How to eat cheap and outside of your comfort zone in Hawaii. While this may sound like an oxymoron, we’re here to tell you that you can indeed eat affordably while on vacation in Hawaii; you just have to know where to go. We hear time and time again how expensive it is to eat here, especially when on vacation because you’re so limited. But although we agree that the price of cereal at the store or that lunch along Waikiki is totally absurd, we also believe it can be avoided… well, at least a little. Because sometimes it’s fun and okay to splurge, heck, isn’t that why you created a budget for your vacation in the first place?
First off, eating out, if possible, should be minimized if you want to save money on food. With great condo rates, it’s a good idea to look into your kitchen and at-home cooking options while on vacation. Leftovers and home cooked meals can save you a lot of money, not to mention home mixed cocktails too. This way you’re not paying for inflated food and booze prices or gratuity, and you can make things exactly how you like them. But for the traveler who plans to eat almost every meal out, here are our top tips for eating cheap. Oh, and we recommend eating outside of your comfort zone too (which is usually very affordable) because what’s a Hawaii vacation without a taste of spam or sushi?!!
If you’re vacationing in Waikiki area, then we’re sure you’ve seen those iconic ABC stores. While some people might be bothered by their abundance, we actually like to take advantage of it. Many of these stores offer quick, sustaining bites, such as hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, or granola bars. If you’re looking for a snack throughout the day, we suggest stopping by your nearest ABC store and stocking up. Go for the cheaper stuff too, like musubis, arare, fruit, or nuts. And since we’re on the topic, 7-Eleven is actually one of the favored places among locals to grab some local kine grinds. You’ll find everything from manapua to hot dogs to Hawaiian baked goods, poi, kalua pig, taquitos, and even lau lau. 7-Eleven’s tend to take on the food varieties of their location, so it’s a good place to taste Hawaiian flavors for cheap.

Local grocery stores like Foodland, Malama, and Tamura’s will also offer shoppers a variety of inexpensive goodies. One of my all-time favorite grab-and-go type snacks (that is really inexpensive) is edamame, specifically the kind that’s been marinated Hawaiian-style. You can also find sushi rolls that are made fresh every day, different types of poke (which you HAVE to try!), a variety of fried foods (like potato wedges, chicken, corn dogs, etc.) fruit salads, olives, and delicious cheeses. We recommend going for the more sustaining stuff, like edamame and rice, which will leave you full for longer than fried stuff or other cheap items can. Also, an increasingly popular dish among locals is the poke bowls, which are an instant filler and very affordable. This is a bowl of white sticky rice topped with fresh poke (fresh ahi tuna) that’s marinated in shoyu, onion, garlic, seaweed, and other tasty island flavors.

Farmers markets are another great way to save (that is, if your rental includes a kitchen). Because of the plentiful markets happening around the island, you can usually find one every day of the week. Here you can stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, breads and bakery goodies, meats, and other things for at-home cooking. Or, if you really want to go cheap, you can always check out the farmers markets for their free samples! You can taste different dips, spreads, hummus, coconut popcorn, fruits, spices, chocolate and more, and most farmers markets offer plate lunch options as well. (Did we mention Costco gives out free samples all day long too? Hahaha…)
As far as eating out for dinner, it’s possible to do affordably too, and we don’t mean taking the kids to McDonalds. Keep in mind that many times the view will indicate the price. For example, many of the ocean front restaurants and bars will offer high priced drinks and food items that you’ll soon realize is priced only by the view, and not the quality of the food. While there are some exceptions, we recommend getting off the beaten path a little and exploring some authentic places. China town in Honolulu offers incredible food and way more affordable prices than Waikiki. And you can actually find a good glass of wine for $6! Hole-in-the-wall style eateries are usually some of the best food anyways, and they’re not charging you the high prices that the water front places are. While you won’t get the dining experience of The Cheesecake Factory or Duke’s, you will receive authentic food and service, and probably a good story too.

Eating affordably in Hawaii is not only possible, it’s very likely if you seek out the spots ahead of time. Spontaneous eating out will almost always either end in fast food splurging or high priced, convenient options. Depending on where you’re staying, you can usually get some great recommendations from locals, concierge services, or your local travel agent. You might want to generate a list of potential cheap eateries based on where your hotel is and what’s within walking distance. When you’re traversing to other spots on the island, take a couple minutes to do some quick research on affordable restaurants either online or with a friendly local. Discovering places where food is cheap and delicious is like finding a hidden gem, and believe us when we say, they’re out there!

Here are some of our top favorite places to eat affordably and outside your comfort zone (if you so choose):


– Wailana Coffee House, Honolulu
– Morning Glass Coffee & Café, Manoa
– Pho To-Chau, Chinatown
– Queens Surf & Lanai weekly BBQ, Waikiki
– Waialua Bakery, Haleiwa
– Haleiwa Eats Thai, Haleiwa
– Spaghettini, Haleiwa


– Puka Dog, Poipu
– Kuk’s Market (Kukui’ula), Poipu
– Joe’s on the Green, Poipu
– Hamura’s Saimin, Lihue
– Hanamalu Café, Lihue
– House of Noodles, Kapaa
– Bubba’s Burgers, Hanalei and Kapaa
– Ishihara’s, Waimea
– Island Taco, Waimea


– Ono Tacos, Lahaina
– Restaurant Matsu, Kahului
– Café O’Lei, Kahului
– Kak’s Thai, Hana
– Bruddah Huts BBQ, Hana
– Da Kitchen Café, Kihei

Big Island:

– Broke Da Mouth Grindz, Kailua-Kona
– Kona Coffee Café, Kailua-Kona
– Da Poke Shack, Kailua
– Hawaiian Style, Waimea
– Manago Hotel, Captain Cook


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