It's time for my final report about Hawaii and this time, we're talking money. How much does it really cost, taking a break in the Aloha State? Flights, accommodations, groceries, rental cars etcetera. It's no secret that Hawaii isn't a low budget destination but as Prince once said, you don't have to be rich to afford your Hawaiian adventure.
Well, since the Hawaiian islands are 2.500 mi/ 4.000 km off the California coast of the United States, you obviously have to set foot on an airplane to get there. How much this will cost you depends on your starting point. Bad new first: you have to be willing to take on a few layovers, if you're coming from further away, like I do and don't want to pay between 1.000€ and 1.200€ / $1.045 – $1.250. But there are great offers out there, that you should definitely not ignore. Your best bet right now for cheap flight offers to Hawaii are Holidaypirates and Flynder. I found my flight to Honolulu at Holidaypirates and only paid approx. 530€ / $553.
As you can see, there is a huge difference. My flight was starting at the international airport Schiphol in Amsterdam and with another 90€ / $94 for my flight from Munich to Amsterdam, my flight was still 580€ / $606 cheaper than it would have cost during this time of the year.
Savor that slowly. It's a huge saving. I haven't even got a flight that cheap to Costa Rica and that is half way around the world like Hawaii.
Once you're in Hawaii, you probably need a bed for the night. Don't even think about one of those hotel complexes. Best way to experience a country is to live where the locals do. And most of those hotels are also way too expensive.
Me and my friend stayed at a tiny but lovely cabin at the North Shore of Oahu, just five minutes walking distance from famous Sunset Beach. The cabin was built on the landlords' property and they lived right in the house next to us, took great care of us, made us feel welcome, happily handed out advices on what to do, what to see and where to go and even provided us with fresh fruits from their family's garden down the street and one night is at a rate of only 69€ / $73. Check out the Attaway-cottage right here.
On Maui, we stayed at a condominium resort in Kihei. A place where people can rent apartments either long term or short term. The place itself wasn't too bad. Neat garden, absolutely huge apartment with two bathrooms and a balcony, ocean on the right hand side, the famous volcano Haleakala on the left hand side but it actually wasn't the kinda place I was going for and I wouldn't recommend it either. Don't get me wrong, everything worked out fine but the location wasn't really the best place to stay for us since we were kinda stuck there and also, you can get cheaper accommodations around the island
Unfortunately, everything I had targeted had already been fully booked at the time that we knew, that we would definitely fly to Maui for a few nights and so the cheapest opportunity was the Castle Kamaole Sands. If you're looking for a place to stay in Kihei, the Kamaole Sands is a good spot.
Apart from that, I'd recommend to check on Airbnb and Homeaway in time to find a good and not too pricy holiday home and I also would suggest the area from Paia to Hana for your stay as it's more beautiful than the Kihei area.
Before we travelled to Hawaii, I researched the depths of the internet on the best and – of course – cheapest way to get around the island and I got fooled into thinking, that we wouldn't need a rental car.
This may works on Oahu, at least a little, since you can take the bus but – big but – it will cost you a lot of time. There is no actual time table and although the bus tours around the whole island, it stops every few hours but, nevertheless, it is indeed the cheapest way to get around. One ride only costs 1.20€ / $1.25 and you can use the ticket for a second ride but not as a return-ticket.
However, renting a car isn't too expensive around Oahu. We rented a car with Alamo for 7 days for only 185€ / $193 (economy class) and for us Europeans, refueling is absolutely inexpensive around the United States. We had a Honda Sonata, drove around the island every single day of that week, only had to fill up the gas right before we returned the car to Alamo and here comes the best part, the whole filling was only 33€ / $35. This is, what a German driver's dreams are made of.
Bike rentals are also a great option to get around. At the North Shore, I'd definitely recommend North Shore Bike Rentals. They offer beach cruisers for only 18€ / $19 a day, delivered right to your accommodation as well as pick-up at your accommodation. Joe, the owner, is also great and very friendly guy.
On Maui, on the other hand, you will definitely need a rental car. Don't believe it, if anybody tells you that you'll be just fine without a car or that you can take the bus to get around. There is a bus system but I believe the bus routes are only working if somebody has a free hour to take a tour. There was a bus station in Kihei but during my four-days-stay, I only saw a bus once.
So, get a rental car or otherwise, you will be stuck. Just like we were. Lesson learnt, I'd say.
Most expenses, you will have to include into your travel budget, will be for food. Groceries, as well as going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, are expensive in Hawaii. Oahu is not as expensive as I expected, probably because most of the Hawaiian populations lives on Oahu, but you still have to calculate with approx. 28 € / $30 for a small purchase at Foodland. When talking about a small purchase, I mean two bottles of water, a pack of spaghettis, tomato sauce, a pineapple, granola and plain yogurt.
Tiny hint: most accommodations provide a Maika'i card. It's a reward/savings card for Foodland, which will save you some money with every purchase.
Mostly, if you want to explore a national park, you have to pay an admission fee to get inside, which can be overpriced in some countries but not in Hawaii. During our 14-days-stay, we only paid admission twice.
At the Waimea Valley, which is definitely worth a visit and at the Byodo-In-Temple, both on Oahu.
Waimea Valley was once a sacred place for native Hawaiians and has now been turned into a natural preserve, where dozens of endangered plant species are rebuild. You can also visit the ancient site and learn something about the Hawaiian culture and history while taking a walk through the rainforest-like park. Best part is the waterfall in the middle of the park. You can swim to the waterfall, climb on the rocks next to it and jump into the water, letting yourself flow with the energy of the waterfall. The water is icy but it's a great experience. I'd recommend to get there early – the park opens at nine am – so it'll be nearly empty once you get in there. Admission fee is is 15€ / $16, which I happily pay, helping the park to restore nature.
The Byodo-In-Temple, on the other hand, is located at the foot of the Koolau mountains and is a Buddhistic temple to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Japanese and Hawaiians have a great history together, long before Pearl Harbor has happened.
The temple is quite a sight to see and the nature surrounding it makes you feel like you just landed somewhere, in the countryside, of Japan. You can sound a huge bell outside the temple before entering it (barefoot) and ignite a joss stick for Buddha. It's said to be cleansing your soul from all bad.
Naturally, there are quite a few Japanese tourists but it's still a very calm atmosphere and not too crowded. Admission fee is only 2,80€ / $3.
Those were the only two places where we had to pay. If you're visiting Pearl Harbor, the 1 ½ hour tour to the USS Arizona memorial (including a movie explaining what has happened at Pearl Harbor) is for free. All other national parks or trails, I had hiked, where also for free.
So, as you can see, Hawaii isn't as expensive, as you expect it to be. You can really save up some money by getting a cheap flight and a great but not overpriced accommodation and there are still so many things to do and explore which are totally for free.
There is only one thing, which costs a shitload of money (sorry for the language, but it really is!) and that would be a helicopter flight. We were thinking about taking a 45-minute tour on Maui and I expected it to cost about 95€ - 144€ / $100 - $150. Oh boy, was I wrong. Flights are between 263€ and 358€ / $275 and $375 for a 45-minute-scenic flight. You see, like a said, a shitload of money.
Having said that, I hope you enjoyed my Hawaii report, got some great tips and tricks for yourself and Hawaii made it to your bucket list, if it hasn't already been on it.
Next time, I'll be talking about Los Angeles and why all that glitters is not gold there.
Until then, happy traveling.