What family doesn’t dream of a visit to Hawaii? The Hawaiian Islands hold incredible appeal and intrigue for families as a vacation destination. With spectacular beaches, incredible landscapes, and kid-friendly resorts, it seems easy enough to pack your bags and head across the Pacific for a Hawaii vacation. But how much does a Hawaii trip cost? We’ve crunched the numbers to come up with guidelines for a Hawaiian vacation budget.
Below is an outline of travel costs that families can use when visiting Hawaii for the first time. This includes the approximate cost of flights and accommodations, how much to pay when renting a car in Hawaii, what time of year to travel in order to save money, and how to plan for the cost of special experiences like a helicopter tour of Mauna Kea or surf lessons.
With the right planning, your family can determine how best to allocate your precious travel savings to design the Hawaii vacation package of your dreams. If you want to cut this budget down, check out these 105 tips for doing Hawaii on a budget. These are also some great tips for saving money to travel.
Hawaii Budget Assumptions
For calculating Hawaii trip costs, this post will outline pricing for two adults and two children between the ages of 6-11, traveling from the east coast of the United States in the summer months, and spending 5 nights each on Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii, for a total of 10 nights, 11 days.
These islands were chosen because they offer the common introductory Hawaiian experiences: Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and the North Shore, while the Big Island of Hawaii has a laid-back vibe perfect for relaxing, and is home to six of Hawaii’s nine national parks including the best options for volcano viewing and hiking. You can use this guide to pick the best Hawaiian island for your family.
I have organized the costs of a trip to Hawaii by airfare, car rental/transportation, accommodations, food, and activities, including tips and ideas for savings in each category. Note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
Cost of Airfare to Hawaii
The biggest cost differentiator when purchasing flights is whether your family is flying from the west coast of the U.S. or somewhere else (midwest, east coast, etc.) Expect to pay around $800-1,000 per person traveling from one of the east coast hubs in the summer months, while flights from California maybe $600-700 in the summer.
Honolulu on Oahu has the most flight connections to and from mainland U.S. airports than any other Hawaiian airport, so that is typically the point of arrival or departure. To maximize your vacation time, be sure to price out flying into Oahu and out of the Big Island (Kona is the largest airport on the Big Island) or vice versa.
This will save you another inter-island flight back to your initial destination for your return flight. If you choose Maui as your second island, you can often find direct flights from Maui to many U.S. cities.
Another huge cost savings can be gained by flying mid-week if at all possible. Flights in and out of Hawaii jump up in price on Saturdays and Sundays since it is primarily a leisure travel destination, not a business location.
Flight prices are also dependent on the time of year. The festive period, Thanksgiving week, and popular spring break weeks will price out similarly to summer dates, if not more. January and February are typically the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii if you have the flexibility to get away then.
One way to save is to use credit card points or airline miles to book your airfare.
For inter-island flights (like connections between the Big Island and Oahu), Hawaiian Airlines and Mokulele are your best bets. Hawaiian Airlines will feel similar to a full-service airline, and importantly, you can use or earn points on most of the major U.S. airlines like Delta and United when booking flights on this airline because of their mutual affiliation.
Mokulele is a typical low-budget airline. Expect limited service and no frills, but it certainly works if there is significant cost savings given that it is a very short flight time.
Prices for an inter-island flight are usually under $100 per person for a one-way flight and most flights are less than one hour in length. Do take note of flight departure times, though. It’s always best to schedule these inter-island flights for mid-day, so that your family is in the air between check-out time at one hotel and check-in time at the next hotel. Early morning departures may be a little cheaper, but then you’re stuck filling several hours before you can check into your next accommodation.
Be aware that Southwest Airlines does offer direct flights from several California airports to all the major Hawaiian Islands. Remember that Southwest prices aren’t published on flight comparison sites, so you must book direct with the airline.
For this post, I assumed that families would spend $800 per person to get to and from Hawaii, and then another $400 on a one-way inter-island flight. You’d want to budget for an additional inter-island flight if you need to get back to your island of arrival for your return flight to the mainland U.S., however.
Total airfare cost: $3,600
Cost of Accommodations in Hawaii
Basic rooms that sleep four at full-service luxury resorts, like Disney’s Aulani on Oahu or Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island, price out around $600 per night in the summer months. You can easily spend $1,000 a night or more for more spacious accommodation, like larger suites or condos with kitchens at these properties.
For budget travelers, even three-star hotels in Hawaii price out at around $250-300 per night in the summer months. Often these properties sacrifice beach access or beautiful locations and expect rooms to be quite basic. But most will have that sought-after amenity of a great pool so they certainly work for families who don’t require a lot of frills.
For those who veer away from resorts and toward quieter, self-catering accommodations, expect vacation rentals to range from $500-1,500 per night in the summer. Prices on the Big Island tend to be a little lower and a better value overall than Oahu.
Keep in mind that having a kitchen may bring down your food costs, especially if you choose to cook some meals yourself, or simply prepare basic breakfasts and sandwiches and keep drinks and snacks cold. Resorts are not known for inexpensive food, after all.
Also, take note of what’s included when booking resort vacation packages in Hawaii. Some include the cost of all the on-site amenities, while others do not. Complimentary breakfast is not always a given here, either. Other properties have a big markup when it comes to daily resort fees ($30 per person per day is not uncommon). Reading the fine print is important for this style of accommodation.
Another cost-saving strategy is to book early, especially for peak summer dates. Many of the popular resorts are fully booked for July and August by February. So booking accommodation in the fall for summer travel makes a lot of sense just so you have access to all the room category options. Plus, many properties offer pay-in-advance discounts, though you’ll definitely want to invest in travel insurance should you decide to take advantage of those lower rates.
See the 9 best Maui resorts for families and the 7 best Oahu hotels for families.
I used the $600 average nightly rate for a lower category room at full-service resorts as my price calculation for accommodation costs.
Total Accommodation Cost: $6,000 for 10 nights
Transportation costs in Hawaii
Of course, if you want to get off the property of the resort and explore some of the natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands, you are going to need a way to get around. The cost to rent a midsize SUV is typically around $400 for 5 days, including taxes and fees.
Be sure to book early if you’re traveling to Hawaii during busy periods; rental cars often sell out a few weeks prior to peak travel weeks. When calculating total transportation costs, I assumed families would rent a car on both Oahu and the Big Island for the duration of their trip, plus another $100 in gas or parking fees.
Check car rental prices on Kayak
While both islands have public transportation by way of bus routes, most families find this method of travel prohibitively time-consuming to get to the various spots that interest them. For families that envision not leaving the resort much, but still want a taste of both islands, you can book a driver to take you around for the day for around $600 per day.
If you opt not to rent a car, you’ll also need to account for airport transfers. Private transfers price out around $150 for one-way service to various accommodations within a reasonable drive of the airport.
Total Car Rental/Transportation Cost: $900
Food Costs in Hawaii
There’s no way around it: eating in Hawaii is expensive. Many families who don’t plan ahead and take this into account have serious sticker shock when they arrive. Remember, a lot of the food has traveled by boat for over a week to get to the Hawaiian Islands.
One great rule to keep in mind, both when grocery shopping and dining out, is to look for food that is sourced locally. Not only will it be cheaper, but it will taste fresher and reduce your carbon footprint. For example, stop at markets and roadside stands for produce. It’ll be a fraction of the cost of what fruits and vegetables cost at the grocery stores and it makes for a great cultural immersion experience.
This is another example of why renting a car ultimately often saves money: because resort mini-markets are very overpriced, if you can get to a big box store to stock up on snacks or simple meal ingredients, there will be cost savings. That said, even grocery shopping is expensive. If you’re on a very tight budget, consider doing a little research in advance. Most of Hawaii’s grocery store chains are affiliated with a mainland counterpart. You may be able to use your loyalty card from home for discounts.
Naturally, dining out is also pricey. Look for accommodations that provide complimentary breakfast; this will be a huge cost saver up front. Next, aim for more reasonably-priced lunches, like roadside stands or packed picnic fixings while you’re out exploring. This way, lunch will cost about $10 per person, instead of $20, which you can expect to pay at resort restaurants. Then you can indulge in lovely dinners with a little less guilt about the price tag. Expect dinner to cost around $50 or more per person, younger children who order off a kid’s menu will be significantly less.
Given that, we can assume that families of four will spend around $250 per day on food costs.
Total Food Cost: $2,500
Tours and Activity Costs
Undoubtedly the top reason families love coming to Hawaii is the natural beauty: gorgeous views, incredible beaches, and diverse landscapes. Fortunately, this is all completely free to enjoy once you arrive.
It’s quite easy to spend days exploring the islands without spending a dime other than on food and gas. Add in a few days of leisurely enjoying resort amenities, and it means activities don’t have to break the bank compared to other travel expenses.
That said, a trip here is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so families tend to want to do and see it all while here. A few favorite bucket list activities include surf lessons, which can cost around $100-200 per person for an hour or two. A family of four will pay around $75 total when they visit Pearl Harbor. See more suggestions on things to do in Oahu with kids.
Most of the national parks in Hawaii are free to enter, but the three that do charge entrance fees are around $25 per car. Check to see if your resort will host a luau dinner during your stay, or plan to arrange to attend one off-site one evening. The cost is around $100 per adult and kids are usually half off (but this includes dinner).
The big ticket item is usually a helicopter tour. Costs can differ drastically based on where you go, how long, and your departure point. Generally, a tour that originates in Hilo, the rainier side of the Big Island, is a cheaper location yet offers incredible views of the volcanoes that dot the island. The cost for this for a family of four is around $1500.
Total Activity Cost: $1,700
Of course, for a vacation this expensive, you want to make sure you purchase travel insurance.
Total Cost for a 10-day Trip to Hawaii
The total cost for a 10-day trip to Hawaii for a family of four is about $14,700. This assumes nice, four-star accommodations and a few splurges on activities and meals. Of course, you may also want to budget for some souvenirs from Hawaii, we were very tempted by some beautiful paintings when we visited!
As we discussed above, families can save money on more budget accommodations, vacation rentals, preparing their own meals, staying on resort, and not renting a car or doing other activities. For West Coast families, it is also easy to visit for just a week or even five days. But if you are traveling from the East Coast and taking a 10-hour flight, you probably want to stay at least 10 days.
One of the best ways to save is to use airline, hotel, or credit card points to offset some of those expenses. If it is going to be a trip of a lifetime, save those points to make it happen!
Let’s recap the Hawaii budget breakdown:
There are cheaper locations to travel to, especially if your family merely wants sunny weather and sandy beaches. But Hawaii is one of the most unique locations in the world, with its indigenous culture, lush landscapes and rugged mountains, and incredibly luxurious yet kid-friendly resorts.
It has a correspondingly hefty price tag, but families unanimously consider a trip here money well spent, and many return year after year. Here are some tips for planning a budget trip to Hawaii.
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This guest post was written by Nicole Wiltrout. Nicole is a freelance writer and travel expert based in Indiana. She has traveled throughout North America and Europe with her children for the past nine years, including three years spent living abroad in England. She has written for a variety of websites and publications and is the author of “Dispatches from England,” available on Amazon, which chronicles her family’s time as expats. You can follow Nicole’s travels on Arrows Sent Forth.
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