How to visit Hawaii on a shoestring budget

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. The common reactions I’ve heard are: “I could never afford it” or “I’m so jealous”. It’s true, the pink-hued sunsets over the crystal blue waters and the fascinating geology come with 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 you can actually afford to visit Hawaii on a budget? After all, visiting places on a budget is what Passport Symphony is all about. Let’s dig in:

Eat like a local in Hawaii

Try the locally grown 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.

visit Hawaii on a budget

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 an early bird discount 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 a 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 o 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 serving dishes between $5 and $10.

visit Hawaii on a budget: eat like a local

Explore the Hawaiian outdoors

I know Hawaii is famous for the beaches but that’s not all the Aloha State has to offer. Hiking through the national parks of Hawaii is an unforgettable experience that will only cost you between $10 and $20 USD per person. Some of the best hiking places in Hawaii include Kalalau Trail in Kauai, the Hawaii Volcanos National Park, the Diamond Head on Oahu in Honolulu, and Haleakala National Park in Maui.

visit Hawaii on a budget

Try remaining on one island

When you get to Hawaii you will probably want to visit as many islands as possible. Unfortunately, the 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. The Big Island is the best place if you want to see active volcanos. 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. My advice is to choose any of these that suits you the most and just stay there and enjoy.

Related: 23 places you have to see before you die

Travel during low or shoulder seasons

visit Hawaii on a budget

Hawaii is a year-round destination but the big tourist rush is from December to April. Hence, May to September is a good time to visit. 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.

Related: Amazing places in the US off the beaten track.

What about the accommodation?

Hawaii is home to one of the most expensive hotels in the world and staying in Hawaii can be expensive. However, budget travelers can get good deals at bed and breakfast facilities. They will range from simple rooms with a few beds to luxury equipped flats. You can also get cheap accommodation at the various campsites in Hawaii, mostly in the national parks.

visit Hawaii on a budget

If you’re visiting in the shoulder season or offseason, you can use this to your advantage as well. There are thousands of condo owners that don’t like it when their property is empty. You can do some Internet research, e-mail a few of them and try to bargain for a good price. When I visited last October, I emailed 10 condo owners and 5 of them got back to me offering lower prices.

Book activities through a discount activity booker — or direct

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:

Use coupons

Coupons can always help you save money on various sights and activities in Hawaii. Local newspapers are a good place to start looking to see what’s available. You can also check out “This Week” magazine that you can get at all airports. They also have a variety of coupons for discounts on literally everything, from dining to sightseeing. Another option is Groupon. I managed to get tickets to the Pearl Harbor museum for half the price. How awesome is that?

visit Hawaii on a budget

Do things locals do

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. I recently came across a very interesting article that lists some other things you should know about Hawaii before visiting.

visit Hawaii on a budget

When you’re traveling 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 take the most out of Hawaii on a shoestring budget. Do you think I missed something? Don’t be shy and drop a comment.

Planning to visit this amazing destination anytime soon?

Check out these Hawaii planning tips before you go.


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