[Smackdown] Hawaii vs. Mexico

Idyllic beaches

From leis and luaus to tequila and tamales – both of these tropical destinations may offer everything you want for your dream getaway.

Choosing between Hawaii and Mexico for your vacation presents a common debate and deciding on the one that will fit your personal travel desires may seem like a quandary. Fret not, we’re here to help!


Packed for adventure.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing between Mexico and Hawaii. First, where do you want to go in Mexico? Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas? For Hawaii, which of the six islands are you interested in and do you want to go island hopping? These are different destinations in many ways so let’s take a look at logistics when considering what’s best for your dream getaway.

  1. Consider airfare: This could be a major factor depending on your gateway. In looking at kayak.com to get a few examples of fares for both Mexico and Hawaii using Cancun/Riviera Maya for Mexico and Maui for Hawaii, you’ll see there’s a considerable difference using New York’s JFK airport. For Mexico the airfare averaged $385 for April and November and $599 for the summer. Alternatively, the fare from Los Angeles to these points averaged $350 for April and November and $440 for the summer. Looking at Hawaii the fares from New York averaged $900 in April and November and $1150 during the summer. From Los Angeles, the fares averaged $600 for April and November and $825 during the summer. Flights to Hawaii from New York will require a connection, whereas to Cancun there are a number of nonstop flights. From Los Angeles, for example, there are a number of nonstop flights to both Cancun and Maui.
  2. Consider length of flight: Getting to Maui from New York will take about 12-hours and from Los Angeles it’s about 6-hours. To Cancun, based on this example, it takes about 4-hours from New York and about 5-hours from Los Angeles.
  3. Consider your budget: This may be the biggest factor when choosing between Mexico and Hawaii. Mexico is known for the all-inclusive resort experience and in the long run it may be best for your budget since your meals, drinks, most activities and ground transfers are already included. A 7-night stay at El Dorado Maroma is about $1900 per person in April and a little lower during the summer. For Hawaii, there are a couple of traditional all-inclusive options like Travaasa in Hana, Maui. At an average cost of $3800 per person, this option includes three farm-to-table meals per day, daily classes and activities and a resort credit for spa/private services. Another option is Kalani (average cost of $1300 per person), a sustainable eco-resort on the Big Island of Hawaii where meals and activities are included in a rustic setting. Otherwise, most resorts offer a semi-all-inclusive experience that typically includes daily breakfast, a luau one night and perhaps a sunset dinner cruise on another night. A semi-all-inclusive may also include a car for your length of stay and breakfast daily.
  4. Consider when to go: Winter, of course, is a great time to go to either destination. Consider though that Spring Break is typically in March and a busier time for Mexico. The summer is also busy as kids are out of school, however, not a reason to stay home. April, May, September and October are typically good times to find savings for both destinations. Hurricane season is between June and November for both and less likely in Hawaii.

Your Interests

Hawaiian Hula

Both destinations offer sun, sand and surf, however, what else do you enjoy doing while on vacation? They both offer a plethora of activities rich in tradition, culture and adventure so let’s review a few for both Hawaii and Mexico.

Mexico Activities:
» Mayan Ruins and Tulum – this is one of the most visited areas in Mexico and is built upon a cliff overlooking the ocean.
» Ancient Cenotes in the Mayan jungle – These date back thousands of years and are limestone sinkholes with fresh water for swimming.
» XCaret Park – a day of adventure going from the jungle to the ocean to archaeological sights filled with Mexican culture.

Hawaii Activities:

The Hawaiian experience is more about exploring the island, local restaurants and venturing off to secluded beaches, waterfalls and scenic locales.

» Haleakala National Park and arrive early for sunrise. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
» Rent a jeep and take the road to Hana – pass waterfalls, beaches and rainforests.
» Iao Needle State Park where in 1790 Kamahameha I conquered the Maui army. This is a culturally significant Heritage site and sacred space.

Surfing: If you’re looking for the best surfing, then we’ll have to go with Hawaii for this one. It’s where surfing began back in 1769 during the third voyage of Captain James Cook and is a main part of Polynesian culture.

Getting Married? This section is for you!

Wedding and Honeymoon

When considering a wedding or honeymoon you may quickly think of Hawaii vs Mexico. For this question, I have to go back to considering the budget because honestly, you can’t go wrong with either. Mexico will be more cost effective due to the many options offered with the all-inclusive resorts whether you go to Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas, to name a few. There are packages for every budget so if you’d like to do something just for two, it’s possible and if you’d like to do a destination wedding that can be arranged, too.

Mexico, hands down, is the most affordable option based on the factors noted above. If you have a larger budget then Hawaii offers several options for a wedding and it’s typical to engage the services of a wedding planner either at the resort you’re interested in or an outside vendor. Regardless of the area you choose between Mexico and Hawaii, it’s key to make arrangements before you go to ensure a stress free event. And, remember to also keep your guests (and their budget) in mind when reviewing options for your destination wedding.

So, you’ve:

  • Considered the airfare
  • Considered the length of flight
  • Considered your budget
  • Considered the best time to go
  • Considered activities and interests

With the information from these considerations you should have a better idea of which destination is best for you and your traveling partner (that’s my hope!).

Final thought:
In addition to the considerations above, one that I’d also consider is if you’re drawn to one place over another. Do you ‘feel’ attracted to the music, history and tastes of Mexico or perhaps the sacred sites and adventure that Hawaii would offer you?

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About Donna Adinolfi 248 Articles
Donna Adinolfi is a wellness travel expert, a freelance writer, an award-winning photographer, and the founder/publisher of MindfulAdventures.com. Her 30+ year career includes serving as the Travel & Spa Editor of Balance Magazine as well as planning wellness travel & retreats. An avid fan of the freedom from carrying cash or credit cards, Donna loves to visit all-inclusive wellness resorts in the U.S, and traveling to some of Mexico's and the Caribbean's many all-inclusive resorts several times each year. She's also a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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