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12 Incredible Hawaii Travel Hacks For An Unforgettable Holiday

The tropical paradise of Hawaii is often associated with luxury. If you tell people you visit Hawaii often, they will probably think that you’re a millionaire. And it’s true, the pink-hued sunsets over the crystal blue waters and the fascinating geology come at a price. Just getting to this isolated archipelago can be prohibitively expensive. Not to mention the high costs of food, accommodation, and other activities. But what if I tell you that we have a list of Hawaii travel hacks that cab help you visit Hawaii on a budget? After all, visiting places on a budget is what Passport Symphony is all about. Let’s dig in to our ultimate Hawaii on a budget guide.

Insider Tips for Finding Cheap Flights to Hawaii

Hawaii travel hacks

Local Airlines: Don’t Ignore the Little Guys Sometimes, local airlines like Hawaiian Airlines have sweet deals that the big search engines miss. It’s like finding a hidden gem in a sea of sparkling stones.

Connect the Dots: Embrace Layovers Adding a bit of ‘misery’ – a.k.a. layovers – can dramatically lower your flight cost. It’s like taking the scenic route; you might discover a cool airport or two along the way. Plus, longer layovers can mean big savings.

The Southwest Effect: A Budget Traveler’s Dream Did you know Hawaii’s got a Southwest Effect? It’s not a tropical breeze but a cool hack. When Southwest Airlines flies to a destination, other airlines drop their prices to compete. Keep an eye on Southwest’s low-fare calendar; it’s like playing the stock market, but for flights!

Flash Sales: The Quick Draw McGraw of Flight Booking Keep your eyes peeled for flash sales. Airlines sometimes offer ridiculously cheap flights to Hawaii but you’ve got to be quick. It’s like playing Flight Deal Whack-a-Mole – be ready to pounce!

Speaking of which, you should also know what are…

Best Times To Book Flights for Maximum Savings

Hawaii from the airplane

Conventional wisdom says book early, and it’s not wrong. Generally, hitting that ‘book now’ button 2-3 months in advance for domestic flights (yup, Hawaii counts) and 3-4 months for international ones is your sweet spot. Speaking of specific days, one of our favourite Hawaii travel hacks is that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are statistically the days when you can find more discounted deals on a flight to Hawaii while weekend days are the worst.

Booking around major holidays? That’s like trying to get the last piece of pie at a family gathering – possible but challenging. Prices skyrocket around Christmas, New Year’s, and summer breaks while shoulder seasons are your undercover allies. Think late spring (April to June) and fall (September to November). Speaking of which…

Travel During Low Or Shoulder Seasons

visit Hawaii on a budget

Hawaii is a year-round destination but when planning your itinerary, it’s important to note the high-season and shoulder season. The big tourist rush in Hawaii lasts from December to April. Hence, May to September is a good time if you’re planning to visit Hawaii on a budget. The weather will be mild and the prices will be much lower. And you can save even more if you visit in October or November. Flights are also cheaper during this time of the year but you can also get some great deals throughout the years by using these Hawaiian Airlines special vacation deals.

Budget-Friendly Accommodations in Hawaii

visit Hawaii on a budget

This list of the best Hawaii travel hacks couldn’t be complete without a few accommodation tips. You can find a lot of dreamy luxury home rentals in Hawaii as well as some of the most expensive luxury hotels in the world. So, needless to say, this destination can be expensive but there are still a handful of affordable places in Hawaii.

Vacation Rentals: Your Home Away from Home Consider vacation rentals; they’re like the cool aunt and uncle of accommodations. Sites like Airbnb or VRBO offer a range of options from cozy studios to larger homes, perfect if you’re traveling with a crew or just want a kitchen to whip up some local produce.

Hostels: Not Just for Backpackers Hostels in Hawaii are not just for the young or restless. They’re like the Swiss Army knife of budget travel – versatile and handy. You’ll find options from private rooms to dorms, often with a side of communal kitchens, social vibes, and insider tips from fellow travelers.

Off-the-Beaten-Path: Go Rural Skip the tourist hotspots and head to the less explored areas. Rural Hawaii offers not just serene landscapes but also kinder prices. Think small inns, B&Bs, and guesthouses where the pace is slower but the experience is just as rich. They will range from simple rooms with a few beds to luxury equipped flats.

Camping: Nature’s Hotel: Feeling adventurous?You can also get cheap accommodation at the various campsites in Hawaii, mostly in the national parks.

If you think all of these facilities aren’t for you and still want to stay in a luxurious hotel, check out this website and save up to 20% on your Hawaii luxury hotel booking.

Eat Like A Local In Hawaii

hawaii food

Try some Hawaiian fruits and homegrown coffee, buy groceries, and prepare your own lunch. You can get fresh seafood at the local fish market, like Koloa Fish Market, and prepare it by yourself. You would want to make sure to find an accommodation facility with a kitchen for that.

If you want to eat outside it’s also possible to do so without spending a fortune. One thing to consider is having an early dinner as most restaurants offer discounts if you’re seated before 6 pm. The sun at Hawaii sets around 6 or 6:30 so you’ll still be able to enjoy a dinner while watching the sunset.

Alternatively, you can have lunch in a restaurant while there are no crowds and the lunch menus are often a bit cheaper compared to the dinner menus. As for dinner, you can either go for happy hour appetizers or a food truck meal. There are a lot of food truck meal options on Hawaii but my absolute favorite was Eat the Street gathering on Honolulu. There are over 40 food trucks and you can get a delicious meal for as low as $5-$10.

Looking for some more budget travel tips? Check out some of our favorite cheap honeymoon destinations in the US or our list of hidden gems in Miami

Explore The Hawaiian Outdoors

Hawaii waterfall

Exploring the Hawaiian outdoors is one of our favorite budget saving Hawaii travel hacks because unlike many of the other expensive activities, the outdoors are free. Here are some of the things you should seriously consider adding on your Hawaii bucket list.

Trails for Days: Hawaii’s hiking trails? They’re like nature’s red carpet, inviting you to explore. From the lush trails of Kauai’s Napali Coast to the volcanic landscapes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, there’s a trail for every level of adventurer.

Sun, Surf, and Sand: Hawaii’s beaches are like a collection of Earth’s greatest hits. Each island boasts its signature shores, from Maui’s Waianapanapa with its black sand to Oahu’s iconic Waikiki Beach.

Waterfalls: Chasing waterfalls in Hawaii is a must, and it’s mostly free. Visit spots like Akaka Falls on the Big Island or Maui’s Road to Hana, where cascading waterfalls create a misty wonderland.

Volcano Voyages: The Big Island’s volcanoes aren’t just for high-rollers. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers affordable entry and a chance to witness Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. It’s

Star Gazing: Hawaii’s night sky is a stargazer’s dream. Places like Mauna Kea on the Big Island offer crystal-clear views of the cosmos. It’s like having a telescope to the universe, but all you need are your eyes.

Try RemainingOn One Island

Hawaii travel hacks

When you get to Hawaii, you will probably want to visit as many islands as possible. Unfortunately, inter-island transport can be quite costly. Additionally, the time spent on transferring from one island to another makes island-hopping a fairly vacation-wasting endeavor. Each island has a lot to offer and I’d rather take my time and explore them one by one. Choose what suits you most before going.

Big Island is the best place if you want to see active volcanos and to complete some of the best hikes in Hawaii. O’ahu has the cosmopolitan center of the Hawaii- Honolulu and Lanikai beach, arguably the most beautiful beach in Hawaii. Maui and Kaua’i are famous for the breathtaking, movie-like landscapes and numerous Instagrammable spots. My advice is to choose any of these that suits you the most and just stay there and enjoy it.

How to Secure Cheap Car Rentals in Hawaii​​

hawaii road

This list of Hawaii travel hacks wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t share a few tips about renting a car in Hawaii and getting around.

Avoid Airport Premiums: Step Away from the Terminal Renting directly from the airport can be as pricey as a beachfront luau. Look for rental agencies a little farther from the airport. A short shuttle ride can lead to significant savings.

Local Agencies for Local Deals Don’t overlook local Hawaiian car rental agencies. They can often have better rates than their big-name counterparts.

Say ‘Aloha’ to Discount Websites Websites like Kayak, Expedia, or Hotwire can be your best pals in finding deals. They’re like the savvy local friend who knows all the best spots – except for car rentals.

Check Your Credit Card Perks Some credit cards are like a Swiss Army knife – full of useful tools you didn’t know you had. Many offer rental car insurance as a perk, so you can skip the extra cost at the rental desk.

Embrace the Economy Class You’re in Hawaii; who needs a luxury car when you’re surrounded by natural luxury? Economy cars are often cheaper, fuel-efficient, and just as good at getting you from A to B.

Public Transportation Options & Tips

Honolulu bus

Navigating Hawaii’s public transportation is like playing a strategic board game – it requires a bit of planning, some local know-how (like our Hawaii travel hacks), and the willingness to go with the flow.

The Bus: Oahu’s Unsung Hero On Oahu, TheBus is your budget-friendly chariot. It covers most of the island, including popular spots like Waikiki, Ala Moana, and even a route to the North Shore.

Island Specifics: Know Your Transport Landscape Each island has its unique public transport vibe. Maui has the Maui Bus, Kauai the Kauai Bus, and the Big Island the Hele-On Bus.

Timing is Everything: Embrace Island Time Public transportation in Hawaii operates on ‘island time.’ This doesn’t mean unreliable, but it’s not the New York Subway.

Exact Change: Keep Your Coins Handy Buses often require exact change. It’s like an old-school arcade game – the right coins get you a ride.

Multi-Day Passes: Unlimited Adventures Look into multi-day bus passes if you’re staying longer. They offer unlimited rides for a set period, like a backstage pass to the island.

Enjoying this post? Then you may also like this list of amazing places in the US off the beaten track.

Light & Efficient Packing Strategy For Hawaii

Hawaii travel hacks

Use Discount Activity Bookers


There are discount activity bookers that can help you save a lot of money. Working on economies of scale there are a lot of Hawaii-specific agents that offer discounts for over 1,500 activities on all islands. One of the most established discount activity bookers is Tom Barefoot’s Tours that has been operating since 1975. While we’re at it:

Enjoying this article? Then, you’ll definitely like my article about the best hidden gems in Atlanta.

Do Things Locals Do

visit Hawaii on a budget

Hawaii has a lot of overpriced tours and activities and sometimes stopping and asking yourself “what would a local do”, might save you a lot of money. Locals don’t go for whale watching tours or zip lining. And you can regularly see whales at the beach, for example. Public buses can get you pretty much anywhere in $2-$3 a trip. You can also get a 4-day unlimited pass for $25 from any ABC store if you planned to do a lot of exploring.

One of the favorite activities of the locals is having picnics at the beaches. Buy your groceries at Costco and head for the beach. This way you can have a decent meal in less than $15. Enjoy the free firework show at Waikiki Beach every Friday and start your weekend with a bang.

When you’re planning to visit Hawaii on a budget, it’s always important to prioritize your spending. Ask yourself what do you want the most? Are you a foodie looking to enjoy the best of the local cuisine? Or maybe you’re a compulsive shopper looking for the best deals or an adventurist that wants to get lost in nature? The choice is yours for the taking but with these money-saving tips, I believe you can make the most out of Hawaii on a shoestring budget.

A Few More Helpful Hawaii Travel Hacks

visit Hawaii on a budget

Flying to Hawaii? Save up to 15% with Hawaiian Airlines vacation deals. Hawaiian Airlines vacation deals

Here are some great accommodation deals that can save you up to 15% on your next booking.

Need an airport shuttle from some of Hawaii’s airports? Use this link and get 15% off.

For the best travel insurance deals, check out SafetyWing.

If you want to get off the beaten track in Hawaii, consider renting a car.

Planning to visit Hawaii anytime soon? Were these Hawaii travel hacks helpful? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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visit hawaii on a budget
hawaii on a budget
visit Hawaii on a budget
8 epic hacks to visit Hawaii on a budget

Ossama Alnuwaiser

Monday 11th of May 2020

Those are some helpful tips. I wish I found them earlier before going to Hawaii. There is a possible visit again in the future. Keep up.

Passport Symphony

Thursday 14th of May 2020

Thank you Ossama, I appreciate it


Saturday 15th of December 2018

Travelers often spend the most money on food and accommodation. You offer some fabulous suggestions on how to save on both. I particularly love the clipping coupons out of the paper option. That's very clever and resourceful! When I travel I often only eat out once a day which is usually a late lunch that way I can save a lot of money. Bed and breakfasts are a great way to have a meal included in your stay!

Passport Symphony

Monday 17th of December 2018

Thank you, Martha- I'm glad you could get some useful tips about visiting Hawaii on a budget

Courtney Hopkins

Friday 14th of December 2018

I didn't realize they had so many cheap food trucks in Honolulu, it seems you can make your own tour sampling different local foods from them! I liked your advice about doing things as a local, its definitely much cheaper and usually less crowded. Thanks for the great tips on how to save money while visiting Hawaii!

Passport Symphony

Monday 17th of December 2018

Thank you, Courtney- I'm glad you liked this post


Friday 14th of December 2018

Daniel, you have been everywhere! I would love to visit Hawai for sure, it's high on my list. I like the idea of eating and living like a local. THis is how I travel and this is how I can enjoy my trip, especially when it's long. I hope one day I will come back to this post, when I will be on the way to Hawai ;)

Passport Symphony

Monday 17th of December 2018

Haha, there's still a lot of ground left to cover :) I hope you visit Hawaii soon


Friday 14th of December 2018

Very interesting post, I too would have assumed you were a millionaire when you say you visit Hawaii often lol. I tend to live like a local when I travel with the occasional splurge, so good to know about Tom's Barefoot tours - I do like a bargain. Love firework displays too - is that Friday display a high season show or happens all year?

Passport Symphony

Monday 17th of December 2018

Well, I wish I was :) As for the firework display, it happens every Friday