Another tip for keeping your visit within a strict budget is to grocery shop. Once you begin to get settled in Hawaii, make this one of your first priorities. If you’re camping, invest in a cooler. There is a combination of chain grocery stores (like Whaler’s and Food Pantry) and smaller community markets that you can choose from. This will keep you from paying inflated prices for each meal.
If you’re staying in Honolulu, you have to try Helena’s. This little hole in the wall restaurant is known for its authentic Hawaiian cuisine and is a local favorite. You can get Kalua Pig with Cabbage and a scoop of rice for under $5. Most Hawaiian food won’t put a large dent in your wallet and honestly, in highly populated areas you’ll have the same restaurants to choose from as you do stateside.
Some of the most popular attractions in Hawaii don’t require you to spend any extra cash to check it out. So if you are planning on hitting the beach every day, don’t sweat! On Oahu, the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is free to visit. There are also countless hiking trails, including Waimea Canyon (aka the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’) on Kauai, the Na Pali coast, and plenty of waterfalls (such as Akaka Falls on the Big Island), which don’t require an extra fee.
If you’re interested in some of the more involved activities, such as snorkeling or taking a bike ride down a volcano, there’s really no way to sidestep the cost. Bike rides down a volcano, which are available through companies like Haleakala Bike Company, begin at $100 a person. I suggest booking this in advance, since usually there are special internet prices which will knock a good $25 off. Another popular activity is snorkeling off the side of a catamaran. In Maui, you can visit Molokini or Turtle Town for $80/per person. There are plenty of tours to choose from on each island, but be wary of paying escalated prices. Pay attention to whether or not children are less and the style of travel. Yacht tours are significantly more expensive.
But if you’d rather save the money, and still get either of these experiences, you can rent snorkeling equipment and bikes from shops which are usually located right by the beach, like when you’re visiting Poipu. Keep in mind that the longer you rent the bike for, the cheaper the cost per day. At Bike Works (located on Hawaii), you can rent for one day at $40. But if you expect to use a bike as your main form of transportation for a week, it’s only $20.
If you expect to spend your days camping, hiking and checking out the landscape, then a bike is the perfect option. However, if you want to explore the entire island, it’s really not practical. You could rent a compact or economy car in Hawaii for approximately $40 a day ($290/a week), but I recommend renting a moped. They are cheaper than cars (approx. $35/per day or $175/per week) and you won’t be stopping to buy gas as often. Plus, they are perfect for a cruise down the coast line and hitting the beaches, as long as you are traveling light.
If you decide to rent a car, keep in mind what kind of activities you’ll use it for and choose appropriately. I made that mistake after discovering an off-beaten path on the north side of Kauai, next to the Na Pali coast. I wished I had spent the extra $30 for a four wheel drive. It took almost an hour and a half to creep down the unpaved road while avoiding steep ditches. It was a miracle that I made it out without damaging the car.
It’s very easy to spend a lot of money in Hawaii. Endless activities and experiences for a life time can come at a pretty cost if you’re staying at a fancy resort, renting a luxury vehicle, and dining out every night. Instead, consider these much more down to earth options to avoid going broke on your Hawaiian vacation; especially if you are looking for a more natural outdoorsy experience. Personally, my favorite day was spent just kicking back on the north side of Kauai on the Na Pali coast with friends. No cost, and for the most part, no people either.