Known for its beautiful beaches and friendly people, Hawaii is an expensive US state that can be visited with a budget of $90 to $300 a day.
My almost 2-week trip to Hawaii cost a total of $2,761. Here, I share my Hawaii travel expenses, cost per day and budgeting tips. I also outline where and how much cash is needed in Hawaii.
- Is Hawaii Expensive To Travel To?
- About My Hawaii Trip
- Total Cost for a Hawaii Trip: $2,761
- Cost Breakdown for Hawaii
- Cost Breakdown by Island in Hawaii
- Do You Need Cash in Hawaii?
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Is Hawaii Expensive To Travel To?
💰 Hawaii is an expensive state to visit. It ranks as the most expensive state to travel to and it’s also one of the states with the highest cost of living. That said, visiting Hawaii’s most expensive island, Maui, is cheaper than visiting some of US’s most expensive cities (e.g., New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Key West).
For comparison, here’s how much I spent per day visiting these different destinations in the same year I traveled to Hawaii, while keeping in mind that I had a tighter budget in Hawaii:
- My Hawaii trip’s cost per day: $208
- My Vietnam trip’s cost per day: $86
- My Italy trip’s cost per day: $131
- My Barcelona trip’s cost per day: $155
- My Iceland trip’s cost per day: $306
🎒 A budget traveler can expect to spend approximately $90 per day or $630 for one week of travel in Hawaii, not including flights. To travel on a budget in Hawaii, here are some things you can do:
- Overall: Consider traveling to Hawaii’s cheapest island, Oahu. Here are 10 great things to do on Oahu that my friend, Matt, recommends.
- Accommodation: Travel during the off-season (April to mid-June and September through mid-October) when accommodations are cheaper. A hostel in Hawaii is generally $60 or more per night.
- Food: Eat at local establishments, food trucks (there are many in Hawaii), and fast food chains like L&L to keep your food costs under $15 per meal.
- Transportation: It’s hard to get around Hawaii without a car and rentals can be expensive. You can aim to take advantage of Hawaii’s limited public transportation to minimize gas and rental costs, but keep in mind that the full Hawaii experience requires a car.
- Attraction: Tours and activities are usually $50 or more in Hawaii, so enjoy Hawaii’s many free natural attractions where you’ll only need to pay for parking, if there is a fee.
💳 A mid-range budget traveler can expect to spend approximately $250-$300 per day or $1,750-$2,100 for one week of travel in Hawaii, not including flights.
About My Hawaii Trip
To give context to the expenses below, here’s what you need to know about my trip to Hawaii:
🗓️ 12 days. I spent 12 days in Hawaii and visited Maui for 8 days and the Big Island for 4 days (I broke down my expenses for each island below).
Maui is Hawaii’s second most popular destination and also the most expensive one. Oahu is Hawaii’s most visited island and the most inexpensive one.
☀️ Low season. I went to Hawaii in September, which is considered the low season. Hawaii’s peak season runs from December to March.
✌️ Non-solo travelers. I traveled with at least one other person at all times, so I was able to split accommodation, food and transportation costs.
💰 Mid-range budget. I don’t aim to travel on a budget, but I’m thoughtful about how and where I spend. I consider myself a mid-range budget traveler and these expenses reflect that.
Total Cost for a Hawaii Trip: $2,761
I spent $2,761 in Hawaii during my almost 2-week trip.
All costs listed here are per person and in USD.
Cost Breakdown for Hawaii
Here are my Hawaii travel expenses by category:
|Cost||% of Total Cost||Cost Per Day|
Cost per Day in Hawaii: $208
If I include my flight costs, my Hawaii trip came out to $230 per day.
A mid-range budget traveler can expect to spend $250-$330 per day in Hawaii. This generally entails staying at a mid-range $200 hotel that you can split with someone, eating at $ to $$ restaurants, renting a standard car every day, and doing a mix of free activities and paid tours.
Flight Cost to Hawaii: $264
My September flights cost:
- $103 for Los Angeles’s airport (LAX) to Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui
- $39 for Maui’s airport to Kona International Airport (KOA) on Big Island
- $123 for Big Island’s airport to San Jose’s airport (SJC) in California
The most expensive months to fly to Hawaii are June and July and the cheapest month to fly to Hawaii is January, according to Kayak.
If you plan to island-hop in Hawaii, know that flight tickets between islands are in the $50 to $100 range for one-way. $39, which is how much I paid to fly from Maui to the Big Island, is one of the cheapest prices you’ll see.
Accommodation Cost in Hawaii: $1,667
My average cost of accommodation in Hawaii was $139 per night.
|Accommodation||Total Cost||Cost Per Night|
|Maui resort in Kaanapali||$773||$193|
|Maui hotel in Kihei||$422||$106|
|Big Island Airbnb in Keauhou||$473||$118|
Hawaii’s accommodations are expensive. On Maui, the most expensive island, a mid-range hotel averages $200 per night and a budget hotel is usually at least $120 per night. On Oahu, the cheapest island, a mid-range hotel can be around $150 per night.
Food Cost in Hawaii: $315
My average cost of food in Hawaii was $26 per day.
- My most expensive meal in Hawaii cost $28 at Paia Fish Market, a well-known seafood restaurant on Maui.
- My most affordable meal in Hawaii cost $10 at L&L, a Hawaiian barbecue chain.
The average meal in Hawaii costs $25 per person. You can aim to keep your meal cost low by eating at local establishments, fast food chains like L&L and food trucks. I recommend getting the affordable fresh poke at Foodland, a local Hawaiian grocery store.
Transportation Cost in Hawaii: $469
My average cost of transportation in Hawaii was $39 per day.
|Transportation||Total Cost||Cost Per Day|
|Car rental (Maui & Big Island)||$370||$31|
|Gas (Maui & Big Island)||$73||$6|
|Uber (to Big Island’s airport)||$21*||–|
|Twin Falls parking (Maui)||$5||–|
*I split rental cars and had to use Uber once since I had a different departure time than others.
The best way to get around Hawaii is by renting a car and the average cost for a standard car is $35 per day. All Hawaii islands have at least a bus public transportation system and Oahu has a decent bike sharing system. However, you’ll find that getting around Hawaii is limited and inconvenient without a car.
Activities Cost in Hawaii: $46
My average cost of activities in Hawaii was $4 per day.
Unlike my other trips, I didn’t spend much on entertainment in Hawaii. I primarily did activities that were free, where I could waive the costs or only had transportation costs (e.g., car rental, gas, parking fee).
Here are the activities I did:
- Haleakalā sunrise trip (Maui’s most popular activity). This has a $30 entrance fee, but I brought my Nationals Park Pass, which waived the cost. It also requires a negligible $1 reservation fee per vehicle. This Haleakalā guide has all the details of how to catch the sunrise or sunset there.
- Road to Hana (Maui’s second most popular activity). This 1-2 day roadtrip is free, but has certain stops that have parking fees and you’ll need to rent a car. This Road to Hana guide has a thorough map, driving tips and recommended stops.
- Snorkeling and hiking sessions that were all free:
- Kihei Beach (Maui), a decent snorkeling area that also has tide pools to explore
- Papalaua Beach (Maui), a local spot with strong waves
- Honokeana Cove (Maui), a popular and beautiful snorkeling spot
- Honolau Bay (Maui), another popular and beautiful snorkeling spot that gets crowded if you don’t go early
- Kapalua Costal Trail (Big Island), a scenic easy trail with beautiful views into the ocean
- Captain Cook Monument Trail (Big Island), a medium-difficult trail that leads to clear and stunning snorkeling
- Kilauea Iki (Big Island), a hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where you get to walk over a solidified lava lake at the crater
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (Big Island), a beach where I got to see some sea turtles resting
- Kukio Bay (Big Island), a non-crowded snorkeling spot where I saw a sea turtle swimming in the ocean
- A dragon fruit farm tour on Maui that cost $45 per person. I had the best-tasting dragon fruit of my life here.
Tours and activities are usually $50 or more in Hawaii (the 2.5-hour popular manta ray snorkeling tour on the Big Island is usually $100 or more per person). To save money, enjoy Hawaii’s many free natural attractions where you’ll only need to pay for the parking fee, if there is one.
Cost Breakdown by Island in Hawaii
Maui Cost Breakdown ($1,890)
My average cost on Maui was $237 per day. I stayed at a Hyatt resort for a wedding and split an Airbnb with several people before staying at the resort. I had a rental car every day and did mostly free activities except for a dragon fruit farm tour.
Maui is the most expensive island of Hawaii and an average day there can easily be $300 for a mid-range budget traveler.
|Total Cost||Cost Per Day|
Big Island Cost Breakdown ($862)
My average cost on the Big Island was $215 per day. I split an Airbnb with several people, had a rental car every day and did mostly free activities (see above).
The Big Island is neither the most expensive nor the cheapest island in Hawaii and you can expect to spend $200 per day for a mid-range budget trip.
|Total Cost||Cost Per Day|
Do You Need Cash in Hawaii?
Hawaii, like many US states, has a good credit card infrastructure system, but you’ll still need cash for certain things and locations, so bring some cash.
Here are some tips on bringing and using cash in Hawaii:
Tip #1: Certain places in Hawaii are cash-only.
Some places in Hawaii where you’ll need cash include:
- Small, local food stalls on the Road to Hana (e.g., Huli Huli Chicken, where you’ll need at least $20 per person)
- Certain food trucks (Hawaii has popular food truck areas)
- Markets (e.g., Maui Swap Meet has a $0.50 admissions fee, some vendors at Maui Gift and Craft prefer cash)
- Tipping tour guides or other service workers
Tip #2: Bring at least $50 worth of cash to Hawaii.
Bringing $50 worth of cash will, at a minimum, cover a meal for two people from vendors on the side of the road.
I kept my cash in my crossbody phone pouch (it feels secure enough for me), but if you want extra protection against pickpocketing, you can carry a hidden money belt.
Tip #3: Tipping is expected in Hawaii.
Like everywhere in the US, tipping is customary and expected in Hawaii. In general, good service should receive a 15+% tip and exceptional service should receive a 20+% tip.
- At restaurants, a 15-20% tip is normal from tourists and locals.
- For valets, a $2 tip is standard when they bring your car to you.
- For tours, a 10% tip is standard for a group tour and 15-20% is standard for private tours.
- For massages and spas, a 10-20% tip is standard.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below.