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Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget

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Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget - Man getting ready for some snorkeling at Waikiki Beach
You don’t have to go broke to enjoy a trip to Hawaii

Hawaii is a paradise that very few other places on Earth can compare to. The tropical feel, enchanting views, and flawless beaches make this place a little slice of Heaven nestled blissfully in the Pacific Ocean. When I tell most of my friends that I’m traveling to the Hawaiian island of Oahu next month, their initial response is almost always: “But isn’t that incredibly expensive? Are you really planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget?“.

Honestly, I can’t blame them. With round-trip flight prices from my hometown to Honolulu averaging about $700 or more per person, it seems like a luxurious trip you’d probably save for your honeymoon or another special occasion.

However, what many people don’t realize is that there are actually some incredible ways to cut costs when traveling to paradise… if you’re willing to make a few sacrifices.

As a recent college grad, I certainly wasn’t ready to shell out thousands of dollars for a few days in Honolulu, but I knew I could visit Hawaii on a budget, so I worked hard to minimize expenses.

Here are the top five methods I ended up using to keep my costs reasonable while spending five days in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget - Girl looking out of the window at Honolulu airport
Enough with watching everyone else going on amazing trips: it’s your turn now!

Bite the Bullet and Take the Crappy Flight

If you’re visualizing spacious seats and a direct flight to Honolulu for a fair price, squash that $1,000 dream right now. More often than not, the only way to travel to Hawaii for a fair price is to sacrifice a little time and comfort.

When you are shopping around for Hawaii deals, search for flights with one or two layovers and book a seat with as few add-ons as possible. When my fiancé and I go, we’ll be taking a pretty long flight with a three-hour layover and no carry-on luggage.

We plan to pack light and travel minimally, and because we’re willing to sacrifice, we saved a total of about $800 combined.

Flying anywhere these days is rarely a good experience, unless you have tons of money that is. However, when you look back on your (hopefully!) all inclusive Hawaii retreat, you probably won’t be thinking about the layover or your cramped seat in the airplane.

That being said, save your money on transit and use it to live it up the best beaches in Honolulu and the surrounding areas. I promise you won’t regret it!

Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget - View of a Luxury resort in Waikiki Beach from the Ocean
The very last thing you should worry about when it comes to hotels is… the view

When Searching for Accommodations, Value Location Over Pretty Views

When you look at Honolulu hotels and AirBnBs, you’re going to be tempted to pick one with a gorgeous view.

The problem is that you’ll pay big bucks for that view, and in reality, you probably won’t spend that much time in your rental. Instead, pick a reasonably priced place that’s central to all of the beaches and Oahu attractions you want to check out.

This will help you cut down on transportation time and save you from stumbling into the ocean-view tourist trap. There are a lot of amazing things to do in Waikiki and you don’t want to murder your budget by spending on the wrong stuff!

Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget - Couple on honeymoon romancing on the beach in Waikiki Beach
Honeymooning and eloping to Hawaii? Heck, yeah!

Don’t Fall Prey to Unnecessary Guided Tours

As soon as you begin booking your trip, you’ll see dozens of incredible tours offered throughout the Honolulu area.

Want to swim with sea turtles? There’s a tour for that. Drive through Jurassic Park? There’s a tour for that, too. Before you know it, you could be spending thousands of dollars on guided expeditions around the area.

If tours are your favorite part about traveling, then great, book a few. Still, you should keep in mind that it’s fairly easy to explore Oahu without the help of a guide.

Start researching where you can see turtles on your own or how you can rent snorkel gear without paying for a full tour.
By DIY-ing your expeditions, you’ll cut down on the overall cost of your trip substantially and you can enjoy all the must do in Oahu.

Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget - Group hiking on Oahu, green mountains in the background
Do you really need a guided tour even to find the closest Hawaiian shave ice kiosk?

Search for Groupons and Other Discounts

You’d be surprised by how many Groupons there are for various Honolulu attractions, from cage diving with sharks to amazing luaus and dinners.

Sure, the thought of downloading a bunch of coupons for your getaway sounds less than luxurious, but saving 40 to 50 percent on a bunch of activities is a smart way to visit Hawaii on a budget.

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Also, before you book any hotel or activity, do some research online to see if they offer discounts at certain times.

Being strategic is a huge part of budgeting while traveling, and quite often a few Google searches can give you a hefty percentage off. Every bit of savings counts, so take the time to do your homework.

Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget - Rental green (vintage) Volkswagen in Maui
Renting a car means you can explore also the out of the beaten path areas

If You Plan to Explore the Island, Rent a Car Instead of Ubering

You can access most parts of Oahu from Honolulu in under an hour, which makes exploring the entire island fairly simple. That is, if you have access to wheels.

Although you could use rideshare apps to get yourself around, those bills will add up, especially if you’re leaving the city at least once a day (I’m still trying to explain how to visit Hawaii on a budget, remember?).

Renting your own car will be pretty handy especially if you’re planning to drive on the road to Hana, one of the most amazing experiences in Maui.

So, look into renting a car from a local Hawaiian. Turo is a service that basically works like AirBnB, but with cars, so you can use someone’s spare vehicle for about $20 a day to see all of Oahu.

This is certainly a lot cheaper than Ubering and more effective than using public transportation.

If you’re adamant on finding a good deal on a rental car, here I found the very best ones. Click to check their prices: they’re the lowest you can find. Your budget will thank you!

The Bottom Line

As you can see, planning a trip to Hawaii doesn’t have to be as ridiculously pricey as some people claim. It’s all about being purposeful with how you spend your money. By cutting down on luxury and being strategic with your flights, accommodations, and entertainment, you can say aloha to the vacation you’ve been dreaming about for so long.

What are you waiting for? Procrastination won’t fly you to Hawaii!

You might also like:
How to visit Hawaii on a budget
What to do in Waikiki at night
The best stops on the Road to Hana
Top Hawaii souvenirs you can’t forget!
USA Babymoon Ideas on a Budget
Why you should travel with your partner
What to Pack for Hawaii
30 Most Instagrammable Places in Oahu
9 Jaw-Dropping Oahu Scenic Drives
Discover 10 hidden gems in Oahu!
Oahu Bucket List Destinations You Will Love

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Danila Caputo is a bilingual travel writer living in between Naples and the Amalfi Coast (Italy), graduating from the University of Naples Suor Orsola Benincasa in Foreign Languages and Literature. She travels and works with her husband Aldo, photographer and videographer. Their blog chronicles their adventures around the world, their love for the USA (where they have family), Italian/European culture and tips on how to be responsible travelers. You can find out more about their latest trips and their life on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook.

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  1. I wish I’d found this post before we went in November!

    1. Haha well sorry we got to you late! 😀 What would you have done differently for your Hawaii trip?

  2. These are all excellent tips! Thank you for sharing 🙂 my fiancé and I are looking at booking a Hawaiian vacation and I know this info is going to come in handy!!