The Hawaiian Islands are among the most picturesque and desirable travel locations in the world. Arguably, Hawaii is about as exotic a location as you’ll find in the United States. But of course, it’s also one of the remote locations in the U.S., which means flights are rarely cheap. Not only that, but because Hawaii is among the most desirable tourist destinations in the world, lodging is also rarely cheap. And if you plan to travel between the islands during your trip, flying will invariably be the most affordable way to do so. Obviously, a whole lot of little flights can add up to a big expense.
Simply stated, while Hawaii is an amazing vacation, honeymoon, or family trip destination filled with opportunities for fine dining, resort living, cultural appreciation, high-end shopping, and outdoor adventure, it won’t be cheap.
The good news is that the savvy traveler can still find ways to save money, even when visiting a destination like Hawaii. In fact, you can actually start saving money on your trip right away, or at least recouping perks by booking your flight with a credit card that offers generous airline mile rewards. Before you book your flight, we strongly recommend checking out the Best Airline Miles Credit Cards. Make sure you earn miles on your trip to Hawaii, and on every flight you take before and during your big vacation.
Otherwise, read on and check out these 10 ways to save money on your trip to Hawaii…
1. Fly on Weekdays
Speaking of saving on flights, consider scheduling your trip around the most affordable flight dates. Flights to Hawaii are rarely cheap, so every dollar off could go a long way. Indeed, says Love Big Island, “When searching for flights to and from Hawaiʻi, you will notice that flying on certain days is often more expensive than others. Typically, arriving and departing on the weekends will drive up the cost of the ticket – sometimes twenty or thirty bucks, but sometimes much more. If your plans are flexible, you can save money by flying on less expensive, midweek days.”
That may not sound like a lot of money, but if you’re traveling with a big family or a group of friends, that can make a significant difference for your party. Beyond that, every dollar you save on a flight could be a nice meal out or a performance ticket once you’ve arrived.
2. Stay in a Rental Home
Hawaii’s resorts and hotels are loaded with luxuries and amenities. Naturally, you’ll pay for these frills. Hotel rates in Hawaii are notoriously high. But thanks to vacation home rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, you can stay nearly anywhere in Hawaii at a lower cost. And here’s the bonus—you’ll get a ton more space and privacy when you go this route.
According to hotels.com “Even with all the comforts of home, rental houses can cost only half of what you would pay for the nightly rates in other kinds of lodging. In a rental home, you’ll enjoy features like full kitchens, entertainment areas, access to streaming videos, and many more features.”
Of course, when you stay in a vacation rental home, you won’t have the benefit of room service, turndown service, or access to the array of other experiences that might come with a hotel. On the other hand, you’ll have a whole house to yourself. Get a glimpse at what it’s like to be an actual Hawaiian resident, even if it’s just for a few days.
3. Make Your Own Meals
Another benefit of renting a vacation home in Hawaii is that you’ll have a full kitchen and dining room. That means you can prepare food in your rental house and dine in during your vacation. Naturally, there are lots of great restaurants in Hawaii. But the truth is, you won’t be missing out on the amazing local foods by dining in.
In fact, grocery shopping can give you a chance to take home the poke, macadamia nuts, and Kona coffee that Hawaii is famous for at a much more affordable cost. As hotels.com notes, shopping for and preparing your own meals “allows you to sample the local fare. You can walk the docks, visit specialty groceries, and pick up fresh seafood right off the ships to prepare on the backyard barbecue of your rental home.”
As long as you’re in Hawaii for a few days, get a club card for the local supermarket. This is usually a great way to get discounts on shelved items. And by the way, don’t be surprised if even the smallest corner food mart sells the most amazing tuna poke for a fraction of what you’d pay in a restaurant.
4. Check Out the Food Trucks
Speaking of getting amazing food for minimal prices, don’t sleep on the food trucks. In fact, Hawaii is famous for its wealth of mobile eateries. If you don’t feel like preparing every meal, do not be afraid to sidle up to one of Hawaii’s countless food trucks for fish tacos, poke bowls, jumbo skewered coconut shrimp, and more. According to Hawaii Travel With Kids, “Most people don’t realize this, but Hawaii has been rocking the food truck scene for decades. They used to be called lunch wagons and they catered to workers. Now, Hawaii has some of the best food trucks in the country.”
And it goes without saying that ordering your meal from a restaurant on wheels is always more affordable than sitting down at an actual restaurant. You could save a lot of money, and have a pretty amazing tour of the local cuisine, simply by planning your entire dining schedule around these food trucks.
5. Get Your Hula Shows For Free
As long as you’re bouncing from food truck to food truck, make sure you fit in some of Hawaii’s famous and captivating cultural performances. On the one hand, you can pay quite a bit for these entertaining but notoriously touristy experiences. On the other hand, you can pay absolutely nothing for these experiences if you know where to look.
Hawaii Travel With Kids offers a list of some noteworthy places that you can go, for instance, to see completely free Hula dancing performances. The travel site advises that, if you’re “On Oahu, head to Ala Moana Mall, the Royal Hawaiian Center, or Kuhio Beach Park for free hula shows. On Maui, you can see free hula shows at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina Cannery Mall, Maui Mall, Napili Kai Beach Resort, The Outlets of Maui, Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, and Whalers Village.”
Build your itinerary around a few of these locations and enjoy the local culture for free.
6. Do Some Free Outdoor Adventures
Hawaii is absolutely loaded with opportunities for free outdoor adventure. All of the Hawaiian islands are absolutely packed with hiking trails—from world-famous natural attractions like the stunning Na Pali Coast and the Haleakala Volcano to countless hidden gems tucked away in the jungles just a few miles from your lodging. The most you’ll pay to experience any of these incredible sites is the cost of parking.
And as Hawaii Travel With Kids notes, the same is true for spotting any of Hawaii’s countless waterfalls, from the very famous—like the Manoa Falls and Hi’ilawe Falls—to the sparkling falls hidden at the edge of a nearby trail, or splashing down a cliffside just a few steps from the road. Of course, the travel site warns that “some of the most beautiful Hawaiian waterfalls are tucked away in the jungle and only accessible by helicopter or by hiking.”
Another cool and completely free outdoor adventure that you might consider is snorkeling. For the cost of just a snorkel and goggles—which you can get for less than $50 on Amazon—you can do this activity anywhere with open beaches. You’re sure to see some incredible sights in the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
A word of caution when adventuring in Hawaii. The islands are famous for their beauty as well as their perilous cliffs, slippery waterfalls, and high surf. Any time you hike, remain on the marked trails and adhere to any posted safety advisories. Likewise, be aware of surf conditions before entering the water.
7. Sign Up for Groupon
While there’s a lot you can do for free in Hawaii, there are, of course, some experiences that you simply have to pay for. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay full price. According to Insider, Hawaiian companies have turned increasingly to discount clubs like Groupon to extend offers and discounts to visitors.
Insider says “Listed bargains that have recently been on the site include nighttime manta ray snorkeling tours for $69 per person and parasailing for just $50. Groupon offers usually are available for a limited time, so buy them when you see them. There also are offers for food and drinks, spa services and more.”
You can save a lot of money by planning your trip around amazing experiences that happen to be available at a discounted rate. Sign up for Groupon as soon as possible to start gathering bargains. Many of these offers will be available for a limited time only.
8. Get a Go Card
In addition to global services like Groupon, there are countless discount club opportunities specific to Hawaii. For instance, if you are staying on the island of Oahu, the GO Oahu Card offers an amazing deal where you can see up to 34 island attractions for just $69 a day. Insider notes that “Buying a multiday pass doesn’t mean you have to do a marathon sightseeing tour for several days in a row; you can use the pass for the additional days any time in the following two weeks.”
Do some research about the islands and areas you plan to visit. Reach out to the tourism board specific to each area and ask about discount cards and other money-saving opportunities for visitors.
9. Using Public Transport When Possible
It’s customary to think of Hawaii as a paradise filled with nothing but beaches and jungles. While there’s plenty of that, there are also big cities and congested roads where parking and travel are both a huge hassle. If you find yourself in any of Hawaii’s big cities, you are strongly advised to save money (and tons of time) by using the bus.
Getting stuck in traffic, paying for gas, and circling for a park spot can all have a way of dimming the shine on your vacation in paradise. Stay breezy and relaxed by taking public transportation instead. Insider says “When visiting Honolulu, avoid spending time looking for parking by hopping on board ‘The Bus,’ the area’s public transit system. Download ‘Da Bus’ smartphone app to see real-time information about where the nearest bus is and take a virtual tour to understand what you’ll see on its route. Transfers aren’t available, so buy a one-day pass for $5.50 to hop on and off at your leisure.”
10. Consider a Voluntourism Experience
What exactly is voluntourrism? Well, think of it as the lodging equivalent of washing dishes in exchange for a discount on your meal at a restaurant. The Malama Hawai’i Initiative is aimed at providing visitors with access to a discounted vacation experience in exchange for a small bit of local service.
This increasingly popular option is designed to reduce the cost of travel to Hawaii—which can be prohibitive for many—in exchange for contributions to the local environment and economy. According to Love Big Island, “Packages vary from hotel to hotel, but they involve a discount or free night when you participate in such an activity. These experiences are not for everyone – they often involve manual labor, such as pulling weeds/invasive species – but take a look through the offerings aggregated here. If one hits home, it could save you some cash on your hotel stay.”
Like the idea of working in exchange for your lodging? There are actually a lot of cool ways to contribute your time and effort in exchange for flights and accommodations all over the world. Check out these Ten Ways to Travel for Free…and Maybe Even Get Paid to Do It.