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Bali vs Hawaii: Which One is the Best Vacation?

After scouring countless travel blogs and considering numerous tropical travel destinations, you’ve narrowed it down to the big showdown, Bali vs Hawaii. Both offer an incredible vacation experience, but only one can be crowned as your ultimate winner.

Comparing Bali to Hawaii. Which is better?
Nusa Penida – Bali

Both offer near-perfect weather, beautiful scenery, and adventure opportunities galore. But what about the other details like cost, food, accommodations, and transportation?

In this article, I will cover and compare everything you need to know about whether Bali or Hawaii is the best vacation spot for you.

Having lived in and explored both places extensively, you can trust that I’m no armchair travel blogger scraping the internet for information.

Are Bali and Hawaii Similar?

Bali and Hawaii are similar in many ways. First, the weather is almost identical, with average temperatures year-round in the low to mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy/dry seasons are also in line with each other, with the dry season being April – October.

Hawaii or Bali comparison.

The scenery is also strikingly similar since both places as a whole receive ample amounts of rain, creating lush green vegetation, and were formed by volcanic activity hence the unique landscapes.

Also, Bali and Hawaii rely heavily on tourism, creating many adventure and relaxation opportunities. You’ll find similar activities in both places, from snorkeling and surfing to yoga and spa retreats.

However, that is about where the similarities end. Bali and Hawaii are different in many ways, so let’s get into the main event and compare Hawaii to Bali.

Bali vs Hawaii: Ease of Travel

Bali is nowhere near Hawaii, with a total of 6,357 miles of Indian and Pacific ocean between them the travel process is quite different.

Traveling to Hawaii from the US is quite simple since multiple US airlines have scheduled daily flights to the islands. The majority of US flights to Hawaii will depart from the west coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle and clock a total flight time of about 6 hours.

Uluwatu Bali overlook
Uluwatu, Bali

Flying to Bali from the US will prove to be a bit more complicated since there are currently no direct flights to Bali, with the exception of the occasional flight from Honolulu (ironically). So you’ll need to make at least one stop.

The most common routes from the US to Bali are via Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea. Flight time to these stops takes about 13-15 hours; then, you’re looking at another 5-7 hours to Bali plus layover time.

Koko Crater in Hawaii.
Koko Crater – Oahu, Hawaii

The other consideration to take into account is travel documentation. You don’t need a passport to visit Hawaii, but for Bali, you’ll need a passport and a visa (which can be done on arrival). Also, some countries (ahem, China) will require you to jump through some additional hoops and security to transit through.

Ease of Travel WINNER: Hawaii

Hawaii or Bali: Cost Comparison

Bali is more expensive than any other location in Indonesia, by a lot, actually. However, Bali is incredibly cheap by Western standards, especially compared to Hawaii.

Echo Beach in Canggu Bali
Echo Beach – Bali

The average vacation budget per person in Bali is around 75 USD per day. That number, of course, can fluctuate quite drastically, depending on accommodation, food, transportation, and activity choices.

Hawaii, on the other hand, has much less flexibility when it comes to cost. The average per-day budget for a Hawaiian vacation is 4x more at around 280 USD. Everything is more expensive in Hawaii, including lodging, food, transportation, and tourism activities.

Cost Comparison WINNER: Bali

Bali vs Hawaii: Accommodations

One of the main reasons why Bali is so much cheaper than Hawaii is the plentiful accommodation options.

In Bali, it’s possible to stay in hostels for less than 10 USD per night, and there is a large selection to choose from, with most including pools and wifi.

Uluwatu Bali beach accommodations

Or, you can go all out in Bali by staying in a beachfront villa with an infinity-edge pool for 500 USD per night. However, most of the accommodation options in Bali are somewhere in between, with the average 3-bedroom villa with a private pool going for about 100 USD per night.

Hawaii has much less flexibility when it comes to the cost of accommodations. Finding a hostel in Hawaii for less than 60 USD per night is virtually impossible.

Luxury resorts or high-end in Hawaii are going to run you upwards of 1,000 USD per night. However, most standard hotel rooms in Hawaii are going to set you back at 2-300 USD nightly.

Accommodations WINNER: Bali

Bali or Hawaii: Food

This is a tough one. There are so many good food choices in Bali, much more than the traditional Indonesian Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng, which you can find virtually on every menu. Which are really good, by the way, don’t get me wrong.

Eating in Bali indonesia.
Warung – Bali

Note: Be careful to avoid Bali Belly.

But Bali draws a huge crowd of expats from all across the globe, resulting in a wide array of unique cuisines sprouting up on the Island of the Gods. You can literally find almost any type of food, from Bulgarian to Mexican. Vegan options are everywhere too.

The food cost in Bali is also very affordable. The average meal will cost you 5-6 USD.

Hawaiian is internationally known for its food as well, though. In fact, you’ll even find Hawaiian restaurants in Bali. Hawaii knows how to do food right, high quality with extra large portions.

The Hawaiian plate lunches found on the islands with your choice of chicken, pork, or beef with rice and mac salad are to die for.

Different food options in Hawaii.
Mexican Street Tacos & BBQ Chicken Plate Lunch – Hawaii

In addition to traditional Hawaiian food, Hawaii has a wide variety of food options, from Portuguese doughnuts named malasadas to Mexican street tacos.

The cost of food is quite a bit more expensive than in Bali, with the average meal running about 16-17 USD, but the portions are so big that you can almost share.

The Hawaii vs Bali winner in the food category was a toss-up. It’s really difficult to beat a good Hawaiian plate lunch or fresh garlic shrimp, but I have to go with value, variety, and quality, which all point to Bali.

Food WINNER: Bali

Hawaii vs Bali: Culture

The Balinese culture is deeply embedded in its own form of Hinduism, which is much more than religion but a way of life. It impacts all day-to-day activities.

Bali is known as the island of a thousand temples, most of which are open to the public. This speaks to the open mindset that shines through in the Balinese culture.

All about culture in Bali and Hawaii. Discussing which one is better.
Lempuyang Temple – Bali

With this openness and acceptance of others, they welcome visitors with respect and kindness, regardless of their beliefs or background.

The Balinese culture is fascinating and awe-inspiring, and the extended hospitality will impress your mind and leave your heart full.

Kecak dance in Bali Indonesia.
Kecak Dance – Bali

On the flip side, the Hawaiian culture is also rich in qualities. One stand-out trait is the strong sense of connection.

The spirits that inhabit the islands, the forces that created them, and the people that inhabit them are all inextricably connected.

Luau in Hawaii
Luau in Hawaii

There is also a fierce responsibility to protect and care for our environment and one another.

Both cultures are unique and amazing, but the winner goes to the Balinese.

Culture WINNER: Bali

Bali or Hawaii: Transportation

The roads in Bali are pretty narrow and often congested, so getting around Bali can be a challenge. There are really four options.

You can rent a self-drive car, a scooter, hire a private driver, or use ride-share services like Uber to get around. The cost for all of these options is affordable; however, each comes with considerations to weigh.

In Hawaii, you have all these options plus public transportation (though somewhat limited). Renting a car is definitely the most common and best way to get around Hawaii.

Transportation in Hawaii is better than Bali. This Red Sand beach is on the Road to Hana in Maui Hawaii.
Red Sand Beach – Road to Hana, Hawaii

The process is easy, the roads are well-maintained, liability is limited, and the driving rules are familiar to Westerners.

The clear winner in the Bali vs Hawaii transportation battle is Hawaii.

Transportation WINNER: Hawaii

Bali vs Hawaii: Beaches

Bali has some pretty rad beaches, especially if you look at Nusa Penida or the Uluwatu beaches (like Nunggalan Beach), some of my favorites. The blend of green-covered limestone cliffs, white sand, and crystal-clear blue water is out-of-this-world gorgeous.

Sharing all about the beaches in Bali vs Hawaii.
Nunggalan Beach – Bali

Access to some of these beaches can be strenuous and even downright dangerous. However, because of these challenges, there is an opportunity to escape the crowds for more private beach experiences.

On the other hand, it’s no secret that Hawaii is world-class when it comes to beaches. They are not only beautiful but ultra clean and teeming with wildlife.

Access is good to many of the beaches in Hawaii, with many added amenities such as picnic tables, restrooms, and even freshwater showers available.

I struggled with this decision since I love the beaches in Bali and Hawaii. Both are incredible, but we spent more time at the beach when we lived in Hawaii because of the access and the convenient amenities. I’m going with Hawaii, but it’s close!

Beaches WINNER: Hawaii

Hawaii or Bali: Adventure

The adventure opportunities in Bali are in rich supply. Whether you want to hike to the top of a volcano, dive with manta rays, or chase down some breathtaking waterfalls, Bali’s adventures are endless.

This is the exciting Lemukih waterslide in Bali.
Lemukih Waterslide – Bali

What is also amazing about Bali is it is just one of Indonesia’s 18,000 plus islands or islets. You can explore pink sand beaches or witness Komodo Dragons in the wild.

Hawaii is no slouch when it comes to adventure, either. The islands are filled with snorkeling, scuba, zip line adventures, and hiking trails for all levels.

Shark cage adventure in Hawaii.
Shark Cage – Hawaii

There are also some pretty cool experiences like hiking volcanos, helicopter tours and even skydiving!

In the end, you can’t go wrong with either Hawaii or Bali when it comes to the adventure category. But, I’m going with Bali because of the sheer volume of opportunities and overall value.

Adventure WINNER: Bali

Bali vs Hawaii: Surfing

Bali is home to some of the best surfing spots in the world. You can find surf for all levels, from beginner to advanced.

The variety of spots is also impressive, with reef breaks, points, and beach breaks scattered up and down the coastlines.

Surfing in Bali or Hawaii.

On the flip side, surfing was pretty much born in Hawaii. Hawaii is still considered the epicenter for surfing, home to some of the most famous waves around, like Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Honolua Bay.

Hawaii has world-class advanced-level spots, and you can also find beginner waves all over the Hawaiian Islands, with some of the most friendly swells on this side of Tahiti.

Surfing in Bali is high-level, but Hawaii wins this category because it has more consistent and easily accessible waves.

Surfing WINNER: Hawaii

Bali or Hawaii: Nightlife

Bali is known for its lively party atmosphere. It’s a great place to let loose, have some drinks, and dance the night away.

Atlas Beach club nightlife in Bali.
Atlas Beach Club – Canggu, Bali

It is home to world-renowned beach bars like Finns and Sundays as well as vibrant nightclubs like Mirror in Seminyak.

Bali also has no shortage of restaurants with live music and smaller, more intimate bars.

In Hawaii, the nightlife is generally centered around the cities and resorts with a mix of bars and dance clubs.

Better nightlife in Hawaii or Bali.
Nightlife in Hawaii

You can also find smaller, local-style pubs that serve up authentic Hawaiian food and drinks to keep your evening spirited.

The clear choice of the Bali vs Hawaii nightlife scene has a stand-out winner: Bali.

Nightlife WINNER: Bali

Hawaii vs Bali: For Families

Bali is surprisingly friendly when it comes to families.

There are plenty of kid-friendly activities like water parks and fun excursions, such as ATV riding, snorkeling, temple tours, and cruises. Plus, the Balinese people are incredibly warm and welcoming to any families that visit their island.

Banyumala waterfall with kids in Bali.
Banyumala Waterfall – Bali

In Hawaii, there is no shortage of family-friendly activities either!

The beaches and pools provide a relaxing setting; the resorts offer amazing amenities like water slides and family-style dining, and attractions like snorkeling with turtles, Honolulu Zoo or Waikiki Aquarium make for an exciting day.

Hawaii with family.
Lanikai – Hawaii

The contest between Hawaii and Bali is really close on this one — both are great places to bring families.

But I’m giving the edge to Hawaii because of the range of activities, attractions, ease of transportation, and slightly more hospitable weather year-round.

For Families WINNER: Hawaii

There you have it, an insider’s view on Bali vs Hawaii. But before we get to our final verdict, let’s cover some of the Hawaii or Bali frequently asked questions.

FAQ: Bali vs Hawaii

Is Hawaii or Bali more expensive?

Flights are typically going to be more expensive to Bali, depending on where you are coming from, but everything else in Bali is significantly cheaper.

Is Bali or Hawaii prettier?

Bali. Hawaii is gorgeous and has some of the planet’s prettiest blue water, white sand beaches, and lush green jungle on the planet. On the other hand, Bali has all that plus some of the most unique settings that are out of this world.

How long is the flight from Hawaii to Bali?

If you’re lucky enough to score a direct flight from Hawaii to Bali, the total flight time is about 12 hours and 29 minutes. Otherwise, you’ll need to make a connection that will extend the flight time by an additional 3 hours minimum.

Are the locals friendlier in Bali or Hawaii?

Both places have some very kind people, but in general, we found that the Balinese were more welcoming and friendly.

Is Hawaii or Bali better for a family vacation?

The ease of travel, lack of language barrier, and abundant supply of activities, like kid-friendly hikes, make Hawaii a slam-dunk family vacation. However, for adventure, culture, and value then, Bali takes the cake.

Is Bali or Hawaii better for a honeymoon?

Bali offers some of the most incredible luxury villas and resorts if you are looking for a romantic and secluded beach getaway. Plus, value and adventure win out for a Bali honeymoon. But if you want easy and relaxing, you can never go wrong with a Hawaiian honeymoon.

Is Hawaii or Bali safer?

Hawaii and Bali are both very safe travel destinations. Of course, you run the risk of petty theft in both places, but violent crime is not a problem.

Bali vs Hawaii: Which One is Better?

Hawaii vs Bali competition is tough. Both are incredible places to visit for vacation and have plenty of adventure, relaxation, and exploration opportunities.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, but if you’re looking for stunning (and clean) beaches, adventure activities, ease of transportation, and family-friendly options – Hawaii is a safe bet!

However, if you are a little more adventurous, price-conscious, and up for experiencing a new culture, Bali is a home run!

Read more about Hawaii Travel

Read more about Bali Travel

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A insider comparison on which is the better vacation Bali or Hawaii.