Hawaii gives Americans the chance to visit a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific without ever having to leave U.S. soil — except, of course, for the 2,000 or so miles that you spend in the air en route over the ocean.
There’s a cost, however, to unwinding in a remote island outpost where nearly everything has to be imported — Hawaii is consistently one of the most expensive states to live, work and play. If you want to burn through a small fortune while you’re in the Aloha State, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities. Are you looking to blow through cash while vacationing in Hawaii this summer? Here’s where to start.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Vintage Cave Club
- Cost: $300 per person
Why it’s worth it: Guests can try to get a reservation at the Vintage Cave Club in Honolulu, but members always take priority. Although it’s known for its art and its ambiance as much as its food, that food is definitely worth posting on Instagram.
For $300 per head, you can dig into Neanderthal-sized portions of Japanese A5 wagyu for the 10-12 course Japan Wagyu Prix Fixe menu. Or, you might instead opt for a 20-25 course authentic Sushi Kaiseki menu.
Most Expensive Private Chef: Chef Cord Munoz
- Cost: $500 for two people, $100 for each additional person
Why it’s worth it: Instead of going to a fine restaurant, bring the fine restaurant to you with a plated multi-course dinner that includes a salad, appetizer, entree and dessert. Waiter service is included and the menu is stacked with luxury fare like wagyu beef, caviar, lobster and foie gras.
A Maui native, Chef Cord Munoz was working in some of Hawaii’s finest restaurants from the time he was 16 years old. A graduate of the Maui Culinary Academy, his family’s recipes and the Hawaiian tradition of cooking are the basis of his unique cuisine.
Most Expensive Spa: SpaHalekulani
- Cost: $225-$235 for a 60-minute massage
Why it’s worth it: Pamper yourself at SpaHalekulani in Honolulu with treatments like the Halekulani massage, which combines lomi lomi with maile oil and warm stones. A 90-minute treatment is $275, and if you were wondering, Lomi Lomi is a Hawaiian massage designed for deep relaxation. You can get that as a 90-minute standalone treatment for $265.
The spa is also home to a full salon with all the standard cutting and styling services.
Most Expensive Luau: Germaine’s Luau Plumeria Luau Package
- Cost: $175 per adult, $150 for juniors, $140 for kids
Why it’s worth it: Attending a luau is one of the best things to do in Hawaii for an authentic cultural experience. Recapture the spirit of “Old Hawaii” on Oahu at Germaine’s Luau — almost. Traditionally, Hawaiians might spend several days feasting at a luau, but this one ends by 10 p.m.
Considered to be “more folksy and local” than other luaus, according to Fodor’s, Germaine’s serves traditional dishes like Kalua pig, poi, lomi lomi salmon, Hawaiian pulehu chicken and other all-you-care-to-eat treats.
Most Expensive Car Rental: Maui Roadsters
- Cost: $400 for 12 hours
Why it’s worth it: When you want to drive to see Maui’s beautiful island sights on your own time schedule, do it in style. Feel the ocean breeze in your hair as you buzz around the island in a reproduction of a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster convertible. Just don’t expect to save a lot of money on your car rental.
The rental cars come in delicious colors like red, blue, white or silver to feature vibrantly in your vacation photos and memories. Experience some of the best things to do in Hawaii from behind the wheel of the sporty car. Zip up the road to Hana, picnic at a secluded viewpoint or navigate the slopes of Haleakalā to begin your adventure.
Most Expensive Bike Tour: DuVine Maui Bike Tour
- Cost: From $7,195
Why it’s worth it: Riding a bike is the best way to get up close and personal with Hawaiian scenery. Most times, bicycling is a cheap way to get around, but it doesn’t have to be.
This seven-day, six-night two-wheeled tour takes you from the volcanoes of Hawaii’s Valley Isle to its farms and its beaches. Along your route from the north of Maui to the south, you’ll learn about Hawaii’s history while stopping to eat mahi-mahi, roasted pork, fresh-grilled seafood, banana bread and tropical fruit while drinking fresh coconut water, local coffee and classic island cocktails.
Most Expensive Dolphin Encounter: Dolphin Quest Trainer for a Day
- Cost: $850 per person
Why it’s worth it: Don’t just swim with the dolphins — really get to know them. Spend quality time feeding, training and creating close bonds with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest’s “Trainer for a Day” program while on the Big Island or Oahu.
Help prep dolphin chow in the Fish Kitchen, hear first-hand stories from trainers and learn new dolphin interaction skills each day. It might make you want to live in this luxurious paradise to pursue a new career.
Most Expensive Boating Experience: Royal Hawaiian Catamaran
- Cost: $650 per hour
Why it’s worth it: Sail away on your own island adventure on a private catamaran yacht from Honolulu. Royal Hawaiian Catamaran doesn’t deliver just any yacht. The Royal Hawaiian was designed by transpacific yacht race record holder Rudy Choy to exceed the norm in safety and comfort.
Float above the water on the bow net or relax in the luxury cockpit seating as you head off to swim with sea turtles, watch for whales or snorkel in secret coves far from the tourist crowds.
Most Expensive Helicopter Rides: Blue Hawaiian Big Island Spectacular
- Cost: $679 per person
Why it’s worth it: When time is short, make the most of sightseeing by booking a one-hour, 45-minute helicopter trip that departs from Waikoloa and takes you over the rainforests of the Hamakua Coast to the legendary Kilauea volcano.
Your journey begins with a flight from Waikiki to Kona in an Airbus EC130 “Eco-Star” luxury helicopter. Fly low enough to feel the hot breath of Madame Pele and see stunning aerial views of the results of the historic 2018 eruption before being whisked away to Blue Hawaiin’s exclusive landing at Laupahoehoe Nui on the Kohala Coast for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for photos and videos next to a 1,200-foot waterfall.
Most Expensive Deep-Sea Fishing: Ohana Nui
- Cost: $1,200 per hour
Why it’s worth it: Head out for a full day of sport fishing on the most luxurious yacht in Maui. The Ohana Nui is a 51-foot Sea Ray yacht with three staterooms, a hydraulic swim platform and a freshly prepared onboard menu.
All that luxury, however, comes at a cost — on top of the hourly rate, you can add 7.166% tax and harbor fees plus a $50 hourly fuel surcharge to your bill.
Most Expensive Golf: Mauna Kea Golf Course
- Cost: $195 per player
Why it’s worth it: Golf the scenic Kohala Coast at Mauna Kea Golf Course on the Big Island. The grand dame of Hawaii’s golf courses, the Mauna Kea’s 18 holes offer elevated greens with ocean views. The most spectacular of the views comes early on in the game, at the third hole. Be sure to watch the water hazard at the 11th hole, where you drive your ball toward the ocean.
Prevailing trade winds up the strategy factor, making this a course you won’t want to miss. Don’t be surprised if you start dreaming about retiring on the islands after playing this storybook course.
Most Expensive Stand-Up Paddleboard Rentals: Blue Planet Surf
- Cost: $40 per paddleboard
Why it’s worth it: There are cheaper places to rent paddleboards in Hawaii, but judging by the 4.9 rating that Honolulu’s Blue Planet Surf has earned on Google, its customers sure seem happy. If you’re a first-timer, Blue Planet has a lot to offer.
The shop lets you try demo models for free before you pay, and has free clinics and an introduction to SUP for beginners. If you fall in love with the sport, Blue Planet sells boards running from about $800 to about $2,300.
Most Expensive Hang Gliding: Hang Gliding Hawaii
- Cost: $365 for an hour
Why it’s worth it: Seeing Hawaii is one thing, but seeing it from above while piloting a trike is unlike any other experience, including a chopper. That’s exactly what you’ll be taking in when you learn to fly at Hang Gliding Hawaii.
Boasting a perfect safety record after 320 flights per year for 20 years, Hang Gliding Hawaii is ranked in the top 10 worldwide on TripAdvisor among all activities, not just hang gliding. If you can’t afford the full 60 minutes, lessons start at $255 for a half-hour. If you’re looking for addons, picture and video packages are $75 or $95 for both.
Most Expensive Surfing Lessons: Keawe Adventures
- Cost: $525 for 1-2 hours
Why it’s worth it: Hawaii is the ancestral homeland of surfing, so if you’re going to learn to ride the waves, the North Shore is literally the best place in the world to do it. All Keawe lessons are taught by professional surf instructors with at least a decade of experience under their belts and on their boards.
Most Expensive Sunset Lava Flow Trek: Poke a Stick Lava Tours
- Cost: $150 per person
Why it’s worth it: On the Big Island, you’ll get memorable and dramatic photos of red-hot lava oozing from the Kilauea volcano before it drops over cliffs into the ocean with the private Top the Pali Tour. You’ll ascend 1650 feet in elevation to the top of the Pali across old lava flow fields at the spot where the last remaining homeowner lived until his home was consumed by lava in March 2012.
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Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.