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Nickle-And-Dimed To Death | Hawaii Visitors Reeling

No matter how much money they may have, visitors don’t like the feeling of being nickeled-and-dimed to death. Had we not heard those exact words used countless times in your comments, it may not have caught our attention in the way that it just did. Here are some examples. Let us know which comment you agree with most.

Lori: I would rather pay one fee than be nickeled and dimed at each park, beach, and attraction.

Steve: It appears that rather than welcome tourists, the goal is to nickel and dime them over every little thing possible. Every trip I find more things that are being charged for, and while some are worthwhile, many are just a way for the state to take in money, with little of the money spent on improving the park or area.

Lynn: Budget determines where folks can and will go. This may cause Hawaii to lose money from visitors choosing not to go somewhere where they will be nickeled and dimed for everything on vacation.

Andy: Airlines continually nickel and dime the traveler over and over and they are oblivious to the fact that they are notoriously hated.

Rita: As a frequent visitor… we already pay higher taxes for residing at Hawaii hotels /resorts… It seems like visitors are perhaps being nickeled and dimed to death and not appreciated… Unless the goal of the Hawaiian government is to keep visitors away.

Barbara: I would gladly pay a “visitor’s fee” rather than be nickel-and-dimed every day when I want to visit a beach. I totally understand that concept of visitors participating in maintaining Kauai but please don’t hit me over the head every day of my stay!

Jim: Doesn’t matter how rich one is. No one likes to be nickel and dimed.

Jen: We’ve loved going to Hawaii for years. But the taxes and fees are getting to the point of being ridiculous. I feel like Hawaii is making it clear that tourism is not wanted. We usually spend a good amount of money there. We don’t go cheap but want to spend our money where we can go and know that we won’t be nickeled and dimed.

Tony: What I believe Kauai should try to avoid is looking like the Disneyland Money machine where every time you turn around you are laying out more cash and feel nickel & dimed to death… Where does $ go?

Tana: These islands seem to be nickel and diming tourists and it’s getting really old and annoying. Hawaii is expensive to go to and stay at, real people have to save and work extra to go, all these fees will add to the difficulties of going.

Nickle-and-diming feels like the antithesis of aloha.

It isn’t just how much you charge, but the perception of the value of both the product offered and the visitors who are the consumers. At every level, Hawaii has clearly missed the boat in this area.

Hotel rates and resort fees: How does the $1,600/night average rate sound?

In the latest month reported by the state (see report below), Wailea hotels lead the average rates being charged with a whopping $1,136 per night. Not including taxes and fees including resort fees. In total, that represents approximately $1,600/night on average.

Accommodation taxes: the highest in the country.

The accommodation taxes added to hotels and vacation rentals went up 3% in the last year. Hawaii’s legislature kicked off these increases via HB 862. That measure went into effect starting last October. As a result, the state now has the highest combined accommodation tax in the US.

The state legislature approved the accommodation taxes. Previously, the counties received an allotment of the statewide uniform 10.25% accommodations tax rate, but that ended. Instead, each county had to add its own 3% surcharge to that existing statewide tax. Those taxes are plus an additional 4.17% GST on Maui and 4.712% GST elsewhere in Hawaii. The combined tax on hotels and vacation rentals is approximately 18%.

It is worth noting that Hawaii residents and visitors pay the exact same taxes on accommodations.

Hawaii beach parking fees.

We recently reported that Maui is implemented a paid beach parking system for visitors with possible rates of up to $30. The other islands also have similar plans in the works. So it isn’t a question of if but of when and how much.

Hawaii state park visitor admission fees.

Of the 50 Hawaii parks in Hawaii, 10 already have visitor admission and parking fees (those are typically $5 per person and $10 per vehicle). That includes Hanauma State Park, where the entrance fee was increased to $25/person. Hawaii residents are exempt. Visitor admission fees will also come to all of the state parks. We don’t yet know when they will arrive at the other 40 parks, how they will be managed, and what the fees will be.

Airlines and airlines fees.

Except for most competitive routes, Hawaii airfares are going high and higher. Competition is shifting, and on most mainland routes it is now diminished. That became obvious when Southwest Hawaii flights were terminated on 10 routes. Airline fees are resuming too, and we recently got stuck with a huge airline change fee, as we reported.

Can you avoid being nickel-and-dimed in Hawaii?

One of the differences is that tourists are being asked to pay exorbitant rates for everything, plus different additional fees that residents don’t pay. While true in other countries, it is far less common in U.S. interstate travel. As we pointed out, however, everyone, including residents, pays the accommodation taxes.

Where do Hawaii taxes and fees go?

As you’ve pointed out, Hawaii has squandered most of its tax dollars in perpetuity. So we are left with ridiculously high rates and largely third-world tourism infrastructure. But sometimes, we see changes when admission fees are added. One case in point is Diamond Head. Before fees, hawkers ran rampant, tunnels and bunkers were not lit, and the trail needed work. All of that has been remedied, and a staircase added near the top to create an alternate route for visitors.



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243 thoughts on “Nickle-And-Dimed To Death | Hawaii Visitors Reeling”

  1. I thought I’d look up a place we used to own in Palm Springs, which has a much lower cost of living than anywhere in Hawaii. I also know the costs of vacationing in San Diego have skyrocketed recently. It is a 1300 sqft home and is simple to maintain. We never used it as a rental.

    The cost for 3 nights is $1977. Host fee $659, Admin fee $132, Cleaning fee $527, Service fee $315 for a total of $1,633, so nearly the cost of the ‘rental’.

    Just wanted to point out that this situation is not just happening in Hawaii.

    1. Hi Peg

      Thanks for that perspective. We’re finding the same situation in terms of costs when planning a trip to Europe later this summer.


  2. Cleaning fees are set and collected by the host, not VRBO. An average price of $175-250 has been the norm for at least 5 years, and is more related to labor costs.

    1. I don’t care who the fees are set by that’s still exorbit amount to pay to clean a one or two bedroom condo.

        1. It’s not a way to make more money. Many hosts pay *more* to their cleaners than what they charge their guests, not less. They are actually losing money on the cleaning.

          Cleaners need to live in Hawaii somehow, which is no small feat these days. Prices for everything (housing, food, utilities, etc) are astronomical. The entire vacation rental industry would fall apart without cleaners. Not to mention that vacation rental cleaning and laundry is a lot of hard, hours-long, exacting work – much different than a normal cleaner.

          1. Visitors usually look at the total price of accommodations. If they like it and can afford it, they book it. It doesn’t really matter to them what the price is made up of – taxes, fees, cleaning, etc. It’s the bottom line that they look at. The ones who care about the individual fees simply don’t travel, I guess, since most accommodations “Nickel and Dime you to death”, including hotels.

          2. I do think that the fees become important to lots of people when they almost double the cost of the per night listing.

          3. Not when the total amount is acceptable. It’s futile to get so hung up on this.

            If it was required that there be no fees, what do you think would happen? The accommodation would simply raise their prices to compensate. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make any difference to the guest. Are people hoping that if they complain about fees enough, they will be removed and the total price will go down? That’s a pipe dream.

            It’s all “funny money”.

          4. PatG the problem with all the fees is that they are often times not disclosed until you get to payment. When searching for spaces to rent, the base price is listed. If all fees were disclosed during the search then I agree the cost is the cost.

          5. It’s not true anymore though, Chris. Most platforms have a “Display Total Price” option on the first page that you can now select, and then the total pre-tax price for the stay is what is shown in the initial search results. See the Airbnb main search page for an example of this option.

  3. Here’s a brief idea why we chose Europe. A VRBO low dollar condo:

    $185.00 x 9 nights
    Cleaning Fee
    Service Fee
    State- Hawaii
    General Sales and Use Tax
    Accommodations Tax
    General Sales and Use Tax
    County- Kauai
    Accommodations Tax
    General Sales and Use Tax
    General Sales and Use Tax

    1. Gary B,

      I have not used VRBO before, but reaction to your breakdown is:
      1) Why is the cleaning fee so expensive? It is like 3 times what I pay to get my 2BR apartment cleaned in LA.
      2) What is the “service fee” for, and who get that?

      1. VRBO/AirBnB as well as others charge this fee, many times to both landlord and renter. Cleaning fees have always been high by mainland standards. I believe it took a jump during covid due extensive additional cleaning, but like many fees, it never adjusted. Seems like it could be a nice living for cleaning crews. Our fees in Europe were from $75-$100 for a comparable size apt.

  4. I’m going to say that the best comment is the one that says all this “nickel and diming” yet we still have a 3rd world travel and tourism coordination in Hawaii.

    I think if the press ever bothered to let the mainland and international travelers know how bad Hawaii is dollar for dollar, and how much they are being taken advantage of, it might take a bite out of advance bookings.

    Not that I would want to hurt Hawaii, but how do you force the hand of our gouging government?


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