When planning a tropical vacation, the sun-kissed beaches of the Caribbean and the lush landscapes of Hawaii are often top choices. Both destinations offer a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness, attracting honeymooners, adventure seekers, and those in need of relaxation. This article breaks down the costs of travel, accommodation, and daily expenses in both locations to help you choose the best destination for your budget.

Getting there

Flying to either destination can vary significantly based on your departure city and the season. Generally, flights to the Caribbean from the U.S. East Coast are cheaper than those to Hawaii, particularly from cities like Miami or New York, with round-trip fares often under $500. In contrast, flights to Hawaii from the West Coast start around the same price, but increase for travelers coming from the eastern U.S., sometimes exceeding $800.

Seasonality also affects airfare. The peak tourist season in Hawaii runs from December through February (though March is busy with spring break travelers as well) and June through August, driving up prices. Similarly, the Caribbean sees higher prices in winter, as travelers and snow birds look to escape the cold of the north.

Accommodation Costs

Accommodation costs in both destinations can cater to all budgets. In the Caribbean, you can find budget hotel rooms from $50 to $150 per night, while mid-range hotels cost between $150 to $300. Luxury resorts start at about $300 and can go up significantly. Hawaii presents a similar range, though budget accommodations are slightly higher, starting at around $100 per night - and they're tougher to find at that price.

Alternative lodging like Airbnb offers varied options in both places, with prices depending on the location and the type of accommodation. Proximity to popular attractions or beaches typically increases the cost.

Daily Expenses

Day-to-day expenses in both destinations can add up if not carefully managed. In Hawaii, dining out can be pricey, with meals at an average restaurant costing around $20 to $40 per person. The Caribbean, while offering cheaper street food options, also has high-end restaurants where meals can cost similarly.

Transportation costs vary as well. In Hawaii, renting a car is almost essential for exploring the islands, with daily rentals starting at about $50. The Caribbean might offer cheaper alternatives, especially if staying on smaller islands where rental cars are not as necessary, and local transport can be used.

Activities in both locations can be both affordable and expensive, depending on what you choose. Snorkeling, hiking, and visiting historical sites generally cost less than $50, but specialized tours like helicopter rides or scuba diving can be several hundreds of dollars.

Special Considerations

The length of stay can significantly affect your budget. Longer stays might offer a better rate on accommodations and more opportunities to find budget-friendly meal options. Also, consider the benefits of package deals, which can include discounts on flights, rooms, and car rentals, particularly useful in Hawaii where travel between islands can add to the budget.

Cheapest Places to Stay in the Caribbean

For budget-conscious travelers, the Caribbean offers several affordable destinations with great accommodation options. One of the most cost-effective places is the Dominican Republic, where visitors can enjoy beautiful beaches and vibrant culture without breaking the bank. In areas like Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, travelers can find hotel rooms or guesthouses ranging from $20 to $50 per night. These accommodations often provide basic amenities and easy access to public transportation, allowing visitors to explore the island's attractions affordably. Additionally, local eateries and street food can significantly lower daily food expenses, further stretching the travel budget.

Cheapest Places to Stay in Hawaii

In Hawaii, finding budget-friendly accommodations can be more challenging, but it's not impossible. The Big Island offers some of the most affordable options, particularly in the Hilo area, where travelers can find hostel beds or small inns ranging from $30 to $70 per night. Hilo's location provides a less touristy experience with lower prices on food and activities compared to more popular spots like Waikiki. This area is ideal for travelers interested in exploring Hawaii's natural landscapes, as it provides easy access to Volcanoes National Park and several stunning waterfalls, all while keeping overhead costs low.

Both the Caribbean and Hawaii offer spectacular experiences that come with different price tags. Your choice might depend on where you're flying from, what kind of activities you plan to do, and your overall budget. Each destination provides a variety of options that can cater to luxury-seekers as well as budget travelers. Reflect on what you value most for your vacation—whether it's convenience, adventure, culture, or relaxation—and let that guide your decision.

The bottom line: Those on the east coast of the US and Canada will likely be able to find cheaper trip options in the Caribbean. Those on the west coast have more to unpack, so to speak, as flights to the Caribbean can be pricy from spots like the Pacific Northwest. Still, there's a good chance you can find a cheaper all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic than in Hawaii, even with the difference in proximity from the west coast.

Before booking, consider diving deeper into each location's specific offers and perhaps even look for off-peak deals. No matter where you choose to go, both the Caribbean and Hawaii will not disappoint, offering memories worth every penny spent.


Does your travel dollar go further in Hawaii, or the Caribbean? The short answer is, it depends. The longer, more interesting answer that will actually help you make a decision, is included in this article.