The stereotypical honeymoon getaway, a lot of people write off Hawaii for being too expensive, something they wouldn’t be able to afford or somewhere they have to save for a special occasion. Not true. As long as you do a little bit of homework and pre-plan, the tropical vacation of your dreams is well within reach. I’ll show you exactly what my trip across the Pacific cost and where I could have saved even more. Travel to Hawaii is affordable if you know how to budget and plan.
Flights: I found my main flight from Denver-Oahu for $270 on Skyscanner.com, my secret travel weapon. Why is it so great? If you just want to get away, you don’t even need to input an end destination – you can simply view the cheapest countries on any given day. If you do know where you’re going like I did this time, choose the calendar view for pricing – you can see the cheapest flights on any given day of the year. Another great site for flight deals is skiplagged.com, but they’re currently tied up in a nice lawsuit with United and Orbitz. My main chunk of money was spent on inter-island flights because I wanted to see three different islands while I was there. You could save a lot more by focusing only on one location. My one-way flight from Oahu-Maui on Hawaiian Airlines was $60, then a one-way flight from Maui-Kona was $140, and finally the one-way from Hilo-Oahu was $110. I used miles to get back home to Denver, which is another way to save money, by checking all possible combinations of miles (between any of your programs) and cash. Total: $580
Hostels: 2 days on Maui was $80, 1 day in Kona was $30, and 2 days on Hilo was $60. The last 4 days I stayed with a friend in Oahu, but I did price out a hostel there just in case: 4 days in Wakiki would’ve been $100. If you want to save even more, there is also oceanfront camping available on almost all of the islands for about $20 a night if you don’t mind a bit of sand in your hair. Total: $270
Car Rental (Big Island): I drove down the Southern Coast from Kona to Hilo so I could do the Manta Ray dive in Kona while stopping at the green sand beach, black sand beach, and Volcano National Park. You would save a lot of money by only seeing one of the main cities on the Big Island but hey, yolo. Alamo was also nice enough to upgrade me to a convertible, so it really made the experience. Total: $170
Restaurants: While you certainly can go all out and splurge on expensive Luaus (usually put on by the hotels) and lobster dinners, standard Hawaiian cuisine is actually quite affordable. A plate of Loco Moco (two scoops of rice, some form of meat that’s typically Kahlua pork, and a fried egg covered in hearty gravy) for lunch will run you just $5-8 on average. Similarly, an ahi poke bowl (fresh pieces of tuna served as a salad over rice), should cost less than $10 if you get it locally. You can also find plenty of roadside stands and food trucks offering delicacies like banana bread and my favorite, honesty stands, essentially a pay what you want fruit stand. One affordable must-eat in Waikiki is Marukame that has seriously better udon than I had in Japan. Served cafeteria style, it was my go-to lunch spot (where I may or may not have eaten twice in one day. It really is that good.). A build your own bowl kind of place, select optional tempura toppings, but no matter what you put in it, it should cost no more than $10. Don’t believe me? The line around the block and 1000+ Yelp reviews should be proof enough. Total: $300
Obviously, I could have done Hawaii even cheaper had I not made so many stops or gone for a shorter amount of time (nine days is a lot), but not knowing when I’d be back, I wanted to fit in as much as possible on one trip and left feeling like it was a great value for the amazing experience I had. Mahalo!
Want to save even more money? Here are 10 Free things to do on Oahu.
Ready to book your Hawaii adventure? Read up on what to do there.