Bali vs Hawaii: An Honest Comparison in 2024

Last Updated: April 12th, 2024

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Bali and Hawaii are two destinations that are at the top of people’s bucket lists as idyllic tropical getaways. While both settings promise relaxation along their white sand shores and a rugged volcanic landscape beckoning adventure, they actually offer two very distinct experiences catering to different types of travelers.

Having visited both destinations, I have created this honest comparison of Bali vs Hawaii to help you determine which holiday haven is better suited for your next vacation.

A Quick Overview and Comparison: Bali vs Hawaii

Hanauma-Bay-Oahu-Hawaii

Bali List of Highlights

  • Features a better nightlife
  • More religious and cultural attractions
  • Better restaurants and food scene
  • It is a much cheaper destination

Hawaii List of Highlights

  • Has the more beautiful beaches and volcanic landscapes
  • Better for water sports, surfing, and snorkeling
  • More adventurous hikes and national parks
  • Better for honeymoons and family holidays

Both Bali and Hawaii are surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes. That said, Hawaii is incomparable in the beautiful wonders of its natural vistas, starting from its soft white sanded shores and ending at its foreboding volcanic peaks.

Beyond offering breathtaking hikes through its nine national parks, Hawaii also features abundant aquatic ecosystems scattered throughout the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean, with several colorful reefs and exotic sea life just waiting to be explored along a snorkeling or diving tour.

And while Bali’s natural beauty doesn’t quite compare with that of Hawaii, it does offer some truly spectacular views and hiking trails in its own right. Additionally, of the two destinations, Bali offers a better overall cultural experience, with authentic Balinese traditions that include numerous annual festivals, over 20,000 temples, and hundreds of traditional Hindu villages.

What’s more, while Hawaii caters to wealthy tourists and is infamous as an expensive travel destination, Bali is one of the most affordable destinations in the world, promising a small slice of paradise at affordable rates.

Overall, Hawaii offers a better experience for couples and families that can afford the extravagant holiday destination, while Bali offers an adventurous setting and fantastic value for your travel dollars.

Bali or Hawaii: A Quick Guide to Choosing

Mount-Batur-Volcano
Volcanic landscape around Mount Batur. Image by: Kurt Norris

Bali Mini Guide

  • Location Size – 5,780 km²
  • Population – 4.362 million
  • Rainy Season – November to March
  • High Season – July and August
  • Top Sights – Tanah Lot Temple, Mount Batur, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Kuta Beach
  • Major Airports – Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS)

Located along the southern island chain of Indonesia, Bali is a tropical destination of volcanic landscapes, religious temples, and beautiful jungle-encrusted waterfalls, all surrounded by the transparent waters of the Indian Ocean.

From hiking its intrepid landscapes to unwinding with a cocktail on the beach, Bali offers a world of adventures within its relatively small island setting and offers visitors a wide diversity of attractions and things to do during their holiday.

Additionally, the local Balinese have a reputation for being a warm and welcoming people, making exploring the region’s authentic traditions and customs one of the most rewarding travel experiences.

Waimea-Canyon-Kauai-Hawaii
Waimea Canyon Kauai, Hawaii. Image by: Kurt Norris

Hawaii Mini Guide

  • Location Size – 28,313 km²
  • Population – 1.442 million
  • Rainy Season – November to March
  • High Season – December to April
  • Top Sights – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hanauma Bay, Hana Road, Pearl Harbour and USS Arizona Memorial.
  • Major Airports – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hilo International Airport (ITO), Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA)

An island state about 2,000 miles from the mainland United States, Hawaii is an archipelago of 137 islands, isolated within its corner of the Pacific Ocean.

Famous for its volcanic landscapes consisting of nine national parks, a world-class surf scene, and crystal clear waters, Hawaii is one of the most fantasized travel destinations in the world and is a popular stomping ground of the planet’s rich and famous.

While more expensive than Bali, Hawaii offers an exclusive holiday of sheer natural beauty, pampering luxury, and tropical relaxation that few places in the world can emulate.

The 10 Key Differences Between Bali and Hawaii

1. How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?

Hanalei-Bay-Kauai-Hawaii
Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii. Image by: Kurt Norris

Bali Beaches & Landscape

Bali’s beaches are known worldwide as idyllic slices of paradise, boasting pristine white sands and turquoise waters. And while many of the island’s most celebrated coastal destinations have suffered from over-tourism in recent years, Bali still promises untouched natural shorelines for those who know where to look.

While Kuta and Seminyak are perfect for visitors looking for an active beach scene complete with day clubs and beach bars, those looking for a more rustic beach-going experience should head over to the less-developed coastal gems of Balangan and Suluban Beaches.

Just as Bali’s beaches are varied and diverse, so too is the island’s intrepid inland, with interior landscapes of volcanic jungles, rice field-covered valleys, and majestic waterfalls. Whether hiking, rafting, or biking, Bali promises a world of adventure.

Hawaii Beaches & Landscape

While Bali offers a beautiful holiday setting, Hawaii takes everything the Indonesian island offers and brings it to a new level. While Bali’s beaches are beautiful, Hawaii’s are awe-inspiring. And while Bali’s interior is full of natural beauty, Hawaii’s is downright primeval.

It is hard to compare to the sheer natural beauty of Hawaii. From its long stretches of pristine white sanded shores to its towering and foreboding volcanic landscapes, there is just so much to explore, be it jumping between world-class beaches and different islands or hiking through the archipelago’s nine national parks.

2. How Do The Culture and Atmosphere Compare?

Fire-Dance-At-Uluwatu-Temple
A traditional Kecak fire dance at Uluwatu Temple.

Bali Culture

A Balinese holiday is hard to beat if you are looking for an authentic exotic culture. Despite the mass tourism and development the island hosts, Bali has managed to maintain its cultural authenticity and offers over 20,000 temples and 650 Hindu villages to explore.

If you want a true cultural immersion into the local customs, you should plan your trip to coincide with one of the island’s many cultural and religious holidays. Of its celebrations, Galungan is the most culturally important and lasts for ten days every April in honor of the creator and ancestral spirits of the local faith.

Of course, Bali also offers several other opportunities to immerse in the local traditions, from attending a traditional fire dance to touring a picturesque water temple, such as Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, and Tirta Empul Temples.

Hawaii Culture

Meanwhile, Hawaii is known for its laid-back island spirit emphasizing peace, compassion, and kindness, which is simply and famously defined as the Aloha spirit.

And while the traditional Polynesian culture is still present on the islands, it is less prevalent than in Bali, thanks to the American influences of being a U.S. state.

Still, Hawaii does promise traditional festivals and events ranging from the iconic Hawaiin luau to the vibrant King Kamehameha Day Celebrations.

And while the local entertainment at Hawaii’s popular resorts tends to lack the air of authenticity, visitors are always welcome to head to popular local hangouts for a true sense of the Aloha spirit.

3. What Types of Activities Do the Destinations Offer?

A-Surfer-In-Hawaii
A surfer in Hawaii.

Bali Activities

Promising diverse natural landscapes over its relatively small landmass, Bali features a great diversity of activities for all kinds of travelers.

Those visiting Bali’s coastal destinations can escape the Indonesian heat along a picturesque beach while sipping a cocktail, or they can venture into the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean along a snorkeling or diving tour of the region’s colorful aquatic ecosystems. Alternatively, visitors can take to the waves for world-class surf appropriate for skill levels.

Bali holidaymakers looking to escape the island’s tourist hotspots can instead head to the region’s interior landscapes, where they enjoy a selection of activities ranging from climbing to the peak of a volcanic caldera to hunting down some beautiful waterfalls protected by the jungle.

Hawaii Activities

Hawaii offers many of the same activities as Bali and more. However, as an archipelago of 8 main and 129 lesser islands, experiencing everything Hawaii offers in a single trip can be more challenging.

Still, its shorelines are fantastic destinations whether you are looking to relax on the beach, snorkel among exotic sea life, or partake in a wide variety of water sports, including several surf spots arguably better than those found in Bali.

Meanwhile, those looking for a daring exploration of Hawaii’s interior landscapes will find no shortage of breathtaking vistas within the Pacific island chain, home to no less than nine national parks. Some of Hawaii’s most popular inland activities include driving the iconic Road to Hana, soaking in the Pools of Ohe’o, and hiking through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

4. Which Has the Better Nightlife?

A-People-On-Bali-Beach-At-Night
A popular evening beach club in Bali.

Bali Nightlife

Night owls looking for an active and vibrant nightlife for their holiday will find their time is perhaps better spent in the bustling tourist hubs of Bali. Famous among backpackers, digital nomads, and vacationers, Bali has a developed social scene complete with nightclubs, rooftop lounges, and cozy beach clubs.

While there are plenty of quiet locations on the island, those looking for Bali’s social scene should head over to the island’s southern hotspots, with the most spirited spots being Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu. Visitors can either stay in these social scenes or one of the nearby neighborhoods and venture in for an evening on the town.

Hawaii Nightlife

Depending on where you are staying in Hawaii, active nightlife can be a little harder to find. Hawaii’s most vibrant social scene is on Oahu. Home to Honolulu, the state capital, Oahu is known as The Gathering Place and offers the greatest variety of nightclubs, bars, and social venues.

While Hawaii’s other islands do offer a social scene, none are quite as vibrant, diverse, or widely accessible as the nightlife in Bali.

5. Which is Cheaper?

The-Art-Shop-In-Bali
Souvenir shop in Bali.

Bali Cost

Bali is the far more affordable travel destination and is even one of the most budget-friendly travel destinations in the world, making it popular amongst backpackers, digital nomads, and retirees.

Of course, Bali does offer five-star resorts and fine-dining restaurants for luxury travelers, and visiting these upscale establishments can quickly take a toll on any travel budget.

However, Bali also offers a variety of accommodation options for budget travelers, ranging from backpacker hostels to cheap hotels to even affordable private villas. Overall, Bali offers better value for your travel dollar, and promises cheaper rates for comparable services in Hawaii.

Hawaii Cost

While Bali is known for its affordable services, Hawaii is an infamously expensive destination and is known to host a variety of affluent and famous visitors. In fact, the price you would pay for a budget room in Hawaii could get you a night’s stay at a luxury resort in Bali.

Beyond its accommodation options, Hawaii is also more expensive for activities, restaurants, and even markets. This is partly due to Hawaii’s reputation as an exclusive holiday destination and partly because the island chain has to import many of its goods.

Overall, while the experience Hawaii offers is one of a kind, it is also much more expensive than Bali.

6. Which is Better for Restaurants & Eating Out?

A-Restaurant-At-Bali-Beach
A beachside restaurant in Bali.

Bali Restaurants

With a quickly developing international food scene, Bali offers an eclectic variety of flavors from all over the world. Visiting foodies will find everything from an American cheeseburger to fine French dining and everything in between.

But of course, when visiting Bali, you must try the local Balinese dishes. Traditional Balinese cuisine combines rich aromas and fresh local ingredients favoring pork and chicken dishes. Babi guling, satay, and rendang are all must-try dishes.

There are several upscale Indonesian restaurants in Bali, but the best place to enjoy the authentic flavors is at one of the small, locally owned restaurants known as Warung.

Hawaii Restaurants

Like Bali, Hawaii features a vibrant international food scene with restaurants featuring dishes from all over the world and a healthy selection of Hawaii, American, Portuguese and Asian-Pacific menus.

Those looking to explore the local traditional flavors will find that Hawaiin food emphasizes the fresh ingredients of its tropical fruits. Tourists can expect plenty of papaya, guava, mango, bananas, and pineapples within their dishes, along with a healthy helping of seafood and local beef.

While both destinations offer a culinary adventure, Bali offers the better food scene if only for the opportunity to experience a greater variety for much cheaper.

7. Which is Better for Couples & Honeymoons?

Heart-Rock-Hawaii
Heart Rock near Nakalele Blowhole, Hawaii. Image by: Kurt Norris

Bali For Couples

Promising various experiences, Bali makes for a great honeymoon or couple’s holiday destination amongst its romantic tropical setting and adventurous backdrop.

In Bali, couples can either partake in the vibrant nightlife of the Kuta region, or they can escape the tourist traps to the lesser visited regions of Lovina, Uluwatu, or Kintamani, where they can enjoy each other’s company in a more private setting.

Romantic activities on Bali include lounging on a secluded beach, hiking to the top of a volcano for sunrise, and hunting down a romantic jungle waterfall.

Hawaii For Couples

Similarly, Hawaii is full of romantic settings, ranging from its vast expanse of tropical white sands to picturesque volcanic hiking trails and relaxing hot springs.

What’s more, with 137 islands to choose from, couples have a selection of varied experiences for their romantic getaway and several opportunities to find their own personal slice of paradise.

Maui is the most popular of Hawaii’s islands amongst couples and promises several luxury honeymoon resorts for a romantic ambiance. The island also promises memorable couple experiences, such as driving the road to Hana and dipping into various hot springs.

8. Which is Safer?

Lifeguard-Tower-On-The-Hawaii-Beach
Lifeguard tower in Hawaii.

Bali Safety

Both destinations are extremely safe for travelers. However, visitors should still practice caution when visiting Bali. While crime rates are low, incidents can occur in Bali, with the most common being petty theft and card skimming.

Hawaii Safety

Hawaii is arguably slightly safer than Bali, although common scams and petty crimes are known to occur. It is important to practice caution in both destinations and avoid walking alone at night.

9. Which is Easier to Get To?

Kauai-Hawaii
Aerial view of Kauai, Hawaii.

Bali Travel

Located along the southern island chain of the Indonesian Archipelago, Bali is the most accessible travel destination for the majority of the world, with it promising shorter flight times for tourists from Australia, Europe, Africa, and most parts of Asia.

While Bali is only a short flight from Australia, visitors can expect longer flight times from other parts of the world, with it taking about 17+ hours to reach the Indonesian island from the UK and 24+ hours from North America.

Hawaii Travel

Isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is the more accessible travel destination for visitors from North and South America, particularly for national tourists traveling from the mainland United States.

Those traveling from North America’s eastern coast can expect short flights to Hawaii of about six hours. Meanwhile, those flying from the eastern coast can expect longer air times, with it taking 12+ hours to reach Hawaii from New York.

While more convenient for North American travelers, Hawaii is a more challenging destination to reach from Europe and Australia, taking about 17+ hours from the UK and 10+ hours from Sydney.

10. Which is Easier to Get Around?

The-Row-Of-Scooters-Parking-In-Bali
A row of scooters in Bali.

Bali Gettting Around

Thanks to budget-friendly transit and a well-maintained road network, Bali is the easier of the two destinations to get around.

While the island’s efficient bus network connects all main tourist hubs, the low cab fare on the island has made private taxis Bali’s preferred travel method.

Tourists to Bali can also rent a car on the island with an International Driver’s Permit or a scooter with only a basic driver’s license. However, I recommend against the latter method, as the island’s busy roads are ill-suited for inexperienced riders.

Other transportation options include popular rideshare apps, such as Grab and Gojek.

Hawaii Gettting Around

With its many attractions scattered throughout its various islands, Hawaii is a little more difficult to get around. While there are interisland flights for island hopping, most visitors tend to pick one or two islands for their holidays.

On land, transportation options are much more abundant, with taxis, Lyft, and Uber all having a presence on most islands. As for public transportation, some of Hawaii’s larger islands do offer public bus networks, but it’s not well-suited for tourists and instead caters to locals.

The best way to explore Hawaii’s adventurous landscapes is by car, which can be rented from the major rental companies at the airport or local rental companies found throughout the islands.

3 Questions to Help You Decide to Travel to  Bali or Hawaii

Hawaiian-Turtle-Cruising-In-The-Waters-In-Hawaii
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii.

1. What is Your Travel Budget?

For many tourists choosing between visiting Bali vs Hawaii, the deciding factor for their holiday will be their travel budget.

Hawaii is famous for being a destination of luxury catering to wealthy visitors. And while there are ways to save some money while visiting Hawaii, Bali is by far the more cost-effective destination.

For this reason, Bali is the better holiday destination for those seeking a budget-friendly slice of paradise. At the same time, Hawaii makes for a surreal vacation for those with a higher budget.

2. Do You Want to Explore a Lot or Minimize Travel?

When it comes to attractions and things to do, Bali and Hawaii are very similar. However, the difference is that Bali offers slightly less variety but is contained within a single island.

Meanwhile, Hawaii offers a whole world of adventures, but its attractions are scattered throughout its various islands.

For this reason, an easy way to determine which of the two destinations to visit is to decide how much traveling you want to do on your holiday. If you prefer minimal travel and access to many attractions within a short drive, then Bali is better suited for you.

But if you are looking for a more daring exploration of your destination and aren’t afraid of some extended travel times, then Hawaii offers a great diversity perfect for your adventure.

3. Which Destination Offers the Most Convenient Flight?

If you still can’t decide between Bali vs Hawaii, perhaps the easiest way is to choose the destination that offers the most convenient flights from your starting point.

While prices vary throughout the year, the easiest way to decide this is by looking at which offers shorter flight times. For instance, people traveling from Australia, Asia, Europe, and Africa will find Bali the more accessible destination, while Hawaii offers easier access from North and South America.

Bali or Hawaii: Which is the Better Choice?

Ko-Olina-Resort-Beach-Hawaii

Bali and Hawaii both offer idyllic tropical paradises perfect for any holiday. However, with expenses and travel budgets put aside, Hawaii offers a better overall experience, complete with more beautiful beaches, breathtaking volcanic landscapes, and a relaxing atmosphere.

With that said Bali still offers a fantastic alternative, with beautiful beaches and landscapes in its own right and an overall better cultural immersion than in Hawaii.

Additionally, while Hawaii caters to more affluent visitors with its luxurious resorts, Bali is the perfect option for visitors traveling on a budget. Ultimately, you can never really go wrong when choosing between the two tourist hotspots.

About The Author

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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Picture of Kurt Norris

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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