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Hawaii on a Budget


Did you assume a Hawaiian vacation was out of your reach financially? Nothing could be further from the truth – provided you’re willing to do a lot of research, compromise on some things, and be smart about how you approach the whole vacation. You can definitely get lodging for $100 or less a night and even get free entertainment if you know where to look. Here’s a handy guide on how to do Hawaii on a budget.

Select an Island

Hawaii is a big place. If you’re on a budget, you’ll have to choose one island to visit, and choose wisely. In general, Oahu and the Big Island are slightly more affordable than Maui and Kauai when it comes to food and accommodations. You’ll spend a lot more if you visit Molokai and Lanai because they are smaller and more remote.

Choose a Hotel

If you’re looking to save a buck, avoid the high-rise hotels right on the beach at Waikiki, for example. Instead, staying just a couple of streets back can save hundreds per night. Just because you’re set back a few blocks doesn’t mean you’re much farther from all the action, such as shops, restaurants and activities.

Use Public Transportation

Renting a car is probably the biggest expense other than your hotel. Unless you’re really looking to tour the island every day on your own, you don’t always need a car. To save cash, use the public transportation system, which is actually quite good especially on Oahu. Here, the City Bus system serves the whole island, but particularly the heart of Waikiki and the surrounding business district. You can get where you need to go for $2.50 one way, or purchase a four-day pass for $25. The Hele-On bus system is Kona’s public transportation and it’s free of charge. Hey, you’re also doing your part to save the environment! If you book a tour through Hoku Hawaii Tours, we come and pick you up at your Waikiki hotel, so there’s another way you can save some change.

Seek Out Free Attractions

This is an obvious one, but one worth doing right. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is free but you have to secure a ticket so go early in the morning or reserve online as much as a few weeks ahead of time. Check out the majesty of the Halona Blowhole, have a picnic lunch at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, take part in one of the 100 festivals and events that take place here annually, and browse the International Marketplace, an eclectic bazaar of clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs from local artisans. The beaches here are some of the most spectacular in the world, so don’t miss Maui’s west side for swimming, snorkeling at Punalu’u Beach Park on the Big Island and Oahu’s North Shore for surfing.

More About Free Entertainment

Your hotel may offer free shows or events, such as cultural performances, musical shows, and luaus, so ask at the front desk for a schedule. These shows are often offered free to guests, so take advantage of this money-saving tactic when you can. All the beaches are free, and you’ll want to hit the summit of the Diamond Head crater. You don’t have to eat three square meals a day. If your hotel offers free breakfast, eat big in the morning, bring along snacks or fruit throughout the day if you’re going on tours or hitting the beach, then go out to eat at night.

Ask for Upgrades

When checking into your hotel, ask the concierge if you can be upgraded. It doesn’t always happen but it’s certainly worth a shot. You may be able to get a room closer to the pool if you have kids, or away from it if you’re single. You may be able to snag a bigger room, perhaps one with a balcony, or even one with extra amenities.

Pick up Coupons and Brochures

Whenever you’re in the airport or a shop, grab some brochures, which often contain lots of money-saving coupons. Take the time to go through them to get cash off your car rental, free stuff at souvenir shops, and discounts off meals at participating restaurants. Another perk if you’re staying on Oahu is the Go Oahu card, which lets you visit several attractions on the island for one low price, saving you up to 55 percent on anything from museums to tours.

Bring Your Own Stuff

If you’ve got the extra room in your luggage, bring along your own snorkel gear. If you plan on snorkeling for several days while here at the beaches, you’ll soon find the daily rental rate can be between $15 and $20. This can really add up if you have a large family or you plan to snorkel all week long.

Go During the Off Season

You’ll get cheaper flights and discounted hotel rooms when you go in the last two weeks of January, any time in February, or May, September and October. Bonus for February: this is the best month for humpback whale sightings. If you were to stay for a week in Waikiki at a standard hotel, you could shell out about $200 per night; however, go with a one-bedroom condo and you can slash that rate in half. Other options include renting a single room in a plantation home, a beachfront suite or studio, cottage or bed and breakfast. Hostels are another option if you’re backpacking through Hawaii and really need a cheap place to stay. There are lots of hostels right in Waikiki, such as the Polynesian Hostel Beach Club, the Waikiki Beachside Hostel and Hostelling International Waikiki.

There are ways to do Hawaii on a budget – you just have to get creative and have a drive to save money. Hoku Hawaii Tours has a number of affordable tours that will provide entertainment for several hours and even a whole day. Our eco adventure tour, for example, even includes lunch! Call us today to reserve, as our tours book fast.