How Much Is a Vacation to Hawaii: How to Budget for Your Island Vacay

When dreaming of island getaways, who hasn’t pictured jetting off on vacation to Hawaii? If we’re talking exotic island escapes with golden beaches under blue skies and the kind of lush, forested mountains straight out of your favorite films and TV shows, then, of course, Hawaii is top of the list.

So, to help you plan the vacation of a lifetime, we’ve put together answers to some of the most common questions travelers ask about Hawaii, including how much a Hawaii trip costs and handy breakdowns of where and how to budget your money.

For dreamers everywhere, it’s time to start turning your dreams into reality. Let’s plan your next vacay!

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How Much Is a Hawaiian Vacation for 4?

Based on numbers provided by Hawaii Tourism Authority, a family of four can expect to spend around $9,920 for a 10-day stay in Hawaii. However, this number depends on various factors. With some savvy planning, you can shave off some extra dollars for your next Hawaiian getaway.

How Much Does a Trip to Hawaii Cost: 7 Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

Looking to escape to Hawaii’s beautiful blue skies and sandy white beaches? 

We don’t blame you. The islands of Hawaii are a wonder to behold and certainly worth the trip across the Pacific to reach them. 

However, it pays to consider a few things and make sure you’ve thoughtfully planned out your trip before you go. 

That doesn’t mean you have to stress and worry about every little detail. But, budgeting appropriately now will save you lots of time and agony later, allowing you to enjoy all the wonders of the islands. So, let’s break it all down!

1. Airfare

Flight costs eat into every trip budget, so it’ll likely come as no surprise that getting to Hawaii will be one of the biggest expenses of your vacation. The average cost of flights to Hawaii can range between $440 and $1150 depending on several factors:

  • When you’re flying – seasonality
  • What location you’re flying from
  • What airport you’re flying into

A flight from San Francisco will be cheaper than one from New York City. So, for those of us planning our vacations from the east coast, it’s a sad fact we can expect to pay more for our Hawaii flights.

Pro-tip: Compare flight costs from multiple airports and look into getting an inexpensive flight to a major west coast airport, where you’ll be better able to score a cheap direct flight to Hawaii.

That’s not to say you can’t still score a great deal from where you live. Price drops and flash sales happen all the time from west coast cities to the east. 

Learn the best ways to find great fares in as few steps as possible with our 7 Easy Ways to Find Cheap Flights to Anywhere.

Of course, if you sign up for deal alerts from a newsletter like Next Vacay, you’ll be updated on all the best deals to Hawaii as soon as they drop. For example, you can score flights for your family vacation for as little as $198 from out west (Long Beach to HNL), $276 out of the Midwest (Boise to Maui), and $375 from the east coast (Orlando to HNL).

You just have to be ready to take advantage of the best prices when they come!

2. Local Transportation

Transportation costs are another critical factor for any vacation planning, especially when traveling to Hawaii. 

In popular cities, you can smartly utilize public transportation to make your way around your destination. 

However, for getting around the Hawaiian Islands, whether or not you can avoid the costs of a rental car will depend on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.

Public Transportation

In Hawaii, there are a few public transportation options to get around, including buses, taxis, and shuttles.

On some islands, buses can be an inexpensive way of getting from point A to point B, with cheap single fares and an average price of $4 for day passes. 

However, this isn’t true for every island. Case in point, Molokai and Lanai don’t have bus systems, while Kauai and the island of Hawaii have limited routes. 

On the other hand, Maui has 13 bus routes that cover most of the north, south, and east, but you’d need other options to reach the west coast. Finally, Oahu has the most extensive bus system, and you could use it to see the majority of the island. But, of course, the tradeoff is that it runs on set routes and times, tying your schedule to that of the bus. 

Unfortunately, taxis in Hawaii are notoriously expensive, so we can’t recommend shelling out the big bucks for a taxi ride on your vacation unless you have no other option. Believe us, those numbers will add up quickly. 

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft also operate on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai and might be another option. The other islands have limited or varying ride-sharing options and shuttles to take visitors from the airport to their hotels.

Rental Car

The best way to see and experience Hawaii’s islands on your vacation is with a rental car. With your own hands at the helm, the only schedule you’ll be tied to is your own, and the only sights you’ll miss are those that didn’t make it onto your itinerary.

You may be surprised at just how happy you are to have that added flexibility and independence, especially when exploring the islands with kids.

If you decide booking a rental car is indeed the best way to see the island, you’re looking at an average daily cost of about $100-$250, including the cost of the car, parking fees, and gas. For a 10-day trip, that means a total of about $1000-$2500.

If that’s the way you want to go, be sure to make your decision ahead of your trip! 

Most car rental companies on the islands sold off parts of their fleet during the pandemic. As a result, Hawaii is still suffering from a rental car shortage and experiencing record-high car rental costs. So, book your reservation well in advance!

3. Accommodations

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the average price of a hotel room in 2020 was $267 per night

With travel back on the mend, and more people planning their next vacation to Hawaii, average daily rates have predictably gone up. Reports from November 2021 show average daily rates for hotels increased by 27.5 percent compared to 2019. And vacation rentals show a similar story, with rates up 17.5 percent from the same time in 2019.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of answer to how much you should spend on accommodations when you visit Hawaii, so it all comes down to individual needs. 

Prices can range from under $100 to over $600 per night, and exactly how much money you spend is up to you. Depending on the kind of experience you want and the budget for your trip, you can always spend more or less on your accommodations as needed.

You can separate accommodations on the Hawaiian Islands into three different categories, and most islands typically offer a mix of all three.

Budget

There’s nothing wrong with keeping it practical. If you want the most economical choice for your vacation to Hawaii, budget accommodations are your answer. Expect to spend between $50 to $150 per night. You can find a mix of hostels, budget hotels, and vacation rental properties to meet your needs. 

Pro-tip: If you’re looking for the best budget stays, check out Oahu. Budget options abound, and the healthy competition here keeps prices low! 

Another great idea is renting a camper van! Not only will that help you save on car rental fees, but you can travel the islands with freedom and set up shop in some amazing parks and campgrounds all over the islands! 

Pro-tip: For the best camper van experiences, check out Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.

Mid-range

The budget stay isn’t for everyone, and if you’re down to spend more money on your Hawaiian vacation, there are certainly options.

Mid-range accommodations cover everything from around $150 to $500 a night, so there’s still plenty of flexibility here if you want to save money while paying a bit more or if you want to splurge a bit, but not too much. You’ve got options for three- to five-star hotels, vacation rentals, and more. 

Pro-tip: Use travel points to score a great deal on a cheap hotel room.

Vacation rentals are generally a bit cheaper than hotel rooms and offer more independence, privacy, and space, especially for a family of four. Sites like Airbnb offer options in all price ranges, and you can shop around to find the best vacation rental for your family’s stay.

Luxury

No crime in treating yourself to a good time. In fact, we argue a vacation is a perfect time to do it! Rest assured, Hawaii has you covered with luxury hotels, resorts, and rentals to cater to your every need. 

Starting at around $500 a night, luxury accommodations are, in our opinion, best suited if you plan to spend a lot of time at your lodgings, enjoying their amenities to the fullest. However, in a place as beautiful as Hawaii, we recommend getting out there and discovering some of that beauty for yourself.

But while that’s our recommendation, we certainly won’t tell you how to live your best life on vacation!

4. Activities

Activities on the Hawaiian Islands are endless and varied.

  • Horseback riding
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Whale watching cruises
  • Island hopping
  • Helicopter tours
  • National parks

Whatever your taste for adventures—Hawaii delivers.

Some of these experiences don’t cost a thing, like catching a free Hula performance or soaking in the sun on any of Hawaii’s beautiful beaches. However, other activities, like learning to surf, will mean additions to your budget. Even hiking to spot waterfalls and jaw-dropping views in one of the state’s many state and national parks may cost an entrance fee.

Because it all comes down to what experiences you choose, there’s no hard and fast estimate for how much to put away for your vacation activities. 

The Hawaii Tourism Authority claims the average spend per person was around $18 per day on entertainment and recreation in 2019. However, you’ll likely find you spend more or less depending on how your family mixes free and paid experiences.

5. Food

Food is always one of the first things on our minds when prepping for a vacation, especially when traveling to a place like Hawaii, with delicious foods you have to try! Looking up unique places to eat is number one on our list, but budgeting for those meals is dead last. That doesn’t mean you should follow our poor example, though, so be sure to add it to your budgeting to-do list.

You’ll want to plan for around $40 to $100 spent on food and drinks per person per day. That said, if you have young kids or you’re not big on drinking, the less you can expect to spend. 

Pro-tip: Tap water is safe to drink in the Hawaiian Islands, so consider bringing reusable water bottles to avoid paying for bottled water.

How you plan to do most of your eating factors in too, either dining out at restaurants or making it yourself. 

Of course, depending on your accommodations, amenities you have available—from complimentary meals at a hotel restaurant to a microwave in your rooms—and a whole slew of other considerations, you may find one option more suitable than the other.

Grocery Store 

When it comes to vacations, it’s safe to say few of us enjoy coming home after a hard day of sightseeing and adventuring to make a meal. Nevertheless, it’s the way to go if you’re looking to save money on your Hawaiian vacation, as you can expect to spend significantly less, around $40 to $60 per person daily.

Microwaveable food, putting together your own meals at your rental, and putting together snacks for the day like cold-cut sandwiches, trail mix, etc., will help you keep food expenses low.

Restaurant

Without a doubt, restaurant eating is the pricier option, so if you’re planning to dine out in Hawaii for most of your vacation, you should budget around $70 to $100 per person daily. 

The price tag may be a drawback, but dining out has its advantages like ease, convenience, and, best of all, the fact you don’t have to make food yourself.

Above all that, though, Hawaiian cuisine is incredible, and the cost at most restaurants is well worth the mouthwatering, delicious food. 

So, even if you plan to go grocery shopping and make most of your meals at home, definitely plan to treat yourselves to a few meals out! 

Pro-tip: To save on some dining-out costs, try eating at food trucks for a fantastic marriage of great food and low prices!

6. Timing

The time of year is an excellent guideline for what you can expect during your trip, from flight prices to the average cost of rental cars to the number of fellow tourists.

Planning your trip for the right season can mean the difference between spending ridiculously high prices for accommodations, transportation, you name it, and hundreds of dollars in savings. 

Even if your plans include staying at a high-end resort, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save by avoiding the high season and planning your Hawaii vacation for the low season or shoulder season.

What Is the Cheapest Time of Year to Visit Hawaii? 

If you want to save money, the best time of year to visit Hawaii is either late spring (mid-April to May) or early fall (September to mid-November). These months offer some of the best conditions for beautiful weather, great prices, and fewer crowds.

Mid-December to mid-April is typically the busiest time of year and the priciest, as people flee the cold to enjoy Hawaii’s balmy weather and stunning coasts. From March to April, Spring Break is also a popular time for travel.

If you want the best possible experience visiting Hawaii, we recommend avoiding these months for your vacation.

As for June to August, summer vacation makes this a prime time for families to travel and likely the time of year you’ll want to travel. Thankfully, it’s not as expensive as high season, but if you can swing it, traveling in late spring or early fall, as mentioned above, will be the kindest on your wallet and help you score the best deals all around.

7. The Hawaiian Islands

In total, eight main islands make up the state of Hawaii, and among those eight, only six major islands are inhabited and open to tourism. So, based on what you’re looking for in a Hawaii vacation, the Hawaiian Island you choose matters.  

If you haven’t yet decided which island is the perfect fit for your family’s Hawaiian vacation, we’ll give you the top travel tips to help decide—from what the island’s known for to how it ranks in terms of cost. 

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any island, but this will help you narrow down which is best for your family. 

1. Oahu 

Undoubtedly, the most family-friendly island on our list, Oahu, is home to Honolulu and all the big-city fun that comes with it. 

Check out museums, eat at food trucks, and visit historical Pearl Harbor sites. Oahu may be the most urban of all the islands, but that’s not to say it doesn’t pack a punch in terms of adventure and natural beauty, as visitors to Oahu’s North Shore can attest.

This island offers the best of both worlds and the lowest prices to experience it all, so it ranks first as the cheapest island to visit.

2. Island of Hawaii (The Big Island)

Flying into Kona International Airport will land you on the Big Island herself. Say hello to stunning white sand beaches on the west coast, active volcanoes down south, and up north, hike to gorgeous waterfalls and dive with giant manta rays. 

Relaxation or non-stop action, choose your own adventure and let the island of Hawaii sweep you away.

After Oahu, the Big Island ranks second as your next option for an inexpensive trip to Hawaii.

3. Kauai

This island offers a lush landscape of forests and hidden waterfalls mixed with scenic coasts and magnificent canyons. It’s often called the most beautiful of Hawaii’s islands, and for a good reason. 

If you need a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of city life and the constant ringing of your phone, then this is the destination for you. 

We’re ranking Kauai as the third least expensive Hawaiian Island to visit!

4. Maui

Maui is home to gorgeous beaches—from red sand to black—bamboo forests, stunning mountain hikes, and beautiful parks. One of the perks of having a rental car in Maui, visitors can drive along the famous Hana Highway for unrivaled views around the island. 

Like Oahu, Maui is great for families with kids—and the perfect island to pamper yourself with an all-inclusive resort stay. However, it’s a little more on the expensive side, which is why it comes in fourth for our island rankings on an affordable trip to Hawaii.

5. Molokai

Nestled between the islands of Maui and Oahu lies Molokai, a small paradise unspoiled by large tourism brands. And that’s by design. The residents of Molokai take great care to keep their islands protected from overtourism. Instead, they invite visitors to be more than tourists, rewarding them with an authentic experience of local Hawaiian culture and the breathtaking beauty of their small island.

Though the island of Molokai is relatively inexpensive compared to some of the islands listed first, the additional transportation costs to get to this island gem bump it down to fifth place in our affordability ranking.

Next Vacay Travel Tips: To truly appreciate the experiences this island has to offer, we recommend visiting Molokai only after you’ve visited one of the above four islands.

6. Lanai

Coming in as the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, this tiny island doesn’t worry much about its size. And we can’t blame it. With only 30 miles of paved road and over 400 miles of rugged, wild paths, this island takes the phrase “off the beaten path” to a whole new level. Meaning you can get lost—but not too lost, bring navigation tools—in its beauty. 

Lanai is the perfect destination to slow down. Here, you can worry less about where you’re going and simply bask in the journey to get there.

Like Molokai, Lanai requires a few more steps to transport yourself to the island. Unfortunately, once there, you’ll find your average daily costs to be more expensive as well. Lanai is more of a luxury stay than anything else, which is why it ranks sixth and last in terms of affordability.

Next Vacay Travel Tips: Coming in as the most expensive island on this list, with more rugged trails and experiences to offer, Lanai also ranks last for us in family-friendly islands.

Next Vacay Can Help You Find the Cheapest Flights to Hawaii

Flying doesn’t have to be the most expensive part of your Hawaii vacation. With Next Vacay, we guarantee it won’t be!

Signing up for alerts will keep you up-to-date on price drops to all of your favorite Hawaiian destinations from the Big Island to Oahu, meaning you can score the best prices on your family travel and save hundreds of dollars on flights. 

That’s more to afford for accommodations, food, and experiences in your budget. Or better yet, save for another future trip to the islands or anywhere else in the world!

With a team that monitors flights to Hawaii year-round, you can score the best deals in and out of season to plan your family’s next getaway to one of the most exquisite destinations in the US.

So, save yourself the trouble, save your family the money, and fly with Next Vacay!

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