15 Ways to Have a Budget Hawaii Vacation

Hawaii CAN be a budget destination!

I never, ever, thought of Hawaii as a budget destination. Especially with the current weak Canadian dollar. But we chose Hawaii last year as our budget vacation spot, and for the same reason we chose it again this year! Hawaii did NOT disappoint. We spent under $3000 Canadian dollars total each time we went, for 10 days. That’s less $1500 per person!

It goes without saying that the first step to saving money on a holiday is to get the cheapest flight you can. Use ITA Matrix (read here all about what that is!) or Skyscanner to get the cheapest flight. (I think you should do that for any holiday though, we recently saved $500 on flights to London at Christmas!)

(You can’t BOOK flights on ITA Matrix, but you can use it to find the cheapest flight and then use a reputable travel agency that price matches to actually book the flight. I don’t suggest booking online on one of the giant search engine sites because being a customer of REAL PEOPLE vs. a customer of a computer has it’s benefits – you have an advocate if something goes wrong on your trip. Get Away Today is a great agency that will price match for you. Check out their Hawaii trips here!)

Hawaii has a few extra awesome options for cheapness that some other beach destinations don’t have – use these to plan your budget Hawaii vacation and save save save!


15 tips to plan a budget Hawaii vacation:

1 – Pick a more populated Island. Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island will probably be your best bets for a budget vacation, just because they are more populated. Population = competition for customers = reduced prices. I let the flight prices and available accommodation dictate which of these Islands we go to!

2 – Try to travel in the off season (Mid April – early June and Sept. – mid Dec.). One of the best things about Hawaii is that unlike many other places, the “off season” isn’t the “bad season”. April/May (not over Easter though) tends to be quiet and GORGEOUS in Hawaii, and it’s the perfect time for planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget.

3 – Use that abundance of population + off season combo to your advantage. There are thousands of condo owners on the populated islands that don’t want to let their condos sit empty (and therefore not paying for themselves) in the off season. This year I emailed 6 owners (that I found on vacation rental sites) and asked if they could do any better on the price. FOUR of six got back to me with a lower price.

4 – On that note, DO stay in a condo (or at even a hotel with a kitchenette), because self-catering for at least breakfast and some times dinner will save you hundreds.

5 – discounthawaiicarrental.com. (I am not an affiliate, I will not make money for directing you there. I just want you to know how to get the deals.) Book your car when you book your trip. Then check back every week (or every few days if you can) and re-book when the price drops. It will drop. Until about 5 days before you leave, when it will skyrocket.

6 – If you are a decent driver, and comfortable using your own vehicle insurance, then don’t buy insurance at the car rental place. Check with your broker at home to see if you are covered for rentals. There’s a good chance that you are. (It’ll say something like “third-party owned vehicle” on the policy.)

7 – Totally, absolutely, go for the time share presentation to get the free day trip. IF you know you won’t be sucked in. 2 hours of my time for a $224.00 day on a boat with free breakfast and lunch? Yes please. (I almost feel bad for the time share people, who realize pretty quickly that selling me a time share would be about as likely as selling a downfilled jacket to a Jamaican.)

8 – And use Groupon. We bought our tickets to the aviation museum at Pearl Harbor with Groupon for 50% off. They had awesome looking deals for lots of fun activities and we will definitely do it this way again. You can also use them for restaurants!

9 – Also, google free Hawaii coupons. There are TONS of sites with printable Hawaii coupons for restaurants and attractions. (But do remember that every coupon is designed to get you there and spend your money!)

10 – Take a snorkel set (this is the one I have) with you, there is an ABUNDANCE of amazing places to snorkel right off the beach in Hawaii. (On Maui we snorkeled in Honolua bay, right next to the people who had paid a hundred bucks to be there. The only difference was that we drove ourselves down there and took the short beautiful walk through the forest carrying our own snorkel gear.)

11 – Go ahead and invest a little to make your free beach days the best they can be. If your condo comes with a craptastic umbrella or no beach chairs/cooler, how much are you gonna want to go to the free beaches? The 27 bucks we spent this time around on a good beach umbrella was absolutely worth it. (Funniest book to read at the beach – right here.)

12 – Same with eating out. If you feel deprived you’re not going to enjoy your holiday, so go out for a nice meal and splurge a little. Just do it at lunch time if you can, and you’ll often get the same food for half the price!

13 – Learn about the free things to do on the island you’re headed to before you go, and plan time to DO the free things. My hands down favorite thing to do in Hawaii is swim with the turtles. Here is a post on 10 Free things to do on Maui, one for the 9 Best free things to do on Oahu, and a post on free things to do on the Big Island.

14 – Really, seriously, re-think souvenirs. If you absolutely have to buy something or the trip will be ruined please please please at least buy something super useful like towels (if there is room in your luggage) or an adorable turtle keychain (if you’ll use it). Resist the hula girl that will gather dust for three years before being donated to the thrift shop in your effort to kick the clutter.

15 – Consider doing a little travel hacking to save some money on flights or accommodation. It’s totally not necessary – we didn’t travel hack at all for our first Hawaii vacation, but we did for our second, and it allowed us to spend a little more on our Condo and stay in a better location.

If you’re hoping to visit Hawaii on a budget, stop hoping and start planning!

We never would have believed that visiting Hawaii on a budget would be possible for us, but it’s our new favorite cheap holiday destination.

To book a family vacation to Hawaii on a budget is my next project now that we have kids – we’ve talked about it and decided that an all inclusive is NOT the way to go when the kids are little. Hawaii will be a far cheaper family vacation destination than any all inclusive because you pay ONE price for a condo instead of a per person price, and the amazing free beaches are the best entertainment there is!

I literally can not wait to show my kids the turtles and see their faces!

Remember: Be sure to book your holiday through a reputable travel agency that PRICE MATCHES, instead of just online somewhere. Using a reputable agency with trained agents to help you deal with hiccups in your plans will save you tons in the long run – being a customer of REAL PEOPLE vs. a customer of a computer has it’s benefits – you have an advocate if something goes wrong on your trip. Get Away Today is a great agency that will price match for you. Check out their Hawaii trips here!

(They also have discounted Disney tickets there, just FYI.)

Even just doing a few of these things can save you thousands (no exaggeration! Serious!) on a Hawaii vacation. We use to think we couldn’t afford Hawaii, and this year we chose it because we couldn’t afford anywhere BUT Hawaii! Happy holiday planning!

how to take a budget hawaii vacation

15 tips for planning a cheap hawaii vacation

46 thoughts on “15 Ways to Have a Budget Hawaii Vacation”

    • HI! I hope you can put ’em to good use! Your gorgeous cover photo on your blog looks just like Hawaii 🙂 When you do get to go, remember that if you shop at Long’s Drugs (they are everywhere) you can take your CVS card – or even get one there – so that you get the sale prices! Every penny helps, right?

    • Hi Angela 🙂 I hope Hawaii’s in the near future for you too! I searched vrbo.com and homeaway.com and chose places based on the price & location. If you’re willing to be out in the “boonies” so to speak you can save even more! In Oahu we stayed in Makaha which is FAR away from the “tourist” area… but we only paid $120/night for a gorgeous renovated condo. Good luck with your planning!

    • Hey Meg! That’s so exciting! We loved Maui… Just FYI incase you haven’t been before – Kihei is a very budgety area to stay, but if you can find a similarly priced property either farther west or farther south, we found Kihei VERY windy! (That certainly didn’t ruin our trip though 🙂 Enjoy your holiday!!)

  1. But, if you want to go to the island with least turists population all those things above fail. Sure, it’s possible to find cheap flights but condo owners won’t negotiate prices. Same with car rental. Big Island or Oahu are always busy with tourists. I have no desire to visit Maui, Oahu or Big Island. Molokai is my absolute favourite Island, was there few times and wish to go there again. What prevents me? U$D -> C$D exchange rate.

    • HI Beatrice! Yes, these tips are best put to use on the three busy islands, since population is what makes the opportunities for deals. I can’t really imagine having “no desire” to go to Maui, (or even to Oahu, for that matter, but I would defenitly stick to the “residential” side up by Makaha and avoid the crowds. There’s abandoned beaches and amazing turtles all over up there!) but perhaps you should look into some other places? We were looking at Aruba (before the Zika thing happened – it ruled out the whole Caribbean for as we were trying for a baby). I think a person could apply these same principles to many of the more wealthy areas of the Caribbean.

  2. Thank you Carly for this great post! It’s so nice to read a budget vaca guide with tips that are actually useful, practical, and based on common sense! There are so many bloggers these days who bombard us with poorly-disguised affiliate marketing that has no real substance… what a breath of fresh air! Keep up the good work.

    • Hey Chris! And thank you! I really appreciate that 🙂 Affiliate links are nice, but I want to believe that useful information is going to get me further as a blogger in the long run than a few quick bucks. These are tips we actively use often to go on a budget holiday. I hope you can use some of them yourself!!

  3. I live on Oahu, and these are some really good tips. You’re right, there are a lot of free things to do here. My family and I do these things living here, too.
    Hanauma Bay is here on Oahu, though, not Maui, and it is probably the best snorkel spot (although I don’t know what “forest” you were talking about walking through to get there). And you’re right, rent a car and drive there yourself!
    Good post!

    • HI Crystal! First of all, I’m a little jealous that you live on Oahu. Second, thank you SO much for the correction – I meant Honolua bay on Maui and I will go fix that right now!! We did snorkel in Hanauma bay as well and it was defenitly a little better than Honolua bay – plus it felt “safer” as far as sharks and scarries go (I know the risk is so small, but Hawaii and Australia are the two places that I always think about them when I’m in the water lol).

  4. Great tips! After being a Maui resident for 10+ years the only thing I would critique on this guide would be not to pack your own snorkel gear. It will take up a lot of room in your suitcase that could be better used. Instead I would either buy a cheap set here, or rent a set for under $2.00 a day. Snorkel Bobs is a great place to do this at. (Not affiliate)

    Good luck to all tourists.

    Malama ‘Aina

    • Hi Bree! Thanks for the tip 🙂 We are partial to having our own, but you’re right in that it takes up a HEAP of space – and we travel carry on only to Hawaii. For those that need to bring alot of clothes or want to take much home, renting is a great option.

    • Bree, we will be visiting Maui in November. Any tips for us?

    • Hi Rosemary! Thanks for reading – if you’re on your way to Hawaii, ENJOY!

  5. We get a great deal on flights by joining the Alaska Airlines plan and there is also an Hawaiian Airlines one that my daughter belongs to. Each year we get a companion fare for a $100 fee. We save the points earned on our flights and use both to go where we bought a condo by the month on the Big Island and we love it there in Kailua Kona. Some condo owners rent part of their time when they aren’t going to be there. There are local farmers markets where you can buy fresh local fruit but there is also a Costco and Wallmart. You can rent a car from Costco site and pick it up at the airport and it has saved us $.

    • HI Sherry! I’ve looked at that Alaska airlines credit card and I think it might be a good one to have – that or the west jet one… I’m torn because they both do the companion flights lol. I’ll have to look into renting from Costco! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  6. If you want souveniors and or presents…go to the Maui Swap meet. Many great things with great prices. Be careful of a condo if you chose to go that way. We had pictures of a beautiful one,said it was oceanfront and when we got there, it was horrible. Furniture was stained, leaks in the bedroom and bathroom floor. Couldn’t open the fridge if someone was at the sink, and on and on. It was disgusting. We wound up where we normally go, The Ka’anapali beach hotel. Our favorite! We did a condo at Whalers Village (which) is our favorite area and that was nice but be careful. Also, when you get to the airport, grab every book you can for your island. There are lots of great coupons in them. Maui is our favorite place in the world. And remember, if you love coffee and want some Kona coffee, don’t get the Kona blend. It only has to have 1 Kona coffee bean in the whole bag to be called “blend” Get some of the good stuff. On Oahu, there is Greenwell farms, they have the best chocolate macadamia nut coffee.

    • Great Tips Donna!! Thank you! I totally forgot about the maui swap meet – we really enjoyed it 🙂

  7. Absolutely enjoyed reading your article. Planning a trip for my mothers 70th Birthday. Hawaii is her big dream. We don’t have much but I need to do this for her. Could you suggest some rental places?

    • HI Nelly! You will LOVE hawaii – and so will your mom! It does NOT need to be expensive 🙂 I wish I could suggest some places for you, but I wouldn’t recommend you stay where we stayed on Maui as we found it extremely windy and we were told it’s the windiest place on the island. Just check out VRBO or homeaway.com for some condos for rent by owner!

  8. I just did a budget trip to Kauai with my daughter ….. Flight, car and hotel were $2800. I filled half of our suitcase with food (granola bars, crackers, dried fruit, etc), so we only bought perishables at the grocery store. In Kauai, the Coconut Coast is inexpensive and super fun! Also, we got a free boogie board from a vacationing family …. And we passed it on before we left. We got the club card at the grocery store and only ate one meal out per day. I got restaurant apps on my phone before we left home to save money. Also, flying Monday to Monday saved us $600!

    • GREAT tips Kelly! Thanks for sharing – i LOVE that Hawaii can be so cheap 🙂

  9. Hi Carly! Great article!… I was wondering if you’d share the locations of where you actually stayed, such as the VRBO or homeaway links. My husband and I have been talking about going to Hawaii for years and we’re starting to get serious about planning a trip but we’re on a budget too at the moment and don’t want to stay around a lot of people, although we do want to take advantage of the more populated islands to get the best deals… Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • HI Melissa! I don’t have any links, but I know that on Oahu we stayed in Waianee (sp?) at the Makaha Valley Towers – note that they are WAY OUT OF THE WAY. lol. WE loved them however, because the beaches were empty and there was only a handful of tourists… it was awesome. I wouldn’t suggest staying in the very same place we stay on Maui. It was lovely but it was the windiest spot on the island and the wind DID damped our ability to enjoy the beach out front of the hotel. So that was too bad. I will look into getting some links for this article tho. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  10. These are fab tips! I wrote a similar post myself so I was quite excited to read this one. We did a budget holiday to Hawaii (Oahu) last year and I was amazed by how much you can save just by watching your spend on certain things! We even stayed in a hostel, and I had no IDEA there were hostels there before I started researching. It also meant we had a kitchen, which like you say is such a good way to save money.

    • Depending on the kind of holiday you are wanting, a hostel is an AMAZING way to save money! We stay in them often, but for our “big vacation” we like to splurge and get a condo. Great tip tho!!


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