Updated September 23, 2018
Hawaii is not the cheapest place to travel. Some things can be quite expensive here compared to other places around the world. And that can be quite hard for the budget traveler. So here’s a few tips to help you spread that money a little further so you can enjoy your time here a little longer.
Stick to one island
There are many things to do on all the islands. And if you have the money, you should definitely visit the other islands. But if you’re on a budget, you may have to stick to just one island. There are no ferries between the islands. And so the only way to go from island to island is by plane which can easily get out of budget after a couple of plane rides.
If you had to choose which island, you should stick with Oahu. Honolulu International Airport is on Oahu, and so a lot of direct flights stop here before going on to other islands. Most flights to Honolulu International are cheaper since it’s the main hub.
Oahu’s bus system seems to be better than the rest of the islands too. Food and general shopping are cheaper here. And there’s still plenty of beautiful places to explore once you get out of the city.
Come during low season
We’re in the tropics and the weather is the same year round, so pretty much anytime is a great time to come. But if you’re looking for cheap flights and accommodation, come during our slow times. And that will be the months of February, May, September, and October.
Stay in a Hostel
Hostels are great. They’re cheaper than hotels and you meet tons of people from all over the world. If you’re a single traveler, there’s plenty of opportunity to make some new friends and go explore the island together. Plus, there’s loads of free stuff. Here at the Polynesian Hostel we got free wifi, free beach gear, and a free breakfast.
Buy food at the supermarket, not the ABC
When you come to Hawaii, it can get quite expensive if you eat out everyday. That’s another reason why you should stay in a hostel so you can use their community kitchen to cook up your own grub. But don’t fall into the tourist trap of buying all your stuff at the ABC Stores. They’re all over Waikiki and very convenient. But if you’re looking to buy proper groceries so you can cook a meal, go to the supermarket. There’s a few around and the front desk can usually help you with directions. Food Pantry is the closest. Safeway is a little further away but may be a bit cheaper. And if you go to Safeway, you can type in our phone number at the checkout stand so you can get the cheaper prices.
Try the Farmers Markets
Farmers Markets are all over the island. The locals grow their own produce and can their own food. And the prices are really reasonable too. The fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Markets are locally grown. The ones at the supermarket are usually shipped in. Check
our [this site for a] listing of Farmers Markets [on the island.] just outside the front office. They are different days/times and at different locations. You can also check out Chinatown for more local produce.
Some hostels offer tours around the city. These are often geared towards budget travelers and so they are usually priced very reasonable compared to other professional tour companies. The Polynesian Hostel partners with
Go Paddle Kailua [many local tour operators offering] to offer tours to other parts of the island. So if you’re without a car and you want to go to North Shore, this might be the better way. And it’s currently priced at only $25/person.
Do some camping
Hostels are great and cheap, but camping is even cheaper. However, you’ll need camping permits to camp in any of the state campgrounds in Hawaii. But don’t worry, we can recommend a place that doesn’t require a camping permit. Check out Malaekahana Beach Campground on North Shore. Only $10/person for tent camping. And if you don’t have a tent, check with us in the office. There’s always someone who’s already went camping and left their gear behind cause they don’t want to take it on the plane with them.
Go on a hike
There are tons of hiking all around the island. The closest one to Waikiki is Diamond Head Crater. It’s only a dollar entrance fee. The Polynesian Hostel organizes a sunrise hike at Diamond Head once a week. But you can easily go on your own anytime you want. Koko Head Crater is not too far away either and is free. There are hikes on the Windward Coast like Three Peaks and The Pillbox Hike. There are waterfall hikes like Manoa Falls and Maunawili Falls. There’s a number of ridge trails and other crater hikes. And really the only costs involved will be transportation to the hikes and maybe a few snacks you take with you.
Look for our ‘Part 2’ post
There are tons more budget tips, too many to list in just one post. Check out our next post as we explore ways to get around the island and all the free stuff you can do.
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