I'm always surprised by the number of visitors to Hawaii who do not tip appropriately and many that do not tip at all. Tipping in Hawaii is not only the right thing to do, it is absolutely essential for the livelihood of the local residents who work in the service industry. Most of the people you encounter listed below depend on tips for their living.
While Hawaii is located in the South Pacific where, on many islands, tipping is not required, Hawaii is a U.S. State and you should tip just like you would anywhere else in the United States. In fact, if anything, you should try to be a little more generous considering the very high cost of living in Hawaii.
So, then, whom should you tip and how much should you tip in Hawaii? There is no definitive answer, but I'll share with you my own personal tipping guidelines.
At the Airport
Arrival - Most folks who arrive in the islands proceed directly to the luggage claim area and pick up their own bags. They then proceed to the rental car area, hotel shuttle, limo or taxi. If, however, you use the services of a luggage handler, you should tip $1-$2 per bag. If you take a shuttle bus to the car rental area, you should tip the shuttle driver $1 a bag minimum, especially if he or she helps you load and unload your bags from the shuttle.
Departure - If you take a shuttle bus from the car rental area, you should tip the shuttle driver $1 a bag minimum, especially if he or she helps you load and unload your bags from the shuttle. If you utilize curbside check-in or use the services of a luggage handler, you should tip $1-$2 per bag.
Taxis, Limos and Hotel Shuttles
For taxi and limo drivers you should tip 15% of the cost of the trip at minimum. If you use a courtesy hotel or resort shuttle, $1-$2 per bag is appropriate or $5 if you have only carry-on luggage.
At Your Hotel or Resort
Bellmen - If you utilize a bellman to take your bags to your room on arrival or from your room on checkout, you should tip at least $2 per bag. Generally I tip $5 for 2 bags and $10 for anything more. Keep in mind that the bell staff have great memories and the more you tip, the more they'll do the little things for you during your stay.
Front Desk - No tip is required for the staff member who checks you in.
Concierge - Generally no tip is required, but if a special service or special reservation is secured, a tip is always welcome.
Parking Attendant/Valet - If you valet park, you should tip $2-$3 each time you retrieve your car. No tip is required when you leave your car when you return to the hotel or resort. If the attendant gets you a cab, a tip of $2 is appropriate.
Hotel Housekeeping Staff - I generally tip $2 per day and more if housekeeping does a really excellent job. I leave the tip in an envelope on the bureau marked "Housekeeping" or hand the envelope to the housekeeper if he or she is on the floor when I depart.
Room Service - Read your room service menu carefully. Most resorts build in a 15-20% tip in the bill. If not, then add the appropriate tip.
At a Restaurant or Bar
If you are dining at a sit-down restaurant or drinking at a bar, a tip of 15-20% is appropriate, just like on the mainland. I generally tip 20% for good service and more for superb service. If, by some chance you check a coat, a dollar or two is appropriate when you pick up your coat.
If you are eating at a lunch stand, shrimp truck or any similar take-out location, they will generally have a tip jar where a couple of dollars per person is appropriate. There is no need to tip at one of the nationally owned take-out restaurants, i.e. McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC etc.
This, quite frankly, is the one area where most visitors fall short. They either don't tip their tour guide or leave a totally inadequate tip. It's also the hardest area to state definitively how much to tip since tour costs vary widely and the 15-20% rule simply doesn't apply in most cases. Here are some general guidelines:
1-2 Hour Guided Group Tours - A tip of $5 per person minimum is generally appropriate.
2-4 Hour Group Tours - A tip of $10 per person minimum is generally appropriate.
4 Hour to Full Day Group Tours - A tip of $20 per person minimum is generally appropriate.
Helicopter Tours - A tip of $10 per person to the pilot for a one hour flight is generally appropriate. If the pilot is very friendly and especially knowledgeable, I generally tip $20.
Boat/Sailing/Catamaran Tours - Most sailings last 3-4 hours, less for a sunset sail. I generally hand $10 to one of the crew upon departure, more for longer sailings or if the crew has been especially helpful.
Customized/Individual Tours - You will need to decide what you feel is appropriate based on the services rendered. Here the 15-20% rule is generally applicable.