Budget Tips for Hawaii Travel

Hawaii Trip Planning Guide

Travel Info

Budget Tips for Hawaii Travel

Keep your Hawaii holiday costs down by employing these money-saving strategies to stretch that dollar further and reduce fears about fluctuating foreign exchange rates.

Best Time to Travel

  • Airfare pricing depends a lot on travel demand to Hawaii from your country of origin. For example, most Australians visit Hawaii in school holidays, so flights tend to cost more in these months than in other less-travelled periods.

  • Statistics show that February, September and October have the least number of overall visitors in Hawaii. There is a high probability that hotels and resorts are going to offer great rates during slower months to stimulate bookings.

  • Budget travellers should avoid peak holidays, this includes but is not limited to, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

  • Travel is not an exact science, and holiday discounts will inevitably pop up at any time of year. Follow Hawaiian Airlines, lodging, and activity providers on social media and subscribe to their newsletters to be the first to know when a deal drops.

Save with Hawaiian Airlines

  • Combining purchase of any Hawaiian Airlines neighbour island flights with any Hawaiian Airlines international flights usually results in a better total price. Combining flights on the same ticket also extends the international baggage allowance for the neighbour island sectors, avoiding the US$25 fee to check the first bag and US$35 fee to check a second.

  • For travel between Hawaii and Australia, Hawaiian Airlines passengers can check two 32 kg (70 lbs) pieces of luggage and one 11.5 kg (25 lbs) carry-on bag. With Hawaii being a shopping mecca, this generous baggage allowance can end up saving holidaymakers a lot on extra-baggage charges on the trip home.

  • Hawaiian Airlines Packages offer exclusive discounts only accessible when bundling your flight and hotel together. It’s worth exploring the Package tab on their website; sometimes you can score up to two nights free by booking together!

Affordable Accommodation

  • Some of the least expensive areas to stay across Hawaii are the less-developed but equally beautiful regions just outside the mainstream resort zones. On Oahu, it’s cheaper to stay in a hotel a few blocks back from Waikiki Beach than a resort along the waterfront on Kalakaua Avenue. On Maui, Kihei shares the same stunning coastline as its neighbour Wailea but offers much better value for money on accommodation. On Hawaii Island, Kona’s village caters well to all budgets, whereas it’s hard to find anything less than five-star on the Kohala Coast. On Kauai, sticking close to the main town of Lihue or just north in Kapaa is more affordable than the popular districts of Princeville or Poipu.

  • Gain significant savings by opting for no view, city or partial ocean-view rooms, as opposed to an oceanfront or ocean-view room. Most Hawaii vacations will be spent outside where the views are free like when you’re lying on beaches and hiking up mountains, driving around the island vistas and watching the sunset.

  • Beware of Resort Fees, a mandatory daily charge in addition to the room rate paid directly to the hotel at check out. They can range from US$15-50 per room per night and cover amenities (inclusions vary per property). Research Resort Fees and aim to get the best value, or better yet, choose a hotel without them.

Thrifty Transport

  • The cheapest way to get around Oahu is TheBus at US$2.75 adult/US$1.25 child for a one-way trip or US$5.50 adult/US$2.50 child for a 1-Day Pass. Bus routes cover major island attractions including Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor and Hanauma Bay. The key to riding success is figuring out the bus stops and timetable ahead of time, download DaBus2 app for easy access to this information. On Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island public transport is limited, and there’s none on Lanai and Molokai.

  • Having a set of wheels in Hawaii allows you to discover beautiful pockets of each island you might not find otherwise. Car rentals are reasonably priced, if you avoid convertibles and 4WDs. Turo (like Airbnb for cars) and Hui (Oahu’s station-based car service) apps have brought the cost of renting a car down even further.

  • Watch out for parking fees. It’s not uncommon for Hawaii hotels and resorts and local parking lots to charge up to US$40 per night. The best advice is to plan your itinerary carefully and only hire a car for the days you’ll be out adventuring.

  • Uber and Lyft apps are used prolifically in the urban centres of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island and Kauai, offering an economical alternative to taxis.

  • Biki bike share program has over 130 stations across Honolulu. For US$20, riders get 300-minutes. For even better value at US$20 for 8-hours, hire bicycles from Hawaiian Style Rentals on Waikiki’s Lemon Road. They provide a helmet (Biki does not), a local map and the freedom to chain the bike wherever you’d like to stop, rather than having to find a dock.

Cheap Eats & Drinks

  • The ability to prepare meals during a Hawaii trip can save some cash. Weigh the investment of booking lodging with a kitchen. It can prove financially beneficial to cook breakfasts and make lunches so you can splurge on dinners.

  • For those with access to a kitchen, head straight to the nearest farmers market on the island. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, local food delicacies and homemade baked goods, all for a fraction of grocery store prices. For consumer goods, Walmart sells general merchandise and groceries for less in the major towns of Honolulu, Lihue, Kailua-Kona and Hilo.

  • Hawaii’s food truck scene is on-fire; most offer a gourmet feed at a price you can swallow. Find food trucks on every island by searching the Yelp app. Check out these popular trucks, Hula Dog Kuhio (Oahu), Da Nani Pirates (Maui), A Whale of a Crepe (Kona) and Kickshaws (Kauai).

  • Hawaii restaurants like to entice diners during their less busy periods (early 3-6pm and late 8-10pm) with Happy Hour specials. A selection of foods and drinks are discounted during these off-peak times, usually available only if you’re sitting in the bar area of the restaurant. Happy Hour hopping is a top tip for eating and drinking cheaply, plus it’s a fun and social experience to eat at the bar.

  • Download the Hawaii Happy Hours app to wine and dine hyper-efficiently. It’s a database of Hawaii’s best Happy Hour deals, their menus and price guidelines.

  • When dining out every dime counts, that’s where BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurants come in. Drink booze without the high restaurant markups by supplying your own. Hit up these BYOB gems on Oahu, Little Village Noodle House, Olive Tree Cafe, Siam Palace Thai Restaurant and Sikdorak.

  • If you are dining at a restaurant for a special occasion, always mention it when you make the reservation, some restaurants will include a complimentary treat (like a dessert) for a birthday, honeymoon or anniversary.

  • Portions in America are renowned for being super-sized. In some cases, an Appetizer (entrée) in Hawaii is nearly the same size as a main meal in other parts of the world. And often one Entree (main meal) is more than enough to feed two.

Free Things to Do

  • The best things in life are free, even in Hawaii. The most obvious cost-free activities involve Mother Nature. Beaches are free for all to enjoy, there’s an abundance of hiking trails and botanical gardens open to the public, and watching a sunrise or sunset is one unforgettable daily show not to be missed. Swimming in the ocean doesn’t cost a thing but could result in a rendezvous with a Hawaiian green sea turtle, monk seal or spinner dolphin.

  • If you’ve hired a car, there are several free lookouts that offer spectacular views over the islands you’re visiting. Visit Puu Ualakaa State Park (Tantalus Lookout) on Oahu, Hookipa Lookout on Maui, Waipio Valley Lookout on Hawaii Island and Waimea Canyon Lookout on Kauai.

  • Ample free regular events take place on every Hawaiian Island. On Oahu, authentic Hawaiian music and dance are performed at the Kuhio Beach Hula Show three nights a week at sunset (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday). Maui’s historic towns hold a fun block party every Friday night with local food, music and vendors, check out 1st Fridays Wailuku, 2nd Fridays Lahaina, 3rd Fridays Makawao, 4th Fridays Kihei and 5th Fridays Lanai. The Volcano Arts Center on Hawaii Island offers a variety of complimentary classes and workshops from flower lei-making to nature walks. On Kauai, Hanapepe Festival and Art Walk runs every Friday night.

  • Hawaii’s shopping malls are hotspots for free entertainment and events; it’s quite remarkable. Ala Moana Center on Oahu draws crowds for its performances from The Royal Band to Hawaii State Ballet. Lahaina Cannery Mall on Maui has Hula Lessons and Family Magic Shows. The Kings Shops and Queens Marketplace on Hawaii Island have events from Koi Fish Feeding Sessions and Beginner Ukulele Lessons to Movies Under the Stars. The Shops at Kukuiula on Kauai have Kanikapila at Kukuiula, an ongoing schedule of local musicians and artists performances.

  • Don’t be afraid to wander through Hawaii’s spectacular hotels and resorts, in fact, it is encouraged. They are full of history, artwork, beautiful vantage points and restaurants and bars that can be enjoyed by non-guests. Some hotels even offer a free historical tour, like the Royal Hawaiian Resort (Pink Palace of the Pacific).

  • Sometimes overlooked is the wisdom of packing essentials from home. Hear me out. Most items vacationers need like sunscreen, insect spray, snorkel and fin sets, sarongs, reusable water bottles, and a picnic blanket can cost an arm and a leg at convenience stores, so why not bring them with you.

Written by Ashlee Galea, an Aussie living in Hawaii who enjoys sharing Hawaii insider knowledge and travel advice on her blog The Hawaii Admirer (thehawaiiadmirer.com).