How much money do you need to spend on a Hawaii vacation? Not nearly as much as you will want to be able to spend. It is difficult to fight the urge to splurge when there are so many opportunities to take tours, visit attractions or dine out.

It is possible, however, to enjoy much of what Hawaii has to offer for very little money if you wish to be frugal. The beaches are free, and accessible to the public, as are the many beach and city parks. People-watching is always entertaining, and the waves are mesmerizing – especially at this time of year. Several of our recent guests have wished that they reserved more time for relaxing and less for touring while in the islands.

There are publications for each island that list free, or very low cost, performances and activities. Some are seasonal, but with Hawaii’s moderate temperature year-round, something is always happening. If you seek out a community festival, you not only get free entertainment, but also a glimpse into the way locals spend their time in celebration.

Perhaps because most travel packages include hotel and airfare, many recent questions have been about the cost of food in Hawaii. As with the mainland, it varies depending upon your tastes. There are great fine-dining alternatives that cost no more than a good restaurant in other locations. However, you probably don’t eat out every night while at home. At the opposite end of the scale are mainland fast food franchises. While they do offer fun Hawaii-only options, you probably don’t want to visit them frequently. We stopped at a lunch counter for a quick sandwich while on a walking tour with guests recently and they were surprised to see that the menu items cost about the same as “back home.”

Hawaii has some unique options for moderately-priced food, however, that you really should take advantage of. The first is the plate lunch: an entree, two scoops of rice and salad (tossed or macaroni). This is standard fare and easily sufficient for two light eaters. Many places offer plate lunches, including food trucks. This is often where local workers get their lunch for under ten dollars. The second unique local option is the bento. While bento lunches originate in Japan, Hawaii has its own versions. These are great for a meal of moderate proportions and generally also priced under ten dollars.

You may actually spend less money on transportation than you would at home. It is possible to walk to many areas and, again, the weather makes that always possible. Trolleys or buses offer fairly inexpensive transportation with multi-day options. Cabs are easy to catch and most places are not very far so fares are reasonable. Attractions located far from hotels usually offer a transportation option along with the ticket price. When contrasted with the cost of a daily commute, your vacation may come out ahead here.

You will need to bring SOME extra money on your Hawaii vacation, but it could be approximately the same amount as you would spend for the same period of time at home for food, transportation and entertainment. The extras are up to you!


  1. The transportation options apply primarily to Oahu. On neighbor islands, you will probably want a rental car which may be part of your flight/hotel package.

  2. Thanks Cindy..excellent post once again!  I've noticed many first-time visitors have the misguided notion that they are going to spend a fortune on eating out in Hawaii; I assure them that is simply not true unless they want to do so.  There are so many restaurants offering reasonably priced meals and early bird specials; the trick is to avoid eating at the larger resort restaurants, as they do tend to be more expensive. 
    Yes, Oahu definitely has the best transportation options but Maui isn't too bad if you stay in the Ka'anapali resort area as they have the Ka'anapali Trolley that runs all over the resort and for a nominal fee will take you into Lahaina as well.  I still recommend a car for the outer islands as there is so much to see and do that requires driving and a car rental is a less expensive option than taxi.

  3. One of the biggest tips I give people who are visiting Hawaii is to venture outside the tourist areas.  Just walking a few blocks inland from Waikiki can make an unbelievable difference in prices.  Even convenience stores and fast food joints will raise their prices within Waikiki because they know the tourists will pay them.  So head inland, go to the places the locals go, and you'll save money and have a great experience. 

  4. This blog is actually reassuring to those who think they do not have enough money to go to Hawaii. Just blend in with the locals and do it the normal way. It is either take the local bus or walk and have fun. I am sure that it would be a great experience.

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