Cost of A Hawaii Vacation | Part 2: Hawaii Hotels and Vacation Rentals Skyrocket

Cost of A Hawaii Vacation | Part 2: Hawaii Hotels and Vacation Rentals Skyrocket

When it comes to the cost of a Hawaii vacation, your comments are clear that it is going up, up, up to the point that it is becoming unaffordable for many.

Last week we covered the first part of the cost of a Hawaii vacation (you can still see that below) on restaurants. As we said then, we haven’t focused primarily on costs associated with either accommodations or restaurants. On the other hand, we do regularly provide a lot of coverage on Hawaii airfare from Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others, and Hawaii rental car costs including deals from Discount Hawaii Car Rental and others, and how to get discounts. Also, how to avoid parking fees in Waikiki.

Hawaii vacations aren’t far from anyone’s mind at the moment. That’s especially true as the latest variant of Covid makes its way through Europe, with cases up dramatically in the past couple of weeks. Let’s say that for multiple reasons, we’re both scratching Europe off our short-term travel lists. Then, too, do we even need to be reminded just how great it is to vacation exotically, yet domestically. In a word, Hawaii.

Travel costs are rising, that’s clear. Also, we just read that about 40% of Americans are planning to travel in just the next few weeks, which is way up from those who were traveling one year ago. Vacation rental company Vrbo said that demand for rentals is already up 50% compared with last year. And none of this comes as a surprise as we all dig out of the Covid doldrums.

Travel accommodation costs are up and it isn’t solely about Hawaii.

Travel site Hopper just reported that nationwide, airfares for spring are up 21% over the same period in 2021. They also said that hotels are up in price by on average 30%. Hopper said, however, that peak demand and short-in bookings might cost you even more. We’re not sure, however, if they are getting the cost of Hawaii accommodations quite right, since they said that for this spring, hotel costs in “Honolulu, Hawaii will be down 5% (from $202/night to $192/night).” That was compared with 2021.

With Hawaii hotels, the cost issues include these:

1. Supply and demand. The desire for wanderlust in Hawaii has never been greater, with travelers recovering from pent-up demand for exotic beach vacations. After being cooped up for two full years, who isn’t ready for a safe-feeling vacation. More demand, less supply, and higher prices go together. In Hawaii, and elsewhere.

2. Lack of staffing. Hotels in Hawaii haven’t been able to rehire staff they lost during Covid. And when they do, they are having to pay far more to fill positions. Before Covid, Hawaii hotels employed more than 44,300 workers. A very significant percentage of those jobs never resumed.

3. High prices are exacerbated by extremely high taxes, plus resort, and other fees. Last year, HB862 created additional taxes. As a result, Hawaii now has the highest combined accommodation tax in the US.

With Hawaii vacation rentals, these are the concerns:

Hawaii vacation rental demand is surging beyond anything we have seen before. Usually, Hawaii vacation rentals speak better to the value and function paradigms that are popular with travelers. Costs are more easily controlled in a vacation rental, too, with a kitchen and typically fewer ancillary expenses like resort fees.

Yet having said that, the cost of Hawaii vacation rentals is escalating more even than hotels at this time. With that said, you can still find gems, one example of which is Maui Kai on Kaanapali Beach, where oceanfront rooms start at $279 with a kitchen in April. And there are others deals for the saavy.

How the Hawaii vacation rental trend began.

It’s interesting to recall that although Hawaii vacation rentals have become popular across all demographics, the trend primarily began with younger travelers and those with higher incomes. Visitors who try Hawaii vacation rentals, largely don’t return to hotels. According to a Goldman Sachs study, that indicated there was trouble already brewing for the hotel industry.

We have always enjoyed Hawaii vacation rentals, compared to Hawaii hotels, for any stay beyond Honolulu, or over a few nights. Based on the popularity and price of vacation rentals, many of you feel the same way. Even when costs are comparable to a hotel, Hawaii vacation rentals can reduce overall Hawaii vacation costs and provide convenience through both kitchen and laundry facilities. And that is even before enjoying your own space, in something that feels more like home.

Visitors should only stay in legal rentals offered in designated tourist areas within the state. Staying in illegal rentals is problematic at every level, including no help for guests when things go wrong. Hosts should post the rental Tax ID on their listing.

Hawaii Hotels: these are the costs now.

It was eye-opening to see the state’s most recent Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) hotel report (January 2022). What we found was that average hotel rates were up dramatically compared with pre-Covid. You’ve already been saying that in many comments.

Using 2019 as the comparable year. The Hawaii Hotel Performance Report published by HTA showed the average daily rate statewide had climbed significantly since 2019. Details are below. Taxes on Hawaii hotels and vacation rentals are a whole different matter.

The monthly survey of Hawaii hotels includes 85% of all properties, including full service, limited service, and condominium hotels. Hawaii vacation rentals and Hawaii timeshares are not part of that survey but you will see those separately below.

Across all categories, the average daily hotel rate in January sat at $357, up 41%.

Properties deemed luxury class averaged $832, up 35%. “Midscale and economy” properties had an average daily rate of $281, which was up 48% compared with 2019.

Maui again leads Hawaii hotel prices: up 39% compared with pre-Covid.

Maui hotels saw an average daily rate in January of $619. The South Maui Wailea resort area was the highest again, with an average daily rate of $904, an increase of 39% vs. 2019. The West Maui area, including Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, had an average daily rate of $515, up 39%.

Big Island hotels.

Hotels on the Big Island reported an average daily rate of $394 in January, up 32% since 2019.

Kauai hotels.

Garden Island hotels had an average daily rate of $368 in January, up 15% vs. 2019.

Honolulu hotels.

Oahu hotels had both the lowest daily rate and the least increase since 2019. The average in January was $241, and that’s up just 1% vs. 2019.

Hawaii vacation rentals: these are the costs now.

Hawaii vacation rental report: Prices have climbed and are approaching hotel costs.

The latest vacation rental performance report is also available for January 2022. The average daily rate for vacation rental units statewide in January was $295, up 35% compared with 2019. That remains just slightly lower than the average daily rate of $357 for Hawaii hotels.

Maui vacation rentals.

The average daily rate was $363, up 27%, compared with 2019. That was still 41% less than Maui hotels’ average of $619.

Honolulu vacation rentals.

An average daily rate of $223, up 39% vs. 2019, but still was 14% less than hotels’ $259 average.

Big Island vacation rentals.

Hawaii island rentals had an average rate of $237, up 38% and was 37% less than hotels’ $375 rate.

Kauai vacation rentals.

Rentals on the Garden Island had the highest daily average at $382, up 36%, and now 4% higher than Kauai hotels’ rate of $369.

Please let us know your tips and tricks for Hawaii accommodations in the comments below.

Cost of A Hawaii Vacation. Part 1: Restaurants

Whether your destination dining appetite takes you to luxury, economy or anything in between, here’s what’s going on.

First, eating in Hawaii restaurants can be excellent, mundane, or anywhere in between.

There’s such a wide range of options. Of course, standards like tropical fruits and vegetables and island fresh fish are often featured, and you’ll find things that may still be unusual to you, including Hawaii’s Poke salads, plate lunches and loco moco.

Eating out in Hawaii can also be budget-breaking.

It’s good to wrap your head around prices and plan accordingly as you put your Hawaii vacation together. Whether you’re visiting Honolulu Oahu, Maui, Kona on The Big Island, or Kauai, going out to eat on a Hawaiian vacation is a lot of fun and a part of the experience. But it also adds significantly to your Hawaii trip cost.

One tip we have to control restaurant costs is staying at Hawaii vacation rentals or other accommodations with kitchens and visiting the grocery stores. Nothing beats eating great food sitting on your own ocean view lanai.  And while groceries are very costly in Hawaii, they don’t hold a candle to restaurants. Heck, you could even save enough money for surfing lessons, a Hawaii spa day, or one of the helicopter tours.

Another tip is to check the Hawaii restaurant website for any deals that could include discounts on early dining.

What’s going on with the cost of Hawaii restaurants.

As we’ve mentioned, restaurants in Hawaii have been struggling in many ways, and it directly impacts the visitor experience. Read below for more details.

Hawaii restaurant staffing shortages.

First, many restaurant employees never returned to work during Covid. As a result, owners have had to pay more, and even then, a lot of restaurants continue to operate with reduced hours due to limited staffing. Do check hours and reserve in advance.

Shipping problems also remain a big issue for restaurants.

Whether it comes to supplies or food products, it doesn’t take a scientist to figure that Hawaii is still having a problem keeping store shelves, and restaurant larders, filled. When that will improve is certainly not clear.

The cost of food in Hawaii is up, way up.

You’ve written about it in many comments, and believe us, we feel it when we go to the grocery store. So too do restaurants.

Cost of fuel hurting restaurants.

Gas here’s well over $5 a gallon here, usually, although we’re hopeful it could soon ease. Restaurants are major consumers of power, including electricity, natural/propane gas, and gasoline. It’s needed for lights, air conditioning, cooking, and baking. You can expect to see that passed on directly to consumers in the form of restaurant price increases.

Breakfast in Hawaii restaurants.

Everything from the mundane to Hawaii-centric foods like loco-moco, Spam, and Hawaii-flared versions of french toast. Breakfasts start at about $15 per person. Don’t be surprised, however, to pay from $25 to $50 for a hotel’s buffet breakfast, although sometimes it’s included in Hawaii vacation packages or with your room.

Lunch in Hawaii restaurants.

It starts with the Hawaiian plate lunch for a distinctly local favorite. Hawaii has seen an explosion of not-too-cheap food trucks, everywhere from Waikiki Beach to near the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, all of which are frequently very busy at lunchtime. Depending on how creative you are, you may be able to find lunch fare starting at about $10, and the sky’s the limit from there. We’d say an average lunch cost is in the $20 to $25 range overall.

Dinner in Hawaii restaurants.

The widest range of options and prices are available for dinner fare in Hawaii. From down-market starting in the sub-$20 range to hundreds per person. Drinks will add substantially to the bill, of course.

Can you get a Hawaii restaurant reservation?

We’re still finding that restaurants which accept reservations are hard to impossible to get into. We frequently see people line up about 4:30 pm for those that take walk-ins for dinner. For the top-rated Hawaii restaurants, such as Maui’s Mama’s Fish House; it is worse. We tried again to get a reservation today, and we honestly couldn’t find one online at all. Then we tried calling but finally gave up.

It is our recommendation that you plan and book any important-to-you restaurants before your trip. Check websites, Open Table, or other apps to find out what’s available. Regarding luau’s, book those early, if it’s important on your list of things to do in Hawaii.

Reader’s Tip: Recently, commenter Patrick said that, “if you strike out at a restaurant you want to go to, call them and see if they have a waiting list and inform them of the days you would go. If they are sold out and your travel dates are well in advance, it might work out. Once you get there, you can always stop by and ask as they will see you are committed to trying or re-visiting their restaurant. If you are visiting from the mainland especially in the first few days, try making an early reservation since you will still be on Mainland time. Good luck.”

Finally, remember to book these five things in advance.

1. Hawaii airfare.

2. Hawaii hotel or vacation rental.

2. Hawaii car rental.

3. Hawaii restaurants.

4. Any important activities.

Please let us know your tips and tricks for Hawaii restaurants in the comments below.

47 thoughts on “Cost of A Hawaii Vacation | Part 2: Hawaii Hotels and Vacation Rentals Skyrocket”

  1. Could you please tell me if there are any luaus in Kuuai in October. We are staying Princeville. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Karen.

      There are a number of luau’s around the island. Suggest you try searching or use the Kauai Revealed guidebook for more information to help you decide. Others may recommend their favorites as well.


  2. We visit Hawaii around 2x per year. A couple years ago, our mini van would typically cost $50/day plus taxes. The last 2 trips it ran $100/day plus taxes. I was searching for our upcoming 15 day trip and all my normal sites (costco, priceline, expedia etc) were all showing prices ranging from $2,900 ($156+tax/day) to $3,700. I started looking at small SUV pricing when the search took me to Kayak. I was able to book our minivan for ~$1900 thru Kayak via Hertz. $1000 saved. Thought I’ld share.

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