How many people do you know who would love to see Hawaii but have never been due to budget concerns? There are a lot of misconceptions about Hawaii: it’s assumed that it’s incredibly expensive, that if you’re on a budget that means you can’t afford to stay anywhere near a beach and that activities are out since they’ll cost hundreds of dollars per person.
There are, however, ways to experience Hawaii the same way a wealthy person would: beach-front accommodation, surreal activities and amazing food – all on a budgeter’s dime.
Yes, hotels in Hawaii that are anywhere near the beach will cost you upwards of $300 per night. However, I go to Hawaii every year and I only spend $150 per night on accommodation. For that price, I’m able to rent a beautiful ocean-view suite from a private owner, steps from the beach. Before I explain more about how I’m able to get these great deals on accommodation, there are a few things you need to know. These trip-transforming Hawaii hacks that allow you to experience Hawaii the right way – but on a strict budget:
We’ve now established that renting from a private owner or realty manager is much more budget-friendly than staying in a hotel, but it can be tough to find a vacation rental that is hotel-quality. I had to do a ton of research before I finally found Hawaii Ocean Club Realty Group, an amazing vacation rental company that rents out gorgeous suites by the beach, at low prices.
My favourite unit to rent from Hawaii Ocean Club Realty is actually a privately owned suite in the Ilikai hotel in Honolulu. This ocean-view, newly renovated suite is priced at an affordable rate of $150 per night. The Ilikai hotel is a beautiful hotel on Waikiki beach and it’s where Hawaii 5-0 was filmed. The suite has a full kitchen, bathroom, two comfy beds and a pull-out sofa. The balcony is huge and boasts an incredible ocean view – the perfect spot to enjoy your morning coffee.
Let’s say, for example, you want to see dolphins while you’re in Hawaii – and who wouldn’t? Dolphins are awesome. However, I wouldn’t suggest spending $100 on a boat tour that promises you “might” see dolphins. Instead, head up to the Kahala Resort in Honolulu, where their huge lagoon around the hotel has several friendly dolphins swimming in it! From the bridge by the hotel’s pool, you can watch dolphin shows for free, and get up close and personal with the dolphins – I’m talking only 5 feet away – so you can snap as many cute photos and videos as you like.
If you want to see some of the island’s gorgeous waterfalls, there’s again no need to spend $100 on a guided waterfall hike. Yes, figuring out how to get to the waterfall can be slightly confusing, but many people have explained on google exactly how to get to each of them. My favourite waterfall on Oahu is Maunawili Falls, and by simply following these instructions that I found on google, I was able to find the waterfall without a tour guide.
There are so many fun things you can see and do in Hawaii without paying anything at all (except for gas money for your rental car). Apart from seeing Dolphins dance and swimming in waterfalls, you should also drive to the gorgeous Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu for a fun day away from Waikiki, or drive to Lanikai Beach where there’s a great hike called the Pillbox hike and a beautiful beach to enjoy afterwards.
Both of these beaches are less than an hour drive from Waikiki, and are definitely worth seeing. If you’re the adventurous type, when you’re in the Lanikai area you can rent kayaks for only $30 – $60 and kayak out to flat island. It only takes about 30 minutes to kayak to flat island from Lanikai beach, and suddenly you’re on your own floating island with its own natural pools and wildlife. Tour companies charge $150 – $200 for this, and I’m surprised so many people fall for this tourist trap rather than just renting their own kayaks and getting directions from the kayak rental company!
My last activity hack is that if you’d like to experience a catamaran ride out on the ocean, the cheapest way to do it is to go to Waikiki beach, where there’s $20 sails every few hours that will take you out on a ride that lasts about 1-1.5 hours – and it’s totally worth the $20!
Food and Booze
The great thing about a vacation rental from a private owner is that you’ll have a kitchen. You can save money buying groceries instead of eating out every night – but stay away from the grocery stores in Waikiki, as they’re the most expensive.
Whether you’re vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Maui or Oahu, the rule is the same: Grocery stores in Hawaii such as Foodland, Food Pantry and ABC stores are the most pricey, but the Costco or Safeway in Hawaii is a much cheaper place to buy both food and booze.
When it comes to eating out and going out for drinks, there are things you need to know: Yardhouse in Waikiki has great deals on food, especially during happy hour. Moose’s has $1 drink night on Tuesday night (both Maui and Oahu have this bar with the same $1 Tuesdays). Those aren’t the only great deals, though. Ask locals for their favourite spots to go out that don’t cost a fortune.
When to go
Hawaii is sunny and beautiful all year round. It’s one of those vacation destinations that has virtually the same weather all year, it’s summer all year save for the odd rainy day. Usually, when it rains in Hawaii, it’s sunny again an hour later – so don’t worry too much. The best time to go to Hawaii for deals on flights is during off season, which is April to October.
This article by The Babe Report was originally published on Vancity Buzz.