If you’re looking for an affordable vacation in Hawaii, you may be wondering which island is the cheapest.
While each island offers unique attractions and experiences, one stands out as the cheapest to visit: Oahu. With its beautiful beaches, rich history, and vibrant city life, Oahu offers a great mix of relaxation and adventure at a much lower price.
This Travel Dream contains affiliate links, and we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you if you purchase using one of these links. You can read our disclaimer for more information.
How did we come to this conclusion? We gathered data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Discount Hawaii Car Rental, and Kayak. We then compared the average cost of hotels, flights to each island, and rental car rates for two people. Oahu emerged as the clear winner, with an average price of $3,316/person for an eight-day stay. Maui was the most expensive island to visit, with a total cost of $5,611/person.
In this article, we’ll look at the data in more detail and explain why Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian Island to visit. We’ll also share insider tips on how to save when visiting the four main Hawaiian Islands.
Cost of Accommodations
Since accommodations is the biggest expense of any trip, we’ll start by looking at hotel prices. We will use data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority to compare the average hotel room price on each island.
When it comes to hotel rates, Oahu is the clear winner for budget-conscious travelers. The average daily rate for a hotel room on Oahu in 2021 was $225.31. This is significantly lower than the rates on the other main Hawaiian Islands.
While Oahu takes the top spot for affordability, Maui is the most expensive island in Hawaii when it comes to hotel rates. According to the same data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the average daily rate for a hotel room in Maui in 2021 was $536.47. This can be attributed to the island’s popularity as a honeymoon and luxury travel destination.
That being said, there are still ways to save money while visiting Maui. Consider staying in a vacation rental or Airbnb, which is often more affordable than traditional hotels.
Cost of Airfare
We gathered average flight costs from LAX to each island using Kayak.com. Since most flights to Hawaii leave from the West Coast, this data gives us a good snapshot of what to expect when booking flights.
To avoid giving you a data dump of all the research and analysis we did, we will provide the average cost of airfare for mid-July 2023 for an eight-day stay.
|Island||Average Airfare Cost|
|The Big Island||$592.25|
Based on our analysis, the Big Island had the lowest average airfare at $592.25 for a round-trip ticket, while Oahu had the second-lowest average airfare at $595. Maui had a slightly higher average airfare of $596.50, while Kauai had the highest average of $679.75.
However, keep in mind that these are average prices and that actual costs may vary depending on the airline, route, and time of booking.
Cost of Car Rental
Finally, let’s look at the cost of car rentals. When exploring the Hawaiian Islands, renting a car is the most convenient way to get around.
We gathered data on car rental prices from Discount Hawaii Car Rental for the same eight-day stay in mid-July 2023 on each island for a standard car.
|Island||Car Rental Price|
|The Big Island||$103.27|
Based on our analysis, Maui had the lowest average car rental price at $90.26 for the eight-day stay, followed closely by the Big Island at $103.27. Oahu had a slightly higher average car rental price at $114.84, while Kauai had the highest average car rental price at $125.97 for a standard car.
Overall Most Affordable Hawaiian Island
Our data analysis shows that Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian Island to visit, with a total cost of $3,316.20 per person. This is primarily due to the relatively low hotel rates and the slightly lower average airfare and car rental prices compared to the other islands.
Maui is the most expensive island to visit, with a total cost of $5,610.34. This is primarily due to the significantly higher hotel rates, which are more than double the price of hotels in Oahu.
Kauai is the second most expensive island to visit, costing $4,281, while the Big Island is slightly cheaper at $4,203.08.
It’s worth noting that these prices are based on averages and can vary depending on the time of year, length of stay, and individual preferences.
|The Big Island||$592.25||$2,784.64||$826.19||$4,203.08|
How to Save Money Vacationing in Hawaii
Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to save money while vacationing in Hawaii:
Be Flexible About Your Travel Dates
Booking your trip during the off-season can often yield lower rates on airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
We always start our search with Google Flights to see when the cheapest day to travel is. After deciding on the day, we check various websites, including the airline’s, to ensure we are getting the best pricing available.
Kayak, Skyscanner, and cheapflights.com are a favorite of mine since they tend to have some of the cheapest airfare.
Another trick I learned was to check and see if booking one-way flights might be cheaper. This might not always work, but it has worked for me multiple times.
I flew from ATL to LAX (2022) for about $135 and bought a separate ticket from LAX to HNL for another $135, bringing the total cost of my trip to $270 one way.
I used my Chase credit card travel points, and the total cost was $0 out of pocket. That same route would have cost me $420 one way if I hadn’t booked the tickets separately.
I also could have found or paid a lower price if I was willing to fly with a different airline, but I wanted to travel with Delta because they’re my favorite. I frequently fly out from Atlanta, GA, and they have many options available.
Lodging in Hawaii: Cheapest Way to Vacation on the Islands
Outside of the cost of airfare, accommodations will be where you spend most of your money. Compared to many places in the world, Hawaii is generally costly.
If you want a budget-friendly vacation in Hawaii, we recommend looking into vacation rentals like Airbnb and VRBO. I am a huge fan of Airbnb, and I usually stay in an Airbnb (if I am on a budget trip) while on vacation, as it helps me save more money.
I love the luxury of being able to make my breakfast before I head out or being able to make dinner for days that I don’t feel like going out. I usually spend a minimum of two weeks while on vacation, so eating out gets old quickly and can get very expensive.
Hotels in Oahu
If you must stay in a hotel, there are still many great, affordable options. You’ll likely have to book these in advance to get better deals.
I would also recommend a hotel that has either a full kitchen or a kitchenette; that way, you can cook/make some meals at home to avoid extremely pricey restaurant meals (because Hawaii has a lot of these). After all, eating out three times a day does add up.
Rental Car in Hawaii: Do You Need One?
Well, this depends on which island you are going to and how you want to spend your vacation. For example, a rental car is not necessary if you’re happy with lounging on the beach and staying at your resort the whole time.
However, we recommend venturing out and exploring Hawaii’s many beautiful sights.
If you’re going to Oahu and are staying in Waikiki the entire time, you can get by without a rental car as Waikiki is quite walkable, and there are many public transportation options.
Even if you are staying in Waikiki/Honolulu, we highly recommend renting a car at least once to see and explore the beauty of the whole island.
On the other hand, you will need a car on the Big Island, Kauai, or Maui since these islands are pretty spread out, and public transportation could be better.
Many rental car companies in Hawaii offer great deals on cars. We use Discount Hawaii Car Rental since they have the best prices and good customer service.
How to Save Money on Food
Like many things, food in Hawaii can be costly, but we’re here to tell you that with proper planning, you can also save money on food. Most of the food in Hawaii is transported by ship, which adds to the higher cost relative to the mainland.
Here are our recommendations on how to save money in this area:
Go to Costco
I love love LOVE Costco and cannot say enough good things about this magical place. Their prices are almost the same as the mainland prices, and they are way cheaper than the local grocery stores for basic needs such as eggs and dairy.
We always stock up on groceries, including snacks, fruit, and food. Also, Costco has some great pre-made meals that you can pop in the oven (if your accommodations have one). You can get pizza and hotdogs for a very low price as well. We saved a lot of money by shopping and eating at Costco.
Here is a tip for those who do not have a Costco membership: If you know someone with a Costco membership, ask them to buy you a gift card or two. You can use these without a membership, but I would get a Costco card if I were you because it’s fantastic.
Also, I always use my Costco card for gas. They had the cheapest gas on the island. Some wise people have told me that Costco has the best gas, so I use that as an excuse to always get my gas from there, even on the mainland.
Eat Where the Locals Eat
I always ask locals for recommendations on where to eat. On the way to our hotel, we asked our Uber driver for recommendations, and they took us to Zippy’s. This place had fantastic Hawaiian fusion-type food and was affordable too. This tip has helped me save money over the years.
Also, food trucks are cheaper than most restaurants and usually serve delicious food. If you are going to Oahu, check out our list of food trucks on the North Shore, and if you are in Kauai, check out the best food trucks on the island.
I found the portions to be big in Hawaii (especially the local spots). Cody and I end up sharing meals often. The times that we both ordered our own meals, we ended up having leftovers, and by the time we got home, the food was bad from being out all day.
Budget-Friendly Activities in Hawaii
One of my favorite things about Hawaii is the free or affordable activities. Hawaii offers a lot of nature and many free adventure opportunities.
Here are our recommendations on free/cheap activities to do:
Go to the Beach
Like many people, this is probably why you came to Hawaii. The beaches here are public and do not cost a thing. So put on your favorite beach attire and experience what paradise looks like!
Hawaii has some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever seen. The options are endless!
The hikes in Hawaii are some of the best in the world (if I do say so myself). I’m the outdoorsy type, and hiking is where I find an abundance of happiness.
Waterfall hikes are also a favorite while on the island of Oahu, which has some of the best waterfall hikes I have ever been on.
If you are looking for the cheapest Hawaiian Island to visit, look no further than Oahu. Oahu is amazingly beautiful and is by far my favorite island to visit in Hawaii, right after Kauai.
Regardless of which island you choose to visit, Hawaii is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. From the stunning beaches to the vibrant culture, Hawaii has no shortage of things to see and do.
Whether you’re looking to hike to a waterfall, surf the waves, or relax on the beach, Hawaii is the perfect place to unwind and reconnect with nature!
Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, Aloha!