The Aloha spirit, ideal temperatures year round, great beaches, and incredible scenery…it’s no wonder Hawaii is known as a vacationer’s paradise.
There’s only one problem: Paradise doesn’t come cheap. So, how can you do Hawaii on a shoestring budget? These 10 tips are a good place to start.
Think Hawaii; think Honolulu
It’s hands down the most developed and visited place on the islands, making it the cheapest and most accessible too. Although it’s a popular choice among travelers, there are still plenty of hidden gems on the island.
Go off-peak to save
Hawaii may be a year-round vacation destination, but there are one or two ‘off-peak’ periods throughout the year. Lookout for cheaper flights and discounted hotel rooms in January (last two weeks), February, May, September and October. More good news: February happens to be the best time of year to see humpback whales and September is Aloha Festival time.
Consider a condo
A condo rental is much cheaper than a resort stay. A weeklong hotel stay in Waikiki in May is around $200 a night. A nice one-bedroom condo on the other hand can be secured for as little as half that.
Or a hostel
Of course, accommodation costs are best kept down by staying at a hostel. Our pick in Oahu is the Hostelling International Waikiki – it’s right by the beach! If you’re staying in Maui, try Northshore Hostel for an alternative to pricey hotel stays.
Stick to one island
Sticking to one island or two at most can cut costs. Island hopping is expensive (they’re farther apart than you might think). Most travelers and residents fly between islands. If you want to island hop, but can’t afford air tickets, then you have two options. The Maui–Lanai Ferry ($30 each way) and the Molokai–Maui Ferry ($67 each way).
Check out free local events
Eat a hearty lunch and light dinner
Lunch is heavily discounted compared to dinner at many restaurants (this is, of course, the case in pretty much every vacation spot around the world). Another cheap way to eat out is to catch up with a food truck. Check out this list of the top 10 food trucks in Hawaii. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is highly rated too.
Take the bus
Renting a car is really the only way to freely explore the islands on your own terms. Sadly, hire charges, insurance and fuel bills make it prohibitive for those on a tight budget. The Bus service on Oahu – imaginatively named The Bus – gives shoestring travelers access to many parts of the island. A four-day unlimited pass costs $25, and can be picked up at any ABC store in Waikiki.
Pass up the luau
Often far from authentic, these highly staged affairs are usually massively overpriced. Instead, pack a picnic of poke, lomi lomi, and poi (all readily available from local markets) and seek out a free evening hula show on the beach.
Become a regular
One for regular visitors: Many tourist attractions (including golf clubs) have different prices for local residents (known as Kamaʻāina). Repeat out-of-state (and foreign) visitors can access these rates by securing a Hawaii State Identification Card.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…
(Main image: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson)