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Hawaii on a Budget: Eat, Sleep, and Sightsee in Paradise on the Cheap

If you’re thinking that it’s impossible to see Hawaii on a budget, we’ve got some good news: it’s definitely possible to travel cheaply in Hawaii, but you just need to know where to look. Here are our suggestions for visiting Hawaii on a budget.

Visit Hawaii on a Budget

We’ve found some affordable hotels and restaurants on some of the most popular Hawaiian islands, as well as a few tips on the best ways to save money while sightseeing (including some activities that are totally free!). Read on for tips for travelling to Hawaii on a cheap.

Kauai on the cheap

While it’s true that you could easily drop a lot of money on Kauai, there are also ways around spending tons of cash. Poipu Beach and Hanalei are both known for more expensive hotels, but you can find some good deals on Kapaa, including a stay at the Aston Islander on the Beach. Along with their spacious grounds and tiki bar, they have barbecues available for guests to use so you can cook your own meals in the evening.

If you’re a golfer, a round of nine holes at Kukuiolono Park is only $10 (and another $10 if you need to rent clubs). The course offers amazing views of the island and the ocean, so it’s a beautiful place to spend a morning or two. 

For a cheap meal in Kauai, there’s the infamous Chicken in a Barrel in both Kapaa and Hanalei. Chicken and ribs are roasted in a metal barrel over high heat, creating not only a unique dining experience but a delicious meal. If you like rum, and are the legal drinking age (21 years in the USA), you can have a free rum tasting at Koloa Rum Company.

Thankfully, there are lots of hikes on Kauai. Hiking is a fantastic way to see the island and, of course, it’s extremely cheap to do. We recommend the trail that hugs the famous Na Pali cliffs. The Kalalau Trail on the North Side of the island is also often recommended but is known to close due to flooding, so check the trail’s website before you head out. There’s also the Sleeping Giant Trail, which is very popular!

One last tip for seeing Kauai on a budget: rent a car! This is the best way to see as much of the island as possible (or any of the Hawaiian islands). Local produce is fresh and cheap, so pack a lunch and spend a day driving to the public beaches and hiking trails. There’s so much beauty on offer in Kauai that the best way to experience it is to get out on the road and explore. Our recommendation? Check out Wailua Falls!

So what should you expect to spend in a day in Kauai on a budget? If you plan wisely and book ahead, you can find cheap hotels between $100 and $150 per night. A cheap car rental can cost between $30 and $60 a day, while you should budget about $20 to $50 a day per person for food, depending on where you eat.

The cheapest way to get to and from the airport in Kauai is to take a shuttle, courtesy bus (if you hotel has one), or the Kauai County Bus.

Skimp on: Golf. There’s no need to pay mega bucks for a fancy golf course; Kukuiolono Park is perfect for all aspiring golfers.

Splurge on: A scenic flight over the beautiful island of Kauai! Still reasonably priced per person, scenic flights are an amazing way to cement those memories of Kauai.

palm trees and beach at sunset in Hawaii
Hawaii on a Budget: How to Eat, Sleep, and Sightsee in Hawaii on the Cheap

Maui, Hawaii on a budget

Unfortunately, hotels right on the beach in Maui can cost a pretty penny. Don’t worry, though, because you can still visit Maui on a budget! The Plantation Inn is a cozy spot right in the middle of Lahaina, one of Maui’s best spots for nightlife, restaurants, and shopping. Base yourself here and then rent a car to explore the rest of Maui.

In terms of food, you can’t go wrong with Sam Sato’s in Wailuku, where locals gather for lunches of noodles, chow mein, seafood, and more. In Ka’anapali, CJ’s is known for having one of the most affordable breakfasts in the area. Afterwards, wander the beautiful beach and do a bit of window shopping in Whalers Village.

There are also a lot of great food trucks sprinkled around Maui, with the best parking north of Kapalua Bay or south of Wailea near Makena Beach. Make sure to try the fish tacos and the excellent barbeque!

For one of the best road trips around Maui, try driving to the top of Haleakala for sunrise. You won’t regret taking the time to see this view of the island. While the fee to enter is slightly steep – $25 per private car or $12 per person if hiking or biking – it’s totally worth fitting into your Hawaiian budget.

Another must-do road trip in Maui… at least for those who aren’t faint of heart? The infamous Road to Hana, a 100-kilometre road that twists and turns from to the small town of Hana. A word to the wise? Don’t look down! The lush forests, waterfalls, and jaw-dropping views are definitely worth the careful driving.

So what should you expect to spend in a day in Maui on a budget? If you plan wisely and book ahead, you can find hotels for under $150 a night. Travelling in low season significantly helps with hotel and car rental rates. If you eat cheaply, plan to spend around $20 to $40 a day per person on meals, while you can sometimes find car rental deals as low as $30 a day.

The cheapest way to get to and from the airport in Maui is by airport shuttle, courtesy bus (if your hotel provides one), or by public transportation, although service is limited.

Skimp on: Shopping. The Maui Swap Meet only costs $.50 to enter, and you’ll find an array of cheap souvenirs and fresh food here.

Splurge on: Whale watching. If you visit Maui between November and May, you may catch a glimpse of the beautiful humpback whales that migrate past the islands every year.

cliff and beach in Hawaii by day
Hawaii on a Budget: How to Eat, Sleep, and Sightsee in Hawaii on the Cheap

Oahu and Honolulu

Again, you’ll find lots of expensive hotels lining the beaches, but if you’re willing to stay a block or two away from the beach, you can find some great bargains on Oahu. The Ilima Hotel is a good choice, as is the Vive Hotel. With its sleek furnishings, it’s a step up from most budget Waikiki hotels.

If you’re looking to eat cheaply in Honolulu, look no further than Chinatown. You’ll find a number of reasonably priced restaurants in the area. Try the fried chicken at a popular spot called The Pig and the Lady!

In terms of hikes, trekking to the summit of the Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu allows you a gorgeous view (especially at sunrise). While cars cost $5, pedestrians only have to pay $1. It’s not a difficult hike and the view of the sun rising up over the ocean is certainly worth the extra steps.S

So what should you expect to spend in a day on Oahu on a budget? Thankfully, there are a few more cheap hotel options on Oahu than some of the other smaller islands. With a car rental, food, and hotel, two people could get by on less than $200 a day in Oahu!

The cheapest way to get to and from the airport in Oahu is by bus. The Airport Waikiki Express is $9 per person ($16 for a round trip), but you can also find lots of public transit buses that run frequently to the airport ($2.25 per adult).

Skimp on: Food. There are plenty of great (and cheap) options for food on Oahu, especially in Honolulu. With the increase in popularity of food trucks, you’re always near a fantastic meal on the island.

Splurge on: Floating yoga! Yoga Floats holds a variety of yoga classes on paddle boards, including private lessons and classes at sunset.

aerial view of the big island in Hawaii
Hawaii on a Budget: How to Eat, Sleep, and Sightsee in Hawaii on the Cheap

The Big Island, Hawaii

Travelling to the Big Island of Hawaii (the state’s namesake island) on a budget is slightly more difficult, but you can still manage a reasonably priced holiday. Make sure to check out hotels in the town of Kailua-Kona. A good option is the Volcano Village Lodge not far from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which also has some amazing cliffside walks. You’ll also be near Punalu’u Beach, or Black Sand Beach, where you can witness the Big Island’s famous black sand for yourself. Hopefully, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of a sea turtle, too! 

In Hilo, try the Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, or, if you’re fine with being further from the action, Reeds Bay. In terms of activities, all Hawaiian beaches are public, i.e. free, so make sure to check out a few for snorkelling, swimming, and surfing. Hapuna and Maniniowali are excellent for swimming when it’s calm! Also visit the beautiful Akaka Falls, which only cost a dollar for pedestrians ($5 for cars).

So what should you expect to spend in a day on the Big Island of Hawaii on a budget? Because prices are a bit higher here, you should budget for at least $200 to $250 for two people per day. You can find hotels for as cheap as $130 per night, and renting a car is advisable (which can cost as little as $40 per day).

The cheapest way to get around the Big Island is by public bus, however the easiest and best way to get to and from the airport is by rental car. Having a rental car on the Big Island is definitely recommended!

Skimp on: Sightseeing. If you have a rental car, the island is full of public beaches to explore. Bring a snorkel mask from home and enjoy the world below the waves. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars for a pricey shuttle tour of the island; be your own tour guide!

Splurge on: Ziplining! Get your adrenaline pumping with Kohala Zipline. It’s an amazing way to see the lush island and it’s sure to be an experience you’ll always remember.

There you have it: a few ways to enjoy Hawaii on a budget! Find some excellent hotel deals below.