Going on a vacation to Hawaii is a dream come true. But it’s way too expensive! Is it though? In this article, I’ll share my tips & tricks for Hawaii on a budget.
Cheap flights to Hawaii
When you’re from Europe like me, traveling to Hawaii takes forever. Plane tickets are quite expensive, a return flight from Amsterdam to Honolulu probably costs about €1000. When you’re really lucky, you might find plane tickets for €550-€700.
Make sure to check Skyscanner on a regular basis (they have a filter to find the cheapest fares per month) to find the cheapest plane tickets. Don’t just look for tickets to Honolulu, but also check the international airports on other Hawaiian islands. For example Kahului (located on Maui) or Kailua-Kona (Big Island).
Book separate trips
You can also book separate trips and book a cheap return ticket to West Coast USA (like Los Angeles or San Francisco). From there you might find cheaper fares to Hawaii. As a bonus, you might be able to explore a little of the gorgeous US West Coast.
Pay for your ticket with miles
Another option is to pay for your ticket with miles. When you fly regularly, it’s smart to apply for a membership of a loyalty program. I mostly fly with KLM (Dutch Airlines), so becoming a member of their loyalty program Flying Blue is very convenient for me.
Some airline companies even have their own credit card and every time you use it, you get miles. use the Flying Blue American Express, which you can only apply for when you live in The Netherlands. Usually, when you apply for one of those cards, you get a sign-up bonus, which is usually a big chunk of miles. Check your favorite airline if they have this option.
Costs of travel on Hawaii
During your trip to Hawaii, you’ll probably want to explore the islands. This, of course, means you’ll spend money on transportation.
Flying between the islands
If you want to visit multiple islands, you’ll have to book a plane ticket, since there are no boats. Luckily, those plane tickets aren’t crazy expensive. Again, check Skyscanner for the best deals.
If you decide to fly with Hawaiian Airlines, it’s smart to sign up for their loyalty program. Not to save miles (which you also do), but many because you’ll get a discount for checked luggage.
When you really want to see a lot of Hawaii in a short amount of time, it’s best to rent a car. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most expensive options to travel around. It’s good to know that you don’t need a rental car for every island. For example, on the island of Oahu, you can see a lot of highlights by foot or public transport, especially when you stay in Waikiki or Honolulu.
Besides the rental costs, you’ll also have extra costs for parking (mainly on Oahu) and gas. Check GasBuddy for the cheapest places to get gas.
For all my trips to the US, I usually rent a car through AutoEurope or Alamo. Those websites are perfect for European customers since all the insurances you’ll need are included. If you’re not from Europe or just want to check other rates, you might find some good deals on Rental Cars or Discover Cars.
The cheapest option for transportation in Hawaii is public transport. There are many buses and a full day ticket only costs a couple of dollars. However, it might take a lot of time to get somewhere and don’t go as often as you’d like. If you have all in the world, this is a great budget option to get around. It saved me a lot of money on Oahu!
Since every island has its own bus company (for example, on Oahu you have The Bus and on Big Island Hele-On Bus), so it’s smart to check the websites of the bus companies before you head out.
Cheap places to stay on Hawaii
A place to sleep can be very expensive in Hawaii, especially when you like to stay in a (resort) hotel. Depending on the location, a night in one of those hotels will cost you somewhere between €150 and €250 a night? Too much? There are a couple of options for a cheaper stay in Hawaii.
Have you ever thought about camping in Hawaii? Take a lightweight tent, a sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag and you’re all set! Camping in Hawaii is really cheap and costs less than $20 most of the time. I even stayed for free at the Hosmer Grove Campground in Haleakala National Park!
Unfortunately, there aren’t as many campgrounds to be found in Hawaii, so you might need to make a reservation in advance. It can also be very warm at night since your tent probably doesn’t have air conditioning.
Don’t want to bring your camping gear and would you like to stay at a cheap place with air conditioning? Check if you can book a bed in a hostel! You can find hostels on each of the Hawaiian islands, especially in the touristy areas. I usually book a bed in a hostel through Booking.com (make sure to sort on ‘cheapest’, the hostels will be on top of the list).
VBRO or Airbnb
Don’t like sharing a room? You can always check VBRO or Airbnb for a cheap place. Booking a place through VRBO and Airbnb is not always the cheapest option, but most of the time it’s cheaper than staying in a hotel and you have the ability to cook your own meal. Have you never booked anything through Airbnb before? Use this link for a great discount on your first reservation.
Cheap eats in Hawaii
Almost all of the foods in Hawaii have to be imported, so food is really expensive in Hawaii. Especially when you want to eat out. Want to save money on food? Get it from one of the many food trucks or cook your own meal. Most of the islands have large supermarkets, like Walmart en Safeway. The food in the supermarkets is still expensive compared to mainland USA, but it’s way cheaper than going out for dinner every night.
Most of the supermarkets have a special section with ready-to-cook meals or take-out, like sushi. To get an extra discount, go to the supermarket at the end of the day, because many meals will be discounted.
When you’re just hungry for a small snack, you can also find some cheap options at the 7-Eleven or Longs Drugs (CVS). Make sure to ask for a customer card at some stores to get an extra discount (especially at Longs Drugs).
Cheap activities Hawaii
You can do many cool activities in Hawaii, like helicopter flights and snorkel adventures. Unfortunately, those activities are expensive! Luckily, there are many great activities you can do for free. Some examples:
There are a ton of gorgeous beaches on the Hawaiian islands. Explore all of them, relax, read a book, and take a refreshing dive in the ocean.
You can get snorkeling gear for $10 everywhere and you can use it well. There are many great snorkeling spots, and before you know it you’ll be swimming between the sea turtles. Make sure to add a rash shirt and mesh water shoes to your Hawaii packing list, because the sun and the sharp rocks can be brutal in Hawaii.
Read more: 25 Best Maui Snorkeling Spots & Tours
Hawaii is paradise, also if you like hiking! There are many great to be found on all the islands. Explore the coastline, or hike through the jungle to a waterfall. There are many great things to see when you put on your hiking shoes! The best thing? Hiking doesn’t cost you a dime.
These are my tips & tricks for your vacation to Hawaii on a budget. Do you have a question or do you want me to add some tips? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Are you curious to know how much I spend during my two weeks in Hawaii? Check out this article: How much does a trip to Hawaii cost?
Would you like to read more about Hawaii?
Check out one of these posts:
- Perfect itinerary for Hawaii: exploring Oahu, Maui & Big Island
- Visiting Hawaii for the first time: tips & tricks
- Epic 7 days in Oahu Itinerary
Or get one of these amazing guidebooks:
Fodor’s Essential Hawaii
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