5 Ways to Stretch Your Budget in Hawaii

Now that you’ve spent what feels like an arm and a leg on plane tickets to Hawaii, you’ll want to find ways to make your money stretch while you’re there.

Hawaii can prove an extremely costly destination. Since all food and consumer goods must be shipped to the islands by boat, the cost of living can be quite high. Staples like gas, groceries and rent can cost as much as three to four times as much as they cost on the mainland.

Luckily, there are other ways to save cash while traveling. I’m going to share five of my favorite money-saving tips for staying in Hawaii.

1. Eat Local Cuisine

You can eat at a McDonald’s or Burger King practically anywhere in the world, but where else would you find Kalua pig, pork lau lau, fresh ahi poke, lomi lomi salmon or other Hawaiian cuisine on the menu? Tasting these local delicacies will give you great insight into Hawaiian culture.

These island favorites won’t bust your budget either. Native Hawaiians crafted their cuisine from plentiful and inexpensive ingredients that are grown and raised in Hawaii. Since these dishes aren’t fancy, they aren’t expensive either.

Local residents love what is called a plate lunch. This typically includes rice, a small salad and one or two entrees. A good restaurant offering this Hawaiian fare can charge as little as $7 for a heaping portion of food.

Clearly, you won’t go hungry in Hawaii!

2. Visit Pearl Harbor

The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a must-see for any visitor in Hawaii. The great thing about a visit to Pearl Harbor is that it’s free! An Internet search for Pearl Harbor will result in many websites offering tours for a price. Don’t be fooled, though, as the historic site is free for all visitors and its exhibits are easily accessible.

You can easily spend an entire day at Pearl Harbor because it offers many points of interest, including the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater, the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, interpretive wayside exhibits, the Remembrance Circle and various programs.

If you yearn for more information, you can rent an audio guide for a fully narrated tour voiced by none other than famous actress Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of a World War II veteran.

If you definitely want to go on tours without spending all of your money, check out Tom Barefoot’s low-cost Hawaiian tours, activities and adventures. Since 1975, Tom Barefoot’s Tours has been the trusted way to book fun activities in Hawaii.

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3. Get Your Souvenirs at the Aloha Flea Market

Souvenirs are a necessary evil on every trip—we all need to bring back a little something for the folks and friends back home. For visitors on a budget, this obligation can be daunting. No worries; skip the overpriced doodads in Waikiki and head to the Aloha Flea Market, located at Aloha Stadium.

You’ll find dozens upon dozens of small vendors selling arts & crafts and other souvenir items like Aloha shirts, hula dolls, ukuleles and hundreds of other local goodies fit for the ride back home. Many sellers who cannot afford to rent space in Waikiki and other tourist centers sell their goods at this flea market. This means that they pass their rent savings on to you, and your wallet reaps a benefit.

4. Take Public Transportation

If you’re vacationing on the Island of Oahu, the public bus system is one of the best ways to get around. A rental car can cost hundreds of dollars a week, not to mention the headaches associated with finding adequate parking.

In contrast, a one-way adult bus ticket will only set you back $2.50. Bonus? Kids under five years old ride free!

A four-day unlimited bus pass is only $25.00, including regular and express services. The bus is a very attractive option, as there are routes that reach all corners of the island and all major tourist attractions.

Since Hawaii is an extremely friendly place, there’s no shame in just asking the bus driver or other bus riders about routes and destinations if you’re not comfortable reading maps.

When in doubt, just ask! There is definitely no harm in trying. Maybe you’ll even make a friend or two along the way, or at least get a great recommendation from a local.

5. Pick Up the Local Paper

Checking out the local newspaper or magazine is a terrific way to see what’s happening in Hawaii. There are free publications such as Honolulu Weekly and Midweek, which have extensive local events sections that can give you a multitude of ideas for a budget outing.

Local events range from talks at the University of Hawaii and cooking classes to guided hikes around the island and live performances by local bands and singers.

The local papers also clue you into the latest festivals. Hawaii is home to many interesting festivals and going to food festivals is a favorite pastime of residents and visitors alike. These festivals feature local, organic and international cuisines, as well as fine dining.

Special events don’t always have to bust the budget. The local papers are excellent sources of information for free events like art exhibitions, symposiums, festivals, block parties, musical performances, parades and much more.

Need more help making your vacation budget last? I’ve got you covered! Read about the cheapest hotels in Hawaii, visiting the islands on a budget, or some of the best cheap food in the state next!