Tipping in Hawaii. What is Appropriate?

There are some peculiar pricing practices in the United States. Many of the millions of international visitors think it's weird that the U.S. does not include tax in the price. For instance, there's a little sign on the coffee cup that says $1.99, but a tax is added to the price when you go to pay. The cup of coffee is now $2.13 while the listed price in Australia, for instance, is the exact price you pay. The tax is already calculated.

Another unique part of American economics is the tip. Tipping is unique to The States, and it's something you'll have to get used to during your trip to Hawaii. Lest we forget, this tropical paradise is America's 50th state.

Tipping in Hawaii is similar to tipping on the mainland. Except, you're not taking weekly guided tours, attending luaus, or getting original-luau-package side spa services on the mainland. You'll find yourself in awkward scenarios where you'll be wondering whether or not to tip in Hawaii, but we'll clear that up for you now so that you aren't left silently mouthing questions to your friends behind your tour guide's back.

Tips Are Expected And You’re Rating The Service With Your Tip

Tips The tip system incentivizes the server, bartender, or travel guide to provide outstanding service, and your tip is your rating for their service.  It’s sort of a social contract where the service provider knows that they’ll make more money by being friendly, helpful, funny, and personable. The tipping percentage varies for type the service provided, and you’ll find a complete guide below, but it’s your responsibility to hold up your end of the social contract with the proper tip. In fact, you should factor tips into your trip’s overall budget. It’s part of the price of services.

Tip well for outstanding service, the average for decent service, and poorly for bad service, but you should never tip zero. Service providers in the United States and Hawaii are paid low wages from employers because tips are expected and factored into their incomes. You don’t want your tour guide missing rent because they had a bad day. If you have an exceptionally bad experience, talk to the manager versus choosing to not leave a tip.

Restaurant Service

Restaurant ServiceServers and bartenders at sit down restaurants make less than minimum wage in Hawaii because tips are calculated into the server's expected income. This makes tipping an absolute must at full-service restaurants, and, if you're coming in from another country, you'll have to add a tax to the price as well. It can really add up.

Quality service should earn a server a 20% tip while adequate service deserves a 15% tip. Servers that go above and beyond may deserve a bit more than 20%, but you should never tip less than 10% for bad service. After all, the server has to pay its bills.

Here's an easy way to calculate the standard tip of 20%. Simply tip $1 for every $5 your meal costs, or, put another way, divide the bill by five to get your tip amount. So, a $5 check deserves a $1 tip while a $30 bill gets a $6 tip. It gets a little tricky with in-between numbers. Take, for example, a bill of $37.50. In this case, you can tip $7, $8 or anything in between.

Cafe Service

Cafe ServiceCafes restaurants are where you walk up to a counter to order your drinks and food, and there are no full-service servers. You might receive a number to put on your table and your food might be delivered, but you still may have to bus your own table. And don’t get cafes mixed up with fast-food restaurants where no tip is warranted.

You'll usually find a jar on the counter labeled "Tips." Feel free to throw some change into the jar, one dollar per drink or you can round up your credit card bill to the nearest $5, but don't feel an obligation to tip 15% to 20% like at a full-service restaurant.


BarsYou'll have to pay tax and tip for bar service, even in a busy nightclub, but a simple rule is to tip $1 per beer, a glass of wine, or a simple mixed drink like a rum and coke. Those drinks take seconds to prepare, and a bartender can make a lot of money during a busy night on $1 per drink.

But you should consider tipping a few dollars for a fancy drink that takes time to prepare. Martinis have to be built and shaken, mojitos require muddling, and Pina Coladas take some time to blend. This slows the bartender down which limits their income for the night. Be sure to show your appreciation by tipping $2 or $3 for a fancy cocktail.

Tour Guides

Tour GuidesGuided tours are an absolute blast in Hawaii. You'll be picked up at your hotel by a knowledgeable, outgoing, and funny guide who will take you to once-in-a-lifetime natural wonders. But you might find yourself paralyzed at the end of the trip wondering if you should tip, and, if you are supposed to tip, how much? Simply tip by time.

Tip $5 per person for tours that take 1-2 hours. Pony up $10 per person for a trip lasting 2-4 hours. And make sure to tip $20 per person for a trip lasting more than 4 hours, and, if you're on an overnight adventure, make sure to tip 20% of the entire cost of the tour.

Taxis And Rideshares

Taxis in the United States often expect at least 15% of the ride's total, or you can simply tell your driver to keep the change after handing over some cash. The 15% rule also applies to services like Uber and Lyft.

Airport Shuttles

DoormanIt is not necessary to tip your airport shuttle driver, but you might notice that he goes out of his way to handle your bags for you. That's because many people choose to tip $1 or $2 per bag. Feel free to do the same, and you'll get a big smile and some extra service in return.


It's customary to tip $1 or $2 per bag when a doorman helps you to your room, or you can simply haul your own bags to your room if you want to avoid the tip. And you should always tip $1 or $2 when a doorman hails or calls a ride for you.


Tipping is not necessary when it comes to a hotel's concierge, but there's nothing stopping you from tipping a few bucks when they score you a reservation or get you a spot on a tour. And, if you get on their good side, they may just be able to get you those hard-to-find reservations or they'll put you on the preferred tour.


HousecleaningSome Americans are unaware of the tipping custom for housekeepers, but you should leave $1 to $5 per day for a nice, clean room. You can leave the tip on a daily basis, or you can leave a cash sum at the end of your stay. Simply layout the dollar bills in a conspicuous place when you go out for your day's activities. It's recommended to tip daily as you’ll likely see an immediate improvement in the cleanliness of your room.



Hair or Makeup Stylist

Hair or Makeup StylistThere are stylish options galore on the Hawaiian islands, and a 20% tip on the entire bill is expected for their services.

Spa Services

Spa ServicesMuch like a restaurant server or stylist, it is customary to tip 20% for good service in a spa. Feel free to tip 15% for standard service and over 20% for stellar service. Unlike a restaurant server, a spa worker is paid a full wage, so you can tip less than 10% for poor service. The one exception for tipping a hairstylist or spa service is when you are serviced by the owner themselves. In that case, a tip is not required but still welcomed if they provided good service.


Tipping should not be considered an optional expense, it should be considered as part of the cost of what you are purchasing. Also, check your receipt before tipping, in some cases, the tip may be included already, in which case you wouldn’t be expected to tip again. Usually, this is the case if you have a group larger than normal. Share the Aloha spirit by tipping the proper amount, and you will not only make your trip better, but you will be increasing the spirit of Aloha on the islands.