Oahu, hands down, is the most budget-friendly island. Oahu is the place where you can find the best public transportation (thebus), the most shuttles, the most taxis, and the most walking-friendly attractions.
Also Oahu is the island with the very best activity discount card – the Go Oahu Card.
(there is no card like this on Kauai and the Big Island. there is something similar on Maui but I think the Go Oahu card is the best)
Oahu is also the island with the MOST dining and activity coupons in the Hawaii Entertainment book. If there were two of you, one person could practically eat free on your whole trip.
Oahu used to be the cheapest (and a long time ago – the only) island to fly into, but that is not always true these days. You just have to check.
Start watching your flights now. Go to Expedia and use their fare tracker or flight watch to see what prices are available – and be ready to swoop. If you check it every day or so you could feasibly see a $200 to $400 difference on the price of one ticket from day to day. If you see a can’t-pass-it-up-price, jump on it!
The other good thing about buying from expedia is their vacation packages really do save you money. I’ve done the math!
You’ll also want to check Hawaiian Airlines. They only fly from the west coast and new york, but sometimes their sales are so good it’s worth getting yourself to a city they will fly from if you aren’t already there.
Consider Priceline – Name your own price. Priceline works best during the slow travel periods, but it never hurts to try. I got a room at the Royal Kona for $55 which is better than I could do as a local resident – and my friend got a room at the Hilton for around $120, which is also better than I could do as a local resident. The only drawback is you can’t pick your hotel. You pick a class of hotel and name a rate and they see if anyone will accept it. I’ve had bids rejected entirely too, but I’ve also saved big money.
Look for room and car deals – in my experience these tend to be a good deal, while air, room, car may not be. It depends on who you are going through. If you have any doubts, leave me a comment here or anywhere on my site and I’ll give you my opinion on the quality of deal you are considering.
Consider camping, consider hostels, consider hotels with a kitchen so you can buy your own food.
Then check out these lists of cheap hotels.
- Oahu Budget Hotels
- Kauai Budget Hotels and Condos and Places to Stay
- Maui Cheap Hotels and Places to Stay
- Big Island Hawaii Cheap Places to Stay
- Oahu Camping
- Big Island Hawaii Camping
Practice frugal eating practices. Go to the grocery store and get your own drinks and snacks for half the price, and go to some place like Subway for breakfast.
Visit the farmer’s market for fruits. Look for bentos and musubi (usually inexpensive simple rice and meat meals wrapped in nori (a salty seaweed product) )- really yummy.
Visit plate lunch places – they are normally small places with picnic tables outside to eat on. Just keep your eyes open.
The prices are great. You could get a huge breakfast for $3. You could get a lunch with meat, rice, and potato salad that is big enough for two people for $8 to $9.
in order to get an instant discount on any island you’ll want to pick up the coupons books and island guides at the airport and most hotel and restaurant lobbies.
Inside these books will have coupons for normally at least 10% off of most activities in the islands.
The entertainment book can easily save you 50% if there are two of you (buy one get one free deals) and the Go Oahu card can save you up to 50% too, if you are going to be really active.