fee is $15 per person. The good news is, your pass can be used for a whole week.

Another popular attraction is the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. This attraction is completely free, and parking is free too. However, it is recommended that you reserve your ticket online in advance to secure your spot. The online reservation fee is $1 per ticket.

One of the most popular things to do in Hawaii is seeing a Luau, a traditional party with great food and entertainment). This attraction is more on the pricey side. You can expect to pay a minimum of $90 to $100 per person. This includes a buffet dinner and a traditional Polynesian dance and music show. Drinks are also sometimes included.

The amazing thing about Hawaii is that it’s entirely possible to spend very little money on attractions and still have a good time.

 

Additional Costs of Travel in Hawaii

We’ve covered all the main costs you’ll need to take into consideration when traveling to the islands. Visiting Hawaii on a budget is definitely possible. However, it’s always a good idea to set some extra money aside when traveling.

is hawaii expensive to visit

About 10% of your total trip cost is a reasonable amount to set aside to stay on the safe side. This will come in handy in case you spend a little too much money souvenir shopping or decide you want to add an extra activity to your Hawaii itinerary.

 

Tipping in Hawaii

Being mindful of other culture’s customs and showing respect is a good habit to have while traveling.

Hawaii follows similar tipping guides to the mainland U.S. In Hawaii, servers earn less than minimum wage, and tips are factored into their wages. It’s recommended to tip at least 15 % for good service.

If you order a drink from the bar, it’s standard to leave $1 – $2 per order. If you’re taking a shuttle to/from the airport, it’s common practice to tip your driver $2 per bag if they help you with your luggage.

Leave a tip and put a smile on someone’s face!

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Get Travel Insurance for Hawaii

Travel insurance is, something you should opt for when you’re traveling abroad. And Hawaii is pretty safe, trust us. But it sucks to spend that extra bit of cash, but it has to be done.

Say for example you’re riding your scooter and you get knocked over. Or you take a fall on your bike. These are the type of things you’ll want to be covered for.

Shoutout from Will – The OG Broke Backpacker: Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before: you need it.

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Some Final Tips for Saving Money in Hawaii

tips to save money in hawaii

So, what’s the actual cost of a trip to Hawaii? We have just a few more things to cover and then you’ll have a pretty clear idea.

Here are some final tips on how to tackle the high prices in Hawaii:

  1. Hitchhike – in Hawaii, this is an acceptable and surprisingly popular form of travel. Hawaii is a great place to hitchhike – it’s extremely safe and the locals are very friendly. It’s actually very common to see travelers with their thumbs sticking out on the side of the road.
  2. Bring your own snorkel gear – Snorkeling is an activity you should definitely try out while you’re visiting. The water is warm, and there are plenty of sheltered coves. You can rent snorkel gear in Hawaii for between $9 to $12 a day. Whereas if you buy a set a decent snorkel set before your trip, it should only cost you around $30.
  3. Pack your suitcase right – you don’t want to end up buying overpriced sunscreens and hats.
  4. Camp out – Hawaii is a great place to spend a night under the stars. Campsites can be found across all of the islands, making this form of accommodation very accessible. With campsites starting at as little as $10 per person, your cost for a trip to Hawaii will go way down.
  5. Have a water bottle: Don’t waste money on plastic, bottled waters; carry your own and refill it in the fountains and the tap. If you’re worried about potable water, get a filtered bottle, like the GRAYL, which filters out 99% of viruses and bacteria.
  6. Earn money while you travel: Teaching English while traveling is a great way to make ends meet! If you find a sweet gig, you may even end up living in Hawaii.
  7. Become a volunteer with Worldpackers: Give back to the local community and, in exchange, you’re room and board will often be covered. It’s not always free, but it’s still a cheap way to travel in Hawaii.

 

So is Hawaii Expensive, in Fact?

So, is Hawaii expensive to visit? The truth – no. It doesn’t have to be. Your vacation will be what you make it and the price of a trip depends on you.

To recap, the five best ways to save money are…

  1. For accommodation: stay in a hostel, split an Airbnb with friends, or camp.
  2. Travel by bus, or split the price of a rental car with friends.
  3. Shop at supermarkets as opposed to eating out.
  4. Limit your drinking.
  5. Spend your days taking advantage of Hawaii’s free public beaches and hiking trails.

Follow these tips and Hawaii can be an affordable destination. Once you’re on the islands, you can spend about $415 a week if you’re frugal enough. If you’re still unsure about how to travel on a budget, check out our backpacking 101 guide.

cost of a trip to hawaii

Of course, depending on your flights, the average cost to Hawaii can be expensive. Keep an eye on airline prices and remember that the best deals are usually scored in advance.

What we think an average daily budget for Hawaii should be:

If you follow this advice, you can easily spend around $60 a day traveling in Hawaii comfortably.

 

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.


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