Aloha from Hawaii: Oahu, Maui, and Kauai Expense Report

After spending two full months on the Big Island for Whitney’s Travel PT contract, we were excited to thoroughly explore the other three major Hawaiian islands. Although we did some amazing hikes on the Big Island, we didn’t get the views that we were expecting after seeing a ton of Hawaiian hiking pictures from friends and acquaintances. We learned that the older, more northern islands, have much better hiking with the spectacular, lush views that we had anticipated, and we couldn’t wait to hit the trails. Whitney’s mom met us on the Big Island on Whitney’s last day of work, and she accompanied us for a couple weeks as we traveled to Oahu and Maui. She’d never been to Hawaii and always dreamed of visiting the beautiful Hawaiian beaches, especially Waikiki.

Our final itinerary ended up being a little scattered, but this is what we settled on:

  • 5 days on Oahu
  • 7 days on Maui
  • 5 days on Kauai
  • 5 days on Oahu

The reason we went back to Oahu was so that we could spend the first 5 days there at a hotel by the beach in Honolulu with Whitney’s mom, and the second 5 days there staying with Whitney’s friend from college outside of Honolulu where we planned to hike every day. Plus, we needed to circle back to Oahu to get our flight back home to Virginia at the end. Somewhat ironically, the island that we spent the least amount of time on, Kauai, ended up being our favorite island! Each island is very unique and has it’s own pros and cons; but for us, Kauai was the clear winner with its more rural, laid back vibe, and absolutely amazing views especially, in the north along the Na Pali coast.

Below are my expenses for the 22 days on this part of the trip. Stay tuned for Whitney’s post about all the fun things we did on this portion of the trip, but for now I’ll focus on the expenses incurred while traveling between Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. Keep in mind that all of the expenses that I’ll talk about below are my expenses only, since Whitney and I have quite different spending habits at times. We split all shared expenses evenly, so I calculate the numbers below with my half of the shared expenses and then my individual expenses. Also keep in mind, some expenses were split with Whitney’s mom for the days she was with us.

Accommodation: The first 5 days in Oahu we used Hilton points to stay at the iconic Hilton Hawaiian Village right on the beach in Honolulu. For Whitney’s mom, this was a dream, and I had just enough Hilton points to make it work. At 60,000 points per night, it wasn’t the best use of the points, but paying cash for the hotel stay would have been very expensive so it was alright. In Maui, we stayed at a very nice one bedroom condo near the beach that we found on Airbnb for the first 5 days. It was expensive, but with three of us we needed a space a little bigger than a hotel room, and with the cost split between three people it was a little more reasonable. For our last two days in Maui, we moved to a much cheaper, tiny hostel room that we found on Airbnb after Whitney’s mom left. This might have been the smallest room that we’ve ever stayed in, but we spent very little time there as we just needed a place to shower and sleep between adventures. We couldn’t pass up the low cost which was significantly less than anything else on the island. In Kauai, we stayed in what was essentially a tiny house or a “cottage” connected to a motel that we found on Airbnb. It was small and nothing fancy, but again, we were out hiking every day and just needed a place to shower and sleep so it worked well for us. When we returned to Oahu, we stayed with one of Whitney’s friends from college on an air mattress in her living room. This saved us a significant amount since Oahu can be very expensive. All in all we only paid out of pocket for accommodations 12 of the 22 nights, but it was still pretty costly compared to a lot of our trips!

  • Total for my expenses: $1,070

Food and drink: We had minimal access to a kitchen throughout this portion of the trip, so we ended up eating the majority of our meals out. Most days while out hiking we would just eat snacks, sandwiches, and protein bars and then have a big meal in the evening. Besides fast food, which we do our best to avoid, low cost places to eat in Hawaii, especially in the more touristy areas, are difficult to come by. Therefore, we spent quite a bit more on food during this portion of the trip than I would have liked.

  • Total for my expenses: $884

Transportation: Short term car rentals are absolutely insane right now in Hawaii, but we had no choice but to rent a car the majority of our time there. We got by with only renting a car for one day while in Oahu the first time there since we were in the downtown area and could walk everywhere we wanted to go pretty easily, but for the rest of the trip a car was vital. We used Turo to rent cars in each place since the cost was significantly less than through a traditional car rental agency, but even so, the average cost was still over $150/day for the very cheapest cars that we could find! Add to that the cost of gas, a car wash for each car before returning it, and in some cases an Uber to where we had to pick up and drop off the car, and we were close to a $200/day average just for the cars we rented.

Luckily, flights between the islands were cheap and easy. We used my Southwest companion pass for BOGO tickets, and Southwest points to pay for them. Each flight from island to island only cost me 5,000 points and $5.60 out of pocket. For the flight back to Virginia, there were no convenient ways to get back using only points, so we used a combination of Southwest points and cash.

  • Total for my expenses: $1,479

Activities: For 22 days mostly full of hiking, we still managed to squeeze in quite a few other activities as well. In Oahu we spent a couple days at the pool and beach, we went to a Luau, and to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. In Maui, we drove the road to Hana and went to the state park and national park. In Kauai, we went to the state park on the northern part of the island and did a dinner boat tour of the Na Pali coast. Since most of these things are very touristy, they were pretty overpriced and the costs added up quickly.

  • Total for my expenses: $404

My total expenses for 22 days on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Maui, and Kauai including accommodations, transportation, activities, and food/drink were approximately $3,837! This comes out to an average of $174.41/day!*

*Keep in mind this is only my half of the expenses, and does not include Whitney’s expenses.

These already really highs costs would have been much higher if it wasn’t for hotel points, airline miles, and friends! To put these costs in perspective, this is almost 5x the daily amount I spent on our five month trip around the world in 2018 and almost 4x the daily amount I spent while traveling around Europe for four months in 2019! Needless to say, Hawaii is very expensive!

Despite the comparatively crazy costs, Hawaii was absolutely amazing, and I don’t regret anything. As I’ve gotten older and into a much more secure financial position, I’ve gotten much less focused on expenses and more focused on the experience. The experience I had in Hawaii and especially on this 22 days of the trip was spectacular and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Of all the travel we’ve done, Hawaii, particularly Kauai and Oahu, had the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen and the best hiking of my life. I can’t wait to go back and do more hiking there, and we’ve already been talking about Whitney potentially taking another travel assignment on a different island sometime in the future.

If you get the chance to travel around the Hawaiian islands, I’d highly recommend it especially if you’re an avid hiker like us! If you want to see more pictures of our Hawaii adventures, check out our Facebook page and our Instagram where we were regularly posting some of our best ones (be sure to check our “Hawaii Highlights” on Instagram). Whitney will also include more photos in her summary blog post of our trip to Hawaii!

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