It's prime time to book a trip to Hawaii right now. You can save quite a bit on airfare and hotel stays, so in honor of that, I thought I would bring back a post from my travels to Honolulu last Fall. Enjoy!
Last [Fall] I was off to Oahu in Hawaii and we stayed in the Waikiki area. While we saved quite a bit on airfare, our lodgings and even our activities (by using Groupon), there were things that we still had to pay for that could be quite spendy. We planned out some meals (using Groupon for a few) and then winged it the rest of the time. We planned to splurge on a lunch at Morimoto’s, but it turned out to be quite reasonable ($22 for a “lunch set” that included your entrée, a small salad, miso soup and sushi). I know many people love Hawaii or dream of going there. If not for the obscene cost of things, they would have already traveled there. While you can keep an eye out for affordable airfare and hotels, it’s not always easy to save on doing things there, so I’ve put together this list for you that may want to go and not have to pay on your credit cards for the next 5 years.
1. Take TheBus – At just $2.50 per person, TheBus will take you around the whole island. Cheap way to tour and also get places! You can pick up a bus pass at participating ABC Stores, but I found we didn’t need it and we also walked a lot.
2. Hit the beach – You’re in Hawaii. No matter where you are, the beach is probably not that far away. Not only is lying on the beach and playing in the water free, it can also be fun! Buy a volleyball or sand bucket and get some exercise or search for buried treasure. Make sure to put on lots of sunscreen and bring it with you for reapplication! That sun is hot.
3. Check out the Dole Plantation – Sure, it’s touristy and it’s a long ride on TheBus (not such a long drive if you rent a car), but it can take up most of your day. Browse the gift shop, purchase plumeria starts or fresh fruit at the Farmers Market, ride the train, get lost in the maze, eat at the Plantation Grille and learn about Hawaii’s native plants and flowers. Oh yeah! You can even see how pineapples are grown, ship some back home and eat lots of Dole Whip! Extra tip: You get a lot of food in the platters for little money, so there is more than one of you, split a plate.
|All this for only $9!|
4. Window shop – There are lots of shops in Honolulu/Waikiki. While you may not want to buy anything, it’s still fun to look. From the giant Crocs store to smaller art shops, there are things to look at for weeks on end. Here’s another tip that I can give you: See a print you like, but the price tag makes you cry? Look to see if they have a calendar of the artist’s work. If they do, pick that up for a fraction of the price and get 12 pictures for the price of one. Once in a frame, no one will be able to tell that it isn’t a print, and you can switch it out anytime you like for one of the other 11 reproductions you have.
5. Shop the International Market Place – While it’s not so “international”, there can be some fun stuff to be found in the market. From plumeria barrettes and “Hawaiian” shirts that you can find everywhere to original artwork and things like caps with wooden bills, you can get lost in the market for hours on end. If you do plan to buy, practice your haggling skills and then head up to the 2nd “floor” in above the real shops and smoothie café to mail items home at the post office. Aside from checking out funky handmade items and other things, you can watch free shows every day, too!
|Look at that turtle!|
6. Snorkel for cheap – If you are a snorkeler and don’t need to go with a guide or a group, purchase your own mask and snorkel for around $6 and hit the beaches and look underwater for free. There are people everywhere who can tell you the best places to go. One of those places is Hanauma Bay. While not free, it’s only $5 per person for a day pass. You can take the bus or drive (park for $1) and then head down to the beach, where they have changing rooms, food vendors and more, including some of the best snorkeling on the island.
|That's Diamond Head back there.|
7. Hike Diamond Head – If you want a fantastic view of Honolulu and the beaches, strap on some good walking shoes, grab your water and hike to the top of Diamond Head. It’s free and a popular activity.
|What an amazing view|
8. Take a day tour – Sure, these can cost around $60 per person, but you are entertained for the whole day, meet some cool people from around the world and learn so much from the guide. I recommend VIP Transportation tours. Request Earl as a driver, because he will take that tour van to places others won’t even dare…and it’s so worth it!
9. Drive around the island – If a tour isn’t your cup of tea, then rent a car for the day and drive the circle island loop on your own, stopping at roadside fruit stands, all kinds of beaches and more.
10. Learn to hula – There are so many places where you can learn to hula for free. It’s fun, great exercise and easy for all ages. Shake your hips, wave your arms and mesmerize the masses!
Other tips to consider:
· Pick up the coupon booklets that are on the streets, in hotel lobbies and even in the airport to save dollars off on activities, entertainment and shopping. You can also get free gifts (with purchase), appetizers and desserts with some coupons.
·You can save money by not buying a bus pass. A four-day pass is $25, but you would have to ride the bus more than 10 times in those four days to make it worth your while. A transfer is good for 2 ½ hours (or longer, depending on your driver), which means most places you go, you can return for free.
·Stop by Mac 24/7 for pancakes. For $15, you get the pancake challenge portion size, but you don’t have to take the challenge. Split the flapjacks between two or more. If you splurge for lunch or dinner entrees, they are worth the price. I loved the mahi mahi.
·Hit up Tiki’s Grill and Bar on Tuesday for Tiki Taco Tuesday. Their fish tacos are amazingly good and just $2 each on Tuesday!
·Use the free Hilo Hattie’s trolley to get to the mall or save bus fare if you are heading to that area.
·Beware the kitchy merchandise at the ABC Stores. The closer to the center of town you are, the more it seems to cost.
·Much of the merchandise at the Dole Plantation is overpriced. A lot of it can be found elsewhere for cheaper, except at the airport. You can also save by taking your purchases with you and mailing it home at the Post Office instead of shipping from there.
·Enjoy the best view of Waikiki from the revolving restaurant, Top of Waikiki. While the entrees may be expensive, you can show up for happy hour and get a couple apps (starting at $7). You don’t even have to order any alcohol if you don’t want to.
·If, like me, you plan to eat a lot of awesome food, even if it’s all seafood you are going to gain some weight. Everything comes with carbs, carbs and more carbs and it seems that Hawaiians don’t know what a veggie is. Combat the expanding waistline by walking more. Everything is within walking distance in Waikiki. On one occasion we took the bus to a restaurant right outside of Waikiki, but we still had to walk about a quarter of a mile to get there after getting off the bus. On the way back, since we didn’t know the bus schedule, we just walked the whole way back to the room, which was easily two miles. With all the distractions you can find in the city, it’s easy to walk a lot without realizing it.
·It’s Hawaii! You don’t need much. Pack a few tops and bottoms, throw your swimsuit and cover-up in the bag and off you go. Do some laundry while you’re there and save even more space in your travel bag to help you pack lighter.
· Book a shuttle to/from the airport. Cheaper than a taxi and more reliable than the bus.
· Rent a condo. It will be much more affordable than a hotel and you can buy food to make instead of dining out all the time. We saved by buying breakfast foods and even though it cost us around $40, that was still cheaper than buying breakfast every morning.
Do you have some other good tips for budget travel to Honolulu, or other cities on Oahu or the other islands?