Tips and tricks for saving on lodging, food and attractions in Hawaii.
If you prefer, you can spend a fortune on a Hawaiian vacation. Or you can save where you can, and spend that money on fun activities. Here are some suggestions on where you can trim dollars.
RENT A CONDO
It will typically cost a bit more to rent a condo than a hotel room, but you’ll earn that back, and then some, by cooking and eating in. The islands teem with rentable timeshare condos, either through the resort itself, or directly from the owner at Redweek.com, Tug2.com/timesharemarketplace or HomeAway.com. Keep an eye on the extra fees, such as for cleaning, when you total up your costs.
STAY IN A CABIN
If you enjoy the outdoors, consider staying in one of Hawaii’s rustic cabins located inside state parks.
It will let you enjoy the park, maybe watch the sunset from an uncrowded perch, and be the first ones on the trails in the morning. You can also save by bringing groceries and cooking your own meals.
For example, in Kauai, the Cabins at Kokee Park at Waimea are simple mountain-forest cabins. Rates start at $79–$119, depending on size. No phone service, no TV, no Wi-Fi, so bring your card games. And book early.
On Maui, the state rents 12 rustic six-person housekeeping cabins at Wai’anapanapa State Park for $90 per night. This is a remote area of low volcanic cliffs and coastline, offering hiking along an ancient Hawaiian coastal trail, shore fishing, wildlife, forest access and more. Bring your own food and linens.
PICK UP MAGAZINES
Grab copies of the local magazines in stands when you arrive. They often have discount or 2-for-1 coupons for things you’d like to do.
SIGN UP WITH HAWAIIAN AIRLINES
If you sign up for the airline’s email list, you’ll get advance notice of special travel deals. And note that its frequent flier plan is pretty good. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points and use them to fly with Hawaiian for virtually free. And they have a cool wedding program that offers discounts and deals.
BRING FOOD FROM HOME
Most first-time visitors are shocked at how expensive it is to buy food, but think how far it had to come to reach the islands. If you bring snacks and basics from home in your suitcase, you’ll save money — and then have room to pack souvenirs to bring home. Microwave popcorn, oatmeal packets and ramen soup make easy portable snacks.
SHOP AT ABC STORES
Instead of buying overpriced drinks and snacks at your resort, head to the ABC Stores, which are everywhere on Oahu and Maui. Some have delis with fresh foods, too.
GO TO COSTCO
Costco has five locations in Hawaii — on Maui, Kauai, the Big Island and Oahu, some with gas stations. Before you go, peruse Costco.com to look for discounted attraction vouchers, including luaus and other activities you might want to do. But beware of buying huge boxes of foodstuffs that you won’t actually eat, and will have to leave behind.
SEE THE ARIZONA MEMORIAL FOR FREE
You can get free timed tickets for the basic tour of the USS Arizona memorial at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument on Oahu. It chronicles the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The National Park Service gives out 1,300 same-day tickets daily starting at 7 a.m., first come, first served. (They often run out in high season, consider reserving ahead of time and paying the $1.50 reservation fee at recreation.gov.)
Admission to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is also free, and that includes admission to a screening of a 23-minute documentary film. (If you want an audio tour, it costs $7.50.) This memorial was built in 1962 over the battleship Arizona, which sank in the attack that killed 1,177 sailors and Marines.
If you plan to pay for activities such as boat rides or snorkeling, make sure to ask where you can park, because often you’ll find a fee when you get there. The folks at your tour might have tips for where you can park for free.
PLAN A HOME EXCHANGE
If you join a club such as HomeExchange.com, you may be able to swap your house for free with someone who lives in Hawaii. It’s not for everyone, but if you can stand the thought of staying in a strange house while its owners stay in yours, you can travel with no lodging costs.