Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation spots in the US for families, couples, friends, solo travelers – basically everyone. There are many activities you can do in Hawaii, both cultural and natural sites to explore. You can go to 5-star hotels and restaurants or walk among untouched natural wonders. Hawaii vacation is a dreamy vacation, but it’s not considered an inexpensive one. But it can be affordable if you plan it right! In this article, we will list tips to plan a trip to Hawaii on a budget.
How to plan your flight to Hawaii and stay on a budget
The two biggest expenses you need to budget for when you plan a trip to Hawaii are getting to Hawaii and staying there. Getting cheap tickets to Hawaii is not easy, but it is possible. You need both skills and luck. We will list some tips for finding the best fares to Hawaii.
Use flight search engines. When you sign up, they usually send you the fares of major airlines for free. If you observe the prices for some time, you will start to notice the patterns. You will know when the prices are lower and when they are not. One of the sites you can try is CheapAir. Scroll to the bottom to find Fare Tracker. It’s best to start tracking around six months before you want to go to Hawaii.
As you probably already know, time influences the price of the tickets the most. Usually, the cheapest months to travel to Hawaii are April, May, September, and October, except around holidays. Also, try to travel on weekdays because weekend tickets are much more popular and more expensive.
It will also help if you are flexible: because you can choose the cheapest days for your flight in this case. Also, consider alternative airports, not just one. If you save a good amount on the plane tickets, it can be worth driving for a while to another airport. Also, consider flying to other airports in Hawaii instead of Honolulu airport because such flights can be much cheaper. You can later fly between islands.
Finally, buy the tickets early. It’s often best to buy about 50 days before the trip. Of course, you can buy earlier if you find a good place. Try not to buy later than 21 days before the trip because the tickets can become too expensive then.
Budget accommodation in Hawaii
Another substantial portion of your budget goes to accommodation, which often costs a quarter of all travel expenses. So, if you save on accommodation, you save a lot on the whole trip.
There is more than one type of accommodation from which you can choose. Usually, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is a hotel. If you are rich, you can stay in luxury hotels, of course, but if you are trying to save, it’s best to consider hotels of lower quality. Of course, the rooms will likely be much smaller, but you can save a lot if you do not mind minimalistic design. We also recommend finding a hotel with a kitchen and skipping hotel breakfast since they are usually overpriced and not worth it.
Another option is vacation rentals. They are private properties that owners rent out to vacationers short-term. Oahu passed a law that limits the number of vacation rentals, but you should still find plenty. Even if you stay in an illegal one, you won’t be penalized – it will be the owner. Still, it’s better to find a legal option. Learn how to choose vacation rentals.
There is also a home-exchange project you can try, just like in the film The Holiday. You can have unlimited exchanges per year for just $150 a year. Of course, the choices are more limited, but you can luck out and save a lot if you find something.
Finally, if you are adventurous and like nature, consider camping. You can spend under $30 a night while staying on beautiful beaches. Of course, you have to bring gear, such as tents and sleeping bags. Do not try to save on the quality: get good gear. Otherwise, the quality of your vacation can suffer. You can also spend a portion of the time in a hotel if you miss comforts.
Plan transportation during your Hawaii trip
Transportation during the trip matters, but it does not usually take the largest part of the budget. Of course, you can still save a bit by making some choices.
Public transportation, such as buses, is one of the cheapest ways to get around, but it is very limited. Also, you waste a lot of time waiting when traveling on a bus. Of course, you can read or play on your phone, which you cannot do when driving a car. Still, you have less time to explore the island.
Although it’s not the cheapest way, we recommend renting a car if you plan to explore Hawaii a lot. You can find car rentals for only 20-30 dollars per day. Of course, if you plan to stay in one region, buses, bikes, and simply moving on foot might be okay. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the city, consider renting scooters to move around. Learn about scooter laws in Hawaii.
Bikes can also be a great way to explore the islands if you want to stay in the fresh air and exercise. Check out this guide on renting bikes in Hawaii.
Do not eat out: cook yourself and try street food
People eat not only to satisfy their basic needs and survive: good food can be a great pleasure. But it can also be costly. Let’s look at some tips to eat well in Hawaii and not spend too much money.
First, if you stay at a hotel, avoid hotel breakfast. They usually cost a lot and are not that rewarding. Secondly, people often eat out in restaurants when they travel. The food is good, but it can cost a lot. Also, it does not necessarily represent Hawaiian culture. One way to save on food is to cook yourself. This is why it is good to have a kitchen: you can prepare all the food yourself cheaper. However, you still have to pay attention, so you don’t spend too much on groceries. Many products have to be shipped to Hawaii, which makes them more expensive compared to the mainland. Cooking takes time, too.
Because of this, you should go for street food in Hawaii at least a few times. Street food is not only cheaper but also represents the Hawaiian culture better. You also have more time for exploring. And there are many, many choices. Did you know that the popular poke bowls are a part of native Hawaiian cuisine? Try them: the fish will definitely be fresh in Hawaii. Some other street foods to try in Hawaii are Loco Moco, traditional Hawaii plate lunch, Huli chicken, garlic shrimp, shave ice, and malasadas. Of course, there can also be Mexican, Indian, or other cuisine food trucks. You can also check out local farmers’ markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Choose inexpensive activities
We come to our final point, which can make or break your trip: the activities. Of course, the choice often depends on the traveler’s personality. Some like to spend their trips peacefully, while others want to do as much as possible. Fortunately, there are many things you can plan to do during your Hawaii trip and keep within budget. So, what can you do?
First, go hiking. Hawaii has spectacular nature, and it would be a shame not to explore it. Although there can be a fee to enter state parks – it could be $5 per walk-in and $10 per vehicle – it’s still cheap and totally worth it. There are also many trails you can go on for free.
Water activities can be super fun and cost-effective too. For example, if you want to go snorkeling, you can bring your own gear or rent it for maybe just $5 a day. If you are on the beach, you can sometimes find free Hula shows too!
There are also museums, such as Pearl Harbor Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Lyman Museums, which tell the history of Hawaii, and more. You can also visit Iolani Palace, Hawaii Chocolate Factory, and more than one brewery. There is also a Coffee Farm, a Lavender Farm, and other interesting farms open to visitors. All these activities cost under $20.
Hopefully, these tips will help you plan a trip to Hawaii on a budget. Perhaps you are planning a group trip? Check out our article on organizing group trips!