Hawaii © Creative Commons by mandolin davis
From Canada and the United States, round trip airfare to Hawaii typically ranges from $500 – $1100. The variance depends on when you travel and from where you’re flying. For a west coast departure during off season (April, May, September, October, most of November and Dec 1 – Dec 15) you can expect to pay $500 – $650. Add about $150 for an east coast departure. For the peak season which is from Christmas into March, prices fluctuate quite a lot. The average fare from the west coast will be around $700, and $850 from the east. Airfare sales are common but you need a flexible schedule to take advantage of them. Seats sell out, so it’s not a good idea to play waiting games once your schedule is firm.
Hawaii has very few hostels. It’s best to save up until you can afford something reasonable. Ironically accommodations in the budget range (below $60/night) are easily the worst deals whether a hostel, hotel or other arrangement. That’s because it’s easy to find accommodations that are far superior in the $100-$150/night range.
In Hawaii vacation rentals offer the best value. They’re spacious, include laundry and internet for free, and come with fully equipped kitchens. The longer you stay, the less they cost, with managers and owners offering discounts for extended stays. In general Kauai offers the best value. For example, comfortable one bedroom units at Kauai’s Poipu Kai Resort are typically in the $150/night range, while two bedroom units start at $200/night. For accommodations with ocean views expect to pay a little more.
Food in Hawaii can be up to 30% more expensive than most U.S. locations. But prices are far from outrageous and there are restaurants for every budget. Farmer’s Markets are great for expensive fruits and vegetables. Given how far imported food has to travel to reach Hawaii the prices are actually very reasonable, especially at big retailers like Costco.
In Hawaii renting a car is a must. The islands simply have too many attractions to explore and doing so via public transport would be grueling and a big waste of time. Rental car prices vary tremendously. The typical price is around $15/day for a compact car. But when demand is high (Christmas for example) the price can sky rocket to over $100 day. The key is to reserve your rental as soon as possible. The car rentals companies use a very simply formula: when inventory is low prices increase.
When renting a car be careful of additional fees. Buy your rental car insurance at home, not from the rental company. Some companies charge for additional drivers – know ahead of time who does and if someone else will drive. Don’t prepay for your gas, take the option that requires you to fill up the tank before you return the car.
Hawaii has so many natural attractions to keep you occupied you really don’t need to do any paid activities. Remember, all the beaches in Hawaii are public. Renting snorkel gear can cost around $15/day. Popular tourist activities can be a bit pricey. For example surf lessons are about $75, boat trips $90 – $150.