By Claire Trageser/Travel + Leisure
September 30, 2019

When Nicolette Kay and her family were dreaming of their next vacation, her husband made what he thought was a joke: why not spend two weeks in Hawaii?

Kay and her husband thought there was no way they could afford a Hawaiian vacation with their two daughters for anywhere near an affordable price.

“Since we’re not zillionaires, though, it seemed way out of reach,” she wrote on her blog semibudgettravel.com. “I mean, just one week in Hawaii costs plenty. So, two weeks in Hawaii on a semi-budget seemed even more distant.”

But they figured it out using smart budgeting tricks — the 14-night trip ended up costing less than $5,800, including food.

Here are some tips you can use to plan a cheap trip to Hawaii.

1. Do your hotel research.

Kay and her family were planning to travel to Oahu and wanted to stay in the Ko Olina area, which hosts Disney’s Aulani Resort. That resort can cost almost $500 a night, which was not an option for the family.

“So, I did some research and found lodging in Ko Olina, with more space, for $145 a night, before taxes and fees,” Kay said. “For Hawaii, $145 a night is pretty good. And I don’t know about you, but $145 a night is way more palatable to me than $714 a night or even $484 a night.”

2. Use airfare points.

Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and personal finance lifestyle blogger at casamochi.com, said last year she and her husband intentionally saved Chase credit card points to put towards airfare to Kauai.

“For a family of four, we only had to pay $1,000 for our roundtrip airfare on Hawaii Airlines because we cashed out our Chase points,” she said.

3. Shop at Costco.

Mochizuki also had a trick for saving lots of money once her family landed on the island.

“After we landed at the airport, we stocked up at Costco, and purchased food to make easy meals for the entire time we stayed in Kauai,” she said. “We calculated that by grocery shopping at Costo, we saved ourselves over $1,000 for the 10 days we stayed in Kauai.

4. Hit the beach — and the national parks.

Mochizuki’s family also kept activities cheap by visiting beaches instead of paid attractions. All of the public beaches in Hawaii are free.

When Afzaal Arshad was visiting Hawaii, he skipped the big attractions and instead checked out sites like Haleakala National Park in Maui.

“You have to start your trek early, about 3 a.m., but the dawning views from the summit make it oh-so worth it,” he said. “On the way you’ll experience unique wildlife, volcanic landscapes and seriously soulful terrain. A three-day entry pass is $10 per vehicle or $5 for individuals.”

Arshad also recommends Waimea Canyon in Kauai.

“Over 10 miles long and up to 3,500 feet deep, this craggy chasm of long-dried lava is the place for photo-opportunities,” he said. “Stay up top for extraordinary vistas or hike through the canyon floor alongside the Waimea River to witness natural history in action.”

Another Oahu place to check out: Pu’uhonua o Honaunau. “View ancient temples, wooden ki’I, tidepools, turtles and more,” Arshad said. Admission prices are $5 per vehicle, or $3 per person when entering on foot or bike, and free for kids 15 and younger.

Lastly, on the Big Island, he recommends Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano, constantly sending streams of molten lava into the sea,” he said. Entrance fees are $10 per vehicle or $5 for individuals. Arshad recommends getting there before 9 a.m. to attend a ranger-led program.

5. Go glamping.

One way to avoid pricey hotels in Hawaii is to take advantage of glamping campgrounds, according to Jessica Armstrong of glampinghub.com.

She recommended the Indonesian Eco-Hut Rental along the Puna Coast in Pāhoa, Hawaii, or an Off-the-Grid Yurt Rental in the Ka’u District of the Big Island, Hawaii for under $65 a night.

There’s also a vacation rental near Volcanoes National Park for $88 a night and a Tiny House Rental on Hawaii’s Big Island for $72 a night.

For slightly more, she recommends Eco-Pods on a Sustainable Farm and Wellness Retreat in Pahoa, Hawaii, an Off-The-Grid and Eco-Friendly Tree House in the Rainforest in Volcano, Hawaii and a Tiny House outside Volcanoes National Park in Volcano, Hawaii.

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