We understand the bad feelings created by a proposed $50 arrival tax for visitors to Hawaii. But for us, the exorbitant costs of accommodation in Hawaii cause insults and injuries, breaking the bank. Here is our recent case related to Honolulu hotels.
Your editors regularly travel around the state for the Beat of Hawaii and will be in Honolulu working on an upcoming off-season weekend. That should be relatively easy, right? Well, read on.
While car rentals have improved in Honolulu…
We were able to get a mid-size Hertz car for $27/day plus tax using Priceline. It was a surprise, about the same as we would have paid in 2019 or even less.
And the plane ticket was great!
Airfare was also great at $39 each way, and we had a choice of Hawaiian or Southwest.
The prices for lodging in Hawaii, however, were absolutely ridiculous!
We searched for hotels using the same methods as you. Sometimes we’ll start with things like Costco Travel and booking.com, to get a sense of the landscape. It’s always a great idea. Then we look for special offers, directly on the hotel website, Kamaaina (residents) discounts, etc. But what we are seeing is what we would call lamentable.
For seasonal rental aficionados, we have also looked for them. But on a short two night stay, the cleaning fee was too high and prevented us from looking in its wake.
Checking all the hotel categories in Honolulu, none of them fared well.
We understand trying to get the lowest price. Who is not guilty of this? We often sort hotel results by lowest price, to start with. At least to get a reference point and then go from there. And while we can point out that we always get great rates outside of Hawaii, that’s just not the case here.
Taxes and the dreaded “resort fees” add 20% to 50% to your bill.
Many hotels are now eliminating resort fees in response to the unpopularity of these “hidden fees”. Others combine parking and resort fees. Taxes on Hawaii accommodations (hotels and vacation rentals) are approximately 18%, the highest in the United States
US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his administration would seek to crack down on “surprise fees” facing consumers. Biden cited two examples: resort fees for hotel stays and administrative fees for live events and concert tickets.
The Federal Trade Commission had started working on a rule last week to crack down on “unfair and misleading fees across all industries,” Reuters reported.
A lawsuit against Marriott alleged that the company made hundreds of millions on these largely hidden charges. Booking.com has publicly stated that it opposes resort fees, as has travel agent company ASTA which called them “out of control”.
Back to Honolulu hotels and what we found that gave rise to this article.
We scoured Honolulu and checked out a lot of hotels (remember we think there are about 5,000 hotels in Honolulu) and different room categories for a two night stay, including all taxes and all fees, as well as parking. Here are some of the choices we looked at. As mentioned above, we went no further with vacation rental options due to excessive cleaning fees for a short stay. While Kamaaina’s rates are advertised as deep discounts, the reality is that the savings we found were between 10-15%. This is because Kamaaina is considered a discount off the displayed rates, not the best available selling rates.
- Hotel Ala Moana. Sea view 1 bedroom. $400/night. U g. Not an all-time favorite hotel, even with its lipstick upgrade in 2020, when the hotel carried out a measly $16 million renovation to its 1,100 rooms. We would say it is usable and the location is excellent. But for $800 for two nights, we felt ripped off. And that was a Kamaaina rate. We booked it but were so happy to cancel it later. somewhat insulting.
- Queen Kapiolani Hotel. Room with sea view $300/night on reservation. Also, never a favorite property despite its renovation, but it is in a great location at the other end of Waikiki. The middle of Waikiki tends to be very busy, congested, and harder to navigate, especially with a car. Parking was also not included so we would have to park nearby for free or pay big. Not great.
- Modern Honolulu. Partial ocean view room $350 a night but parking is $25 so it came to $750 for two nights. Found again on Booking. A 15% Kamaaina discount was possible but fucked up about it.
- Kahala Resort. Jeff had stayed here with his family before and enjoyed the hard product (rooms) and service. The location is very relaxing and easy to get around from there. It was just hard to justify the cost. After four phone calls and multiple site visits, this is the one that came in at $1,000 for two nights, ocean view, parking included, and no resort fees. Expensive, but we perceived this to be a better value proposition. They got the reservation.
- Alohilani Resort (formerly Pacific Beach Hotel). Partial ocean view room at $404/night for their Kamaaina discounted rate. Parking and resort fees are included. Google reviews weren’t up to snuff, especially when it came to cleanliness and amenities. We took a pass based on both value and other concerns. However, editor Rob is staying there for one night in November on another trip, partly because it’s less than the pagoda and the Ala Moana. Maybe he will report.
- Hotel Pagoda. An old Kamaaina favorite, though still a bit seedy. The deluxe room with no view was $484 for two nights. Add to that a “resort” fee of $20 per night (you’re kidding) and $35 per night for parking, and you come to about $600 for two nights. Reviews aren’t great, and Oyster’s preview said: “Rooms at this 176-room budget hotel, five minutes from the beach, are spacious enough — but also noisy, tired, and a little grubby. ” Definitely not.
How are you doing with Honolulu hotels these days?