You’ve said it thousands of times in the comments. And we hear you. The cost of Hawaii vacations has jumped tremendously. We just experienced this ourselves on last week’s visit to the Big Island. The price of the same accommodations rose about 300% over pre-Covid. Wow. At the same time, interisland airfare plummeted to $39 each way.
The increases in the cost of Hawaii vacations are across the entire range of trip expenses. It includes transportation (and especially car rentals), hotels, food, and Hawaii activities. We’d go so far as to say that Hawaii vacations have become synonymous with being expensive and are best compared with international vacation costs rather than with domestic ones.
It is said that Americans tend to budget about 2% of their annual budget on vacations. That is according to the latest federal government statistics. But Hawaii is in a league by itself, and those budgets are now out the window in most cases.
How we saved on our Hawaii vacation on the Big Island.
Instead of booking massages for $300 or more at the hotel spa, we both opted for the Hokulani Massage Academy in Waimea, where apprentice massage rates are $45 for an hour and a professional hour-long massage is $75. We also asked for a microwave at our hotel to enjoy lanai dining from the grocery store rather than an expensive eat-out meal every single night. With that said, we did splurge and ate at the Canoe House one night, which we enjoyed thoroughly and will perhaps review based on the food, location, ambiance, and creativity.
Another savings was checking and rechecking the prices of car rentals before our trip. We wrote about that experience specifically in We Saved Extra 25% On Hawaii Car Rental. It Wasn’t Costco.
We also had sticker shock trying to get an Uber at one point. The 12-mile trip was first priced at $179, and we’ll let you know what happened to that in another humorous yet telltale article.
So while airfare and hotel prices may or may not fluctuate, you can save on activities and dining by being creative and doing online research. If you have any tips on how you saved on your Hawaii vacation, please share them with others in the comments below, since prices have soared to new records.
What is today’s average cost of a moderate 7-night Hawaii vacation for two?
- Accommodations: $2,800 (that is at the economy end of the scale).
- Air transportation: $1,200 (may be more or less depending on location).
- Car rental: $800 (varies significantly by season and other factors).
- Food and beverages: $1,400 (with one moderate main meal out daily).
Total estimated average cost: $6,200 per week.
Due to the cost of airfare to travel from 2,500 to 5,000 miles and the highest accommodation cost in the U.S., Hawaii vacations are unlike most domestic trips. The total costs can vary greatly by how you travel, where you stay and eat, and what you do. Older Hawaii vacationers tend to spend more. We’ve seen estimates that those who are retired or near retirement spend up to 4x more on Hawaii vacations than those in their 20s for example.
Will you now shun Hawaii for more affordable vacations?
Hawaii vacation costs here have escalated more rapidly than we see elsewhere. Take even restaurants, for example. They have raised their prices due to food, supplies, shipping, insurance, and fuel costs. That is probably the truth, given what we see here at Costco and other stores here in Hawaii. Prices have risen more here than elsewhere. In part, that is due to the distance that everything needs to travel to get to Hawaii.
How hard is it for Hawaii tourism businesses to attract and retain employees?
Then there’s the cost of people. It is extremely hard to attract employees to the Hawaii travel industry after Covid. And that problem doesn’t seem to be improving. We still find businesses suddenly closed when adequate staffing doesn’t show up to work.
Higher airfares are coming too, except for these specific routes.
The cost of flights to Hawaii is on the rise. Economy airfares to Hawaii have risen less, whereas extra legroom and business class have risen far more. These premium offerings have risen in price by on average more than 100% since pre-Covid, based on our own checking.
The exception to airfare increases is on those routes where extreme competition between Hawaiian and Southwest continues to suppress price increases. That includes Hawaii flights from California cities and interisland flights primarily. On those routes, it is still easy to find Hawaii airfares of about $300 RT, or less, including all taxes and fees. In that case, for two people, the average cost might be at or below $600.
Start Hawaii trip planning with Hawaii hotels to find any value options.
Since Hawaii hotel rates are the highest in the US, start looking for value options there before purchasing airfare. Revenge travel, post-pandemic, allowed those rates to rise to levels never seen before.
In your editors’ visit to the Big Island this week, we found that hotel rates had risen multiple times since last being there pre-Covid. For example, we once wrote about staying at the oceanfront Kona Tiki Hotel on Big Island, when it was $69 a night. When checking rates today, that same room starts at $309 nightly for a two-star budget hotel. Up on the Kohala coast, oceanfront resorts have gone up in price by hundreds of percent.
Hawaii hotels/vacation rentals are the number one expense. This can now cost at least five times more than Hawaii airfare.
With the highest hotel accommodation rates in the U.S., accommodation for an average 7-night Hawaii vacation, including all taxes and fees, is likely to amount to $3,000 or more. And if you’re heading to Maui, keep in mind that Wailea hotels are still getting daily rates in the range of $1,000. So you can expect a 7-nighter with taxes and fees to run you $8,500 or more.
Those estimates are conservative too. We recently checked rates at South Maui properties for January and found Andaz, and Four Seasons, for example, starting at nearly $2,000 per night. Lower-end properties, such as Aston Maui Hill, were asking $1,098 in January.
Remember that Hawaii hotels have dynamic pricing and tend to adjust prices daily and seasonally.
Ever considered the 7-night NCL Cruise visiting four islands?
The current price starts at $1,449 per person and includes your room, dining, entertainment, Wi-Fi, and free ground excursions. Your editors have done this cruise twice and highly recommend it. When you add up the cost of a 7-night vacation for two, this is an attractive option to save money and visit Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. Plus it’s just a lot of fun.
Have you tried buying a lei in Hawaii lately?
This is just another example of costs that have gone through the roof. The cost of flowers in Hawaii has become extreme. Once ubiquitous and cheap, flowers are hard to come by. Also likely due to the lack of labor for island flower farming. So if you want a cheap orchid lei, they’re still there to be found. If you want anything else, get ready for sticker shock. We also opted out of purchasing a beach towel at our Big Island hotel, which was $117 with tax. Seriously?