Longtime Hawaii Visitors Bid Farewell: The Why Behind Their Leaving

Something truly surprised us when we wrote about Hawaii’s downturn this holiday season, even having authored Beat of Hawaii for nearly two decades. That is the unprecedented number of regular and long-time commenters (some who have been leaving comments for more than a decade), and others, reported that they either have pulled the plug on Hawaii for good or are thinking of doing so.

They’ll explain in their own words exactly what’s going on. We found ourselves fascinated and saddened at the same time as to where we arrived. How do you feel after reading these?

Ian: After 14 years of going to Kauai (spent 2.5 months on my last visit), I am now going to Costa Rica for $125/night.

Martha: I’ve tried to reserve in Ko Olina in Honolulu but prices are ridiculous.

Doug: We have flights booked for February to Maui. Rates for hotels and resorts are insane. The Courtyard by Marriott Kahului Airport hotel was over $800 a night after taxes/fees. I’m waiting for deals on short term rentals In Waikiki… Worst case scenario is we cancel the entire thing as the flights are fully refundable.

Jenn: As a Floridian who loves Hawaii and would visit again, all I see everywhere are comments from the governor and residents about not wanting tourism and complaining that tourists are ruining Hawaii. Couple this with the extremely high prices on travel and it makes for an unpleasant prospect. We are choosing to travel within the continental US and next year, to Japan. I hope Hawaii is more hospitable to tourists in the future.

Andrew: The Aloha spirit got nasty and we voted with our feet. You told us to go away and we did. We discovered much cheaper and better places and we will never return to Hawaii to be extorted again with astronomical hotel and food prices. So suck it up and stop complaining. You shot yourselves in the foot and now you are whining. Stop it, you brought it upon yourselves.

Jack: Arizona has amazing winter weather, especially the basin. Full sun every day with temps in the 70s, good restaurants, and, importantly — affordable weekly and monthly rentals everywhere… Hawaii has excellent winter weather too, but, the commenters here have identified the problems.

Jeffrey: Canadians are not going to travel to Hawaii when they are told they are not welcome. We are going to California and Mexico instead, where the locals are happy to have our business.

Sandi:  Agree with you on rates, as even with the lower tourism, the rates do not adjust and just get higher. I am so losing my Aloha that was inborn from age 14… (Governor) Green’s comments are hurting all once again… Some West Maui hotels have canceled holiday reservations to continue to be able to house fire victims… People are increasingly afraid of booking Maui, worried that the government will take their rental away from them… I don’t want to go to a resort on Kaanapali and see sign-waving, and marches. It just costs too much to spend a so-called Aloha trip and be unsure. And finally, negative social media posts.

Casey: Had a big family trip planned prior to Covid, once Hawaii made it clear we weren’t welcome, we’ve been vacationing happily elsewhere. We fly from the NW down to Florida now instead and have had several great trips.

RMoeller: After visiting 2-3 times a year for 15+ years, it’s been made very clear we’re not welcome. Last visit to Kauai 2019 and BI 2021. Been to the Caribbean 3 times in the past year. Found our new place.

Melissa: I have been traveling to HI annually since 1998. Covid & the fire made me understand how dramatically under prepared the state of Hawaii is for any type of emergency. Honestly, I don’t feel safe going there… I have stayed away for 2 years… I can’t be the only long-term Hawaii traveler that feels that way.

Curtis: We canceled our March vacation in Maui and are going to Spring Training in Scottsdale, AZ. We can watch baseball… and soak up some sun at a reasonably priced resort. They also have some beautiful hiking trails. Hawaii doesn’t seem to realize that there are a lot of other options out there.

Randy: I canceled nights on Maui for more time on Oahu and, given the continuing drama on Maui, am glad I did. One week on Kauai and then another on the BI before heading home, all at short-term rentals, as hotel pricing is absurd. If prices don’t decline significantly in the future, this will likely be my last visit to Hawaii. It’s a big world.

DJ: Opting for Tahiti instead. (Hawaii) Hotel prices are more than double what they were not that long ago. We love the islands, but not enough to spend $12,000 for a week. The anti-tourist sentiment combined with the hotelier’s strategy of less reservations at higher prices are essentially the last nails in the coffin for us. The Caribbean, Mexico, and French Polynesia are better options.

Deborah: Just got back from a beautiful cruise to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Curacao, and Aruba. Not going to spend my money on Maui ever again. Tourists know when they are not welcome. We went there for many years, and now we will be giving our money to other countries and places that appreciate us.

Jay: Hawaii has priced itself out of the tourist market. With expensive flights, hotels, resort fees, food, beverages, parking, and other garbage fees. Much cheaper to go elsewhere with all-inclusive food and drinks.

John: $650 per night plus tax at the Sheraton Waikiki, no thanks!

Clint: I used to go twice a year, but after our trip in May (where it was over $1,000 a night), we are choosing other destinations like Costa Rica, Belize, and even the Bahamas.

Are these people on point, or are they missing something? We’d love to hear comments and also from those of you still making Hawaii their top choice, like the following reader:

Yes, the messaging has been awful. All of Maui is aflame, the Big Island is one giant volcanic eruption, we love you, we hate you, everybody come, everybody stay away, list goes on. Forget the tourist agency, hire someone to get out a consistent message.In spite of all this, I’ll be there in May.

Johannes, BOH commenter.

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366 thoughts on “Longtime Hawaii Visitors Bid Farewell: The Why Behind Their Leaving”

  1. My wife have visited HI every year (at least once), only missing the Covid year between 1999 and 2023.
    Contrary to the comments regards why folks are leaving, or not returning, we emphatically disagree. Our last visit was in December of 2023 and found the Aloha spirit alive and well, with the native Hawaiians profoundly grateful to have us back.

    Yes the prices were higher – but where are they not? We have already made our reservations for October of this year for our return to Kauai (our favorite).

    Aloha and Mahalo

    Michael and Barbara

  2. Oahu needed to get control of short-term rentals — limit the number, do regular inspections, respond to complaints. Instead, they banned them, which only creates more problems for everyone. I don’t want a hotel. I want a few weeks of local Hawaii. A little creativity, a little leadership, would be welcome here.

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  3. We have visited Hawaii annually since 2006. The room rates have doubled. The younger hotel staff are extremely rude and obviously anti tourist. My wife wishes to visit other places or Europe again. I can not disagree with her opinion. Hawaii needs to understand there are other places to vacation.

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  4. We feel like we’re reaping the benefits of having purchased timeshare in Maui 20+ years ago. Yes, our maintenance fees have increased, but nowhere near the increase in hotel/resort rates. From what others are saying, it seems like we will see much higher prices at restaurants, and car rental rates are crazy. But when commenters say they’ll be going to New Zealand or Australia instead – that’s huge travel time and cost from anywhere in the U.S. And the Caribbean? There’s just no comparison to Hawaii. We’ve been to all these places — there’s nothing like Hawaii, and particularly Maui and Kauai. Maybe we will go less often due to higher costs? But we will definitely keep going to Hawaii!

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  5. We just visited north Kaanapali and Napili for 2 weeks. I have been visiting since the seventies. Yes, its expensive on all levels: hotel(we stay in condos), car, food and activities. We split the cost between our family members and that helps. But we are taking a break for a year to save up to go. I am not going to replace our family vacations with Mexico or the Caribbean. It’s just Not the same. I’ve been to those places and it just made me long for Hawaii! I want to be in the middle of the Pacific and hear the crackling of shrimp and the low sounds of Humpback song. The scent of flowers on the trade winds and a slack key in the distance is a perfect vacation evening. Yes, expensive. But worth it to us.

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  6. Aloha All,
    Please understand that homelessness is actually a symptom of a larger problem. There are a great many examples that I might provide but I defer to Noam Chomsky as a far more eloquent voice to provide background on what you are observing. I would only add that homeless people only become a problem when they are seen by their more privileged fellow citizens. For reference, when homeless veterans became a problem that was too embarrassing we directed enough funds to solve it. The fastest growing population of homeless people now is single women who are between the ages of 25 and 35 and heads of households. Generally they are the victims of domestic abuse. When Regan closed the psychiatric institutions where did they go?

  7. These comments pretty much say it all. My only other issue is the request to be “mindful”. I always do my best to respect any location we visit, however we travel to get away and relax not to immerse in local culture. If that is a requirement for travel to Hawaii, I’m out.

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  8. I have gone to Hawaii, mostly Maui for more than 20 years. We bought Marriott & Westin timeshares, which people rent for various prices on Redweek. In a timeshare one can cook meals. However, I have always found the Hawaiian people warm & welcoming.
    Don’t believe the hype.

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  9. Hi Rob+Jeff. I am commenting on your post today (Feb 20). You both are putting Maui on hold for now due to the high prices. And how less people are searching online for Hawaii travel. I still check on Kauai rentals and my spot went from $275 a day to $420. And the reviews for it are that it needs an update and better cleaning. The view is the best thing about the condo. Nice for you both that you both already live there. Any updates on the closed Foodland in Kapaa? I usually stay at my girlfriends home while there, but the increase in visitors has affected her. I noticed this on my last visit. Now I am not planning a trip there like I usually do which is twice a year. Cannot afford the high prices of places that are of mediocre ratings.

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    1. Hi Debra.

      We’ve heard nothing about the vacant space that was Foodland Kapaa. Thank you for more than 150 comments!

      Aloha.

  10. The price to visit Hawaii has increased since our first trip in 2017. The only reason we are able to go so many times is because of our eligibility to stay at Hale Koa. The prices for lodging there have increased over the years. This trip we are paying $185/ night with no taxes or resort fees. Car rental prices have increased. We have found one for $760 (16 days).

    1. We spent a week in Oahu and a week in Poipu last fall. We have always enjoyed shopping at Ala Moana Mall and the stores on Kalakaua. But for the first time in 30 years, we encountered clerks in 2 of our favorite little name brand stores that didn’t practice what we practice at our own small store, creating an atmosphere that makes your customer want to return. And while staying at the Hyatt on Kauai, it just worth spending over $1000.00 a night for a room, and $100 pp for buffet breakfast when we’d been paying a fraction of that per day for the last 30 years that we’d vacationed there. We were hoping Hawaii would be like it use to be, but it’s not, and sadly, not worth going back to.

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      1. Was this a surprise that the rate was over a $1000 a night? $100 per person for a buffet? I would have gone to McDonald’s before paying that.

        For me, if I found out the rate was that much, I would have taken my business elsewhere and let the Hyatt know why.

        As long as people pay the high rates, the rates will never go down.

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