6 Reasons Not to Vacation in Waikiki: Discover the Hidden Side of Hawaii

While I find Waikiki a great place to go on vacation, even paradise has some drawbacks. In this article, I thought we would cover 6 of the not so great things in paradise. 

Six reasons you may not want to go on vacation in Waikiki are:

  • Cost
  • Tourist Tax
  • Food
  • Crowded
  • Long Flight
  • Commercialized

For over 8 years now I’ve traveled to Waikiki at least once or twice a year. While I do enjoy Waikiki, it has some drawbacks that may not be right for you. Continue reading and we’ll discuss the downsides of this tropical paradise. 


It’s no secret that vacations too Waikiki are expensive. Hawaii is one of the most expensive areas in the United States. Generally speaking, you’ll pay around 30% more for items that you do at home. Below are some average prices you can expect to pay.

  • Regular gasoline $4.00 a gallon
  • Cocktail drink $10
  • Beer $6.00 (1pt.)
  • Breakfast $10-$15 (per person)
  • Lunch meal $15-$25 (per person)
  • Combo meal $9.00 (per person)
  • Dinner meal $35/$40 (per person)
  • Cappuccino $5.25
  • Cigarettes $10 (per pack)

Pro tip: Check out our articles on “How to Save Money In Waikiki”

Taxes and Fees

While Waikiki has a relatively low sales tax rate of 4.7% if you combine that with the 10.25% lodging “tourist tax” you might find your lodging cost shocking. Hawaii rates the third highest among the 50 states on lodging taxes. 

We’ll use a hypothetical 7 night $2,000 hotel room stay as an example. With sales and lodging tax you can see how we quickly turn our room into $2,300. Did I mention, you will also most likely be paying a “resort fee” of around $25-$45 a night? Now, our $2,300 room is up to $2,615. Further, if you decided to rent a car, the hotel garage parking will typically cost $20-$45 a night. Voilà, in seven days we accumulated almost $1,000 in taxes and fees for our hotel stay ($2,930).

Renting a Car from the Honolulu Airport

Along with our hypothetical hotel stay, we also picked up an “intermediate” car for 7 days. The base rate at Honolulu Airport was $153 with $85 in taxes and fees ($238). We picked the same “intermediate” car for 7 days from the same company except instead of the airport we picked it up in Waikiki and while the base cost remained the same $153, the taxes and fees dropped to $34 ($187).

While there is a tax saving with renting in Waikiki over the Honolulu airport, depending on how long you stay the convenience may be worth it to you. An Uber or Lyft to and from the airport typically cost around $20 each way for a standard sized car and $40 for a larger vehicle.

Pro tip: I like to Uber/Lyft to and from the airport and rent a car from Waikiki for only a couple of days when I plan to go out and about. This saves me both taxes and parking fees. Read our article “Do You Need A Rental Car In Waikiki”


While Kalua pig, Portuguese Sausage and, Malasadas’s (Leonards Bakery) are amazing, and something you should differently try while you are in Waikiki, I’ll take a pass on the other Polynesian cuisines like deep fried Spam and Poi.  Hawaii isn’t known for “fine dining”.

Unfortunately, over the years I’ve seen many of the local Waikiki Mom and Pop restaurants go out of business in lieu of large restaurant chains.

While good food can be found in Waikiki, it’s much harder to find really amazing food, at any cost. Every Waikiki trip I make it a point to talk with the locals and find the best “locals” restaurants. You can find our latest articles at “Places To Eat And Drink”


With around a half-million visitors per month to Oahu, Waikiki can get very crowded. 


Many of the hotels and tourist are concentrated around the smaller Waikiki Beach and Kuhio Beach. However, for a larger, less crowded beach, a few minutes down the road, head to the Fort DeRussy Beach.


Parking is always a challenge almost everywhere on the island. When renting your vehicle keep in mind smaller is better. Also, many of the major tourist attractions charge for parking. For example, Diamond Head and Manoa Falls charge a $5 per vehicle parking fee. Further, street parking in Waikiki is typically around $4.50 an hour.  


Wait times at most of the restaurants to include the large chains in Waikiki can be long, especially for dinner.  If you are venturing out to the local Mom and Pop restaurants, keep in mind they are small and have limited seating. It’s always a good idea to make reservations days in advance. Check out our article on “Where The Locals Eat”

Oahu has the most visitors in:

The months with the least visitors are:

Long Flights:

The least amount of time you are going to spend flying to Honolulu/Waikiki is from Los Angles at around 6 hours (Ok… Alaska to Hawaii is 5 hours). If you are departing from the East Coast you can expect around a 10-hour flight. 

Hawaii doesn’t observe Daylight Savings time and operates on Hawaii Standard Time (HST).  Depending on the time of year you visit Waikiki, you’ll undoubtedly experience jet lag. At a minimum, you’ll be traveling through at least two time zones. The body can typically adjust to one or two time zones per day. So if traveling from Los Angles, you can typically overcome jet lag in a day. however, if you are traveling from the East Coast, it may take you three days. Take this into account when planning your vacation.



As I eluded to earlier, many of the restaurants in Waikiki are large popular food chains. To name a few, Yard House, Roys, BLT Steak, Ruth’s Chris Steak, P.F Chang’s, Tommy Bahamas and The Cheesecake Factory. If you are looking for a more “locals” place you’ll need to travel to find them as they won’t be in the immediate tourist areas.


Much like the restaurants, Waikiki shopping is slowly transforming into high-end retail chains found on “Luxury Row”. You’ll find stores like Chanel, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Omega, Tory Burch, Cartier, Hermes and, Tiffany & Co. Many of these stores are popular with the Asian and Australian tourists due to the prices being cheaper in the United States than their respective countries. As an American, you probably won’t find any deals here.

Busses/Shuttles of Tourists 

One of the first things you will notice when you are in Waikiki is the huge amount of buses and shuttles all headed to popular tourist attractions. If you are headed to places like Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Dole Plantation, Polynesian Culture Center or the Waikele Premium Outlets you are guaranteed to be met with waves of shuttles and tourist buses. 

Final Thoughts

While I’ve hit on a lot of the negative aspects of Waikiki it still remains one of my favorite spots to vacation. Vacation-Waikiki.com was literally developed to pass on years of our travel advice and tips to help you overcome these negative aspects. It’s my sincere hope you find this article helpful in planning your next vacation, no matter where it takes you.

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