I’ll explain how I did it.
In this article, i will give you my tips for saving money and traveling a long time in Hawaii for not too much money!
One of the most visited travel destinations in the world! The Hawaiian archipelago located in the middle of the Pacific has so much to offer! Breathtaking landscapes, crystal clear water, unparalleled underwater flora, mountains, waterfalls, local culture, food, surf, name it! All the reasons are good to live a crazy trip on the islands of Shaka vibe!
I often hear people say: I would really like to go to Hawaii but it’s too expensive!
In fact, the duration of your trip to Hawaii will depend on your ability to reduce your travel standards to enjoy the destination which is, indeed, expensive! ! Comfort, food, transport, etc.
I sincerely think that the destination is worth it!
#1 Where to sleep to save money in Hawaii?
Accommodation on the islands is probably the biggest cash drain.
Accommodation, there is a lot, breathtaking resorts, 5-star hotels overlooking the sea, very well located Airbnbs, youth hostels, etc.
One night in a hostel in Hawaii costs around US$50-60 per night. For a two-week trip, it’s already US$770 spent just on accommodation. This is not what you are looking for as a backpacker, it is way too expensive.
For my part, I opted for an inexpensive or even FREE solution for about 30% of my trip. The famous “Couchsurfing” experience. I loved it !
It is a platform where Hosts invite travelers to sleep on their couch or guest room for free. The motivations for these hosts are often: Meeting people from all over the world, countering loneliness, giving back or just meeting new people. I admit that the first couch surfing experience of strangers can be stressful but once the ice is broken, it’s a charm!
It is important to read the reviews and the rules/requirements/expectations of your hosts carefully to get the idea and not have any surprises when you arrive. It’s their home after all… (I recommend reading my article: 5 tips to be a good couchsurfing guess)
I had the chance to meet incredible people with whom I still have contact, 6 years later. I slept in kingsized beds with private bathrooms, I attended family celebrations, 5-course dinners, I visited hidden places and created incredible memories! All this without spending a penny! This is exactly the way of traveling that I like -> Off the beaten path & surrounded by locals
Workaway is a platform that connects travelers with hosts who are looking for volunteers to help with various projects or tasks in exchange for free accommodations. Normally the work load is about 3h/day 5 days/week. Here are some of the benefits of using the Workaway platform:
- Cultural exchange: Workaway offers travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in local cultures and lifestyles, as they stay with local hosts and work on projects or tasks alongside them.
- Cost-effective travel: Workaway volunteers typically receive free accommodation and meals in exchange for their work, which can significantly reduce the cost of travel.
- Skill development: Workaway hosts often require a range of skills from their volunteers, such as gardening, construction, teaching, or language tutoring.
- Flexibility: Workaway offers a wide range of volunteering opportunities in various locations around the world.
- Personal growth: Volunteering with Workaway can be a challenging and rewarding experience that can help volunteers develop self-confidence, independence, and a sense of purpose.
Overall, Workaway can be an excellent platform for travelers who are looking for meaningful travel experiences, cultural exchange, and the opportunity to make a positive impact while exploring new places.
After a while I wanted to land somewhere and enjoy the island of Maui without changing accommodation every 4 days. So I was bumped into the Banana Bungalow hostel to offer my various services. The next day I started my new “job”. They gave me a job for 16 hours a week (from 9 am to 1 pm) in exchange for hosting me for free in the “staff house”. Again the people were amazing, I made so many friends and it was a thrilling experience. Soaking up Hawaiian life and living like a local in one place for a while is a great feeling.
The tasks consisted of doing the laundry, cleaning the toilets 4 hours a morning, 4 days a week. So every afternoon I was off to go surf the beautiful right of Ho‘okipa.
Is there a better place to pitch a tent? Between a few palm trees on white sand to the sound of the waves. There are indeed many accessible and inexpensive campgrounds with incredible views. My favorite place is definitely Polihale Beach in Kauai, it’s a free campground on a several km long beach.
I hadn’t brought any camping gear, so I bought a 3-person tent at Walmart for $24.99 and an inflatable beach mattress for $4.99 and that was it. With the temperature, it is not necessary to have a sleeping bag, a simple hostel sheet or long-sleeved sweater can do.
#2 Transportation / Getting around Hawaiian islands
Despite the stories, the best way to save money when traveling in Hawaii is the famous Hitchhiking! It is very common on the islands and the locals are very accustomed to this practice. I have rarely waited more than 15 minutes before being picked up for a ride of sometimes 1h-2h on the road.
I made memorable road-trips in pickup truck beds through breathtaking landscapes. I remind you that you can always refuse a ride if you don’t feel confident or you have a bad feeling.
For a safer and more efficient way, the public bus system is very reliable in Hawaii. For example the #55 on Oahu goes around the island every hour, it is very convenient to visit the north shore of the island.
It happened twice that my Couchsurfing hosts lent me their car! This is another benefit of availing this free hosting platform.
#3 Where / What to eat in Hawaii
This point will not necessarily apply to all my traveling friends because personally, my food standards are seriously low. I am the opposite of a foodie guy! So I spent more than 3 months doing my groceries at Walmart, a jar of sauce, pasta, bread and peanut butter. Groceries at Walmart are inexpensive and there is a lot of variety! In addition, the prices of fast food are very low too! When I was feeling fancy… I treated myself to a tuna ramen for about 2$ !
BUT ! You must try Hawaiian Poke bowls. This traditional Hawaiian dish that typically consists of cubed raw fish, typically tuna, served over a bed of rice and mixed with various toppings and sauces. In Hawaii, poke bowls have been a popular dish for generations, and they are often found in local markets, restaurants, and food trucks
#4 Activities / What to do in Hawaii
For my part, I did not pay for a single activity during my trip. I’ve seen a lot of boat tours, helicopter rides, snorkeling, 4 wheeling in the Valley but I’ve always found free alternatives and I have never been disappointed!
Hawaii is a hiking paradise and guess what, hiking is free! The Diamond head (A classic), The coco head, stairway to heaven, the Makua cave, Kalalau trail and much more! There is something for all tastes, all difficulties and a panoply of different points of view. Don’t forget your hiking boots and SEVERAL water bottles.
Visiting waterfalls and swimming in them is also free! Akaka Falls, twin falls, Seven sacred pool and much more. Visiting a waterfall often begin with a nice hike and end with a refreshing swim, what more could you ask for?
Snorkel all over the islands! A free activity that just requires a mask and a snorkel. I recommend squizzing it in your backpack before departure because the Hawaiian seabed is worth it! Sea turtles, corals and fish are very present. Places like Shark’s Cove, Hanauma Bay and Captain Cook (my favorite on the Big Island) People paid for snorkeling trips to dive in this bay and I only hiked to get there for free. I was lucky enough to see a school of 30 wild dolphins passing right under me. An unforgettable experience for 0$ once again.
Surf ! The Hawaiian national sport, the icon, the inventor of the sport, it is a must when visiting the islands. From beginner to expert, there are waves for everyone. Waikiki, Haleiwa, Ho, okipa, breakwall, banzai pipeline, sunset beach, there are a lot of places.
A surf rental for a day costs between 5-10$. On my side I bought 2 boards for the duration of my trip and I brought them home when I came back. It would have been easy to resell them before leaving.
Cliff jumping is an activity rich in thrills very popular in Hawaii! There are plenty of safe spots to jump from different heights. I am thinking of South point on the Big Island, Shipwreck beach and Queens bath in Kauai or Red sand beach in Maui. It is very accessible and it is a free activity.
There are free or inexpensive activities for everyone on the Hawaiian Islands. Here are my top 10:
– Stairway to heaven (Oahu)
– Kalalau Trail, Na pali coast (Kauai)
– Waimea Canyon (Kauai)
– Hanalei bay (Kauai)
– Big beach / Little beach (Maui)
– Road to Hana (Maui)
– Volcano national park (Big Island)
– Mauna Kea (Big Island)
– Hidden Slide (Big Island)
Hawaii is a very accessible destination that will appeal to all types of travelers according to the degree of comfort and the interests of each. You just need to be well informed and open your horizons to the different possibilities to save money. All this with the same objective, to travel a long time and create memories for life.