10 of Our Best Tips for Visiting Hawaii on a Budget

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If an escape to paradise is in your future, don’t miss our best Hawaii on a budget tips!

holding açaí bowl in Hawaii

Dreaming of a tropical vacation? 

Sure, you could head to the closest beach, but there’s just something about a tropical vacation on an island, ya know? If you’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii but you’ve been scared off by the stories of sky-high prices, fear not frugal friends! We’ve been there, and our budgets lived to tell the tale.

dirt road in Hawaii with ocean view

Here are our team’s personal tips on how to do Hawaii on a budget so you can focus on having fun without overspending. 🙌

1. Skip the pricey Hawaii vacation souvenir store.

little girl wearing Hawaiian necklace and bathing suit

Instead of spending tons of cash in tourist-trap souvenir shops, you can get the coolest t-shirts and/or hoodies at local thrift stores such as Savers or Salvation Army. Not only will it be a great memento, but the chances of someone else having the same thing are pretty slim!

Also, shop for Hawaiian-themed apparel in the off season to score some awesome clearance buys!

womans hand holding pink hawaiian themed outfit in old navy

2. Airbnbs and VRBO can be cheaper than hotels, and they often have full kitchens.

woman in rental airbnb

Plus, there’s always the potential for negotiation!

You can contact the host and kindly tell them your story & budget, and they may be able to help you out! And if not, you can either decide the place is worth it or look elsewhere. This is such a great way to do Hawaii on a budget.

You’ll also be thankful you’re staying in a place with full kitchen access! And no, it doesn’t mean you can’t relax and eat out, but it does mean that you can spend a lazy morning on the lanai with a cup of coffee and a cheap breakfast. One of the reasons folks claim Hawaii is so expensive is the cost of eating out, so having a kitchen lets you save while staying flexible.

Note that if you do decide to eat out, check for military discounts. So many places in Hawaii offer them!

3. More airlines = more options to help you save on plane tickets.

airplane wing seen from window

It’s no secret that airfare is one of the biggest expenses of any vacation, especially if you’re travelin’ with the family, so be sure to look at all your options. If you’re doing Hawaii on a budget, your airfare can end up being one of the biggest money-savers.

Luckily, you have more options than ever when it comes to that piece of the travel budget puzzle. You can check out sites like Kayak which frequently offers crazy cheap flights or track your desired departures with Google Flights. There are a lot of flight finders out there, so be sure to compare them all for the best Hawaii vacation deal possible!

Hip Tip: For an in-depth overview on how to save BIG while buying your plane tickets, check out our travel timeline!

4. Believe it or not, you can score HOT Hawaii vacation deals with Costco Travel!

Costco storefront on sunny day

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Costco here at Hip2Save! 🙌 But did y’all know that you can actually book your vacations through Costco Travel as well?? This can make doing Hawaii on a budget so easy!

My Hip teammate, Bryn, booked her Hawaii trip through Costco and saved money, plus had an awesome experience!

Here’s what she said about it:

“My hubby and I traveled to Maui in early 2021 and got an AMAZING deal to stay at the Ritz Carlton! We would normally never splurge on a hotel like this BUT the Costco package ended up costing us the SAME amount that we would pay if we stayed in a standard Maui hotel AND the Costco package came with a rental car, daily $100 resort credit, daily breakfast for two, waived mandatory daily resort fee AND complimentary daily valet parking!! It was awesome!!” – Bryn

buying Boom Chicka Pop at Costco

AND with your Costco membership, you’ll save extra on groceries + essentials.

Like many islands, Hawaii is subject to higher shopping prices because products are more difficult to import, and this is especially true for groceries. But don’t let that deter you–you can still get Hawaii vacation deals!

Folks who have shopped in Costco on the Island say the prices are about the same as the mainland. Whew, thank goodness. 🙌 Like we said, eating out in Hawaii can really put a strain on the budget, so it’s great to have a place you can shop with reliably low (and familiar) prices.

5. Skip the Hawaii vacation resort rentals and hunt down deals in a local shop.

hawaii vacation surf boards lined up on side of the road beside two kids

When you’re surrounded by gorgeous ocean waters and miles of beaches, it’s hard to resist a snorkeling adventure or two. BUT if you’re staying at a resort that rents snorkel gear, beach chairs, etc., do NOT rent from the resort! Go into town and find a local rental shop–it’s usually half the price!

Or, even better, stay in a unit that comes with gear rentals included! Chances are, the folks who are renting out their places on sites like Airbnb are hip to the fact that you’ll want to venture out on an underwater adventure, bike ride, or surfing excursion, so you can probably find places that come with those perks.

6. Don’t skip the travel apps!

using travel app in car

When my Hip teammate Lina went on a Hawaii vacation with her family, her friend tipped her off to the GyPSy Guide app after she heard they wanted to travel the Road to Hana route. And she loved it!

family posing in I Survived The Hana Highway car

Here’s what she said about GyPSy Guide:

“When we were on vacation, I mentioned to a friend that we wanted to do Road to Hana–she said ‘Make sure you buy the tour guide app!’ and so I did.

2 things: It was amazing! We bought the GyPSy Guide for $10 and it works with your location and tells you exactly where to stop for all the scenic lookouts and spots to consider stopping, and whether or not there are any additional costs to go in. The app did such a great job and made it exciting and full of history. I felt like we got a whole Hawaiian history lesson I never would have known. Plus, I never would have stopped at any of these hikes, waterfalls, beaches, viewpoints, or food stands. It made the entire day so worth it.

And that day was like the best day we had and LEAST EXPENSIVE. Simply doing that driving guide and viewing all those points was free. ” – Lina.

There are also tons of other apps out there like AllTrails, GeoTourist, plus more for all types of travel needs, and many of them are free!

7. Try out the Turo App.

pink jeep with surfboards on top on hawaii vacation

You’ve been looking forward to this trip for months (if not years), you have just flown for the better part of a day across the big blue ocean, and now you’ve arrived at the beautiful island paradise.

But as anyone who’s traveled anywhere can tell you, that doesn’t mean you’re home free quite yet.

Car rental companies can unfortunately be expensive, unreliable, and are often preceded by extremely long lines–the absolute last thing you want to see after a long day or two of air travel. 🤣

But what if you rent a car from an individual instead of a rental company? You can read their excellent reviews, arrange for insurance through Turo, and save a ton of money and so much time! While the rest of the passengers from your flight head to get rental cars, your host can meet you there with the car or give you a pin code and location for your rental car, and on with your vacation you go!

Traditional rental cars can be great on some trips, especially when the counters are in the airport terminal and the shuttle part is taken out of the equation. But when you’re trying to score Hawaii vacation deals, having an alternate plan to use the Turo App or another rideshare company can save your sanity!

8. Think outside the “cooler” box!

deals on tropical fruits for sale on hawaii vacation

This next unusual tip comes from my Hip teammate, Bryn!

“We have friends who swear that it is way cheaper to fill a cooler with tons of meat and other spendy food items and check it with their baggage. Then on the way home, they can fill the cooler with items from Hawaii like pineapples and other tropical fruits.” – Bryn

Island groceries are not cheap, so folks are saying it’s actually a good bet to bring your splurge items with you from the mainland, and then return home with some extra-delicious island fruit!

9. You don’t have to just daydream about your Hawaii vacation — research it instead!

kids eating ice cream in Hawaii

It’s so much easier to save when you’re knowledgeable about an area. And honestly, researching future vacations is kinda fun!

Spending some time looking up the best cheap eats, frugal shops, and free activities in your vacation area prior to your trip pays off in time, money, and stress-free fun! Plus, it will keep your Hawaii on a budget trip in check. And Hawaii is filled with great food trucks, some oddball convenient stores, free outdoor adventures, and budget-friendly tours.

10. Check back with Hip2Save for even more Hawaii vacation deals!

Southwest Hawaii Flight Attendant

We’ve learned that in Hawaii, less is more. 🙌

There are so many great beaches, hikes, festivals, surf competitions, snorkel spots, etc that are all free and contribute to truly unplugged relaxation if that’s what you’re looking for. But no matter your travel style, the coupons & tips we share here on Hip2Save can make a big difference! Subscribe to our newsletter and even text with Collin to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Not to mention, we keep track of all the hottest travel deals around, so you can feel confident traveling anywhere. 😉

Bonus Tip: Check out these team-favorite eateries that won’t break the bank!

fruit and taco plates in restaurant in hawaii scoring hawaii vacation deals

Places to eat in O’ahu:

  • Tanya’s Pies & Grill. Hole in the wall local favorite. Big Menu. Spam & Bacon Fried Rice and new pies made daily.
  • The Sunrise Shack. Keeping it keto? This hot spot is next to Sunset Beach on North Shore & offers multiple types of Bulletproof Coffees + some of the best açai Bowls and smoothies on the island. Keep in mind that they’re not dirt cheap, but the quality makes it worth just a few dollars more!

Places to eat in Maui:

  • 808 Grindz. Local favorite with the BEST Mac Nut Pancakes with Coconut Icing syrup and Kalua Pork Hash. It’s better than the expensive restaurants at a fraction of the price.
  • Stillwell’s Bakery. Super yummy, inexpensive place for breakfast and lunch. They are known for their out-of-this-world Cream Horn pastries. They’re so good that locals buy them frozen to take when visiting family that lives on other Hawaiian islands.

Places to eat on the Big Island:

  • The Coffee Shack. They have breakfast, lunch, coffee, a bakery, and a lanai overlooking 26 miles of coastline. It’s also near world-class snorkeling such as Captain Cook Monument area and Two-Step!
  • Hawaiian Style Cafe. Delicious doesn’t quite cover it. If you are feeling brave, try the Mok-A-Sauras, an insane take on the Hawaiian favorite Loco Moco dish featuring SPAM, chicken cutlet, kalua pork, hamburger patty, two eggs, and brown gravy!

Are you a chronic over-packer? Check out our tips for downsizing your luggage!

About the writer:

Brandi has an Associate's Degree and 5+ years of experience writing and creating online content for local businesses.

Join The Discussion

Comments 31

  1. Faith

    My note is to be flexible in your timing. We changed our trip by 2 weeks and cut our trip in half.

  2. Becca

    We got married (Maui’d) in Maui 22 years ago. The one tip I have – and I am sure it still stands -is be very careful if you buy a package of tour activities. We did that not realizing (we were naive) and did not have any idea until after we paid that the reason it was such a good deal is then we had to attend a time share presentation. I can’t remember all the details but if we didn’t attend the presentation our credit card would be charged a very large fee. So we had to go. It was awful. We explained right from the start what happened – the salesperson was nice at first but became extremely aggressive near the end. I completely understand it was his job – but honestly when we purchased this tour package we had no idea that is why it was cheaper until we finished paying and were told. I believe we even said no, we want to cancel then this purchase and the ticket vendor said we could not. Again – many years ago and we are now much wiser. I am sure we could have called our credit card company but again we weren’t the savviest travelers back then. BUT – just a warning to others – if something seems a lot cheaper – make sure you are reading the fine print and do not get stuck having to sit through a time share presentation. The savings was so not worth our time and being so pressured. Plus, we did feel bad that essentially we were wasting this salesperson’s time. I will tell you though -the timeshare salespeople are very good at what they do and I completely understand why so many people make quick decisions and purchase timeshares that some (not all) later really regret. We did not purchase one. PS years ago there was not the signage identifying who these tourist attraction packages were being sold by. And there were many many booths selling these discounted packages.

  3. John W.

    Consider going to the Big Island rather than Maui or Oahu. Airbnbs are cheaper there, and there are a lot more natural attractions on the Big Island (you’ll need to rent a car). Check one-way flight prices, since you could fly into one island, hop a plane to another island, and fly home from that island. Also make sure to check Southwest’s prices. For food, eat lots of fish and lunch plates from small restaurants, which are reasonably priced. Grocery stores are very expensive, so plan to eat out. And always stay away from resorts and packages.

  4. TheQueenBee

    If you stay at a hotel, make sure it is not frowned upon to receive packages. We ordered our own snorkels (among other things) on Amazon and had them delivered. If you don’t like paper straws, bring your own reusable ones. You are generally paying if a store gives you a bag. Bring or buy reusable/foldable ones if you go shopping. Take out orders don’t always give you silverware unless you ask for it. We bought basics (forks, knives, spoons, reusable cups, sponges, laundry and dish soap, and coffee creamer) at Walmart there. We had family members in other rooms come to borrow things. Bought regular size laundry soap and large clips. Hand wash swimsuit etc in the sink or tub so you’re not trying to do laundry constantly and clip towels over the balcony chairs or railings to dry. I saved more than $100 compared to my brother just by using the local coffee pods provided in the hotel room (2-3 small hotel cups into my larger reusable cup) and my Walmart creamer instead of going to the hotel coffee shop. Leftover laundry soap and reusable things you aren’t taking home can be left in the hotel laundry room for others to use. We also brought an empty, foldable duffle bag in our carry on bags. We went with one checked bag and came home with 2 checked bags.

    • TheQueenBee

      https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/ Unless it changed in the last few weeks, there are covid test results and other info to fill out before you travel.

  5. arnellfam

    We just returned from Hawaii and had a nightmare experiences with Turo and Airbnb. We had rented two Turo cars and they both ended up being in the shop. Our Turo hosts messaged us the night before us we were boarding our flight so no advance notice given. We also received a message from our Airbnb host as we are boarding our plane saying our condo was no longer available. It’s been three weeks and we are still battling it out with Airbnb to get our money back. We saved for years and it was a stressful nightmare! Just beware that these services have risks.

  6. queen62

    I will be going in January 2022 to celebrate my birthday. I already know what to expect. Staying at a military hotel that offers buffet breakfast. Plan on supporting the locals out of the tourist area

    • Nana

      Name of military hotel pls ?

      • queen62

        Hale Koa

    • char

      I live on Oahu and would be glad to answer any questions and give suggestions for Hawaii travel. Hale Koa is a great hotel and location. Just near the beginning of Waikiki and beach front. You can shop for souvenirs at NEX Pearl Harbor about a 15-20 minute drive from your hotel as well as visit the Arizona Memorial, Mighty Mo and Aviation Museum nearby (advanced reservations required.)

    • Sara

      Also be sure to check out the beautiful beach at Bellows Air Force Station!

  7. babs919

    Please be careful using Kayak. They are just a search engine. I had a bad experience with one of their vendors edreams. Kayak did not help. I thought if the vendor was on Kayak they where properly veted and safe to use. They are not. I recommend using only vendor sites to purchase.

  8. Savvy Mom

    Another tip is to have a meal delivery service sent to you. We use Hello Fresh (3 meals) and just change the address, but don’t forget to change it back. Then I know I’ve got a few meals covered and it’s delivered to me where I’m staying.

    • Anna

      Hello Fresh does not ship to Hawaii. We live here. If you are staying in a hotel, bring your own breakfast and pack sandwiches. Take advantage of the free things Hawaii has to offer- hiking, beaches, farmer’s markets, hula in the park, Art murals in the city. Check groupon for sunset cruises.

  9. LE Mill

    The cooler top is a nice thought, but the only tropical fruit you can bring back with you are the pineapples sold IN the airport. Please don’t go trying to sneak fruit home 🤣 They send all baggage through scanners to detect for any fruit and foliage because it cannot leave the island.
    Also- Waiola’s is the far superior shave ice place on Oahu. Matsumoto’s is fine and all but a hyped up tourist trap with no where near as finely shaved ice. I visit my family there frequently and have had good luck with discounthawaiicarrentals!

    • Anne

      Thanks for the confirmation on taking back tropical fruit! I was wondering if that would even be allowed through the airport.

    • jeremy-2

      Exactly! That tip on brining back fruit is not only totally false, but can get you in some trouble. Not only will TSA confiscate any plants or fruits, but just in case they missed something you will also go through a second department of agriculture checkpoint before you get to the gate. Just visited the big island 7/18-23/2021.

  10. amber-20

    I would def advise against some of this advice from a frequent Hawaii traveler. Aloha swap meet is a great local place to buy inexpensive souvenirs and most are made by locals so it’s helping locals. Do not ever take home sand or nature from the islands. The locals say it’s a curse and bad luck, but it’s also terrible for the beaches and illegal to do. They scan your bags when you leave and you will have to declare it or give it back.

    • char

      The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet & Marketplace will be open
      Wednesday’s from 8:00am – 3:00pm
      Saturday’s from 8:00am – 3:00pm
      Sunday’s from 6:30am – 3:00pm

      • Cali

        I love going to that Swap Meet. I usually plan my vacation so I can go twice. Once on Wednesday, and once during the weekend.

    • Lisa P

      Amber thank you for sharing your manao (knowledge). I appreciate your respect for our aina (land). Never remove anything from the land. 🥰

  11. Elsie

    Hawaii is strict about COVID. You need to upload proof of vaccination, wear a mask, no indoor dining, etc.

    • amber-20

      We were there 2 weeks ago and dined indoor

  12. Bernadette

    Taking any sand from Hawaiian beaches is punishable with fines, not to mention Pele’s curse. Not a great suggestion.

    • Marie

      Yes! I was about to say this!

  13. Roro55

    As a resident of the Hawaiian Islands, I’d like to show appreciation to anyone thinking of visiting here. I would like to also add that along with sand, please do not take any rocks, coral etc. I know the suggestion to take sand seemed harmless, but it is really not. Please show our beautiful islands respect and also have an amazing time while you are vacationing here.

    • Liza (Hip Sidekick)

      Thank you so much for your feedback on this, Roro55! We’ve updated the post to remove the sand suggestion.

  14. Tess

    We LOVE Maui and have been many times and these are good tips! We only get our tickets from Scott’s Cheap Flights. Our tickets were under $300 ea the last 2 times we went. Definitely get an airbnb, skip the resorts. Having a place to cook w/ a washer/dryer is SO helpful and keeps packing to carry-ons only. We stop at Safeway on the way in and get stuff for breakfast, light snacks, mixed drinks, sushi and something to grill. We usually only eat out 1 meal and 1 snack per day (like acai bowls or shaved ice). IMHO some of the best food deals on Maui are happy hour. Lava Rock is our fave w/ 1/2 priced apps that easily feed a crowd and $4 drinks. We also love Flatbread Company (pizza place in Paia) for feeding a family. For entertainment bring your own snorkel and think beaches and hiking. It’s insanely beautiful there. Hopefully this helps 😉

  15. Lisa Webb

    I’ve been living and working in Hilo HI for 6 months and never noticed the Island Style Cafe on Manono. That’s where I’ll go for lunch tomorrow. Thanks for the tip.

  16. Roro55

    As a long time reader, I must say that this is the first time I am disappointed in H2S. It’s been a day since this post has gone up and after an email from myself as well as comments pointing out that taking sand is frowned upon and also illegal. That “tip” is still in the post. Yes Hawaii is a beautiful place to visit, but please don’t be disrespectful by spreading misinformation. I feel it was a well intentioned, but now it’s just irresponsible.

  17. Anita

    Shop where the locals shop for groceries; Don Quixote, Walmart, Longs – there’s always sales. Even Whole Foods have sales. Go for local eateries and not the big name chain brands. Eat poke from Foodland (one of the best) even 711 has good food options.

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