Are “Kamaaina” Discounts Discriminatory Towards Hawaii Visitors?

Kamaʻāina discounts are either something good or a punch in the gut. It all depends on who you ask. Visitors who see Kamaʻāina rates wonder why locals get special discounts to live in paradise. Frequent visitors to Hawaii want to get in on the deal and save 40%, as we did at a luxury hotel on Big Island. But as you’ll read below, the savings wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

You’ve asked about the fairness of Kamaʻāina discounts in your comments, starting with Mike, who said, “It’s discrimination.” This is true because one group is getting preferential treatment. Mike asks, “Should they (residents) not pay their share?”

Eva counted that argument and told Mike, “When considering high prices inflated by tourists in Hawaii (after all, most only stay a week, so they don’t care how much they pay), I am glad that Kamaʻāina rates exist.”

Kathy, another reader, defended Mike and said,

“Here in Lake Tahoe, locals get Zero discounts. Why are we bent over when we travel to Hawaii, but when Hawaii residents travel to my town, they pay what I pay.”

Joining the Hawaii Kamaʻāina Club is not easy.

You have to find a place to live, and pay exorbitant rent of thousands if you can’t afford to buy a house or condo that will be one million dollars and up (to which many might say, “If you can afford that, can’t you afford to pay for a hotel at full price?”) Some people need 2-3 jobs to get by, others are lucky with just one. But it does help with the high cost of living to pay less at some places.

If it’s any consolation, the state requires substantial proof of residency to issue a driver’s license or ID. It’s impossible to sneak by like in the past when former residents who moved to the mainland kept their Hawaii ID.

On the other hand, living in Hawaii is open to all USA residents. If you move here, make Hawaii your legal home, you are in the Kamaʻāina club for discounts.

Hawaiian dictionary (Pukui-Elbert) defines Kamaʻāina as “native-born.”

The literal translation is kama (meaning child) aina (meaning land). Before Westerners, Hawaiians used the word to mean that you were from a certain island or particular place on an island. That would be contrasted with malahini, meaning stranger. In today’s commercial world, however, it has simply come to mean anyone who can prove Hawaii residency.

How deep and common are Kamaʻāina discounts?

Kamaʻāina rates are offered to locals by Hawaii companies through advertising their Kamaʻāina rates online or by word of mouth. One reason for it is that locals can become “Ambassadors of Aloha” (our term), to try out places in the hopes of recommending them to others. Another reason is purely economics. In the past, when the slow season started, or a business saw a downturn, they offered Hawaii residents a discount to keep their doors open until visitor numbers improved.

One of the hotel chains offering Kamaʻāina discounts is Outrigger. So too does Prince, Hilton, and others. Aston Waikiki Sunset, Royal Hawaiian, Sheraton Waikiki, Kahala Hotel, Westin Resort, Marriott Hotels, and Moana Surfrider, among others.

Sometimes rather than or in addition to a discount, Kamaʻāina discount will come in the form of another amenity such as late check-out, an ocean view, reduced fee or resort charge, room upgrade, or complimentary self-parking. This is not unlike discounts offered by places in Hawaii for active military.

On two recent hotel stays, your editors were offered 40% off the rack rate of accommodations as Kamaʻāina.

But the Kamaʻāina savings were far less than the 40% advertised.

This could make some feel better. It’s because there were other discounts available to non-resident Hawaii visitors that offered up to 30% off for advance purchase, length of stay, etc. So a savings of 10% on top of what a visitor to get, may not be enough to warrant a move to Hawaii for a special rate. And that might make some visitors feel better.

We welcome your input and about Kamaʻāina discounts!

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102 thoughts on “Are “Kamaaina” Discounts Discriminatory Towards Hawaii Visitors?”

  1. Was stationed in PH, met wife and married there. Traveled to several island including Maui. Sad to hear of the disaster. Remembering the Banyan tree and beauty if the people. Hawaii strong , Mahalo

  2. Kama’aina discounts are not discriminatory but a way to support and appreciate local residents. These discounts recognize the challenges they face and provide them with more affordable access to goods and services. They foster a sense of community and encourage local spending.

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