Food in Hawaii is notoriously expensive, but that doesn’t mean travelers have to empty their bank accounts to visit.
Visiting Hawaii in general is an expensive endeavor. It is therefore not surprising that many travelers are surprised when the dinner bill hits. There’s a reason food is so expensive in Hawaii, and it’s a good reason, but one that doesn’t go down well with many visitors.
The good news is: First, Hawaii is always worth the price. Second, there is a way to budget for food so travelers can have an affordable trip and enjoy their stay. Flying to these breathtaking islands doesn’t necessarily mean shoveling big bucks to enjoy authentic Hawaiian cuisine, but it shouldn’t mean avoiding it either.
Why is food so expensive in Hawaii?
It is important to understand that Hawaiian food is not unnecessarily expensive; There’s a reason why so many dishes and foods have big price tags on them. Most of the food in the state is imported from the mainland, which means that there is a higher cost for it.
These costs are reflected in the prices of many grocery stores, much like importing them to Alaska – where groceries are also more expensive than the rest of the country. With this in mind, shopping for local groceries is often a cheaper alternative to dining out, at least all the time. There are some items in the supermarket that are definitely worth stocking up on for snacks, breakfast and the like – more on that later.
Save some money on the grocery budget
There are many tricks and tips that travelers can use to save money on the Hawaiian food budget. And there’s more good news here – visitors don’t have to go without restaurants or authentic dishes to get there. The trick is to mitigate the number of times a person eats, thus practicing the perfect balance between grocery shopping, dining, and using the resort or hotel meals (if any).
Before arriving in Hawaii
- Check the all-inclusive resort offers and inquire about the continental breakfast or any included meals.
- Search online for interesting restaurants and check the menu for possible prices. There’s no need to pre-select meals, of course (and prices always fluctuate depending on the season), but travelers can get an idea of how much they’ll be spending each time.
- If a continental breakfast isn’t available, check the hotel room service menu – if there is one – and see if this is on budget. If there is an on-site restaurant, consider these menu prices as well.
After arriving in Hawaii
- Ask the concierge about any snacks offered by the hotel or resort.
- Find the nearest grocery store and go shopping!
- Shop for affordable snacks for the beach, breakfast, and lunch (don’t forget the fuel for hikes and excursions).
Navigate the grocery stores and markets in Hawaii
It’s important to be open-minded when shopping for groceries in Hawaii. It’s not uncommon for fruit to be the cheapest option, which is a good thing – because they’re healthy, great for breakfast, and great for snacking.
Prices will still be slightly increased, but many products that are grown locally tend to be more affordable. Avoid things like dairy products and ready-made meals, as these are likely to be at least three times the price you would normally pay at home. For those who stay at an Airbnb, following a guide like this one can be a serious money saver.
What to buy
- Rice is in an affordable price range and can be used in myriad ways, from rice pudding for breakfast (with fruit!)
- Since spam is such a huge part of Hawaiian cuisine culture, this is one more thing to assume (and it can be eaten with rice).
- Exotic tropical fruits like dragon fruit, papaya, bananas and apples.
- Check out the fish counter. Much of the islands’ freshly caught fish are affordable and tasty, and are used in iconic dishes like poke.
- Sushi is a great snack or light dinner option and can be kept in a mini fridge, making it an even better deal.
- The delicatessen counter offers prepackaged meals such as bento boxes that can be easily accessed on the go. These are also pretty affordable and come with enough food to replace a meal.
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About the author
(1755 articles published)
Katie is originally from New York and is used to a fast paced lifestyle. She began her personal beginnings in second grade writing, and carried that passion with her until she won a spot in her high school’s published poetry book – but not before becoming a news editor and columnist for the high school newspaper. In college, she studied English literature with a major in political science and absorbed the creativity and method of one of the last professors to study with the famous beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The more she wrote, the more she learned about the world and, most importantly, about herself. She has been writing professionally and publishing since she was 19, and has covered entertainment, lifestyle, music news, video game reviews, food culture, and has for nearly a decade now privileged to write and edit for TheTravel. Katie strongly believes that every word written is a journey into yourself and your own thoughts, and when this is understood, people can begin to understand one another. Through her voice, she brings personality, research, and a bit of friendly sarcasm to every piece she writes and edits.
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