When in Hawaii: Airbnb or hotel?

With airfares to Hawaii at or near record highs — regularly under $300 round-trip from the West Coast — it feels like everyone and their grandmothers are headed to the islands these these days.

This creates a huge demand for hotels in Hawaii, and when demand increases, prices also increase. It’s not uncommon to see hotel rates for a night or two skyrocket far beyond what you’d pay for a round-trip airfare.

In the past, when demand increased and hotel prices followed, there was little a bargain-oriented traveler could do to avoid high costs except shop around and probably overpay. expensive for a hotel far from the beach or in a questionable area. Or simply choose another destination.

But with the entry of Airbnb, Far from homeWith VRBO (and other) online vacation rental platforms in the accommodation market, thousands of new, sometimes inexpensive, options have appeared like rainbows on a cloudy day.

After an initial wave, Hawaii municipalities have cracked down on the short-term rental market. On Oahu, Bill 89 (enacted August) prohibits rentals of less than 30 days in residential areas outside the resort areas of Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay. (Residents outside the tourist zone were loudly complaining about loud tourists invading their neighborhoods and driving up rents. The hospitality industry has no doubt gone to great lengths to impose limits on home sharing, too.)

After reading a recent SFGATE article on cheap airfare to Hawaii, reader DP wrote and cautioned, “Unless a property has a specific short-term rental license included in the ad or list, any rental less than 30 days [outside the resort areas] is illegal. I’ve heard of a few people in the Bay Area who pre-pay for a room and buy plane tickets, then at the last minute don’t have a place to stay because the law is applied.”

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So if you book a rental condo in Waikiki, you’ll probably be fine. If it is located elsewhere, or in what appears to be a house or apartment in a residential area, you should ask your potential host for a licence, registration certificate and/or permit number if you don’t see it displayed prominently on the list. (Keep in mind that each island has its own rules and regulations regarding short-term rentals – in this article we’re focusing on Honolulu/Oahu.)

Check out the slideshow at the top of this article for scrolling through 8 legal lists

For example, this Airbnb listing of $445/night for a home for six in Kailua, a laid-back residential neighborhood in northeast Honolulu with great beaches, clearly displays its license number as part of the general description (scroll down and you’ll see it). It is also rented by a “super host”, meaning he or she has built up a good reputation and track record, which should appease potential renters. This $400 per night Kailua beachfront cabin listing on VRBO goes so far as to put the NUC/registration number in the title of the listing to ensure that potential renters (and property managers enforcement) know it’s legal.

But after many searches for listings outside of tourist areas for rentals less than 30 days, this was one of the few listings (among many) that I could find with a registration number. .

On the Airbnb and VRBO sites, when I limit my search to Waikiki only, several condos and apartments for rent, ranging from $89 to $300 per night for a mid-February stay. Since these are all located within the designated tourist area, no permits or licenses are required. It is the same Ko Olina area research west of Honolulu near major Disney Aulani and Four Seasons resorts.

Unfortunately, Airbnb and others don’t provide a way to filter searches based on these licenses. And the platforms appear to be doing little to enforce what appear to be illegal rentals outside of designated tourist areas, only suggesting, but not requiring, landlords to post registration numbers on their listings. Honolulu Responsible Accommodation Page.

Airbnb too warns potential tenants about hosts who could abuse the platform: “In rare cases, a host could abuse [the registration number] field by entering a phone number or email address, and encourage you to contact them directly to book outside of Airbnb. It is important to remember that if you transact outside of the platform, you are not protected by our Terms of Service.”

I’ve also noticed that when searching for periods of less than 30 days, illegal listings always show up, and in the description, hosts say something like, “Please note that to stay compliant with the zoning regulations of city ​​and county, this property is only rented for periods of 30 days or more to a single party. Feel free to contact us directly with any questions”, which sounds like an offer to circumvent the rules.

Airbnb also states that if a reservation is canceled by a host, it will offer a full refund – which is fine in theory, but not very helpful if you’ve booked a holiday, show up at your rental and it’s canceled due to a recent crackdown or crackdown on illegal rentals.

So what’s a traveler in paradise to do? Well, it is up to each individual and traveler to assess the level of risk they are comfortable with. For some, the safety, security and consistency of a hotel is what they want. For others, a nice, big, welcoming place near the beach, in a small town, or in the mountains might be worth a little uncertainty.

Check out the slideshow at the top of this article for scrolling through eight legal lists

To help you make a decision on which accommodation option is right for you, I’ve put together some pros and cons of hotels and short-term rentals. Which would you choose?

The advantages of the hotel:

-A product mainly guaranteed, consistent and legal. (Marriott, for example, has 11 hotels on Oahu alone.)

-Daily housekeeping

-Quick on-site response to problems or complaints

-Good locations near beaches and water views from upper floors

-A hall, pool or patio for socializing; most have on-site food service and a bar. (For me, the best mai-tais in Waikiki are at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel)

-Points in a loyalty program of a hotel chain

Cons of the hotel:

-More expensive

-The high probability of irritating “resort fees” added at the end of your stay. (Read more about resort fees here.)

-Cookie-cutter sterile atmosphere – you feel like a tourist not a local

-High parking rates

– Feeling crowded when the hotel is full

Advantages of renting a house/condo:

– Cheaper, larger space

-You get a sense of what it’s really like to live in Hawaii – it’s more of an “experience”

-A kitchen and a laundry room (most of the time)

-Generally more space than you get with a hotel

-Easier for a family with children

-Cheap or no parking fees

Disadvantages of renting a house/condo:

-Less consistent or reliable – you’re stuck with what you get. No brand standards

– Sometimes exorbitant cleaning or other fees (see the captions in the slideshow at the top of this article for what I mean.)

-Cleanliness is not always up to hotel standards

-Someone is not always available to help when things go wrong

-May or may not have a pool

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Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s Senior Travel Correspondent. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter Where Facebook. Don’t miss an ounce of important travel news by subscribing to his FREE e-mail updates every two weeks!

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