Outrageous Hawaii Hotel Fees

State of Hawaii on Outrageous Hawaii Hotel Fees + How To Avoid

Encouraging news on outrageous Hawaii hotel fees. This week, the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection indicated it has been checking into Hawaii hotel fees as is the FTC on a national basis. The state watchdog said ”It’s becoming more pervasive in the industry. And number one we want to ensure that the consumer is fully informed as to what costs are associated with reserving a room. If the fees are deemed to be unfair or deceptive, hotel operators can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.”

We recently wrote about Hawaii hotel fees that we had encountered ourselves and what a bad taste they had left. Well, we aren’t alone. An article from New York University indicates that hotel fees approached $3 billion last year. As one local example, Hilton Hawaiian Village, is said to collect nearly $30 million per year in resort fees. Hawaii hotel fees can run up to an additional $40 per night. In our research, it remains hard to find fees quickly, and they aren’t regularly presented as part of the room rate. Instead they are listed subsequently during the online booking process.

New and upcoming Hawaii hotel fees to watch for and avoid:

1) Room Experience Guarantees. Want a king bed or a high floor for example. Gotcha.
2) Early check-in. These used to be free, based on availability. Soon look for them to be based on payment as is the case with late check-out.

Are fees disclosed or cloaked?

Surprise fees, such as we still largely encountered in checking today, are a bummer. Finding fees late in the online booking process, or via confirming emails, cards in your room, etc. is simply bad practice. One apparent reason for these being a surprise may be that they are fast changing and may not have made it into the booking process.

In summary, if you thought the airlines were the only masters of shocking fees, think again. Hawaii Hotels (and the entire hotel industry) would like to outdo them, that is unless the government steps in. This obfuscated fee dilemma started years ago with online marketing. The theory has been that the best price catches the eye of the online travel shopper and thereby wins the reservation. Only sometimes it backfires, as was the case with us.

We were trying to book hotel accommodations in Honolulu recently. In the end we opted for an Airbnb with free parking. That in part because of extreme frustration with hotel fees. Not that Airbnb was perfect mind you, in fact we were outraged that their fee for the reservation itself was $75 in addition to what they charged the host.

Free WiFi Issues

Marriott got in trouble last year for attempting to block WiFi hot spots. The FCC charged them on trying to prevent use of personal phone based WiFi.  The issue has since been resolved. That together with the trend of expensive hotels still not offering this for free.

Below are some of the crazy things we encountered when trying to book Hawaii hotels in Honolulu.

Cancellation fees. Obviously there are some rates that are pre-paid and non-cancellable. Not a problem. But in addition, we found cancellable reservations that have a significant fee if you change your mind. Even totally refundable rates that could previously be cancelled within 24 hours of arrival now mostly require 48 to 72 hours or more before stay in order to not be charged.

Resort fees. We were confronted with up to $40 per night. Sometimes that provided parking which, in the case of Honolulu, can be extremely expensive. On the other hand, sometimes it provided merely a bottle of water, and internet. One hotel strangely called it a “boutique fee.” In truth, the value offered for resort fees is extremely variable.

Beat of Hawaii: “Resort fees are a disgraceful charge used primarily to cloak the true cost per night of your hotel stay by showing a lower advertised rate. Because resort fees are not optional, the proper thing to do is to include them as part of the nightly charge. Period”

Cleaning fees on departure. There are a growing number of Hawaii resorts charging an out cleaning fee. Once thought of as absurd, this can add up to $200 or more to the cost of your stay!

Housekeeping fees. If you’d like to have the room tidied while your on vacation, many hotels will assess a daily charge.

Air conditioning fees. Does this sounds too laughable to be true? It reminds us of when Motel 6 charged to use the TV. One Hawaii resort company we checked charges a fee to use the air conditioning of up to $30 per night depending on the room selected.

WiFi fees. Sometimes covered through loyalty program membership or resort fee, this is another hard to stomach charge. We often opt to use our generous and fast cell phone data plans instead.

Could there be more light at the end of the tunnel? Read on for that.

Beat of Hawaii Tips.

  • Don’t assume the price offered is the true price until you have carefully read the terms and conditions and arrived at the payment screen. Perform your due diligence there. This can more easily be done on a computer rather than on a phone in our experience.
  • Often the resort fees are not listed as part of the total price, which is even more deceptive.
  • Be wary of words like “extra charges may apply” which are sometimes found on third party websites like Expedia and others.
  • Join a hotel loyalty program. Some fees can be mitigated, and lower prices offered when booking directly with the hotel chain like Hilton for example (instead of OTA’s like booking.com).
  • Consider NCL Pride of America with most everything covered for 7 nights. They have their own fees, but that’s another story.
  • Consider vacation rentals like VRBO. But do remember they have their own fees.
  • Read reviews. Visitors may complain about unexpected fees which can help you to not fall into the same trap.

Federal Trade Commission and Congress on hotel resort fees.

Last year the FTC signaled that it wants Congress to enact legislation to help with out of control hotel resort fees. FTC chair Edith Ramirez said: “In my view, however, the most efficient and effective means to mandate the type of industry-wide requirement you propose would be through legislation….” The FTC wants hotels to list resort fees as part of the daily room rate.

We remain cautiously hopeful. In the interim it is definitely a buyer beware situation.

11 thoughts on “State of Hawaii on Outrageous Hawaii Hotel Fees + How To Avoid”

  1. Mahalo, I am so glad that you have posted all of this wonderful information! Recently my husband informed me that my dream to see hawaii will come true for our 30th anniversary next summer! I’ve done lots of research and found your newletter to be very informative! I’ve subscribed to it and read and save every issue. It has helped me to know when to book a time share our friends are letting us use. I’m so glad to hear that the airlines prices are going down next year! Where do you get the prices you quote in your newsletters? Given that competition will be driving prices next year, when do you suggest I start looking at airline prices for mid-August 2018 from Portland/Seattle area to Maui? Where should I look for discounts on activities in Maui?

    1. Hi Julie.

      You can start looking as soon as fares are released (330 days in advance). That is because the market between Pacific Northwest and Maui is strongly competitive. You may well find more of those $360 RT airfares we’ve been reporting.


  2. Hi, the hotels are so full of their own importance and are stealing from travelers, with these outrageous fees! Just to boycott them -I will never stay at a hotel in the islands ever again! I’ll go to Walmart but a couple tents etc and but a permit to camp

  3. How about the big Maui resort hotels. Many have the resort fee plus a parking fee. Check out Andaz – Resort fee $40 plus tax, PLUS Valet only parking fee $30 plus tax. This adds $73 per-night (including tax) to already sky high room rates. Rake in the cash!

  4. Thanks for the Heads UP!…We stayed a week on Kauai in July…..it must have been the busiest week of the entire year as traffic was Horrendous.WE still love Kauai….and the people…..but I got a first-hand experience with :”Extra” Fees…..Totaled they came to about 35.00 a night…if you wanted to use the Valet and have your rental car in a parking lot that was Not full of pot holes (probably 300 potholes+)…then that was also extra!

    Another thing learned…..ask the front desk if this is a RESORT owned property or are the units INDIVIDUALLY owned!…..as I learned the hard way…it makes a difference….the unit we had was individually owned….it was older….and needed updating!…The AC went out the 3rd night in and we didn’t sleep well that night…they got it fixed the next day but the repair guy said “These units are all individually owned…so some are kept up nice and some are not!…Now there Truth in Advertising right there…..Nowhere on the website did it say anything about that!….so kind of a roll the dice deal!

    I like everything up on the Table….then with ALL the info I will make a decision….it’s sad to think they many of the resorts are now playing the game of….have the lowest price then hit them over the head on fees and undisclosed additional expenses!….

    Kauai is still beautiful….love that Island!….Now its clear….do your HOMEWORK and READ the Fine Print!…Things have changed on my Favorite Island!…..

  5. I also think that you should name and shame the perpetrators.
    Once they start getting bad publicity, they will change their ways. Until then, expect more of the same.

    I know that I search for hotels that I am thinking of booking, and if it hit a shaming site listing fees that I had not thought of, I would most likely not book.

    I propose a top 10 best and worst. Make the hotels compete to keep off the shame list. Those hotels that do not charge these fees will be the biggest beneficiaries of such a policy. They should be noted too as they should be supported.

  6. Aloha! We booked a beautiful 2 bedroom/3 bath home, on the water (not near, on(!) the water) in Kona thru VRBO & were happy as larks. We read all the reviews and chose accordingly. At the end of our stay we left a glowing review. We are 2 women, over 50, world travelers. I cannot remember the last time we booked a hotel when we traveled (6+ years ago?). A private home or condo offers far more space and convenience than a hotel – really. At least this has been our experience. We don’t need daily housekeeping, we’re pretty self sufficient that way! Friday we are on our way to Maui and have booked a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo on the water in Ma’alalea for 11 nights at 1/3 the cost of a comparable hotel. Thank you, we’ll spend the savings enjoying the island. YMMV.

  7. They are doing the same thing in Laguna Beach. We just paid a $15 ‘resort fee’ on top of the $350 per nite charge. Outrageous.

  8. Two other things. A friend of mine who lists her second Kauai condo with Aston says she gets none of the resort fee. And of course as a travel agent I get no commission on the resort fees. But they are harder and harder to avoid.

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