What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (2024)

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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 Skyscanner.com, The Hawaii Tourism Authority, and Discount Hawaii Car Rental, the cheapest island to visit is Oahu. Airfare, hotel, and rental car for two people for a week costs $3,319 on Oahu. The most expensive Hawaiian island to visit is Maui, where the same average costs for a week are $5,321.

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 March 2024 using average hotel pricing for July 2023 (Hawaii Tourism Authority) since hotel rates can vary wildly depending on the type of accommodations chosen. 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 for 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 Skyscanner, we looked up the average fare from LAX to each island for July 2024.

We found that the cheapest airfare was actually to Kona on the Big Island, at $439 for a roundtrip ticket.

Data for the islands include:

  1. Big Island (Kona): $439 roundtrip
  2. Maui: $464 roundtrip
  3. Oahu: $527 roundtrip
  4. Kauai: $691 roundtrip

July is not the cheapest time to visit Hawaii, but it is a popular time. No matter when you go, find out how to get a cheap ticket to Hawaii

What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (1)
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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:

  1. Oahu: $306
  2. Big Island: $442
  3. Kauai: $458
  4. Maui: $656

Source: The Hawaii Tourism Authority

What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (3)

July 2023 average daily rate for vacation rentals:

  1. Big Island: $236
  2. Oahu: $247
  3. Maui: $359
  4. 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.

Related reads:
Oahu vs Big Island: Pick The Right Island for Your Trip
Hotel vs Airbnb: How to Decide What is Best for Your Hawaii Vacation

Rental Car in Hawaii

Our final input is the rental car. We used Discount Hawaii Car Rental for these estimates. You can check out our other car rental recommendations here.

  1. Oahu: $61 per day
  2. Maui: $65 per day
  3. Big Island, Kona: $65 per day
  4. Kauai: $66 per day

These rates are shockingly close, in previous years the difference between the most and least expensive island to rent a car on is around $20 per day.

Be mindful when booking your rental car as 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.

If you choose Maui for the Road to Hana, we have some great resources for you:
Is the Road to Hana Worth It? Here’s How to Decide
5 Routes for the Road to Hana: Choose Your Road to Hana Adventure
Road to Hana Etiquette: 7 Tips for First-Time Visitors
The 6 Best Road to Hana Tours: Find Your Perfect Guide

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:

IslandAirfareHotelRental CarTotal
Big Island$877$2,652$453$3,982

Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit, with a total cost of $3,319.

Maui is the most expensive island to visit, coming in at $2,000 more expensive, with a total cost of $5,321.

What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (4)

Doing the same calculation but inputting vacation rental costs, rather than a hotel shows us that the Big Island pulls ahead slightly as the cheapest island to visit, and now Kauai is the most expensive.

IslandAirfareVacation RentalRental CarTotal
Big Island$877$1,416$453$2,746

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. Jordan 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.

What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (5)

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 on par with 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 Koloa Landing Resort on Kauai, the resort fee is $35 per day. Hotels in Waikiki charge as much as $55 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.

Related articles:
The Ultimate Kauai Food Truck Guide (find the best cheap eats)
5 Best Maui Food Truck Parks
Hotels vs. Airbnb. How to decide what’s best for your Hawaiian vacation

What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (6)

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.

What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (7)

More activities by Island:
31 of the BEST Things To Do On Maui
40 Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii (we will surprise you!)
35 Best Things to Do on Kauai
21 Incredible Things to Do on the Big Island

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 articles:
Should I Rent a Car on Maui?
How to Get Around Without a Rental Car on Oahu (and when you need one)
The Best 7 Day Oahu, Hawaii Itinerary Without a Rental Car

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.

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What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide (2024)


What is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit? (plus 4 ways to save) - The Hawaii Vacation Guide? ›

Using data from Skyscanner.com, The Hawaii Tourism Authority, and Discount Hawaii Car Rental, the cheapest island to visit is Oahu. Airfare, hotel, and rental car for two people for a week costs $3,319 on Oahu. The most expensive Hawaiian island to visit is Maui, where the same average costs for a week are $5,321.

What Hawaiian island is the cheapest to visit? ›

Due to the abundance of hotels, activities, tours, and attractions, Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit.

Which island is the cheapest to visit? ›

Top 17 islands to visit on an affordable getaway
  1. Kauai, Hawaii. Known as “The Garden Isle”, this tropical and wild island of Hawaii is one of the best cheap islands to visit in the USA. ...
  2. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. ...
  3. Ios, Greece. ...
  4. Isla Mujeres, Mexico. ...
  5. Puerto Rico. ...
  6. Zanzibar, Tanzania. ...
  7. Isle of Skye, Scotland. ...
  8. Turks and Caicos.

What is the cheapest way to get to other Hawaiian islands? ›

Flying, taking a ferry, going on a cruise, or joining guided day trips are options for traveling between Hawaiian islands. Inter-island flights are the cheapest way to travel, with prices starting at just $39 each way.

Is Oahu cheaper than Maui? ›

In fact, Oahu is the cheapest of the Hawaiian islands for lodging, coming in behind both the Big Island and Kauai. Add to this its lower costs for food and transportation, and Oahu becomes a much more affordable option than Maui.

Which Hawaii island has the least tourists? ›

The smaller islands of Hawaii that are open to visitors are Lanai and Molokai. Lanai has three hotels (two of which are luxurious Four Seasons Resorts) for overnight visits, but it's also a popular day trip option from Maui by ferry or plane. Molokai is the least-visited Hawaiian island.

What is the cheapest month to vacation in Hawaii? ›

The cheapest time to fly to Hawaii is during February and March. The most expensive month to fly is December when the holiday period falls, with January being very expensive as well. The peak travel months of June and July are surprisingly not the most expensive months for flights, with middle figure prices.

How much is the ferry from Honolulu to Maui? ›

$39 one-way Hawaii Ferry fares now available. Plan your Hawaii ferry reservations today.

Which Hawaiian island is the best one to go to? ›

With such great variety, there's always a reason to come back again.
  • Oahu Brings the Best of City Life and Country Living. ...
  • Maui is Considered Heaven on Earth. ...
  • Hawaii Island is for Volcano Lovers. ...
  • Kauai is Nature at Its Finest. ...
  • Molokai and Lanai Offer a Laidback Getaway.

Is it worth it to island hop in Hawaii? ›

And is it worth the trip? Hawaii island hopping is absolutely worth it. The islands are all incredibly different and it's easy to get from island to island. But it's important to know that island hopping can be time-consuming so you want to make sure your trip is long enough for these extra travel days.

What is a cheaper version of Hawaii? ›

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, about 1,000 miles from Miami, and strikes the perfect balance of lively nightlife, tranquil beaches, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful rainforests. It's one of the cheapest places in the Caribbean for Americans, and you don't need a passport.

Is Oahu worth it? ›

Oahu, with its stunning beaches, rich culture, and adventurous activities is absolutely worth a visit. It offers an unforgettable tropical experience for all types of travelers.

Is it possible to go to Hawaii on a budget? ›

Usually, flights are less expensive if you can avoid traveling on peak days such as weekends and major holidays. Even certain months have lower airfare, such as January, February, May, September and October. Hawaii hotels generally cost more during the summer months, spring break and major holidays.

What is the prettiest Hawaiian island to visit? ›

Kauaʻi. Kauaʻi is the best island in terms of scenic hiking trails, the best overnight backpacking trips, scenic drives, and the best açaí bowl that you will find across all the islands!

Is Kauai cheaper than Maui? ›

Maui is more expensive than Kauai by a decent margin. So your dollar will stretch further on a vacation to Kauai. Usually, the largest vacation expense is going to be your accommodations. According to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui has the most expensive average hotel room cost.

Where is the best place to go in Hawaii for the first time? ›

Conclusions. The best island to visit in Hawaii for the first time depends on what you're looking for. Oahu is a great place that offers a little bit of everything Hawaii has to offer. Maui and The Big Island are good if you want a little more adventure and a little less city life.

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