How to visit Hawaii affordably

So many people want to visit Hawaii.  I mean why not right??  It is beautiful, adventurous, exotic, and expensive..oh wait that last bit is not exactly a positive is it?  In fact it is the most common reason that people do NOT visit Hawaii.

Mauna Kea from Puna
After living there for 3 years I can attest to the fact that yes it is expensive, more expensive than any other state to visit.  But I can also attest to the fact that it can be done for far less money than people think.

No need to stay in fancy resorts, take all the, made for tourists, tours, or eat out every meal.  There is a better way, a more affordable way to enjoy the paradise that is Hawaii.  I get asked all the time, how to visit Hawaii affordably, and so finally here is my response:

There are countless ways to save when staying in Hawaii.  To start with you have to pick the island that is right for you.  When it comes to finances I have found the Big Island to be the most affordable with the Hilo side being the most affordable on the whole island.  It is a desirable place to visit because of Kilauea, the most easily accessible active volcano in the world, and due to the high levels of rain leading to glorious waterfalls and stunning greenery.

Akaka Falls
There are numerous ways you can save on lodging in the Hilo area of Hawaii.  There are air bnb's, house sitting opportunities, and a few scattered hostels that can assist many people.  Often times though they come with hidden fees and house sitting, well that is a tough nut to crack here in Hawaii.

Attention to detail can be witnessed all over the property
When you think of vacation most people envision staying in a lovely hotel or resort where they can have a full break.  No cooking, no cleaning, and a nice cozy spot to relax while inside.  I have stayed at quite a few hotels in the area and by far the most affordable option, that gives the most bang for your buck is the Hilo Naniloa hotel.

It is under new management and is undergoing some amazing transformations.  The lobby is stunning, the rooms are newly redone, maybe not perfect but at the prices they charge who cares?! The beds and bedding are comfy and everything is clean.  The hotel is located on the ocean making the views outstanding, you can even see Mauna Kea from most of the property, when she is cooperating that is.  There is also a beautiful park next door, free golf when you stay, and both restaurants and an international airport are close by.

Comfy room, beautiful ocean and Mauna Kea views
There is a pool, ocean entry with really beautiful tide pools and colorful fish, fast wifi (will be in all rooms soon), a nice breakfast buffet, and big fridges in every room.  The prices will go up slightly when all the rooms are renovated but it will still be the most affordable hotel in the area. No doubt the most bang for your buck in the area!

If you stay in a place like the Naniloa where there is a fridge or even a microwave we oftentimes buy sandwich stuff and cereal and juice.  This helps us cover breakfasts or lunches and saves a ton.  When you only eat one meal out it can save you hundreds of dollars over a weeks time.

Macadamia nut
There are also some great affordable restaurants in the area.  Big Island pizza, Hilo Burger Joint, Kamana kitchen, and the newly opened Wikifresh are all great options for healthy, locally grown and more affordable grindz in the area. Look around, keep some snacks and easy meals in the room and you'll be surprised how much you can save.  Milk may cost close to $8 a gallon but shopping wisely and thinking ahead can really help out if not for the milk at least for everything else.

Now this is where Hawaii edges so many places out on ability to save money.  Between beaches and hiking options alone you can see the best that Hawaii has to offer without spending a dime other than on gas.

Resident turtle at Carl Smith beach park in Hilo
Here is a list of free or inexpensive places to enjoy:
  • Boiling Pots, Hilo
  • Akaka falls state park, North of Hilo
  • Waipio Valley lookout, North of Hilo
  • Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory, South of Hilo
  • Kalapana Lave Viewing, Puna
  • Lava Tree state park, Puna
  • Red road drive, Puna
  • All beaches but preferred in the area are Carl Smith (great for turtles), Pohoiki (surfing) Honolii (great for sea glass and surfing), and Richardsons (great family beach, calm waters)
  • Drive up Mauna Kea for sunset or skiing
Mauna Kea skiing
  • Ahalanui hot ponds, Puna
  • Walk the town center
  • Enjoy all the local goods at the Hilo Farmers Market
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (lava tubes, lookouts, petroglyph trail, loads of hiking)
  • Drive the Hamakua Coast, North of Hilo
  • Hike to Black sand or green sand beaches on Southern part of island
  • View the most Southern point of the US where people leap off the ocean cliff into the water
As you can see there is a huge list of free or really inexpensive things to do in the Hilo area.  There are great tours as well like zip lining, quad riding through Waipio valley, whale watching, etc and although those are also great options and in my opinion worth the splurge you can still enjoy all the beauty Hawaii has to offer if you skip them. If you expand to Kona, which is only a 2 hour drive and can easily be a day trip, you get even more options for culture, swimming, and seeing native wildlife. There is something for each and every budget!  

There are loads of ways to save money on a trip to Hawaii.  It may take a little more work and it may not look as luxurious as the ways most people spend there time in Hawaii but I find you actually get to see more of Hawaii this way giving you a beautiful vacation and a better sense of the culture.

Have you been to Hawaii?  Any cost saving tips?  Share below in the comments!

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