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With its world-famous beaches, volcanic landscapes, and laidback island lifestyle, Hawaii is one of the most desirable vacation destinations in the world. However, many travelers wonder – just how expensive is it to visit or live in Hawaii?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Hawaii is more expensive than most areas of the mainland United States, especially when it comes to housing, groceries, dining out, and buying goods.

However, there are ways to visit on a budget by choosing more affordable accommodations, avoiding costly resort areas, and taking advantage of free island activities.

In this nearly 3,000 word guide, we will take an in-depth look at the cost of visiting and living in Hawaii. We examine everything from airfare and hotels to home prices, utilities, food costs, transportation, healthcare, and taxes. We also provide tips to save money and enjoy Hawaii affordably.

Upfront Costs: Flights and Accommodations

Average airfare costs

Flying to Hawaii can be quite expensive, with roundtrip flights from the mainland U.S. averaging $500-$800 per person. Flights from the West Coast tend to be cheaper than those from the East Coast or Midwest.

The best deals can typically be found by booking far in advance or traveling during shoulder seasons like April-May and September-October.

Hotel and resort prices

Hotel and resort rates in Hawaii generally range from $250-$500+ per night. Luxury beachfront resorts on islands like Maui and Kauai charge upwards of $1,000 per night. More affordable lodging can be found further from prime beach areas or in condos and vacation rentals.

Vacation rental costs

Vacation home and condo rentals often provide the best value lodging in Hawaii. Average rental rates range from $100-$300 per night depending on the location, size, amenities and time of year. Renting a property with a full kitchen can also help travelers save money on meals.

Saving money on accommodations

Here are some tips for getting the best lodging deals in Hawaii:

  • Book hotels using sites like Priceline or Hotwire to find unpublished rates
  • Look for resort packages that bundle airfare, hotel and rental cars
  • Rent vacation properties directly from owners on sites like VRBO or Airbnb
  • Travel in the spring and fall shoulder seasons when rates are lower
  • Consider less expensive islands like Kauai and the Big Island over pricier Maui

Housing Expenses for Hawaii Locals

Hawaii home and apartment prices

Housing in Hawaii is famously expensive, with median home prices over $800,000 statewide. On Oahu, where Honolulu and Waikiki are located, median single family home prices top $1 million. Apartment rents are not much cheaper, with average rents in Honolulu over $2,000 per month for a one bedroom.

High demand from locals, second homeowners, investors, and tourists drives up housing costs. Limited land for development also constrains supply. Getting an affordable place to live is a major financial challenge for Hawaii residents.

Utilities costs

Electricity rates in Hawaii are three times the national average at over 40 cents per kWh. Air conditioning can really drive up power bills during the summer. Water and sewer bills also tend to run higher than average.

On the positive side, Hawaii has abundant renewable energy resources. Over 30% of the state’s electricity is from solar, wind, and other clean sources. More homeowners are installing rooftop solar to reduce utility costs. And Hawaii has committed to 100% renewable power by 2045.

Tips for affordable housing

  • Consider living further from Honolulu and commuting – rents drop quickly as you get outside the urban core.
  • Get roommates to split costs on a larger apartment or house.
  • Rent an ohana unit, a secondary dwelling on the same grounds as a main home.
  • Check if you qualify for subsidized affordable housing programs through the county or state.

Finding an reasonably priced place in Hawaii takes persistence and creativity. But the payoff is getting to call paradise home while enjoying the islands’ natural beauty and aloha spirit.

Everyday Costs: Food, Entertainment, Transportation

Grocery and dining prices

Food prices in Hawaii, especially for imported items, tend to be higher than the mainland U.S. Grocery bills for a family of 4 run 20-30% higher than other states according to the Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

For example, a gallon of milk costs $5-6 and loaf of bread is $4-5 on average. Locally grown produce like pineapples, bananas and avocados can be more reasonably priced. Eating out is pricey too – expect to pay around 25% more for meals at restaurants in popular tourist areas.

Cost of entertainment and activities

Hawaii offers plenty of outdoor recreation, but costs can add up. Activities like snorkeling tours, surf lessons, luaus and helicopter rides typically start at $100 per person. Whale watching excursions can run $80-150 depending on trip length. On a budget?

Opt for free beaches, hiking trails and botanical gardens instead. Movies cost around $12 per ticket, while cultural attractions like Bishop Museum in Honolulu offer resident discounts.

Gas prices and transportation costs

Hawaii has notoriously high gas prices, often averaging over $1 more per gallon than the mainland. As of December 2022, the average for regular unleaded gas is around $5.20/gallon statewide according to AAA. Costs are highest on Lanai and Molokai.

Rental cars, taxis and public transportation also come at a premium. Expect to pay $50-100 per day for a compact rental car. Buses on Oahu cost $2.75 per ride, while a 10-mile taxi trip runs about $35 plus tip.

Reducing everyday expenses

Looking to cut costs in Hawaii? Grocery shop at local farmers markets, walk more to save on gas, snag happy hour deals at restaurants, and take advantage of free entry days at paid attractions. Consider staying outside main tourist zones for cheaper lodging rates too.

With some flexible planning, you can trim expenses while still enjoying everything the islands have to offer!

Healthcare, Taxes, and Other Living Expenses

Hawaii healthcare costs

Healthcare in Hawaii can be quite expensive compared to the national average. According to a 2022 study by ValuePenguin, the average annual healthcare costs in Hawaii for an individual are $7,268, which is 16% higher than the national average.

For a family of four, average costs come out to $28,078 per year, 29% above average.

One major factor is that health insurance premiums tend to run high in the state. Hawaii residents pay an average monthly premium of $594 for individual coverage and $1,729 for family coverage. High premiums are partly due to Hawaii having only two health insurance providers to choose from, limiting market competition.

Out-of-pocket spending is also elevated, averaging $1,818 annually for individuals. Common medical procedures frequently cost more as well – for instance, a standard doctor’s office visit runs around $214 in Hawaii versus $149 nationwide.

Income and sales tax rates

Hawaii residents also pay moderately high taxes, especially compared to states with no income tax. Hawaii’s top individual income tax rate is 11%, while the corporate income tax rate stands at 6.4%. These represent increases from just a few years ago after recent tax hikes were implemented.

In terms of sales tax, Hawaii has a comparatively low general excise tax of just 4%. However, with county surcharges the effective sales tax rate rises to 4-4.5%. There is also a steep 10.25% lodging tax that visitors must pay on hotels.

Miscellaneous expenses

Beyond healthcare and taxes, other common living expenses are generally inflated as well in the state. For example, according to NERDWALLET data, housing costs are the most expensive of any state, with the average Honolulu home going for around $839,000.

Childcare and transportation can also be pricier.

One exception is energy costs – electricity rates stand at just $0.20 per kWh thanks to abundant hydroelectric and solar resources. However, with nearly 90% of Hawaii’s food being imported, grocery bills are elevated by an estimated 20-30% above mainland prices.

In total, when considering all common household expenses, Hawaii resident’s overall cost of living is approximately 25-30% higher compared to other states on average as estimated by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

Saving Money in Hawaii: Budget Travel Tips

Choose affordable accommodations

To save money on accommodations in Hawaii, consider booking a rental property or vacation home instead of a luxury resort. Sites like VRBO and HomeAway offer a wide variety of condos, apartments, and houses for rent across the islands.

You’ll get amenities like a kitchen to prepare some of your own meals and save money on dining out. Hostels and budget hotels are other affordable lodging options.

Look for free activities

Luckily, Hawaii offers a lot of free and low-cost activities to enjoy. Spend a day relaxing on one of the islands’ many beautiful beaches – the sand and surf are free. Go for scenic hikes through lush rainforests and along breathtaking coastlines.

Many hotels and shopping centers also offer free weekly entertainment like Hawaiian music, dance performances, or movie nights under the stars.

Travel during shoulder seasons

Avoid peak summer and holiday times when hotel rates and flights tend to be most expensive in Hawaii. Travel in the spring and fall shoulder seasons for lower prices – you’ll still get beautiful weather and smaller crowds.

According to a Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority report, average hotel room rates in May and September can be around 30% cheaper compared to August.

Other ways to save

Here are some other money-saving tips for travel in Hawaii:

  • Rent a car for longer and avoid one-day fees
  • Eat affordable plate lunch specials at local restaurants
  • Shop at farmers markets and grocery stores for fresh, low-cost produce
  • Take advantage of hotel and activity discounts for military members
  • Pack sunscreen, snacks, and other essentials so you don’t have to buy as much in Hawaii


In conclusion, while Hawaii is certainly not a cheap place to visit or reside, there are ways to enjoy the islands on a budget. With some planning around flights, accommodations, and activities, Hawaii can still be an affordable destination for many travelers.

For Hawaii locals, reducing housing, food, and transportation costs requires effort, but allows residents to enjoy an unmatched island lifestyle.

We have covered all the main elements that contribute to Hawaii’s higher than average prices compared to mainland states. However, the ability to live in a tropical paradise with amazing nature, food, and culture makes Hawaii irresistible for both visitors and transplants.

By following money-saving tips, you can thrive in Hawaii without breaking the bank.

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