Hawaii on a Budget: 9 Tips to Save Money in Hawaii

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There’s something special about Hawaii. Ever since I first visited the Hawaiian Islands in 2011, they’ve been on my must-return list.

As we start to plan future travel, Hawaii is coming out on top. That said, it isn’t known as a budget destination. BUT, if you’re savvy, it’s possible to do Hawaii on a budget and still have a great time.

If you’re planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands or want to know how to save money in Hawaii, these tips are for you.

How to Save Money in Hawaii

1. Attend a timeshare presentation

I know, I know. Timeshare, eye roll. BUT, if you have the resolve of a bear and don’t get easily frustrated, attending a timeshare presentation can be a great way to access luxury resorts for a fraction of the price, which is just what you need for a budget Hawaii vacation.

Sure, you’ll need to spend a few hours being sold to, but the payoff is usually worth it.

According to Holly from The Simple Dollarthe key to resisting the high-pressure sales component is standing firm in your decision to decline“.

2. Travel in a group

Traveling in a large group can do wonders for your Hawaii vacation budget.

Group travel means you can split the cost of accommodation and access some spectacular properties for less than the cost of a regular hotel.

Looking at vacation rentals in Maui, and splitting the cost of a luxury 3 bedroom villa which can accommodate 6, nabs you a top of the line property with a pool and spacious entertaining areas for making memories – which is what vacations are all about!

3. Bundle entry prices with a Go Oahu card

The Go Oahu card can save you hundreds of dollars on loads of attractions around Oahu.

If you’re planning an active Hawaii vacation on a budget, and want to visit sites like the Polynesian Cultural Center, Dole Plantation and Pearl Harbor, the Go Oahu card can save you big bucks.

Check out the Go Oahu site here for more information on how to best plan and use your time.

4. Check out a pro surfing comp on the North Shore

When I last visited Hawaii we were driving around the beaches on the North Shore of Oahu and came across a pro surfing competition happening on the beach, right next to the road.

We parked up and strolled over expecting to be charged an entry fee to watch. But no, it was completely free. Can you believe that?

These were professional sportspeople, at the top of their game, and we were able to watch them completely free. To find out what’s on and when check out: Aloha Surf Guide

5. Travel in low season

OK, so Hawaii is popular all the time. But, there are some months that are quieter than others.

If you’re looking to reduce your Hawaii vacation cost, going to the islands in late January through to February, March-April (excluding Spring Break) and mid-September to mid-December will get you maximum bang for your buck.

There’s still plenty to do in the low-season including whale-watching in Maui. I couldn’t believe how close we got to humpback whales on our whale-watching tour.

We visited in February which is, technically, winter in Hawaii (still warm, though). It’s the perfect time to take a whale-watching tour from Maui.

The traditional whale-watching season is December to May. You can book a tour from Lahaina harbor, and it’s a splurge I’d recommend.

6. Drink the tap water

Water in Hawaii is safe to drink from the tap. Be a good human and bring a sturdy, refillable water bottle from home to keep you going on warm days. It’ll save you money too! 

7. Throw in some camping in the wilderness

I always like to have a range of different accommodation experiences when I travel. I’ll splurge on a luxury resort or hotel then go uber-cheap with a few nights at a backpackers hostel or camping.

Camping is the perfect way to stretch your travel dollar in Hawaii. In Kauai, for example, some campgrounds charge as little as $3 per adult, per night.

You can pick up all the gear you need at Walmart in the islands, or bring it from home.

Each island has its own camping rules and bylaws so make sure you do your research before pitching your tent.

8. Use Rakuten for accommodation bookings

I love Rakuten for saving money on my vacation costs. 

Rakuten has a ton of travel providers including Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com so you can get cashback on your travel bookings.

It’s a great way to pad your vacation budget.

Check out the full Rakuten review for more details.

9. Do nothing 

When the travel budget is looking glum, don’t despair. Hawaii is the perfect place to do nothing at all.

Pick a pretty spot and spend the day engrossed in a book.

Go for a long walk around town or hike to a waterfall. Some of the best experiences in Hawaii cost nothing (or very little), so it’s possible to skip all the excursions and immerse yourself in the location and food, and still have a great time.

I hope these tips for traveling to Hawaii on a budget have been helpful. With a little savvy and planning ahead, you can have an amazing time in Hawaii without taking on a second mortgage.

Although they might be slightly pricier than home, the grocery stores have full selections of food (and you can still use Ibotta!)so you can prepare your own meals and snacks.

Try to balance some luxury and pampering with free or cheap activities, and if all else fails, find the nearest beach (it won’t be far away) and spend the day swimming and sunbathing. You’re on island time, after all!

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About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.