Hawaii vs Bali: A Battle of Two Surf Meccas

Hawaii vs Bali

Hawaii vs Bali is between two of the world’s most popular surf and beach destinations. The choice isn’t easy, but you won’t be disappointed with either. Both islands have plenty to offer, from stunning beaches to tropical forests, mountain peaks to spectacular waterfalls. Both also come with fantastic waves that attract elite surfers each year.

On one hand, there is Bali, the most popular island in Indonesia. It offers great breaks for all levels, vistas of green rice paddies, and incredible Hindu temples. On the other hand, there’s Hawaii, the USA’s 50th state set out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s the birthplace of surfing and has honeymoon hotels and golf courses galore.

But which place is better? This guide to Hawaii vs Bali will help you answer that question. We’ve covered the key aspects of traveling to these two wonderful destinations, from the ease of getting there to the prices on the ground, the type of food to nature and beaches.

Hawaii vs Bali: Ease of travel

Palm tree in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

Hawaii is an archipelago of 137 islands, but only seven of them are inhabited. It’s a 50th US state, located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles from the mainland. Although it seems isolated, you won’t have too much trouble getting there by plane…

Hawaii’s main hub is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, located in the state’s capital on Oahu Island. Aside from plenty of domestic routes from all over the USA, you will find direct connections to Canada, East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, but if you’re coming from Europe, you will need to change on the mainland of the US first.

Bali, on the other hand, is by far the most popular island in Indonesia, so you won’t have trouble arriving. There is only one airport on the island: Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar Airport. The airport is in the south of the island, around only 10 minutes’ drive from the popular resort of Kuta. You can also catch ferries to Bali from Java in the west and Sumbawa in the east, going via Lombok. 

Winner: Bali. But Hawaii isn’t hard to reach.

Hawaii vs Bali: Beaches

Hawaiian beach
Photo by Envato Elements

Hawaii is known to have some of the most beautiful and unique beaches on the planet. It’s not just that the beaches on these volcanic islands are gorgeous to look at, although there is that! They also come in some spectacular colors. From the soft white sands of Waikiki to the black of Punalu’u, the red shores of Kaihalulu to the green of Papakōlea, the beaches here cover the whole rainbow. And don’t miss Poipu Beach if you’re on Kauai, either – it was once named America’s best!

How does Bali compare? Although many people think that Bali has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, many travelers are disappointed when they finally get there. That’s because many of the most popular resorts’ beaches are a light shade of brown rather than white. There is also a major rubbish problem on many of Bali’s beaches, especially closer to the rainy season.

However, that is not to say that Bali hasn’t got stunning shores. There are plenty of beautiful sands, such as Padang Padang, Seminyak, or Bingin. And just like Hawaii, Bali’s volcanic soil provides different shades of sand that you won’t see in most places in the world.

Winner: Hawaii.

Hawaii vs Bali: Nightlife

People dancing in a club
Photo by Envato Elements

As the sun sets in Bali, groups of locals and travelers meet up on one of the many west-facing beaches to enjoy the gorgeous light. It’s usually accompanied by an ice-cold Bintang beer or a cocktail and upbeat music courtesy of one of the beach bars. That’s how things tend to start on the island before moving into DJ-manned clubs or bars. Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, and Canggu are dotted with chilled nightclubs perfect for bar hopping. Head to Potato Head Beach Club for sunset cocktails by the pool and finish the night dancing in LXXY Bali or Sky Garden in Kuta.

Hawaii’s scene is way more laid back than the Indonesian island. You will find plenty of chilled live music bars and locals playing tunes on their ukulele. Although you won’t get many mega clubs on these stunning Pacific islands, Oahu is the place to go if you want to experience Hawaiian parties. Honolulu, the state’s capital, boasts a vibrant nightlife, whether you’re after Tiki bars, glamourous cocktail venues, or nightclubs. Have some drinks in Skull & Crown Trading Co. or The Tiki at Scarlet, followed by dancing in NextDoor.

Winner: Bali.

Hawaii vs Bali: Surfing

Catching a wave in Bali waters
Photo by Envato Elements

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hawaii vs Bali is probably surfing. Both places are worldwide famous for some of the best waves around, attracting loads of the sport’s elites every year.

But it is Hawaii where surfing was invented, and the iconic Banzai Pipeline in Oahu is considered the number one spot on the globe. Leave that one for the pros, because there is no shortage of great spots for beginners and intermediates in Hawaii. If you do happen to be an expert, the Oahu North Shore is a paradise on Earth. For those less confident on the board, spots like Pops in Waikiki and Thousand Peaks in Maui are great places to start.

Bali is also known as a surf mecca for a reason. It’s Hawaii’s Asian rival, with plenty of great spots for surfers of all levels. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you will find great waves that work throughout the year. If you’re only just learning how to pop up on the board, then the long stretches of beach breaks along Kuta and Seminyak are great to find your water feet. However, if your surf skills are above average, head to Uluwatu or Padang Padang.

Winner: Hawaii – it’s home to the best surf spots in the world.

Hawaii vs Bali: Nature

Hawaiian islands
Photo by Envato Elements

One of the most jaw-dropping natural features in Hawaii is Waimea Canyon in Kauai. It’s a Pacific answer to the Grand Canyon, stretching for 14 miles through the mountains. And there are plenty of hiking trails with panoramic views around Oahu’s impressive Koolau Range, an area that was formed by a volcanic eruption. Diamond Head is another great place to hike easy routes to a volcanic rim above Honolulu. That’s just the beginning of the nature on offer here, too.

That’s not to say that Bali can’t rival the Aloha State’s natural beauty. The popular lush green hills of Ubud and Tegallalang Rice Terraces are only a few of Bali’s beautiful landmarks. And if adventure is what you’re after, hike Mount Batur or Mount Agung, Bali’s active volcanos that loom over the horizon. There are also plenty of beautiful beaches under the cliffs of Uluwatu and the white sandy bays in Nusa Dua. Finally, you can take a boat to neighboring Nusa Penida, where limestone cliffs meet the turquoise ocean.

Winner: Hawaii.

Hawaii vs Bali: Food

Hawaiian poke bowl
Photo by Envato Elements

Bali is up there with the top places to visit for foodies – it’s not only yummy but also cheap. Balinese cooking is a huge part of traditional Indonesian cuisine that combines rich aromas, fresh ingredients, and a variety of spices. Unlike the rest of the country, though, Bali is predominantly Hindu, which means that you won’t find much beef here.

Nasi goreng, gado-gado, babi guling, and satay are only a few of the mouthwatering dishes you will find on the Isle of the Gods. There is also a huge crowd of expats throughout, which means there are lots of international dishes available. Those will usually cost more than the local stuff, though.

Hawaiian cooking is a blend of different cuisines and locally grown ingredients. The new fusion cooking is a combination of American, European, and Polynesian flavors, and foreign influence from immigrant workers alike.

There are loads of tasty dishes you should try when in Hawaii, but some of our favorites include poke (diced raw fish dish), Luau stew (dish cooked with luau leaves), loco moco (rice with fried hamburger), and saimin (noodle soup).

Winner: Bali.

Hawaii vs Bali: Prices

Hawaiian beach
Photo by Envato Elements

Although Bali is more expensive than the rest of the country, it is still cheap for western visitors. In fact, you can travel Bali on a very tight budget if you stick to locally owned eateries and mid-range hotels.

The average daily budget sits at around $65 per person. That can go up and down significantly depending on where you decide to stay. You can easily find cheap hotels that will cost you less than $10 a night, but if you plump for beachfront villas with infinity pools, those can cost you over $200 a night. Local transport and food are also inexpensive, as is the case throughout Southeast Asia.

But Hawaii is a different story. In the USA’s 50th state, you can expect western prices throughout the islands. Everything from accommodation to food to transport will cost you more than it would in Bali. In fact, the average daily budget for the Aloha State is four times higher, at over $270 per person.

A big chunk of that budget will go on accommodation because you won’t find many hostels below $50 per person, and most luxury resorts will more than $1,000 a night! A meal in a mid-range restaurant here will cost around $83 for two people. 

Winner: Bali.

Hawaii vs Bali: The conclusion

Hawaii vs Bali isn’t the easiest choice, but we think that whichever you choose, you won’t regret it – both places deserve to be on the bucket list. Despite being over 6,000 miles apart, they actually share lots of similarities. Both islands have some of the world’s best surf breaks, with Hawaii’s Pipeline being the crème de la crème. A trip to Bali will cost you a lot less, but Hawaii’s stunning nature and beaches are hard to beat.


For more than 11 years, Joe has worked as a freelance travel writer. His writing and explorations have brought him to various locations, including the colonial towns of Mexico, the bustling chowks of Mumbai, and the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not crafting his next epic blog post on the top Greek islands or French ski resorts, he can often be found engaging in his top two hobbies of surfing and hiking.

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