Visiting Hawaii, in general, is an expensive endeavor. Therefore, it's no surprise that when the bill for dinner arrives, many travelers are surprised at the numbers set before them. There's a reason that the food in Hawaii is so expensive, and it's a good reason but one that doesn't sit well with many who visit.
The good news is this: One, Hawaii is always worth the price. And two, there is a way to budget in regard to food so that travelers can have an affordable trip and enjoy their stay. A flight to these stunning islands doesn't necessarily mean shoveling out the big bucks to enjoy authentic Hawaiian cuisine, but it shouldn't mean avoiding it, either.
Why Is Food So Expensive In Hawaii?
It's important to understand that food in Hawaii isn't unnecessarily expensive; there's a reason why so many dishes and foods have large price tags attached to them. Most of the food in the state is imported from the mainland, which means there are more costs that go into that.
This cost is reflected in the prices attached to many grocery store items, similar to how things are imported to Alaska - where the food is also pricer than the rest of the country. With this being said, shopping for local foods is often a cheaper alternative to dining out, at least dining out all of the time. There are some items in the grocery store that are definitely worth stocking up on for snacks, breakfast, and the like - more on this later.
Saving Some Money On The Food Budget
There are plenty of tricks and tips travelers can use to save money on the Hawaii food budget. And there's more good news here - visitors won't need to skip out on restaurants or authentic dishes in order to do so. The trick is to temper the number of times a person dines out, thus practicing a perfect balance between grocery store foods, dining out, and taking advantage of the meals offered (if any) by the resort or hotel.
Before Arriving In Hawaii
- Check deals on all-incluive resorts and inquire about continental breakfast or any meals that might be included.
- Find restaurants of interest online and scope out the menu for potential prices. It's obviously not necessary to pick out meals beforehand (and prices always fluctuate depending on the season), but travelers can get an idea of how much they will be spending at each.
- If there's no continental breakfast, check the hotel room service menu - if any - and determine if that's something that fits into the budget. If there's a restaurant on-site, consider these menu prices, as well.
After Arriving In Hawaii
- Consult with the concierge about any snacks that might be provided by the hotel or resort.
- Find the nearest grocery store and get to shopping!
- Stock up on affordable snacks for the beach, breakfast, and lunches (don't forget about food fuel for hikes and excursions).
Navigating The Grocery Stores And Markets In Hawaii
It's important to have an open mind when shopping for food in Hawaii. It's not uncommon to see that fruit is the most inexpensive option which is a good thing - because they're healthy, great for breakfast, and great to snack on.
Prices will still be slightly elevated, but many produce options that are locally grown tend to be more affordable. Avoid things such as dairy and prepared foods, as they're likely to be at least three times the price one would typically pay at home. For those staying at an Airbnb, following a guide such as this can be a serious money-saver.
What To Buy
- Rice is within an affordable price range and can be used in a myriad of ways from rice pudding for breakfast (with fruit!) to an accompaniment for dinner.
- Since Spam is such a large part of Hawaii's cuisine culture, this is another thing to embrace (and it can be eaten with rice).
- Exotic tropical fruits such as dragonfruit, papaya, bananas, and apples.
- Scope out the seafood counter. Many of the islands' freshly caught fish is affordable and delicious and is used in iconic dishes such as poke.
- Sushi is a great option as a snack or a light dinner and can be stored in a mini-fridge which makes it an even better deal.
- The deli counter offers pre-packed meals such as bento boxes which are easy to grab on the go. These are also pretty affordable and come with enough food to take the place of one meal.