When it comes to a beach vacation, Hawaii is one of the first places that comes to mind. Idyllic white beaches, great food, friendly locals, and stunning scenery made famous by Hollywood movies including Jumanji 2 and Jurassic Park. But, just how much does it cost to go to this tropical paradise? I’m going to break it down for you and provide some tips on where and how you can save.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to suggest an itinerary of 7 days and 7 nights. I’m also going to base this article on Oahu prices as it is the main, and most expensive island in Hawaii. That said, I’m going to throw in some mentions of what to do in Maui too. Please note that this guide is based on the costs for a single person. If you are travelling as a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels).
|Accommodations||$1,400 ($200 per night)|
|Local transportation||$70 (or $50 a day for a car)|
|Food and drink||$595 ($85 per day)|
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use XE.com to find out the average costs in your home country.
Airfare to Hawaii can really vary in cost, but if you have some time to plan then keep an eye out for sales. Hawaii is a popular destination from North America and it’s pretty easy to find deals, flash sales, or promotions to Hawaii. To get the best deals, avoid high season (summer months and over the holidays). I’ve estimated airfare to Hawaii to be $800 but if you’re travelling from within North America, I’ve seen prices in the $450. For those who live on the west coast of Canada, e.g. in Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles, prices could be even lower. Of course, if you live on the opposite side of the world, you could easily spend more than $800.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $300 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
How you get around Hawaii’s island of Oahu will depend on what your plans are. If you plan on basing yourself in Honolulu, then you can rely on the local bus, conveniently called ‘The Bus’. If you are staying on the North Shore, or are really looking to explore then your best bet is to rent a car. The bus costs $5 per day for a daily ticket while renting a car will put you back about 40 dollars a day without insurance. If you’re staying in Maui, renting a car is pretty much a must unless you plan on booking a tour for all of your activities.
To get to and from the airport I suggest using one of the shuttle services which cost $16 per person rather than a taxi which will cost $40+ to the Waikiki area. Uber is also an option both to/from the airport and around Honolulu.
Remember, my guide assumes you’re staying on a single island. If you plan on island hopping, you may need to budget another $250 per flight. Please note that the estimate given in this article is for using local transportation so prices will vary depending on where you stay.
Oahu has no shortage of accommodation options around Waikiki, but no matter what you choose, you will likely find it pricey in comparison to other destinations. I’m going to estimate $1,400 for seven nights ($200 per night) in a midrange hotel in Waikiki-the most popular part of the island for visitors. The average price for a hotel room in Maui is also $200 per night. Prices can drop below $200 per night during the off-season, so you could save a bit of money depending on your timing.
Certain parts of the island, such as Haleiwa, have limited options for accommodations so be sure to book in advance.
If you are looking for accommodation recommendations in Honolulu, I suggest the following:
Or, you can try Airbnb; a popular choice for many travellers, including myself. Most offer clean and safe places to stay at reasonable prices. Just make sure to read the reviews ahead of time. Use my invite to get $45 towards your first stay.
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 125,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. Plus, get complimentary Platinum Elite status with your Card for the 2021 status year (apply by Jan. 13, 2021).
Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite Mastercard since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy when using a referral link. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $650.
It’s easy to get caught up with Hawaii’s attractions. From visiting Pearl Harbor to taking a taking a day trip around the island, checking out the film sets, or swimming with wild dolphins. Not to mention taking part in a traditional Hawaiian Luau. There is no shortage of things to see and do in Hawaii and the costs for these attractions can get really high really quickly. I recommend choosing what you want to do ahead of time so you can shop around for the best pricing, rather than just making impulsive decisions. Day trips will normally cost a minimum of $80- $100 per person, so you can use that as your baseline when looking around. For those staying in Maui, the road to Hana and Haleakalā Summit are the most popular tours.
Keep in mind, if you are renting a car you will be able to shave some of these costs off your total estimate. Most tours do provide transportation, but if it isn’t required you will receive a discount.
A couple of budget-friendly tips: If you are staying in a hostel or you’re a student, you should ask to see if there is a discounted rate. Also, Pearl Harbor is free- though you do need to book your slot ahead of time online ($1.50 to hold your place). This is the basic tour that takes you to the USS Arizona Memorial. The surrounding museums do have fees. If you plan on visiting a lot of attractions, consider buying the Go Oahu Card which gives you discounts for multiple days.
Also, most of Hawaii’s beaches are free as are the big hikes, so that helps for travellers on a budget looking for fun things to see and do. Just make sure to bring proper shoes for those hikes!
Food and drink
Food is likely going to be one of the most expensive parts of your budget in Hawaii. Even groceries here are more expensive than you are used to at home, making it hard to ‘eat cheap’. That being said, Oahu also has some great food. From poke bowls to fruit bowls, you’ll be happy to spend money on the delicious food here. If you are eating out for all of your meals, you can expect your daily food costs to look something like this:
- Breakfast – $15
- Lunch – $20
- Dinner + drink – $50
That works out to an average of $85 per day.
You can, however, drop this down significantly (especially the dinner bit) if you are more flexible with your food venues. There are some great takeaway spots and food truck style options where you can get delicious food for around $15-20 per meal. I recommend Poke Bar in Waikiki for delicious poke bowls on a budget.
Please note that tap water is drinkable in Hawaii, but if you plan on drinking a lot of alcoholic beverages, you will need to add more to your budget.
Waikiki is great for shopping and chances are you will want to grab a couple of small souvenirs to take home with you. From local artwork to aloha shirts, jewelry, and designs by the biggest fashion brands, Hawaii is a shopping mecca. You also may find you need to stock up on sunscreen (get a reef-safe one available in the ABC stores!). I recommend budgeting at least an additional $100 for random spending.
So how much does it cost to go to Hawaii? I’ve estimated that 7 days and 7 nights in Oahu will cost about $3,015 per person. While Hawaii, especially the island of Oahu, is definitely a pricey travel destination, savvy travellers can cut this budget down by using some of the tips and advice I’ve listed above to make the most of their tropical beach vacation. Alternatively, you can check out my guides to Southeast Asia, Barcelona, Greece, Japan, Europe and Egypt if you’re looking for more inspiration.