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. 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 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 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.

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 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.

hawaiian food

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.
Related: also check out these amazing national parks near Key West.
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, 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. 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.

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 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.

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

What about accommodation?

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, 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. If you think 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.

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?

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

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.

visit Hawaii on a budget

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.

Helpful resources for visiting 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 World Nomads.

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


Want to see some events in Hawaii? Use this Seat Geek offer to get up to 10% off on all ticket purchases. My favorite thing about it is that you can see the venue from the seat you’re booking before you actually book!

Planning to visit Hawaii on a budget anytime soon? Let me know if this article was helpful!

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11 thoughts on “How to visit Hawaii on a shoestring budget”

  1. This is a really helpful blog for how to visit Hawaii when I do not have too much of cash in pocket. When you act like a local going to a new place, you automatically end up spending less. Also, taking public transport and all helps. I would love to include Hawaii in my plan soon; however, the flight price makes a big hole in the pocket, so I am still waiting.

  2. Actually you’re right – as long as you buy fresh ingredients from the local market, cook yourself in your bnb, visit the not-so-expensive national parks and do things local do, there are ways to save money! The only expensive thing that’ll remain after this is the flight tickets, depending on where you’re flying from!

  3. Great post and wished I had it before I went to Oahu in the summer. Gosh it sure is expensive over there and going in the height of summer certainly didn’t help. Coming from Australia, we didn’t find the food to expensive (it is so expensive at home so we’re used to it) but found the accommodation prices astronomical! I have to admit I was a bit put off with having to pay for entry fees for hikes. That’s something we’re not accustomed to. And Pearl Harbor….. almost unaffordable if you wanted to do the whole thing. BUT, we loved our holiday. Not island hoping sure helped with the budget so yes, I totally agree with that.

  4. I am so so grateful to you for sharing this post! I really really really want to go to Hawaii as soon as possible but just finding it hard to save up the kinda cash to do it (and do it right). However your post is so in depth and informative that I believe it is now possible. Also your pictures are unreal!

  5. 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?

  6. 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 😉

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.


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