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When Jordan and I moved to Maui we were convinced that this was the most expensive of all the Hawaiian islands. When our friends and family come to visit, they’re paying an astronomical amount for hotel rooms. We soon started to wonder, if we think Maui is the most expensive, what is the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit?
Using data from The Hawaii Tourism Authority and Kayak.com, the cheapest island to visit is Oahu. Airfare, hotel, and rental car for two people for a week costs $2,625 on Oahu. The most expensive Hawaiian island to visit is Maui, where the same average costs for a week are $3,600.
How did we get this number? We break down the data below and show you how to save money regardless of what island you visit.
Note: Prices quoted in this article are from September 2020. Oahu is by far the cheapest island to visit in 2023 as well. For updated pricing, see our annual series on the cost of a family of four to visit Hawaii.
We know you came here for the savings, so here are some quick links to keep it cheap:
1. Airfare: read our travel tips for buying plane tickets.
2. Lodging: the best way you can save BIG on a trip is with your lodging. We show you exactly how we’ve been booking resorts *for almost free* for years now.
3. Rental car: see our recommendations from tried and true methods.
4. Plan activities and save on spontaneously booking a tour through your hotel.
What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? Our Research Shows…
To determine which island was actually the cheapest to visit we looked at three different costs: airfare, lodging (hotels and vacation rentals), and rental car.
Using these averages, we calculated the cost for a trip for two to each island for a week.
Here is what we found.
Airfare to Hawaii
Ok, so you already know that our research shows that Oahu is the cheapest. Surprisingly though, it didn’t have the cheapest average airfare cost. Using Kayak, which shows the average airfare price over the past two weeks, we looked up the average fare from LAX to each island.
We found that the cheapest airfare was actually to Kona on the big island, at $403 for a roundtrip ticket.
Data for the islands include:
- Big Island (Kona): $403 roundtrip
- Oahu: $418 roundtrip
- Maui: $428 roundtrip
- Kauai: $451 roundtrip
Related article: How to Get a Cheap Ticket to Hawaii: 5 Insider’s Tips
Note, these are 2019 airfare prices. We expect and are already seeing large reductions in ticket prices for 2021. We expect the same pricing trends to continue when it comes to the cheapest island to fly to in 2021.
Hawaiian Island Cheat Sheets
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We’ll share 4 can’t-miss activities on each island, a map with the main sights in town, & famous local grindz (eats)!
Lodging in Hawaii:
Staying in Hawaii can be expensive. Yes, there are plenty of options — hotels, rentals, and timeshares — but budget accommodations are few and far between.
To get the average rate, we used data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which tracks average daily rates for hotels, vacation rentals, and timeshares.
Yes, you could camp on the beach or sleep in your car and save a bundle of money. If that’s your plan, you can omit this from your personal calculation. But for the rest of us, here’s how the average hotel and vacation rental costs break down:
July 2023 average daily rate for hotel rooms:
- Oahu: $306
- Big Island: $442
- Kauai: $458
- Maui: $656
Source: The Hawaii Tourism Authority
July 2023 average daily rate for vacation rentals:
- Big Island: $236
- Oahu: $247
- Maui: $359
- Kauai: $386
Source: The Hawaii Tourism Authority
Basically, when it comes to lodging, the Big Island and Oahu are the cheapest option, which Kauai and Maui really firmly plant themselves in the most expensive category.
Like most people, we love a good luxury hotel, but not the luxury price tag. With all of our travel through Hawaii, we’ve perfected the strategy for getting hotels *for almost free*. We show you exactly you can do the same and how to save thousands on your Hawaii Vacation when it’s Booked With Points.
Rental Car in Hawaii
Our final input is the rental car. This is where the big island makes a bit of a leap in cost, ahead of Oahu:
Oahu: $49 per day (economy)
Maui: $50 per day (intermediate)
Kauai: $57 per day (economy car)
Big Island, Kona: $70 per day (intermediate)
You’ll notice that most people rent an intermediate car when visiting Kona and Maui. It’s likely because visitors want to drive to the volcanoes on each island or on the road to Hana on Maui.
The Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit and the Most Expensive
Of course, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to put all of these costs together and get the real answer for which Hawaiian island is the cheapest and which is the most expensive to visit.
Using a trip for two from LAX for seven days and six nights, this is the average cost when staying at a hotel:
Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit, with a total cost of $3,015.
Maui is the most expensive island to visit, coming in over $2,000 more expensive, with a total cost of $5,142.
Doing the same calculation but inputting vacation rental costs, rather than a hotel still shows us that Oahu is the cheapest island to visit, but now Kauai is the most expensive.
Cheapest Hawaiian Island Video
In case you are a visual learner or you want to see some beautiful footage of Oahu and Maui, check out our video on The Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Vacation below. Erica and I break down the costs and share four tips on how to save money on your Hawaii vacation.
Feel free to add a comment with your thoughts or counterarguments on the cheapest Hawaiian island.
How to Save Money on Your Trip to Hawaii, No Matter What Island You Visit
While the differences in average price can be significant, what will impact the total cost of your trip more is how you plan it. There are money-saving tips that you can implement, regardless of what island you decide to visit.
Book Your Trip With Points
You don’t need to be a frequent flier or spend an absurd amount to get a few free nights at a luxury hotel in Hawaii. We’ve found the sweet spot of using welcome bonuses to offset the cost of our hotel stays.
Whether you’re looking to book just a few nights at a luxury resort for free or you want to stretch your points for a full 10 day escape we show you the hotels to book and exactly how to earn the points with welcome bonuses over at Booked With Points.
This is my favorite points example: The Grand Hyatt Kauai can be over $1,000 per night! We can get four or five nights for free with these two strategic welcome offers.
Time it Right
If you can be flexible with your vacation schedule, you can save hundreds (or thousands) on your trip to Hawaii. You’ll get the same experience as someone paying double just by traveling during cheaper months.
According to Skyscanner, the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii is January. Data from fare detective shows that the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii is April. Looking for a flight during those two months can mean that you are paying hundreds less for the same flight another person is taking just a few months later.
Saving money on a flight is great. Saving money on your accommodation can really take a significant bite out of your budget.
We looked through data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and found that the cheapest months to book a hotel room in Hawaii are April, May, September, October, and November (aside from Thanksgiving week).
The cheapest months to book a vacation rental are April, May, June, September, October, and November. The most expensive time to book a place to stay are during summer months (specifically July and August) and the winter months.
Related article: How to Book the Cheapest Flight to Hawaii
Stay at a Vacation Rental
On all but three islands, the cost of a vacation rental is cheaper than the cost of a hotel. Kauai is the only island where vacation rental costs are actually slightly higher than hotel costs.
That aside, it’s probably still going to be better on your budget to choose a vacation rental. The average daily rate of a hotel room doesn’t take into account two very expensive fees you may encounter in Hawaii: resort fee and parking fee.
For example, at the Marriott Kauai Beach Club, the resort fee is $35 per day. Hotels in Waikiki charge as much as $35 per day for self-parking. These extra fees can really add up.
You’ll also save money at a vacation rental by eating in. Eating out for every meal in Hawaii can really add up quickly. Renting a place with a kitchen can help you cut back on the costs.
Plan Out Your Activities
When you get to Hawaii, it’s easy to get sucked into wanting to do everything and wanting to do it right now! But one of the greatest things about visiting Hawaii is there is so much you can do for free or low cost if you get out and explore what the island has to offer.
Hiking, scenic drives, waterfalls, snorkeling from the beach, and more.
Related article: The 14 Best Things to Do on Maui on a Budget
But there will undoubtedly be other things that you want to do while you’re here. Plan and research these things before you go and pick based on value.
For example, we always advise our friends to pick the best luau on Maui, regardless of the price. You’ll feel satisfied by doing a few great activities rather than doing a few mediocre, cheaper options.
And if you’re planning your activities out a little ahead of time, you can look for the best deals. For example, we go whale watching a number of times during the season. These trips can add up but by looking ahead and booking the early bird morning cruise, we can save 25% or more on each trip we do.
Related article: The Guide to Seeing Humpback Whales on Maui
Living here (and having made 50+ trips to the islands before moving) we have tested some of the best activities on the island. Don’t go it alone when it comes to picking the best activities. We’ve included the best of the best for you on our activity recommendation page.
To Rent a Car or Not?
While a rental car is the smallest of the three costs we looked at, you may wonder if a rental car is right for your trip. From what we’ve heard, more visitors are ditching the rental and preferring to take a ride-sharing service when they want to get around. And we certainly saw plenty of people arriving at the Diamond Head hike via a taxi.
The decision whether to rent a car or not comes down to what you want to do on your vacation. Do you expect to hang around the resort and maybe take a trip or two out? A rental car might not be the best choice for you. Or are you planning to do plenty of sightseeing and grocery shopping? The cost of a rental car might be well worth it.
Taking the time to decide whether to book a rental car could save you hundreds.
If you do decide to rent a car, check out our recommended rental car booking tool. Booking with them saved us $300 over our New Year’s trip to the Big Island and $70 on our most recent trip to Oahu. Yes, their prices are that good.
Related article: Should I Rent a Car on Maui?
Ready to Plan Your Trip to Hawaii?
We’re here to make your planning easy. Whether it’s picking an island, a hotel, or an activity, you’ll find the best information on our Hawaii recommendations page.
We’re your local guide here to help you make your trip to the islands the best it can possibly be.