Hawaii On A Dime!
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
When we went to Hawaii in January, we got a lot of comments like "I'm so jealous!" and "I could never afford that!" Well, stop letting vacation websites scare you. If you want a luxurious resort and spa vacation package, well then of course you will pay for it. But if you want to explore the natural beauty and wonders of the islands, we'll tell you just how to do it. While Hawaii can be a very expensive place to visit, there are ways to travel there without breaking the bank.
There are so many beautiful islands in Hawaii and it can be challenging to choose which one to visit. Maui and Kona are undoubtedly beautiful, but Oahu was where we found the best value. Aside from finding the most inexpensive deals, Oahu also had such a wide range of activities from zip lining to hiking to simply relaxing on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We found an inexpensive Airbnb just two blocks from Waikiki Beach and all of the action. We also rented a car to save money on ride-share services and explore the entire island which played a major role in having a successful trip. While Waikiki is lots of fun, Oahu has so much to offer. Plus, as flight attendants, we fly standby and Honolulu looked like our best bet for getting to Hawaii -- but we will get into flights a little more later.
Why do you want to travel to Hawaii? Your answer is most likely for the breathtaking views. If you're going to Hawaii for adventure, you won't be spending much time inside so there's no need to pay $500 a night for a hotel when you can spend $36 a night on a simple, clean Airbnb just steps from the beach. There is such a wide range of lodging on Airbnb so whether you're looking for something simple or you want to go a little bit more upscale, you can most likely find a place on Airbnb that won't cost you an arm and a leg. Maybe you won't have a waterfront balcony, but it's more fun to find a quiet section of the beach and dig your toes into the sand with your "coffee" in hand. Vacation is what you make of it.
Cost: $36 per night + taxes & fees.
Now that you've saved money on lodging, flights shouldn't seem quite as scary. We get asked all the time how to find cheap flights. Unfortunately, we don't have insider secrets, but we do have some tips that seem to work well for people. Clear your cookies and browser history when searching for flights, as most travel websites will track your visits and alter the prices based on your search frequency. Definitely shop around since sometimes those third-party websites can even be worse than going directly through the airlines themselves. After a quick web search, flights from as far as Boston to Honolulu average around $600. They key is to book very early on or fairly close to your departure date. Any time during the 3-6 month out range seems to be when ticket prices are the highest. Also consider what time of year you are traveling. Is it peak season for your destination? That could change the fares dramatically. With Hawaii, the weather is beautiful year-round, but it will be busiest in the dead of winter when it's cold elsewhere, or in the middle of the summer when most families are able to travel.
FOOD & DINING
This is the time to continue working on that beach body. You don't need three large meals while in Hawaii. Have some coffee and a piece of fruit for breakfast, grab a small sandwich for lunch, and then maybe splurge on a nice dinner. This is one part of your trip that will cost you a fortune if you don't plan accordingly. If you are staying in an Airbnb or somewhere with a fridge or kitchenette, head to the grocery store and buy some snacks and sandwiches to take with you to the beach or on a hike. Plus, there are some amazing food trucks around the island (Oh, hey Giovanni's Shrimp Truck!) While the grocery stores can be pricy, it will certainly be cheaper than eating out every meal. Also, don't forget, there are many snacks you can pack in your luggage that TSA will have no issue with. There are so many great restaurants in Oahu so do some research on places you'd like to eat. Bon appetite!
ACTIVITIES & GETTING AROUND
There are so many fantastic things to do in Hawaii that you most likely can't cram it all into one vacation... but we dare you to try! There is something for everyone, so think about what you want to do before you go, especially since some of the activities book up far in advance. Again, we can't stress enough how glad we were that we rented a car. You can use rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, but those will add up rather quickly - especially since they are more expensive on the island than they are on the mainland! Having a car is the best way to explore the island at your own pace so you can pick and choose what you want to do. We chose to stay in Waikiki for a couple of days and get around on foot, then rent a car for a portion of our trip to explore the rest of the island.
Cost: $27 per day.
Now, here's a recap what we did:
You simply can't go to Hawaii without going to a beach... or two or three. Our first stop was Waikiki Beach since it's right in Honolulu. It's beautiful, fun, but definitely can be overcrowded. With that being said, it's a larger beach, so you can certainly keep wandering until you find a quiet spot to relax. The waves are great! Then, going around the island, we stopped at Waimea Bay. This beach was much more quiet, the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks was so incredibly relaxing and the water was the perfect temperature. Next, we stopped at Lanakai. While this was the most visually stunning beach, it was also one of the most crowded. But here you will find the crystal blue waters and white sands of your dreams! It was definitely worth a stop. Lastly, and our favorite, was Kahana Bay Beach. We liked it so much we are almost afraid to share it! We arrived there midday on a Tuesday and there wasn't a single person on the beach. The landscape was breathtaking and the only thing you could hear were the birds chirping and the crashing of the waves on the sand. There are so many fantastic beaches to explore on Oahu and throughout Hawaii!
There is nothing more relaxing than getting out on the water. If you're looking for a physical activity, kayaking is always amazing and it's all over the place in Hawaii. If you want to go full-vacation mode, then a Catamaran Cruise is a must. We found a sunset Catamaran Cruise for $40 on Groupon. This allowed for some of the most amazing views of Diamond Head and the rest of Oahu. Don't forget sunscreen!
Cost: $40 for two people.
We must admit, we only did one hike while we were in Hawaii and that was the very touristy Diamond Head hike. It's not an intense hike at all, so if you aren't that physically active, this would be a great choice. Plus, the views from the top of Honolulu are incredible! It gets a little more crowded around sunset, but the views are worth it. If you're an early riser, head over there for a sunrise hike. Depending on where you stay in Waikiki, you may even be able to walk over to Diamond Head since it's just at the end of the beach. There are other amazing hikes on Oahu, such as the Stairway to Heaven or the Seven Falls hike.
Cost: $1 per person.
It's definitely touristy, but we love pineapple so we had to make a stop here. Admittedly, we came here at the end of our trip and didn't want to spend any more money so we decided to just pop in for some Dole Whip - YUM! There are a few activities and a train tour that you can pay for, but we found there was a lot to learn in the garden for FREE. We enjoyed our Dole Whip, learned about farming pineapples, took some great pictures, and went on our merry way!
Cost: $6 for Dole Whip per person... because who's sharing? ;)
We were only in Hawaii for four days, so there were certainly a lot of wonderful things that we did not do. Consider zip lining, the Polynesian Cultural Center, skydiving, swimming with dolphins, shark diving, etc. The island of Oahu has a lot to offer, and there's even more to do if you have time to explore the other islands!
Without including the cost of flights, our five-day trip to Hawaii cost us less than $500 for lodging, car rental, activities, and all of our food. In conclusion... you can do Hawaii on the cheap if you really want to!
We hope you enjoy your next trip to Hawaii!
Have questions? Let us know in the comments!
xx Rich & Andrew
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