large park with walkable trails and two beaches includes a Hawaiian city is in the background with boating docks
Hawaii is one of the most expensive vacation destinations in the United States, so learning how to live the island life for cheap is a must for anyone going there soon.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / agaliza

Budget Travel Hawaii: The Price for Paradise Is Cheaper Than You Think!

Live the Island Life

Whether you’re taking a Hawaii family vacation or using the tropical paradise as a couples retreat, you’ll want to take advantage of some ways to save money on your trip, as Hawaii certainly isn’t known as a cheap U.S. travel destination.

Rather, Hawaii is one of the most expensive vacation destinations in America, so learning how to travel cheap and live the island life on a budget is a must! Thankfully, budget travel in Hawaii is easier than you think. In fact, there are many ways you can enjoy the state’s laid back island vibe without spending a fortune.

Here are some tips for how to travel to Hawaii on a budget.

Forgo the Rental Car and Take the Bus

You can actually ride around the entire island on public transit, so this is a great budget alternative. The transport system is known as TheBus and it was voted America’s Best Transit System, so you can trust it to get you where you need to go.

There are 93 different routes that serve the entire island, with a total of more than 4,000 bus stops on Oahu. Another option for public transport is the Waikiki Trolley, which will take you to many of the most popular attractions including Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, King Kamehameha Statue and the Waikiki Aquarium.

If you can see yourself using the public transit multiple times in one day, consider the full- and four-day passes to save even more money when it comes to Hawaii budget travel.

Only Rent a Car When You Need It

If you do choose to rent a car, you will save money by only renting it for the one or two days you need it. Why rent a car for multiple days when you are going to be spending some of those days lounging by the pool and not going anywhere?

Rent a car for a specific excursion or two, then return it and rely on public transit on those days when you are not going very far.

Head Outdoors

Hawaii is a nature lover’s paradise and it doesn’t cost a thing to go on one of the many adventurous hikes. Here are a few of the best hiking trails, according to the locals.

Or, bring a towel, sunscreen and a good book — it also costs you nothing to simply relax on the beach for the day. The beaches can get fairly crowded, so get there as early as possible and enjoy the morning sun and room to stretch out. You can also seek out plenty of off-the-beaten path locations to avoid crowds and get a truly personal Hawaii experience.

Purchase Snorkel Gear and Go on Your Own

A snorkeling tour can set you back a pretty penny, even if you find a deal online. As a budget option, you can buy your own cheap snorkel set at almost any shop and hit the water on your own.

Ask a local or your hotel concierge for their recommendations for best spots to see fish.

Travel During the Shoulder Season

As a general rule, you can find the best travel deals if you book during the slow season of a particular destination. Most travelers from the mainland U.S. visit Hawaii from December to April, as this is when they are trying to escape the winter cold.

So, the prices will be higher at this time of year due to the increased demand.

If you visit during May and September you will find some shoulder season discounts, and if you visit during the low season of October and November you’ll enjoy the lowest prices.

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Dine on the Cheap with Specials, Happy Hour and Food Trucks

Around 90% of the food in Hawaii has to be imported to the islands, which can make dining very expensive. However, there are a few ways you can cut back on your food expenses and save.

You can take advantage of small plates and drinks at upscale restaurants for much less during happy hour.

Food trucks are up-and-coming in a lot of destinations. Eat local food for less than a traditional sit-down dining venue, without sacrificing flavor.

Usually food trucks congregate together, which means your travel group can all get exactly what they want without having to go to several different places.

What Do You Really Need for a Hotel Room?

It might sound nice to have a luxury ocean view suite, but consider if it is worth the money if you are going to spend most of your time exploring outside of your hotel room. You might want to opt for the most basic room, as it will only be a place for you to lay your head and rest between adventures.

If you do splurge a little, consider a hotel room with a kitchenette. This will pay for itself because you can cook affordable meals for yourself rather than dining in restaurants every night of your trip.

Though Hawaii is not known for being cheap, you can make your trip more affordable and still enjoy everything the islands have to offer. Look for coupon booklets to save even more in most hotel lobbies, check online or sign up for daily deals, which can allow you to spend as little as 10% of the retail price on food, activities, tours and more.

Your dream trip to Hawaii may be closer than you thought!

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