Traveling to Hawaii on a Budget

Traveling to Hawaii on a budget is something that sounds impossible. If you know where to look and how to book, then traveling to Hawaii on a budget is no problem for the savvy penny pincher. Some primary considerations have many possibilities to save money on the trip.

Some of the more popular budget items include: 

  • Taking a cruise
  • Finding cheap flights
  • Finding the perfect lodging 
  • Discounts on activities
  • Food savings

Regardless of the way you arrive on the Island; Transportation is your second largest expense. Deciding how to get to the Island can make or break your entire trip. A Cruise gives you many benefits, but if you plan on staying on one Island, then the flight options may be the better choice. Here is how you travel to Hawaii on a budget and still have the time of your life!

Victoria Derrick
Published by: Victoria C. Derrick
Publisher / President

Taking a Cruise

Taking a cruise is far cheaper overall than flying into the islands and booking a hotel stay. Not only do you get the already paid for food from the cruise ship, but you also get to see all the islands. If you do not mind spending longer at sea than on land, maybe a cruise is a better option. 

Most cruises also do not visit every Island in Hawaii but will put the most popular islands on the schedule.  Make sure to check the stops and times with the cruise line to ensure that you have enough time at each Island. Most cruise ships will stop at each Island for a day, sometimes two days. If you know where you are going, one day is plenty of time to see one or two landmarks and grab a few meals. 

Typically, a cruise will cost anywhere from $500 to upwards of $5000 depending on several different factors, including the time of year, cruise line, cruise theme, departure port, etc. A Typical cruise to Hawaii can be anywhere from seven days to 14 days. 

The most significant benefit of booking a cruise is the savings from expensive hotel restaurants and taking advantage of the free cruise ship restaurants. Some of the other advantages include:

  • No planning pack a bag and show up.
  • No or little added lodging costs
  • No or little added food cost
  • Professional staff to help with directions and all the “hot spots.”

Visit our Hawaii Reopening What You Need to Know article for the latest on cruising the Hawaiian islands during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Flying to Hawaii

If air is more your arrival style and you want to spend your days relaxing at the beach and hanging out with the locals, you are probably looking forward to flying over there. Most flights from the West Coast are anywhere from 5-7 hours, and airports in different locations will fly you over to a western airport that makes the flight regularly. 

When flying to Hawaii, you most likely will be planning everything yourself, including booking your hotel and your activities. Knowing how to find the lowest airfare to the islands is important before you book your flight(s). Some activities can be fully booked at high traveled times of the year. It is recommended that you book your activities when you book your stay. 

Booking through a travel agent or an online aggregator can significantly help arrange everything from rental cars to hotel stays.  You get discounts from different groups at different rates. A rental car may be one price on one site and another price on another site. The best way to get the most discounts is to use multiple sites to find the cheapest option combinations.  

Airlines, Hotels, and Rental car companies all share the same ups and down in tourist/travelers simultaneously, so the best time to save the most is when there are very few people. March-April and September-October is the consensus for the best time to purchase airline tickets. When you book between 21 and 120 days in advance during the offseason, you typically get the best rates.

Lodging 

There are several different options for finding the correct lodging for your trip outside of a cruise ship or a hotel stay.  

Hostels

Shared hotel stays usually run anywhere from $30-$150 a night, depending on the hostel and options you chose. In some cases, as with the Polynesian hostel, you are closer to the beach than the hotels are! You do not have to worry about your safety either; you can view reviews left from other patrons well in advance at hostel world

Rent an RV

You could rent anything from a Dodge Grand caravan for two people up to a full class A  motorhome. It gives you a place to sleep, prepare food, and travel to and from destinations, all for around $100 per day. If you combine this with our next option, camping, you will save quite a chunk of change while maintaining water and food access.

Camping

Camping in Hawaii is probably one of the most rewarding experiences you could have. Campsites range from $5.00 a night up to $150 a night for full cabins.  There are campgrounds everywhere in Hawaii; it is safe to say that you would be able to find a spot without reserving it first.  Some campgrounds even have showers and other fine amenities such as a convenience store or fish and tackle spots. We can not recommend camping in Haleakala National Park on Maui enough.

Airbnb and Other Home-Share Programs

Airbnb and other home-share programs are beneficial in finding a shared space to rent for the trip. You can rent a room or an entire house to yourself. The only thing to look out for here is the legitimacy of the Poster. Airbnb is regulated in Hawaii, and these establishments must hold a license to rent the home to you.

Save on Activities!

Many local tour companies have some discounts on their tours, all you need to do is ask them when you contact them to book.  We suggest booking through local companies since most of the island's residents are more than happy to show you Aloha and what the local culture is all about. Also, check with them on what the current mask-wearing and social distancing rules are.

Here a few fun activities you can book early in Hawaii: 

  • Whale Watching
  • Sandbar turtle tour
  • BYOB dinner and cruise
  • Ziplining 
  • Helicopter Ride
  • Deep-Sea Fishing
  • Snorkeling 
  • And More!

Save on food!

To save the most money on your trip when it comes to food, we suggest getting a place with a kitchen and buying your food at the local grocery stores and farmers' markets. If you decide to go the Airbnb route, Costco, Target, and Walmart with price match will help get you through the trip. Most items are slightly more expensive than the mainland, but not overzealously priced. 

Groupon is wonderful for restaurant deals if you buy in advance of where you are going to stay.  Most restaurants want the added business, especially during the slower months of tourism. Aside from Groupon, hotels will have coupons for popular restaurants if you are staying in a hotel. 

Doing a mix of both strategies will save you the most money! $3.00 sandwiches from Walmart Deli for Lunch, $29.99 meal from Groupon, and a bowl of oats or breakfast you took your average cost down from $40 per person/meal to about $12 per person.  Another popular item on the menu is a plate lunch. It is a plate of one meat, one salad, and some rice for around $8.00 a plate.

Just remember to carry plenty of snacks with you on the go, and maybe even a picnic lunch for those out and about all day excursions, such as the Road to Hana on Maui.

Hawaii is a fun place to visit, and even though it can be expensive, there are ways to travel to Hawaii on a budget and still have the time of your life.  There is no imaginable way to do everything in one trip to Hawaii; pre-planning will save you a lot of money on the trip.  

Taking a cruise is fun and rewarding, but there are other ways to save money; camping, glamping with an RV, or an Airbnb are all great options. The perfect package is usually one that you create yourself, a morning of zip lining followed by an afternoon of whale watching and a dinner cruise; they do not make packages like that for a reasonable price.

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