Image: Waikiki, in Honolulu, Hawaii
Lucy Pemoni  /  AP
The sun sets on Waikiki, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
updated 5/9/2008 4:56:23 PM ET 2008-05-09T20:56:23

Hawaii is the most expensive state to vacation in, by far, costing two adults an average of $793 a day for food and lodging alone, according to a AAA survey released this week.

State tourism officials said the figure was grossly inflated, arguing the more accurate estimate was about half that amount.

"I think it's more than misleading," Hawaii tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said.

The auto club's recommended daily budget for visitors to the Aloha State is triple the national average of $244 and more than double New York, the second-most expensive state at $320.

Nevada ($301) is third, followed by Florida ($289) and Massachusetts ($287) in AAA's 2008 Annual Vacation Costs Survey. The figures do not include airfare and other costs.

Accommodations in Hawaii, at an average of $675 a night, propelled the state to the overall No. 1. The national average is $164 per night.

AAA said the lodging rates were calculated based on the most recent "published rates" for the more than 60,000 AAA approved properties. The published rates are also known as "rack rates," or the full price of hotel or motel room.

Wienert said daily expenditures this year for a tourist in Hawaii has averaged about $179 per person, or $358 for a couple, well below AAA's estimate.

"Here in Honolulu, there are many different options, depending on what type of budget the visitors are on," she said.

Wienert said isle vacations provide great value and experiences. Also, many attractions, from the beaches to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, are free.

AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter said the auto club's estimates were "budgeting guidelines" to be used as a travel planning tool.

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She said people could find lower prices if they travel during off-peak seasons, search in advance for package deals or discounts, use travel agents or contact the hotels directly for their best rates.

"There are many ways to save while you're traveling, so I don't think you should look at that number and think that it would exclude you," Hunter said.

The least expensive state to vacation is North Dakota, costing about $159 a day in meals and accommodations. Fellow farm belt states of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota were also a bargain, according to AAA.

Nationwide, the auto club recommended two adults dining together at full-service restaurants budget $80 a day for three meals, not including tips or beverages.

In Hawaii, the average is $117 daily for two adults, second to Nevada's $124 a day.

To save on food costs, AAA recommended eating the main meal at midday to take advantage of lower lunch prices. Many restaurants also offer "early bird" dinner specials.

AAA said its 2008 figures cannot be compared with last year because a change in available data and calculations.

Hawaii was also at the top of last year's AAA travel survey with an average daily cost for a family of four of $650, which was lower than this year's total for two adults.

The most expensive city in the nation this year is Honolulu, with an average of $673 per day, followed by New York City ($606), Miami ($370), San Diego ($361) and Las Vegas ($358).

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Hawaiian paradise

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  1. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

    Kalalau Valley, on Kauai's west side, is more than 3,000 feet deep and provides stunning panoramic views. Waimea is nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." (John Borthwick / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii

    Men row their Hawaiian outrigger canoe towards Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. Outrigger canoes are now used for recreation purposes and to ride the waves, but in times past they were the main means of transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. (Mike Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The tranquil waters of Oahu

    Hanauma Bay is one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. (Eric L Wheater / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Surfer's paradise

    Australian Luke Egan competes on Oahu's North Shore, one of the best places in Hawaii to ride the big waves. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water colors

    A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wailua Falls

    The beautiful 83-foot tiered Wailua Falls is an easily accessible, must-see waterfall on the island of Kauai. Wailua Falls was first made famous when it was featured in the television show, "Fantasy Island." (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Emerald peaks

    The iconic, towering emerald peaks of the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, stand out in Maui's Iao Valley State Park. (Adina Tovy Amsel / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historic reminder

    The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the resting place of many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese. The memorial is the "ground zero" of World War II. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aloha!

    Hula dancers welcome the sailing crew of a Hokule'a, a canoe, into Kailua Bay. (Ronen Zilberman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The heart of Hawaii

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Oahu's capital and Hawaii's largest, most populous city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Polynesian heat

    Brandon OFueo Maneafaiga, 23, of Waianae, Hawaii balances two flaming knifes during the 13th Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii. (Lucy Pemoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    People watch from a viewing area as an explosion takes place on Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Legend says the volcano goddess Pele dug fire pits as she traveled from island to island looking for a home with her brothers and sisters. She finally settled at Kilauea's summit, where she lives at Halemaumau crater. (Leigh Hilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forces of nature

    The Dragon's Teeth are bizarre lava formations eroded by wind and salt spray at Makalua-puna Point. (Karl Lehmann / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Heaven on Earth

    Astronomy observatories are seen on the peak of the snow-covered, Mauna Kea mountain near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. (Tim Wright / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. On the way to Sainthood

    Tourists walk through a cemetery past the grave, left, of Father Damien at Kalawao, Hawaii. After cancer patient Audrey Toguchi prayed to Father Damien, known for helping leprosy patients in Hawaii, to help her, and her cancer went away, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case in July 2008 as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the 19th century Belgian priest to be declared a saint. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cool colors

    Rainbow eucalyptus (Mindanao Gum) trees grow in Keanae, Maui. Once a year, these magnificent trees shed their bark and take on the colors of the rainbow. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Magic Sands

    An aerial view of La'aloa Beach Park or Magic Sands beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The beach is called Magic Sands because when rough surf hits, all of the sand is emptied off the beach and temporarily moved out to sea. (Brian Powers / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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