USA TODAY April 5, 2012
Hawaii: Get your lei without laying down a fortune
While Hawaii tourism may have taken it in the board shorts during the Great Recession, these days, the Aloha State is riding a new wave of popularity.
Nearly 8 million travelers arrived here last year, shattering the previous high-water mark set in 2006, and prices for everything from convertible rentals to luaus are rising in their wake.
According to industry tracker STR, the average cost of a Hawaii hotel room jumped to $233.30 a night in February — the highest rate in the country, up 13.1% from a year ago. Even at those prices, 85.6% of hotel rooms were occupied — a full 10 percentage points higher than rival Florida.
But you can still score bargains on a vacation in paradise if you plan carefully. Six strategies:
1. Don’t book your trip over the Christmas holidays or midsummer.
After a brief spate of price-cutting on new Mainland routes, “Hawaii airfares are generally on the rise, and seasonal variations are extreme,” notes BeatofHawaii.com‘s Jeff Tucker. “Best pricing and availability is based on pukas (holes), when airlines have small numbers of discounted seats,” particularly on weekdays during the spring and fall. But “even if you can only travel in summer, you can significantly reduce all of your Hawaii vacation costs simply by delaying until mid- to late August,” Tucker says. Case in point: Through June 6, fares from the West Coast to Honolulu start at about $230 round-trip ($420 from the East Coast), but zoom up to around $700 and $900, respectively, for peak summer travel (June 7-Aug. 11).
3. Avoid a herd mentality.
Each island has popular resort areas where affordable accommodations are challenging to find, but you don’t have to stray too far to find cheaper lodging prices. “On Kauai, look for accommodations in the Lihue and Kapaa areas, where you can easily save $100 or more per night compared to the more popular Poipu or Princeville resorts,” Beal says. On Maui, you can can save hundreds a night by picking a condo in centrally located Kihei vs. more upscale Kaanapali Beach.
6. Tap into happy hour specials.
“If you want a beer at 4 p.m. and you’re staying in Kailua, there’s an app for that,” Toth says. HappyHourHawaii.com, a searchable website and free GPS-based mobile app expanding to Mainland locales next month, lists happy hour menus and discounts for more than 200 restaurants and bars across the state.
- Hawaii Bound! (emilyrosendahl.wordpress.com)
- Hawaii! (travelerzblog.wordpress.com)
- Hawaii: In Real Life ~ Happy Hour Pal (happyhourpal.wordpress.com)