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Hawaii Vacation Rentals No Longer The “Cheap” Alternative

Hawaii vacation rentals have long been considered the cheaper alternative to Hawaii hotels. So is that still true? We dug further into current rates by island, which we will share with you. The results are mixed and may be a surprise.

There are about two-thirds million Hawaii vacation rentals. In July, the average daily rental rate statewide was $301 before taxes and fees. But that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, and here’s why.

A 7-night Hawaii vacation rental stay may, in total, cost the equivalent of 10-12 nights.

Vacation rentals have significant extra fees to be added, like highly variable cleaning and service charges. On a weekly rental, we found that additional cost, including all taxes, was equivalent to between 3 and 5 extra nights. So a $301 nightly rate may cost $3,612 for a one-week stay.

Are Hawaii Vacation Rentals still a good deal?

Commenter Pat said, “I don’t understand what all the bellyaching is about when there are thousands of short-term rentals available at reasonable prices. Also, I don’t understand why BOH doesn’t talk about them anywhere in the article.”

BOH: We no longer see very reasonable rates for Hawaii vacation rentals. Even a low teaser rate tends to come out to be quite expensive.

Kay added, “Consider using short-term vacation rentals on the Big Island. A 3 bdrm unit in Mauna Lani Resort will rent for 300-400 per night.”

BOH: We checked, and the cheapest three-bedroom Mauna Lani unit during the low season dates of December 4-11 was $362 per night, which became $4,344 for a 7-night stay. That’s not too shabby for a larger group traveling together. But for just two people in a 1-bedroom located at Mauna Lani, the price starts at $296/night. That’s about $3,552/week, including all taxes and fees.

How cheap do Hawaii vacation rentals go?

As for the cheapest Hawaii vacation rentals, for the most part, they start at about $120 per night, plus fees. Even that lowest price rental will cost you close to $1,500 per week when all fees are included.

We checked for the cheapest rentals on all islands during that low season week of December 4-11. And those low-price rentals will mean giving up a lot. Honestly, we wouldn’t get near those with the lowest prices with a 10-foot pole. Mostly because of poor location, amenities, and photos.

Maui vacation rentals.

Maui has the state’s largest supply of vacation rentals, with more than 229,000. The average daily rate in July was $352, yielding a 7-night price of approximately $4,224. The cheapest rental we found (that wasn’t some form of camping) was $2,339, after including taxes and fees.

Honolulu vacation rentals.

There were more than 181,000 vacation rentals and an average daily rate of $226. That would yield an approximately 7-night total of $2,712. The cheapest rental we found was $1,213, after including all taxes and fees.

Big Island vacation rentals.

With 174,000 units, the average daily rate was $256. The approximately 7-night total is $5,028. The cheapest rental we found was $708, after including all taxes and fees.

Kauai vacation rentals.

Kauai had just 85,000 vacation rentals that operated with an average daily rate of $404. The approximately 7-night total is $4,848. The cheapest rental we found was $1,812, after including all taxes and fees.

Pros and cons of Hawaii vacation rentals include:

1. High prices are exacerbated by extreme taxes, plus other charges like cleaning and service fees. Last year, HB862 created additional taxes. As a result, Hawaii now has the highest combined accommodation tax in the US at about 18%. That tax is both on vacation rentals and hotels.

2. Availability. The best and most in-demand units can be sold out up to a year or more in advance. Tip: some vacation rentals can be booked up to 18 months ahead which is beneficial for summer and holidays.

3. Multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and extra space compared to a hotel room make vacation rentals sharable in terms of cost with family and friends.

4. Having your own “home” for your stay in Hawaii lets you experience the islands far more like a local.


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31 thoughts on “Hawaii Vacation Rentals No Longer The “Cheap” Alternative”

  1. We used to go to the north shore of Kauai every February for 2-3 weeks and rented various houses in Ha’ena. It was a little pricey, but still reasonable. The last time we were there was 2015. I recently looked for a rental house and was shocked at the prices and lack of availability of rental houses. Even the condos (we prefer houses over condos) are outrageous. Sad to see.

  2. I stay for three months and have found rates to be better for those longer periods. But taxes and fees are hidden until you check the details. That makes the ultimate price increase greatly. Hotels are now astronomically priced and a poor value.

    Overall, Hawaii is not a very good value any longer.

  3. My partner and I contemplated going on a 5 day and night trip to Maui or Kauai in late January, traditionally a slower period. But even a 3star hotel with faded 80s decor was over $425/night! A 4 star resort starts at $700/night. OMG!
    Hawaii just isn’t that great. It certainly isn’t the welcoming bastion of Hawaiian hospitality it once was. Culturally it is weak, unless you think a $200 luau or a side trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center is equivalent to the Louvre. It is (supposed to be) a laid back beach destination.
    Instead we are going to Puerto Vallarta. 5 star resort; $160/night. Flight from SFO 3h20m. Flights are actually about the same price from the Bay Area.
    We visited you 13 times Hawaii.
    Bienvenidos Mexico!!!

  4. When you quote Average Daily Rates, are you quoting them per room? I rent out a place on Oahu, and it has a living room, a full dining room, a fully stocked kitchen and three bedrooms. We get approx. 150/night.
    Further, statistics can ‘lie’. Using the ‘average’ can give a dishonest inference if done incorrectly.
    As an example: lets say you have 99 people making 1 dollar a year and one guy making 1 million for a total of a 100 people. The average salary is nearly $10000.00.
    So, if one is trying to make an inference from this data set, then that inference would clearly be a ‘lie’; not one person in the data set would be happy knowing that their individual salary was being described as ‘close to 10k/year’.

  5. I used a renal company before for a Princeville condo, 3 bed, 2 bath. from 120 to 170 and I still think that’s reasonable. gotta visit soon. and thanks you guys. you give the Best info always

  6. I think you need to fact check a little better here. There is no way the lowest July rate is over $300.

    And vacation rental owners don’t keep the taxes and cleaning fees; one goes to the government and the other goes to workers.

    1. Nealh, I shouldn’t think that the workers get 100% of what they are now charging for cleaning fees. As someone who has been utilizing vacation rentals on Maui since 1995, this has just happened in the past 10 years. We never had to pay additional for that that.

      1. Well, I can assure you that 100% of the cleaning fees I collect from guests goes to the cleaners. I don’t think any owners are making a profit off the backs of the cleaning staff.

        1. Aloha,

          We have a small ocean front condo on West Maui that we vacation rent. Our cleaning fee does not even cover what we pay our cleaners. Having a good housekeeper is golden, I don’t mind paying them extra, we couldn’t function without them.

          I did a quick search, there are no hotels around that are anywhere near our “low” rates. Maybe this is different in different parts of Hawaii.

          With no additional parking, wifi or resort fees, these smaller condo complexes are indeed a good value, at least in West Maui.

          Mahalo for the article.


        2. All the Mauna Lani Golf Villa Owners that do STVR, do not keep any of the cleaning non-refundable deposit & some owners, pay for all the cleaning supplies & toiletries, paper towels, 2 size-zip lock bags, foil, Saran Wrap, coffee filters, washer machine detergent, dryer cloths, bleach, dish soap, dishwasher soap etc…
          Things get broken or lost we have to replace it!
          The resorts in Mauna Lani charge any where from $1300 a night & up! The Golf Villa rentals go from $200-500 a night depending on the time of year? Still very inexpensive compared to the Hotel cost per night!

  7. Just went to Maui in August, got a place for my family of five for 2100’ish after all fees right near Kam 3 beach. Not sure for the basis of this article, actually.

  8. We found Vacation Rentals to be much cheaper than resort or Hotels. They still offer the best option for both couples and Families as far as the whole house, private yards, ocean view amenities such as kitchens, laundry, free streaming media/ channels, internet etc. They do not charge for parking, hotel/ resort use charge etc. Hotels and resorts no longer do daily cleanings yet the pricing is 10 times more for just a bedroom!


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