10 of Our Best Tips for Visiting Hawaii on a Budget

If an escape to paradise is in your future, don’t miss our best Hawaii on a budget tips!

holding açaí bowl in Hawaii

Dreaming of a tropical vacation? 

Sure, you could head to the closest beach, but there’s just something about a tropical vacation on an island, ya know? If you’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii but you’ve been scared off by the stories of sky-high prices, fear not frugal friends! We’ve been there, and our budgets lived to tell the tale.

dirt road in Hawaii with ocean view

Here are our team’s personal tips on how to do Hawaii on a budget so you can focus on having fun without overspending. 🙌

1. Skip the pricey Hawaii vacation souvenir store.

little girl wearing Hawaiian necklace and bathing suit

Instead of spending tons of cash in tourist-trap souvenir shops, you can get the coolest t-shirts and/or hoodies at local thrift stores such as Savers or Salvation Army. Not only will it be a great memento, but the chances of someone else having the same thing are pretty slim!

Also, shop for Hawaiian-themed apparel in the off season to score some awesome clearance buys!

womans hand holding pink hawaiian themed outfit in old navy

As another idea, you could bring along a small, clear bottle and fill it with sand from all your favorite beaches. The kids will love this little memento!

2. Airbnbs and VRBO can be cheaper than hotels, and they often have full kitchens.

woman in rental airbnb

Plus, there’s always the potential for negotiation!

You can contact the host and kindly tell them your story & budget, and they may be able to help you out! And if not, you can either decide the place is worth it or look elsewhere. This is such a great way to do Hawaii on a budget.

You’ll also be thankful you’re staying in a place with full kitchen access! And no, it doesn’t mean you can’t relax and eat out, but it does mean that you can spend a lazy morning on the lanai with a cup of coffee and a cheap breakfast. One of the reasons folks claim Hawaii is so expensive is the cost of eating out, so having a kitchen lets you save while staying flexible.

Note that if you do decide to eat out, check for military discounts. So many places in Hawaii offer them!

3. More airlines = more options to help you save on plane tickets.

airplane wing seen from window

It’s no secret that airfare is one of the biggest expenses of any vacation, especially if you’re travelin’ with the family, so be sure to look at all your options. If you’re doing Hawaii on a budget, your airfare can end up being one of the biggest money-savers.

Luckily, you have more options than ever when it comes to that piece of the travel budget puzzle. You can check out sites like Kayak which frequently offers crazy cheap flights or track your desired departures with Google Flights. There are a lot of flight finders out there, so be sure to compare them all for the best Hawaii vacation deal possible!

Hip Tip: For an in-depth overview on how to save BIG while buying your plane tickets, check out our travel timeline!

4. Believe it or not, you can score HOT Hawaii vacation deals with Costco Travel!

Costco storefront on sunny day

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Costco here at Hip2Save! 🙌 But did y’all know that you can actually book your vacations through Costco Travel as well?? This can make doing Hawaii on a budget so easy!

My Hip teammate, Bryn, booked her Hawaii trip through Costco and saved money, plus had an awesome experience!

Here’s what she said about it:

“My hubby and I traveled to Maui in early 2021 and got an AMAZING deal to stay at the Ritz Carlton! We would normally never splurge on a hotel like this BUT the Costco package ended up costing us the SAME amount that we would pay if we stayed in a standard Maui hotel AND the Costco package came with a rental car, daily $100 resort credit, daily breakfast for two, waived mandatory daily resort fee AND complimentary daily valet parking!! It was awesome!!” – Bryn

buying Boom Chicka Pop at Costco

AND with your Costco membership, you’ll save extra on groceries + essentials.

Like many islands, Hawaii is subject to higher shopping prices because products are more difficult to import, and this is especially true for groceries. But don’t let that deter you–you can still get Hawaii vacation deals!

Folks who have shopped in Costco on the Island say the prices are about the same as the mainland. Whew, thank goodness. 🙌 Like we said, eating out in Hawaii can really put a strain on the budget, so it’s great to have a place you can shop with reliably low (and familiar) prices.

5. Skip the Hawaii vacation resort rentals and hunt down deals in a local shop.

hawaii vacation surf boards lined up on side of the road beside two kids

When you’re surrounded by gorgeous ocean waters and miles of beaches, it’s hard to resist a snorkeling adventure or two. BUT if you’re staying at a resort that rents snorkel gear, beach chairs, etc., do NOT rent from the resort! Go into town and find a local rental shop–it’s usually half the price!

Or, even better, stay in a unit that comes with gear rentals included! Chances are, the folks who are renting out their places on sites like Airbnb are hip to the fact that you’ll want to venture out on an underwater adventure, bike ride, or surfing excursion, so you can probably find places that come with those perks.

6. Don’t skip the travel apps!

using travel app in car

When my Hip teammate Lina went on a Hawaii vacation with her family, her friend tipped her off to the GyPSy Guide app after she heard they wanted to travel the Road to Hana route. And she loved it!

family posing in I Survived The Hana Highway car

Here’s what she said about GyPSy Guide:

“When we were on vacation, I mentioned to a friend that we wanted to do Road to Hana–she said ‘Make sure you buy the tour guide app!’ and so I did.

2 things: It was amazing! We bought the GyPSy Guide for $10 and it works with your location and tells you exactly where to stop for all the scenic lookouts and spots to consider stopping, and whether or not there are any additional costs to go in. The app did such a great job and made it exciting and full of history. I felt like we got a whole Hawaiian history lesson I never would have known. Plus, I never would have stopped at any of these hikes, waterfalls, beaches, viewpoints, or food stands. It made the entire day so worth it.

And that day was like the best day we had and LEAST EXPENSIVE. Simply doing that driving guide and viewing all those points was free. ” – Lina.

There are also tons of other apps out there like AllTrails, GeoTourist, plus more for all types of travel needs, and many of them are free!

7. Try out the Turo App.

pink jeep with surfboards on top on hawaii vacation

You’ve been looking forward to this trip for months (if not years), you have just flown for the better part of a day across the big blue ocean, and now you’ve arrived at the beautiful island paradise.

But as anyone who’s traveled anywhere can tell you, that doesn’t mean you’re home free quite yet.

Car rental companies can unfortunately be expensive, unreliable, and are often preceded by extremely long lines–the absolute last thing you want to see after a long day or two of air travel. 🤣

But what if you rent a car from an individual instead of a rental company? You can read their excellent reviews, arrange for insurance through Turo, and save a ton of money and so much time! While the rest of the passengers from your flight head to get rental cars, your host can meet you there with the car or give you a pin code and location for your rental car, and on with your vacation you go!

Traditional rental cars can be great on some trips, especially when the counters are in the airport terminal and the shuttle part is taken out of the equation. But when you’re trying to score Hawaii vacation deals, having an alternate plan to use the Turo App or another rideshare company can save your sanity!

8. Think outside the “cooler” box!

deals on tropical fruits for sale on hawaii vacation

This next unusual tip comes from my Hip teammate, Bryn!

“We have friends who swear that it is way cheaper to fill a cooler with tons of meat and other spendy food items and check it with their baggage. Then on the way home, they can fill the cooler with items from Hawaii like pineapples and other tropical fruits.” – Bryn

Island groceries are not cheap, so folks are saying it’s actually a good bet to bring your splurge items with you from the mainland, and then return home with some extra-delicious island fruit!

9. You don’t have to just daydream about your Hawaii vacation — research it instead!

kids eating ice cream in Hawaii

It’s so much easier to save when you’re knowledgeable about an area. And honestly, researching future vacations is kinda fun!

Spending some time looking up the best cheap eats, frugal shops, and free activities in your vacation area prior to your trip pays off in time, money, and stress-free fun! Plus, it will keep your Hawaii on a budget trip in check. And Hawaii is filled with great food trucks, some oddball convenient stores, free outdoor adventures, and budget-friendly tours.

10. Check back with Hip2Save for even more Hawaii vacation deals!

Southwest Hawaii Flight Attendant

We’ve learned that in Hawaii, less is more. 🙌

There are so many great beaches, hikes, festivals, surf competitions, snorkel spots, etc that are all free and contribute to truly unplugged relaxation if that’s what you’re looking for. But no matter your travel style, the coupons & tips we share here on Hip2Save can make a big difference! Subscribe to our newsletter and even text with Collin to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Not to mention, we keep track of all the hottest travel deals around, so you can feel confident traveling anywhere. 😉

Bonus Tip: Check out these team-favorite eateries that won’t break the bank!

fruit and taco plates in restaurant in hawaii scoring hawaii vacation deals

Places to eat in O’ahu:

  • Tanya’s Pies & Grill. Hole in the wall local favorite. Big Menu. Spam & Bacon Fried Rice and new pies made daily.
  • The Sunrise Shack. Keeping it keto? This hot spot is next to Sunset Beach on North Shore & offers multiple types of Bulletproof Coffees + some of the best açai Bowls and smoothies on the island. Keep in mind that they’re not dirt cheap, but the quality makes it worth just a few dollars more!

Places to eat in Maui:

  • 808 Grindz. Local favorite with the BEST Mac Nut Pancakes with Coconut Icing syrup and Kalua Pork Hash. It’s better than the expensive restaurants at a fraction of the price.
  • Stillwell’s Bakery. Super yummy, inexpensive place for breakfast and lunch. They are known for their out-of-this-world Cream Horn pastries. They’re so good that locals buy them frozen to take when visiting family that lives on other Hawaiian islands.

Places to eat on the Big Island:

  • The Coffee Shack. They have breakfast, lunch, coffee, a bakery, and a lanai overlooking 26 miles of coastline. It’s also near world-class snorkeling such as Captain Cook Monument area and Two-Step!
  • Hawaiian Style Cafe. Delicious doesn’t quite cover it. If you are feeling brave, try the Mok-A-Sauras, an insane take on the Hawaiian favorite Loco Moco dish featuring SPAM, chicken cutlet, kalua pork, hamburger patty, two eggs, and brown gravy!

Are you a chronic over-packer? Check out our tips for downsizing your luggage!