It’s common to think of accommodation as “just a place to lay your head.” As long as you’re in beautiful Hawaii, what could possibly go wrong? But you will spend almost half of your time on the island at your chosen place of accommodation, meaning that this choice will be crucial in ensuring a pleasant and relaxing holiday.
In this article we outline the pros and cons of all your options, and help you choose the best accommodations for your group.
Table of Contents
- Accommodations summary
- Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals: which one is better?
- Extra luxury: resorts
- A little bit of everything: B&B’s
- Accommodations FAQ
The two most popular options in Hawaii are hotels and vacation rentals. There is also the middle-of-the-road option of spending your nights at a bed and breakfast, though these are slightly less common on the island, and tend to be more pricey. If you are looking for accommodation options in a specific area of the Big Island, you can jump through to the following pages:
Editor note: on the Big Island, apartments, condominiums and homes are eligible to be operated as vacation rentals if they are located in areas zoned for such use or they have obtained the required authorization(s) from the State & County of Hawaii. We recommended that you confirm with the owner or manager that the property is operating in compliance with all applicable laws before booking.
Comparison between hotels and vacation rentals in Hawaii
We compare the benefits of staying in a hotel versus staying in a vacation rental based on the following points:
Cost: which one is better value?
Renting a vacation rental or a hotel room for two people will cost you anywhere between $100 and $300 per night. For the same price, vacation rentals offer much more space and practical comforts such as a kitchen, laundry facilities, private lounging areas, etc. If you are with a larger group, especially, you’ll really start to notice how much further your money goes when staying at a vacation rental.
Most vacation rentals are fully self-catered, potentially saving you hundred of dollars in food costs during your stay, and another perk of choosing a short-term rental is the lack of hidden costs you will find at a resort. Parking fees, internet fees, destination fees- what does that even mean?
Size: where do you get more space?
Vacation rentals are several times larger than hotel rooms, offering much more self-sufficiency and privacy. However, most hotels feature on-site entertainment, a pool, bar, gift shops and several other areas to socialize. Then again, many vacation rentals will also include a full kitchen, entertainment areas, a garden or other outdoor space, and sometimes even a private hot-tub! The choice comes down to how much space you need or want and how you plan to use it.
Privacy: which one is more private?
Naturally, vacation rentals offer far more privacy. You won’t have to listen to your neighbors through the thin walls of your room and, especially in the more rural areas, it’s common for vacation rentals to feature a private garden or outdoor dining space for you to enjoy exclusively.
Dining: what are your dinner options?
Hotels often offer the convenience of a buffet for breakfast and a restaurant for dinner, whereas vacation rentals are equipped with their own facilities to store and prepare your food. You also have the luxury of ordering take-out to have a romantic dinner in the garden, the choice of enjoying breakfast in your bathrobe, or plundering your fridge for a midnight snack.
Leftover malasadas anyone?
Cleaning: who cleans your place and what does it cost?
In a hotel you can leave your room in a state of utter chaos, and return to a beautifully cleaned space every day of your stay. Most vacation rentals, on the other hand, do not offer the luxury of a daily in-house cleaning service. Hotels also don’t charge a cleaning fee to prepare your room for the next occupant after your stay, though these costs are certainly worked in as other items on your final bill.
In contrast, vacation rentals often do charge a cleaning fee to clean and prepare the house for each stay, and this fee generally runs between $50 to $100, depending on the size of the rental and (sometimes) the number in your party. In most vacation rentals on the island, this fee includes the cost of fresh linens and towels, paper products, simply toiletries and sometimes complimentary items such as coffee, tea, or fresh fruit.
Both hotels and short term vacation rentals are redesigning their cleaning and sanitation protocols to make sure their visitors will be able to stay in a safe and clean space. This will most likely lead to a (slightly?) higher cleaning fee for vacation rentals, while hotels might choose to absorb the extra costs in their nightly rates or resort fees.
Vacation rentals have the BIG advantage of letting visitors control their environment better than other vacation options such as hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and resorts. Guests can bring in groceries and supplies and then just prepare their own meals and have a self-contained experience. You also have your own space and bare able to crowded spaces such as the hotel lobby and/or restaurant.
Self check-in procedures at most vacation rentals further minimize contact with staff offering a safer and more self-sustained experience.
Resorts in Hawaii
Staying in a resort is the most luxurious accommodation option on the Big Island and takes almost all the chores of planning your vacation out of your hands. We recommend staying in a resort if you want an ultimately relaxing vacation and don’t mind paying the premium for it.
Find out more about resorts on the Kona coast.
Bed and Breakfasts in Hawaii
Bed & Breakfasts are a wonderful way to get to know the island. With a more intimate setting, yet many of the same perks of a resort or hotel, they also offer some of the advantages of vacation rentals, such as atmosphere and the feeling of being a local. Breakfasts included in the price are also very convenient.
Most, however, still lack the larger spaces and privacy of vacation rental options. Though if a more tailored, romantic experience is what you are seeking, they may be the perfect option for you. See the following sections of out website for B&Bs on the Big Island:
Frequently Asked Questions about Accommodations:
This FAQ answers some of the most often asked questions about finding accommodation on the Big Island:
The average daily rate for hotel rooms on the Big Island was $267 in 2019 (source). For the other Hawaiian islands this was $399 (Maui), $241 (O‘ahu), and $283 (Kaua‘i). The cost of accommodations varies mostly based on the type of property, hostels being the cheapest and luxury resorts the most expensive. Vacation rentals (our favorite option!) are available over the whole price range.