Tips for a low-cost vacation in Hawaii

2023-01-29 06:16:41 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.
GMA Newsletters

In spite of Hawaii's widespread renown for its stunning natural beauty, the state does not have a reputation as a budget traveler's paradise.

Rooms with a view of the ocean, umbrella drinks, and lomi lomi massages all add up quickly. When planning a cheap vacation to Hawaii, it's helpful to keep in mind that many of the state's most popular pastimes, such as basking in the sunshine, swimming in the ocean, and exploring the lush greenery of the countryside, are either free or inexpensive.

Careful planning is required for all other aspects of your trip, including airfare, lodging, and upscale extras.

(Further: see a preview of the world's first floating roller coaster)

We've compiled a list of money-saving strategies for your Hawaii vacation down below.

It's best to go in the late winter or early fall.


Planning ahead can help you save money on your flight to Hawaii. Peak season on the islands is in sync with the mainland's winter season, specifically the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

However, fares tend to drop toward the end of January, and occasionally in February as well. Even though summer isn't as common as winter, the beaches can still be crowded with families.

Budget travelers can find great deals during the months of September, October, and November. Be aware that price increases may occur due to local celebrations, such as the Aloha Festival on Oahu in the middle of September.

It's recommended that you postpone your trip to Hawaii until after Golden Week (the last week of April) if possible. Since this window coincides with a holiday in Japan, many people from the Land of the Rising Sun will be visiting Hawaii.

As a final point, remember to look into other airport options. Consider the airports on the smaller islands when looking for flights. A flight to Kauai, for instance, may cost less than one to Honolulu.

Consider staying in a hotel that falls in the middle of the price spectrum.

PHOTO: Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
Resort Hotel Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach

Luxury hotels in Honolulu typically cost upwards of $400 per night, and all-inclusive resorts can cost much more. However, if you book in advance, you can find 3-star hotels for less than $150 per night.

The Vive Hotel Waikiki, for instance, offers stylish, up-to-date accommodations, some of which even come with a view of the ocean. Although the hotel does not have a fitness center and the rooms are on the smaller side, the beach is only a five-minute walk away, so you can work out without leaving the hotel.

The Ramada Plaza Waikiki has a nice outdoor pool and a laundry room, but it costs more. Although the hotel's outdated furnishings and decor may be a turnoff, chances are you're not there to spend time in your room.

Two-star hotels can be found for under $100 per night, and if you don't mind the bare minimum of amenities, they can be perfectly adequate.

It's time to go to the beach and go for a hike!


Famous Hawaii beaches are free to the public, but parking will cost you. Hotels that are conveniently located near beaches are ideal for beachgoers who plan to spend most of their vacation lounging in the sand.

The whole family, and then some, can be found at Waikiki Beach. North Shore of Oahu is a popular surfing and whale-watching destination, while Punalu'u Beach on the Big Island is well-known for its black sand and green sea turtles.

The only thing more relaxing than hiking in Hawaii is lounging on the beach. It's also very cheap.

Access to the famous volcanic state park, Diamond Head, costs only $1 for pedestrians and $5 for cars. Nearly two hours of hiking will reward you with panoramic views of the city and sea.

The Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu's Ko'olau Range is a $5-per-vehicle-entry into a small rainforest. The Manoa Falls, the local attraction, are located about an hour's hike away.

Nearby, you can visit the Lyon Arboretum, which is home to over 5,000 plant species. In spite of the fact that there is no cover charge, a suggested donation of $5 is being collected.

#4: Nosh on some poke and local market fare for a traditional Hawaiian meal.

PHOTO: Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
Truck where you can get shrimp from Giovanni

There are many high-end restaurants in Honolulu, but be prepared to pay a hefty price for your meal. Since many food products' ingredients must be imported, a premium must be placed on them.

But if you're hungry, there's no denying that the local cuisine will hit the spot. Regardless of how much money you have to spend, you must indulge in a traditional Hawaiian lunch.

Priced between $10 and $20, these heaping plates typically feature teriyaki beef, fried chicken, or another meaty main dish alongside heaping helpings of rice and macaroni salad. Some of the best places in Honolulu to get this are Aloha Mixed Plate, Rainbow Drive-In, and Zippy's.

Moreover, the North Shore of Oahu is home to a fleet of shrimp trucks, which offer a seafood spin on the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch.

Poke bowls, now enjoyed all over the world, were originally served at backyard grills in Hawaii. You can get these dishes, which feature raw fish and sushi rice, at Aloha Cones and other places.

Hawaii's many farmer's markets are a great place to find delicious local fare in addition to fresh produce. Well-known chefs sell their delicious creations, so shoppers can fill their bellies and their grocery bags at the same time.

Money can be saved by preparing some meals in the hotel's kitchenette rather than eating out. The Pig and & Lady serves delicious Vietnamese noodles and sandwiches at the Kapiolani Community College Farmer's Market on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

You can get goat's milk gelato from Haleakala Creamery (in flavors like salted caramel) at the Maui Upcountry Farmer's Market, and at the Kauai Community Market, you can get breakfast treats like papaya cream cheese Danish from Midnight Bear Breads.

Use public transportation instead of renting a car.

PHOTO: Oahu Tantalus and Round Top Drive
Tantalus and Round Top Road on Oahu

An inexpensive rental car can be found for as little as $20 per day, but you should probably forego this option. To get to your destination, you'll need to pay for gas, park your car at the hotel, and potentially use valet parking.

Many beaches are within walking distance of your Waikiki hotel, or you can easily access them by using the public transportation system. Honolulu's bus system is well-organized and serves the city's major attractions.

The beaches of Kailua and Lanikai can be reached via Route 70, and Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay can be reached via Route 22. Depending on the route, you may have to wait anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour for a bus.

However, the traffic in Honolulu can be unbearable during the peak season, so if you'd rather read than fume, taking the bus is your best bet. It is possible to reach the island's northern region via tour buses and ridesharing services like Uber.

Use of ride-sharing services can be complicated by the fact that GPS reception on the islands is often poor, making it difficult for drivers to find you. Make sure you're well-prepared to give directions.

However, if you want to take the road to Hana on Maui, you'll need a car to navigate the long and winding route that will take you most of the day. Explore your options and take advantage of pit stops to save money and have a more enjoyable trip.

6- Take a cultural course, see some fireworks, and enjoy a hula performance.

PHOTO: Oahu Starlight Luau
Starlight Luau on Oahu

Luau dinners have a reputation for being expensive, but there are many that are available for just a few dollars. Kuhio Beach, on Oahu, Hawaii, hosts free hula and torch lighting shows several times a week.

There are a plethora of free lei-making, hula dance, and ukulele-playing workshops available at the Royal Hawaiian Center. The USS Arizona Memorial tells the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which drew the United States into World War II.

Even if they aren't exactly conventional, fireworks are always a good time. The Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free fireworks show every week on Fridays. A seat by the pool and a mai tai will only set you back $30.

7. Spend your money wisely on a massage.

PHOTO: Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
Resort Hotel Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach

It can be difficult to find a reasonably priced deluxe massage. If you want a secluded mud bath, hot shower, and fluffy robe, prepare to shell out a pretty penny.

There are, however, budget-friendly choices that don't skimp on comfort. Honolulu Magazine suggests a visit to a local Korean spa for a relaxing hot tub session and massage.

One of the costs of providing such low rates is the fact that the hot tubs are shared. The Aloha Sauna & Spa has a package that includes a body scrub, fresh cucumber facial, and lavender essential oil massage for about $130.

Just $40 gets you into the sauna and hot tub at Herbal Spa and Salon. If you still can't afford it, you can always sign up to be a test subject at the Royal Hawaiian Center and get a free lomi lomi massage.

(Oyster -- note from editor com is a non-affiliated hotel review website; it does not receive any payment from the hotels whose services it provides. )

Showing page 1 of 16