Is Hawaii Expensive? (The Ultimate Travel Costs Guide)

If you’ve found yourself asking ‘is Hawaii expensive’ then we can only conclude that you’ve been dreaming of a trip to the Aloha State. Don’t worry – you’re in good company!

From the smoking volcanoes that tower atop the islands to the sparkling sands that fringe their shores, there’s oodles and oodles to keep travelers going back for more in this land of wonder.

Sadly, the home of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach isn’t the cheapest spot to head off for your R&R. The picture-perfect bays of Maui and the lush rainforests and the stooping coconut palms, they all come with a price tag attached. Cue this guide. It will answer your query as to whether Hawaii is expensive and get into the nitty gritty of what you can expect to pay out on a vacation to the tropical paradise.

Ready? Let’s go…

Is Hawaii expensive to visit?

is hawaii expensive
Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

Well…yes. And no.

Sorry if that’s vague, but the truth is that not all Hawaii holidays are made equal.

You definitely can waltz over to the Aloha State and blow your entire bank account and then some. People do it all the time, on glamourous honeymoons in chic 5-star hotels overlooking the turquoise Pacific shore waters of Waikiki Beach. They splash the cash on high-class living, yacht charters, fine-dining Polynesian cooking – you name it.

On the other hand, it’s possible to do Hawaii on a budget. You can cut costs by opting for self-catering accommodations (meaning you’ll be able to shop in cheaper supermarkets and dodge expensive meals out). What’s more, regions like the windward coast of Oahu and the less-trodden east coast of Maui usually come in at just a fraction of the cost of other, more popular, resort areas.

More generally speaking, the answer is yes: Hawaii is expensive when compared to most other US destinations. Honolulu is ranked in the top 10 priciest cities in the country, and in the top 20 most expensive places to live in the world! Moreover, rates will crank up with the vacationing high season months (typically between December and March), as snowbirds from Europe and the continental United States fill the resorts to bursting.

How much money do you need for 7 days in Hawaii?

Image by bphelan from Pixabay

Although we think you can do Hawaii on a budget, and we know you can live it up like a jet setter if money’s no object, it might be helpful to get a ballpark figure on what dosh you should expect to drop on these lovely islands.

So, on average, a round estimate of a week’s outgoings for a Hawaii holiday would be about 1,400 GBP ($1,880 USD) per person. That gives a rough daily spend of 200 GBP, which accounts for your hotel stay, eating out, trips and transportation within the islands themselves (although island hopping tends to be pricier).

We haven’t included the cost of flights to Hawaii in the approximation. The reason? Airfares to the Aloha State vary wildly depending on your point of origin. It’s possible to get a (relatively) quick hop over from the West Coast of the US for around $300 return. Those jetting in from London or Frankfurt, meanwhile, will probably be forking out well over 700 GBP for the journey.

It’s also worth reiterating that you definitely can do a trip to Hawaii for way less than the estimate above. We’ve based our costs on stays in midrange hotels the whole way, along with three meals out – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Campsites, hostels, and self-catering accommodations will all help to cut the bill considerably.

Is it expensive to eat out in Hawaii?

hawaii food
Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

On the whole, Hawaii ain’t cheap for foodies who like to eat out. It’s not extortionate a la Singapore, though, and you can often find some bargain local eats if you’re willing to stray off the beaten path a little.

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Breakfast is often included in the cost of a hotel stay. That’s especially true if you plump for one of the big resort hotels in places like Waikiki, on Oahu, or in the uber-chic establishments close to the beaches of lovely Kailua-Kona, on Big Island. (A word of warning: It might seem like a great idea to have breakfast waiting for you when you wake, but adding a meal to your accommodation can be pricy. It can add nearly 50 GBP to some stays, so you could be better off saving the dollars and checking out local cafes instead.)

Lunches and dinners will usually be the main expense when it comes to eating out in Hawaii. The general rule of thumb is around $50+ a head for a meal in a fancy joint, going down to about $20-25 a head for somewhere a little more casual. Booze is more than on the mainland US, with imported beers coming in it around the $4-6 mark (but more on beers later).

What is the cheapest way to vacation in Hawaii?

hawaii holiday
Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

There are loads of ways you can keep the cost of that Hawaii vacation on the down low.

For starters, be wary of what accommodation you go for. Yes, there are fancy villas perched between the rolling fairways of country clubs near Kona, and everyone wants to stay down on Waikiki Beach. But there are also amazing campgrounds on the fringes of the Hawai’i Volcanos National Park, or self-catering pads in less-popular places like Hilo on Big Island, that will be just a fraction of the price.

Planning properly can also work wonders on the budget front. There’s no need to bag a car hire – which can cost upwards of $120 per day in these parts – if you’re simply looking to laze on the powdery beaches with a pina colada in hand. Alternatively, get your hire for just a day or two, save the extra cost of more rental days, and pencil in your exploring when you do have the wheels.

Finally, probably the best way to reduce the cost of a trip to Hawaii would be to opt to travel during the shoulder season or low season months. Rates for hotels and tours skyrocket in the winter, when the snowbirds look to escape the Midwest for some Aloha sun. However, they plummet in October and November, when it’s very humid but also way less busy.

How much is accommodation in Hawaii?

hawaii hotel
Image by Werbeagentur ComMotion from Pixabay

The cost of your accommodation on Hawaii will always depend on what you’re after. These islands have all sorts. There are uber-luxurious villas in gated resort complexes with infinity pools poking over the Pacific Ocean. But there are also remote campgrounds in the rainforests where only the most intrepid travelers will venture to.

As a general guide, you’re probably looking at around 200 GBP/night for the slickest hotels in the coolest of places. We’re talking a high-rise, chain hotel with spa facilities and a fantabulous location by the conch-shell coves and surf spots of Waikiki. It’s possible to pay more too, for chic, boutique lodgings that are an A-lister’s dream.

At the other end of the spectrum are Hawaii’s backpacker hostels and its campsites. You will sacrifice the best locations and some creature comforts in those, but you could also be pleasantly surprised by the rate: Pitches or dorm beds can start at 40 GBP per night, per person in the peak season months between December and March.

How much is a meal in Hawaii?

The cost of meals varies considerably across Hawaii’s hodgepodge of restaurants. Come in search of the haute cuisine of Chef Mavro (an acclaimed fine-dining bistro in Honolulu) and you’re going to pay a premium – around $40-50 per head is normal. The same goes for the most popular hotel restaurants. A night enjoying the international fusion foods of establishments like the Sheraton in Kona could easily set you back over $100 a head, for example.

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Don’t panic. That’s not the only thing on the menu. You can save a packet by going local. It’s also fun. Tread down to the traditional Polynesian fish markets and weekend farmer’s markets of Honolulu and there’ll be stacks of tempting produce to get a-cooking, although you’ll need a self-catering pad to make the most of that. Alternatively, check out the so-called ono grinds. They’re Hawaiian cookhouses that serve zingy portions of islander food for just a fraction of the chicer kitchens in the land of aloha!

How much does a beer cost in Hawaii?

beer hawaii
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

We’re hoping you’re sitting all cosy on the couch reading this rather elongated answer to the query ‘is Hawaii expensive,’ your feet up and a refreshingrefreshing beer in hand. But how much would said beer cost you on the islands themselves? A good ballpark guess is about $5-7. To put it into context, that’s just a little lower than the average cost of a cold one in the big city of LA.

Of course, the tastiest local craft brews – Bikini Blonde and the Big Swell IPA, for example – will be pricier than that. What’s more, the rate for drinks tends to shoot up when you hit the main resort towns, so try to avoid the hotel bars in Kailua and Waikiki especially.

How much is a Coke in Hawaii?

The cost of a Coke in Hawaii really depends on where you bag that soda. In a supermarket, this perennial pop is a wallet-friendly 50 cents a can, and potentially even less if you catch a bargain! We’re assuming you’ll want to sip a Coke by the side of the lapping Pacific Ocean, though, and that means hitting the beach bars. They routinely charge around $2 for a taste. More, yep – but you pay for location!

How much is a Big Mac in Hawaii?

Going by the prices on the menu in one of the main McDonald’s in Honolulu, a Big Mac burger will set you back around $3.99. That swells to $5.99 if you plump for all the extras and frills of a Big Mac Meal. To throw some more fries in will be just $1 on top, while a McFlurry for dessert is $1.79. Prices might vary from island to island. You will also find plenty of Maccies across the Aloha State – they’re present in the main transport towns, in the airports, and in the big resorts alike.

So, is Hawaii expensive?

hawaii prices
Image by jaspion82 from Pixabay

How much dosh you’ll need to make that dream trip to Hawaii a reality really depends on what you want out of your adventure.

If you want to base yourself in a slick, 5-star villa resort with a manicured golf club outside your door, access to a private beach, and a chauffer to take you back and forth to the volcanoes, you’re going to need some serious bucks behind you.

Budget travelers who want to keep things cheap might be pleasantly surprised at how Hawaii can be done on a shoestring. Look for the surf shacks with the self-catering facilities, pack the tent and think about camping, and aim to stay in less-popular places away from the honeymoon crowd. That should all help you cut the cost of a trip.

More generally, we’d say Hawaii is in the pricier half of US destinations. But then you do get plenty if you’re willing to pay – white-sand beaches along the Oahu shores, smoke-belching volcanos in Hawaii’i, legendary surf swells on the North Shore, the dramatic cliff mountains of Na Pali. It’s endless and just oh so tempting!


James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers