Hawaiian Islands price comparison: Which is the best value?
Long white sand beaches, encounters with dolphins, sea turtles and whales, drinks on the cliff side, treks through jungles to hidden waterfalls. These are just a few reasons why the Hawaiian islands are some of the most visited islands in the world. Time and time again, visitors fall in love with the islands, returning year after year.
But what of the prices? Even though the islands together are a prized destination, individually they are their own unique world, each with different prices for the same thing. This, for some, is a deciding factor on which island to visit that year. But with so many different prices listed online, it’s difficult to judge exactly what you should budget for each island. To make this process a bit easier, we’ve complied a little bit of information regarding general prices for tourist activities, food and accommodation for each of the four main islands- Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
But before we get into the prices, lets take a quick look at what each of these islands have to offer.
The largest in size of all the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island of Hawaii also plays hosts to 11 of the 13 possible climate zones. This allows you to travel from climate to climate as you make your way around the island. Adding to its diversity, you’ll find the clearest water in all of Hawaii on one side while on the other, thick jungle dotted with waterfalls of varying sizes.
Though small in size, Oahu has become home to roughly 1 million people. Oahu also serves as the most visited island with tourist attractions galore alongside miles of coastline with mountain backdrops. This is also the island where you’ll find the most American history intertwined with Hawaiian culture. Oahu is most known for its surf culture with the North Shore and its famed Pipeline.
Known for its long white sand beaches dotted with palms trees, Maui is the island most known for its relaxation, yoga and artist communities. If you are a foodie, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants to choose from, all catering to those who will except nothing but the best.
If you’re looking for a bit of old Hawaii, Kauai is the island to visit. Not only will you find a vast amount of culture but miles upon miles of uninhabited land. The famed Na Pali coast resides on Kauai and showcases the power of mother nature and time. From exploring the reefs to camping, this island is perfect for those who love the wild.
There are many different choices that cater to your accommodation needs from sleeping in a small hotel to a bed and breakfast to large resorts. For this price comparison, where going to take a look at a few famous resorts that can either be found on all the islands, or at least a few. We’ll look at summer pricing as well as winter pricing. Each price reflects a single night for one person.
The Four Seasons are located on two of the main islands, Maui and the Big Island.
- Summer: $725-$725
- Winter: $850-$941
- Summer: $1148-$1313
- Winter: $909-$1148
Hilton is located on three islands-Big Island, Maui and Oahu.
- Summer: $217-$270
- Winter: $236-$247
- Summer: $250-$273
- Winter: $192-$306
- Summer: $389-$479
- Winter: $499-$599
Marriott is located on all four of the main islands.
- Summer: $199-$280
- Winter: $257-$280
- Summer: $275-$275
- Winter: $275-$338
- Summer: $172-$203
- Winter: $239-$251
- Summer: $193-$347
- Winter: $167-$346
The prices are a bit all over the place, but in the end Kauai stands with the lowest prices while Maui holds the highest hotel prices.
Airport Rental Cars
When searching through car rental prices, you’ll find that most of the prices are in line with the next. The main difference in price is the type of car itself. Below you’ll find general prices of rental cars from airports priced per day. These prices are only in effect if you return the car to where you originally rented it.
- Compact car: $40
- Premium SUV: $230
- Compact car: $39
- Premium SUV: $209
- Compact car: $44
- Premium SUV: $181
- Compact car: $66
- Premium SUV: $148
As you can tell with the prices above, compact car rates vary little with one exception- Big Island. On the other end of the spectrum, Premium SUVs vary a bit with the cheapest prices found on the Big Island.
Food prices vary a bit from island to island but most see the change as little compared to other expenses. Below we’ll take a look at a few key food items you’ll experience during your trip.
These prices really don’t vary from island to island. Where the variation lies is with where on the island you get your shave ice. If you purchase one at a little stand on the beach, most likely you’ll be paying the ‘tourist’ price, which generally is a dollar or two more. This price increase is universal on all of the islands. If you instead purchase one from a stand next to the road or a little eatery, you’ll find yourself paying the local price.
- Shave Ice: $2.75-$5
- Added ice cream: $0.50-$1
- Added condensed milk: $0.50-$o.75
- Added beans: $o.75-$1
These sandwiches (or musubi), made of a spam (a Hawaiian tradition) can be found on all of the islands from gas stations to grocery stores to diners. The difference in price, just like the shave ice refers more to where you get it from rather than what island you get one on, although there are reports of spam costing a bit more on Oahu and Maui than Kauai and Big Island.
Generally gas stations and eateries charge a bit more while grocery stores and farmers market charge less.
- Spam sandwich : $1.50-$2.25
- Spam sandwich with egg: $1.75-$3.00
- Double spam sandwich: $2.50-$3.50
Poke prices vary a lot from island to island and store to store. If you have a Costco card, put it to good use as the best place to find poke on the cheaper side is Costco. Prices are per pound.
- Big Island: $10.95-$13.95
- Oahu: $14.95-$20
- Maui: $12.95-$14.95
- Kauai: $11.95-$13.95
As you can see, the cheapest island for poke is the Big Island. However, keep in mind that prices change all the time so it’s best to keep a look out.
There are many different variates of activities on each island, some better than others. But for pricing sake, we’re going to take a look at four of the main activity choices that are available on all four islands. Prices are general, per person and may change.
- Big Island: $106-$129
- Maui: $88-$139
- Oahu: $99-$114
- Kauai: $122-$169
Horseback Riding Tours
- Big Island: $72-$99
- Maui: $130-$229
- Oahu: $85-$99
- Kauai: $99-$135
Whale Watching Tours
- Big Island: $67-$119
- Maui: $37-$47
- Oahu: $28-$68
- Kauai: $55-$109
Helicopter Tours (Blue Hawaiian)
- Big Island: $220-$450
- Maui: $168-$253
- Oahu: $233
- Kauai: $239
As far as activities are concerned, pricing suggests that Maui and Oahu have the cheapest prices overall.
Which island is the cheapest overall
As you can see from the above numbers, prices are all around the board. When tallied up, we can see that although each island has its own cost, they are not too different from each other. With that said, the cheapest all around is Oahu with the Big Island following closely behind. It’s no wonder that Oahu sees the most visitors year after year.
Keep in mind, these prices reflect tourist activities. If planning to move to the islands, you’ll find that living prices are completely different.