Booming Tourism Growth Hits Popular Hawaii Neighbor Islands

Big Shift As Hawaii Tourism Boom Crushes Neighbor Islands +21%

Digging into dramatic growth in Hawaii tourism this summer, we were surprised at just how popular the neighbor islands have become in comparison to Honolulu. Read on for what that means on your next Hawaii vacation and how to cope. In fact, one neighbor island’s domestic visitor arrivals just rose 21% compared with the same period pre-Covid.

TSA piped up about summer tourism in general, stating what’s obvious here in Hawaii, too. Spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said that last Friday, the TSA had “the highest checkpoint volume since February 11, 2020.” In total they screened nearly 2.5 million passengers. She said “Get to the airport early, it’s busy!”

That was confirmed to us as well by Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex DaSilva, who told us, “the one constant this summer is the volume of travelers (overall airport congestion).

The state of Hawaii concurs, saying that as “tourism recovery continues, employment has increased and… labor shortages have put some limit on the growth.”

Hawaii visitors shifting to lower-density, neighbor island experiences.

As far back as this spring, the state’s data indicated the recovery “was robust especially on the neighbor islands.” That trend is continuing and even accelerating further.

The Big Island, Kauai, and Maui have all pulled far ahead of Honolulu in domestic visitor growth, since the state’s last data set from April. At that time, Maui was +3%, Big Island was +8% and Kauai was +9% ahead. That has since changed significantly, as you’ll see below.

Honolulu domestic visitor arrivals June 2022. Unchanged.

So far this month (through June 26), there have been 375,863 domestic visitor arrivals. That compared with virtually the same number in 2019, which was 375,659.

Maui domestic visitor arrivals June 2022. +7%.

This month (through June 26), 216,298 domestic passenger arrivals have occurred on Maui. That compared to 203,018 in June 2019.

Kauai domestic visitor arrivals June 2022. +21%.

In June, to date (through June 26), there have been 79,628 domestic passenger arrivals. That compared to 65,586 in 2019.

Big Island domestic visitor arrivals June 2022 +19%.

In the first 26 days of June, there have been 106,323 domestical passenger arrivals. That compares to 89,321 in 2019.

What you can do about visitor congestion.

More than anything else, take a breath if you are visiting Hawaii this summer, and hopefully things will go smoothly. That given the continuing rash of Hawaii flight delays, and some cancelations too.

Be prepared, especially on the neighbor islands this summer, for more traffic, lack of availability, lines, and busy beaches. Plan ahead. Remember that it’s going to be busier than our limited resources can accommodate, so please have patience and practice Aloha.

Prepare for traffic congestion. It can take hours to cross from one side of an island to another. Plan accordingly and check Maps before heading out. Please allow extra time to reach your destinations unharried and to remain in a vacation state of mind.

Worker shortages continue to frustrate everyone. With more than enough customers but inadequate staff, wait times may get stretched.

And a new phenomenon: rapidly changing Hawaii business hours.

We’ve addressed labor shortages at Hawaii hotels, restaurants, and activity providers. In the past couple of months, we’ve experienced something different. We show up at or drive by a Hawaii restaurant or coffee bar and find them suddenly closed during their otherwise normal business hours. It seems that as staff availability rapidly shifts, these businesses are quickly putting up handmade signs in the windows and changing hours to make accommodations. We’ve seen this at both chain and locally owned eateries. Keep this in mind, and welcome to the new normal.

What experiences have you had recently on your Hawaii vacation?

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44 thoughts on “Big Shift As Hawaii Tourism Boom Crushes Neighbor Islands +21%”

  1. i’ve been to Big Island many times. Always been my favorite. As a tourist, be cool, don’t be loud or show up with mainland expectations. Having said that, I have noticed that the worst offenders of this are new transplants. They display the worst form if entitlement: get off my beach.
    I’ve never once had a problem with an ethnic Hawaiian.

  2. Aloha, thanks you for the interesting article. Maybe this is obvious or wrong, but rents have gone up so much, I don’t think young people from the mainland can work in Hawaii and make ends meet. I believe a lot of twenty-somethings would come over, get a restaurant job, get a cheap place to live and go back home when they were ready to move on. It just doesn’t seem to me that it’s happening anymore. MAybe that’s part of the shortage.



  3. Always a wonderful visit, even with the crowds! Be patient and enjoy the lovely surroundings and natural beauty.

  4. Hawaii is overtouristed at the expense of locals. We spend millions on bringing more tourists we don’t need. Hawaii and especially Maui need infrastructure for locals. There’s a severe housing shortage, food and gas are expensive, we have limited facilities. We’re fed up.

    Be aware that aloha is not going to be here for you if you bring an attitude of self entitlement. Don’t trespass, don’t block the Hana Highway, tip the people serving you, don’t expect things to be quick like on the mainland.


    1. Well said Kimo H.To sum it up Respect!!I look forward to returning and experience the Aloha not found on the mainland very much anymore.

    2. Happens to every place nice and there doesn’t seem any way to limit access other than to have enough people have such an unpleasant experience that they swear never to return

    3. We have been coming to Maui for the past twenty years. Had a reservation for December but we cancelled it. We came during the pandemic and supported the businesses on Maui. But we have been priced out. Hopefully one day we can come back.

    4. We always Love our Hawaiian experience, no matter the circumstances. Always treat the place and people you are visiting as you would want to be treated in your own home or at your job.

    5. Things aren’t that great on the Mainland either! Shortage of workers are in all states small and large towns. Don’t assume that you are the only tourists location and that only Hawaii likes good manners from tourists. I see rude people everywhere … even where they live! Please remember that we are all first Americans when we come as tourists to any place and behave appropriately. I am embarrassed by anyone who cannot be polite when in a public place and see it where ever we vacation/visit. We all want to enjoy this beautiful land we are allowed to live on.

    6. Hi Kimo, hopefully you’re doing well. The Needed Infrastructure is something that should be addressed to Your Politicians, they do like being re-elected. That’s why you should pressure them, they supposedly work for us. Too many problems exist due to politics, no one wants to do what they should. Look at the Homeless! As for the Tourism, without Robust Tourism Businesses Will Fail putting countless people out of jobs. It’s a Domino Effect that will Effect many more than you realize. Your concerns are entirely valid and addressing them at the Fedreal/State/City Levels is Needed. Good Luck moving forward.

    7. Hi Kimo H, no matter where the Vacation Tourists go at least some of the locals feel the same as what people are posting. The Balance typically have found a business opportunity that takes advantage of the Tourism Dollars and hope to make money. This is the time that smaller family businesses can survive. The lack of everything is driving inflation, prices and Without workers it will continue to worsen. All of this can be traced back to a Lack of Leadership in our States and Country. Plenty of Blame to go around but Most of it rests at the Top. We Need to do Better.

  5. As a lifetime resident and service worker on the big island here’s my perspective.
    We need to limit the amount of visitors to all islands.This would lesson the negative environmental impacts and help to facilitate a more quality experience for visitors and we who call this home.

    1. Hi Tracey G, you’ve painted an interesting picture with very broad strokes. Do You have a plan to Limit and Reduce Tourism that would include no economic harm, closures and layoffs, to businesses and would effectively maintain funding for the Counties? Are you possibly suggesting that only the Wealthy should be allowed or possibly a Lottery System, maybe a counter for each Island! Not causing trouble, just trying to understand the “How” of the situation. Raising Prices, People Will Save More to Cover It! Viability and Sustainability Is a Must.

  6. What about those of us outside the tourism industry who have to put up with the attitude of the tourists? Hopefully the native Hawaiian award will help educate them

    1. Hi Erika. Every person who lives near a Tourism Destination can relate to what you have described. The real problem is that when some purposely exaggerate their interactions. Undoubtedly there are a few tourists that are rude, feel privileged, etc. but Most are Not! Regardless of their “Status” at home if they can’t be nice on Vacation then they should have stayed at home. That applies to Every Agitator whether Homegrown or Tourist. I too get Agitated by the very few that I have encountered while vacationing on Oahu 8 times. No Reason for It!

  7. Thanks for keeping us up to date on changes and good information. I think the biggest change for us on our April visit was the continuing need for getting reservations for restaurants weeks ahead of arrival. In the past-pre COVID- we could show up and be seated in a reasonable amount of time, but not now. Another thing we’ve noted on recent trips is that staffing levels are still pretty low, and as a result, a resort that used to have manicured grounds now looks in need of care. That’s something we’ve never seen before on our numerous trips to HI. When I talked to management they all stressed problems in hiring sufficient staff to do the job.

    1. Hi Lee.

      Thanks for that feedback, and over 100 comments! That sounds about right, and is as we see, and others report.


  8. We love Hawaii. My husband was stationed there at Hickam about 20 years ago. We spent Christmas there last year and plan to be back this year for the holidays. Glad to see the economy picking back up. Until December, aloha

    1. You definitely read the article through rose colored glasses 😂.
      The economy has not “picked up”…it’s burst!!
      None of the neighboring islands are able to fill the needs of the ridiculous amount of tourism they are now faced with.
      If people read all the comments posted by those that live here you will see WD are not grateful for all of your presence. We don’t need nor want bigger numbers we have all we can handle.
      If this keeps up I see the only solution bring continue to raise prices once people get here on rental cars and accommodation so we can have sustainable numbers.
      Yes I’m ready for the negative comments, but these numbers are out of hand. Any other solutions besides destroying more of the islands with more buildings/cars?

      1. Hi Chris S, assuredly there are “some people” that feel like you about Tourists and then the Majority that accept the Economics of the Situation. The money generated by Tourists is what Fuels your Economy and more Tourists means more money to be spent. Unfortunately Hawaii as a whole doesn’t have another Industry that can replace or supplement your Economy when Tourism is Reduced, until it exists Treating Tourists Well and accepting their numbers is paramount to Everything. Have a wonderful day.

  9. Increased tourism on other islands likely related to restrictive rules for AirBnB, Vrbo, etc. rentals. 37 days before arrival our house rental was cancelled as owner decided to sell the home. The other islands currently have much less restrictive rules.

    1. Hi Glenda, understanding that the Increases in already astronomical rents and real estate, not to forget hotels, it’s a shame that people are Forced to spend so much of their pay for a roof over their head. What will make things worse in November, if allowed to proceed, is the ludicrous and penal 90 day rental property rule. Realistically those in charge shouldn’t restrict, rather encourage, the Private Rental Industry. The Fee garnered could benefit the County/City in many ways. If there is a “Problem” property a 3 Strike Law could shut it down! Many places are suffering because of the Hotel/Resort pressure tactics, why else would these laws exist? Oahu is an ideal destination with wonderful people, why punish an industry that’s beneficial

      1. It’s not beneficial when there are no affordable homes for residents to buy. Maui’s prices are astronomical, and housing inventory is unbelievably low. Until houses are taken out of the short term rental business so people who are Hawaii residents can buy them, or at minimum rent them, there is a real problem.

  10. Two observations. First we were on Kauai May 1-15. You didn’t mention that restaurants, bars & hotels are still suffering from COVID staff shortages. Staff get sick, test positive, then other staff associated with them also test positive and BAM! The facility has to close. A couple told us they had 6pm dinner reservations at Merrimen’s & got a call saying the restaurant closed due to staff shortage because of COVID. Next “crowded beaches” depends on perspective. You have to experience literally every inch of an East Coast beach covered “towel touching towel” to say “crowded beach”. We always laugh at so-called crowded beaches in Hawaii. Your beaches are awesome

    1. We have been coming to Maui for 30 years . Yes, tourists provide good and bad. Where would there be jobs without tourist?
      There are no more sugar jobs, no more jobs at port exporting sugar products. There are no more pineapple fields!
      Yes there are coffee farms, how many people work there.

      Tell me how the economy would function without tourists.they pay airport taxes, hotel taxes, eat in restaurants, buy trinkets and t shirts! They rent the cars, rent the surfboard,snorkels,boat trips! Well you get the picture.

      Next time you are complaining, take a look at your paycheck and consider how much is directly or indirectly tied to tourists, and then try to find a job in Hawaii that has no input from tourism!

    2. Our family of 4 visited the Big Island for the first time last week and it was truly amazing! We spent equal amounts of time just relaxing, taking walks, at the beach and doing pre-arranged excursions with virtually zero problems. The people were wonderful, we enjoyed the slowerpace of island life and we didn’t want to leave. The aloha was beautiful. We will be back! Was it expensive? Yes but we planned ahead and did some things to defray costs like eating out a little less and cooking some meals. Our one complaint was that two days in we discovered that our rental car was overridden with bugs crawling everywhere which was definitely disturbing. Otherwise it was a great trip.

    3. Tom K, my wife and I for the First time out of 8 vacations on Oahu didn’t use the beaches. While driving around the Island we passed many beaches and not one had more than 20 people. If this is Overcrowding I shall reserve my comments. There were close to 85 people at the Food Trucks where we stopped to eat, those times were where we experienced the Largest Crowds except for Walmart. We did stay away from Waikiki and Honolulu for the most part. Had an Amazing time as Always and No Problems, Kindness and Respect are typically rewarded with the same!

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