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Hawaii: The Costs of Traveling in Paradise

Together with New Zealand and Australia, Hawaii is one of the most expensive holiday destinations worldwide. And that’s not only because the islands are – for a European – nearly as far aways as Down Under. If you want to go to Hawaii, you should keep in mind that your journey can become quite expensive. How expensive? That’s what we’ll talk about today.

I’ll break down the costs of traveling to Hawaii for you.

Most of the prices quoted in this article are in US-dollars because I paid them in USD. Stuff that I paid in euros are quoted in euros. You’ll find an up to date exchange rate here. Since the exchange rate is quite unstable at the moment, I won’t convert any values for this article.


The Costs of Flights

Hawaii and Germany are 12.000 kilometers apart. Actually, with around 16.500 kilometers, Sydney is even further away from Frankfurt than Honolulu. Nevertheless, it’s quite a long way to Hawaii from the middle of Europe. And it’s no wonder that the flight isn’t actually cheap. The two of us paid 910 euros per person for our ticket from Frankfurt to Honolulu and back with Delta. Short stopovers in Paris and Seattle and in Salt Lake City and Atlanta on the way back.

910 euros are a good price since flights to Hawaii can cost a lot more than 1000 euros. But I must admit that I have seen flights to Hawaii for no more than 600 euros. Whether you get a price that good depends on your flexibility and the length of stopovers.

Tip: If you want to know how to pay less for your flights, read: 8 Smart Travel Hacks That Help You Find The Cheapest Flights.

The Costs Of Interisland Flights In Hawaii

If you want to go island hopping on Hawaii the airplane is the most convenient and fastest means of transportation. Although there are ferries connecting some of the islands you’ll need much more time to get from A to B and you won’t necessarily pay less if you travel by ship. Island Air connects the main airports of Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Lanai, Hawaiian flies to all islands, the American mainland, Australia and Oceania and East Asia. Mokulele is a commuter airline that connects smaller airports of the Hawaiian islands. Interisland flights cost from 60 to 150 dollars approximately.

Attention: All Hawaiian airlines ask for an extra fee for checked-in luggage that you’ll have to pay at the counter when checking in. Depending on the airline and the kind and size of luggage the fee ranges from 15 to 35 dollars per checked-in item.

Our Flights, Prices Per Person

  • Honolulu, Oahu – Kahului, Maui: 68 dollars per flight plus 15 dollars luggage fee, with Islandair.
  • Kahului, Maui – Hilo, Big Island: 130 dollars per flight plus 25 dollars luggage fee, with Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Kona, Big Island – Honolulu, Maui: 95 dollars per flight plus 25 dollars luggage fee, with Hawaiian Airlines.

Total costs of flights: 910 euros plus 358 dollars for interisland flights per person.


The Costs Of A Rental Car In Hawaii

Theoretically speaking, if you’re on a budget, you can get around the Hawaiian islands without a car. On Oahu there’s a bus circling the island and on Maui and Big Island there are tour operators that can get you around. However, taking the bus will mean that your choice of way will be very limited and you’ll miss a lot of the things you might want to see. Because, honestly, public transport is not what it pretends to be.

You can get a rental car from 35 dollars a day and you’ll save money if you take a car for a week or longer. Consider renting a 4 wheel drive on the Big Island and a convertible on Maui. The Road to Hana experience isn’t complete with a car roof over your head. On the Big Island there are some unpaved roads leading to beautiful beaches or up to the summit of the Mauna Kea. Officially, most rental agencies don’t allow you to drive these roads, but so what. (We did.)

We didn’t take a car on our first two days on Oahu since we only wanted to hang out on the beach and get over our jet lag. Since we booked all cars from Germany, prices are quoted in euros.

  • Maui: Ford Mustang Convertible, 6 days: 340 euros
  • Big Island: Jeep Wrangler, 7 days: 280 euros
  • Oahu: Ford Focus, 4 days: 128 euros

Gasoline costs approximately 30 cents more than on the mainland, making it 4 dollars per gallon but you won’t need a lot. Apart from those on the Big Island, distances are pretty short. We spent around 100 dollars for gasoline.

Total costs of rental cars: 374 euros per person plus gasoline.


The Costs Of Hotels In Hawaii

Accommodation is considerably cheaper in off season than in high season when you can easily pay up to 250 dollars for a down-and-out three star hotel room in Waikiki Beach. Unfortunately, AirBnb isn’t exceptionally cheap either because most hosts run a professional Bed & Breakfast and try to rent their rooms via the platform. There are a couple of hostels and one motel. All in all, big family and luxury hotels and resorts dominate the market in Hawaii.

This is where we spent our nights (and what we paid):

  • 2 nights Waikiki Beach, Aston Waikiki Beach, double room, queen size bed: 235 dollars.
  • 6 nights Kihei, Maui, Days Inn Maui Oceanfront, double room, queen size bed: 560 dollars.
  • 3 nights Hilo, Big Island, AirBnb private flat with balcony, kitchenette and living room: 235 dollars.
  • 4 nights Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Sheraton Kona Resort, double room, king size bed: 590 dollars, plus 100 dollars resort fee for parking and some fantasy costs.
  • 3 nights Waialua, Oahu, AirBnB private room with queen size bed, shared kitchen and bathroom: 280 dollars.

Total costs of accommodation: 1000 dollars per person for 18 nights

Hawaii is expensive – although we did profit from low off-season prices (we went in November). Of course, you can live a bit cheaper than we did. I mean, you can always live on somebody’s couch or in a tent. But the savings potential isn’t nearly as big as the potential to spend a lot more than we did. You will easily find hotels that cost two or three times the prices we paid. And this isn’t the limit either.


The Costs Of Food In Hawaii

Food is generally more expensive in the USA than it is in Europe. The thing is: We Europeans usually don’t notice that if the exchange rate is good. Food is even more expensive in Hawaii since the greatest part is not produced in Hawaii but imported. Eating out is expensive because of the obligatory tip. Add 15 to 20 percent to the prices quoted in the menu.

You’ll get a cheap meal at a side street restaurant starting from 15 dollars but the sky is the limit. Much better: Eating at a food truck. And a tip for those who want to eat out in restaurants: Go for lunch. The lunch menu is half as expensive in most places.

Some examples of food prices in Hawaii:

  • Homemade Burger with homemade fries in a restaurant: 18 dollars
  • Thai-Curry with chicken or tofu, rice and soda at a food truck: 10 dollars
  • Lobster at a food truck: 20 dollars
    Lobster at a restaurant: 50 dollars
  • Wrap with salad, chicken, avocado and tomatoes at a food truck: 7 dollars
  • Fresh lilikoi smoothie at a fruit stand on the Road to Hana: 7 dollars
  • Ready to eat salad from a grocery store: 8 dollars
  • Toast, pack: 4 dollars
  • Fruit yogurt: 3 dollars (yeah, a small one)
  • Small beer: From 3 dollars at a food truck, around 7 dollars in a bar or restaurant. six-pack in a supermarket: From 8 dollars.
  • 1,5 liters of water: From 1 dollar. By the way: You can drink tap water but it’s chlorinated in some places which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea (it definitely isn’t mine).

Tip: Some grocery chains give discounts if you have a customer card. At foodland you’ll get the card even as a tourist. Just give them your phone number once and you’ll save big time.


The Costs Of Surfing In Hawaii

You didn’t think of going to Hawaii without surfing, did you? A two hour lesson costs around 80 dollars per person at Maui Surf Clinics in Lahaina. And believe me: Two hours is more than enough for a day. You’ll be wiped out after that. Two days after the first lesson when we did feel our arms again we took another one and after that we went into the waves without an instructor.

Surfboard rental from 18 dollars for two hours for a Malibu board.

Total costs of surfing: 196 dollars per person.


The Costs Of Shopping In Hawaii

I know some people who love to go to the USA for shopping. Just as on the mainland you’ll find a couple of outlet malls in Hawaii. But other than on the mainland they aren’t spectacular. Take my advice and visit the small surf shops instead of chain stores. Surfing apparel is pretty cheap in Hawaii by the way.

Best places to shop: Lahaina, Maui and Haleiwa, Oahu. You’ll find a lot of individual surf shops that sell everything from Quiksilver to local designers there!

Long sleeve wetsuit: 34 dollars
Bordshorts: 28 dollars, both Roxy.
Arbor longboard: 120 dollars
Hula-Doll: 14 dollars
Adidas running shoes: 20 dollars
Local designer shirt: 20 dollars

What else will you have to pay for?

Esta application fee for entry into the USA: 14 dollars
National Park entry fees: The Hawaii TriPark Annual Pass costs 25 dollars and is your best choice if you want to visit Haleakala National Park, Hawaii Volcanos National Park and at least one National Historical Park.
Rides from Honolulu airport to Waikiki Beach: 16 dollars per way with any airport shuttle.

So… Should you rather not visit Hawaii because it might get too expensive?

No fucking way! Go! Go there as soon as you can because you will want to return as often as you can. And if you aren’t convince yet, read this article: Hawaii: Islands That Will Leave You Speechless.

About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!


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