63 Secrets to an Amazing Affordable Vacation-Oahu Hawaii

Are you dreaming of tropical weather, beaches, and sunshine? Thinking about that little island in the Pacific? But one glance at prices has you thinking a trip to Rhode Island is about as close as you're gonna come to an "island" vacation.  Not so fast! There are secrets to traveling cheap and still having a great time. Below I have listed for you tried and true methods of how to have an affordable vacation and what to do when you get there.

Getting There

airplane wing with sun and clouds

1. Skyscanner. The first thing we’re talking about are the flights right? Skyscanner is a place to find great deals. I have used this site multiple times and found tickets to Hawaii for under $230.

2. Cheapflights is also a great place to find flight deals.

3. Hawaiian Airlines often gives round-trip deals. A recent one was under $300.

4. Sometimes 2 one-way tickets are cheaper than 1 round-trip ticket so use these options on these sites as well. Airlines often announce lower fares on Tuesdays.

5. Check different airports near your location. The cheapest flight may leave from one airport and fly into another. Consider how far you’re willing to drive to get to the airport.


Where To Stay

river and high-rise buildings

6. On Airbnb, you can rent full apartments or just rooms. It’s safe, secure way to pay and find homes with good references. This link will give you $40 off your first booking.
7. Vrbo is another trusted site I’ve used multiple times.

8. If you’re a hostel person, there are plenty of great hostels on the island. The North Shore is great for those looking for a quieter less busy stay. For those who love the city life, check out Waikiki Beach Hostels.

9. For cheap hotel rooms, ask for hotels/rooms with no sea view. Find rooms for under $100 a night here.

    10. Booking.com has a list of great places and reviews. Check ‘the lowest price first” box to see good deals.

    11. If you are traveling without kiddos and want to experience the culture first hand, check out Workaway.info. This is a worldwide network of individuals who will give you room and board in exchange for a certain amount of work. Different types of jobs are available so you can find what suits you.


    How To Get Around

    B&W image of a bus in downtown

    12. The Bus goes all around the Island. Consider getting a bus pass if you plan on traveling often. Children passes are cheaper and children under 5 travel free.

    13. If you’re staying in Waikiki and don't want to drive in the Honolulu traffic, check out the Trolley. Look for passes here as well. The Pink Line is usually the cheapest but compare prices to be sure.

    14. Rentals cars are great when you want to travel on your own times. Check for deals on Discount Hawaii Car Rentals.

    15. Check for rental car discounts available through AAA, AARP, and Costco.

    16. Turo is giving a discount of $25 off your first car rental.



      17. Honey is an awesome browser extension that finds all the promo codes, deals and coupons on a site. I have personally used this extension many times for flights, rentals sites, and much more.

      18. Check out Groupon to find deals for activities such as surf lessons and more. This site can be used for any vacation in the USA.

      19. If you’re really into coupons, check out this site for printable deals to many stores in the US.

      20. Rental Car Momma has coupons available for rental cars.

        What To Eat

        set table-food

        21. Check out the local farmers' markets for delicious fresh fruit at a great price.

        22. Street food is a cool way to experience the local cuisine without breaking your wallet.

        23. Speaking of local cuisine, a must have in Hawaii is the malasadas from Leonard's Bakery. The actual bakery is in Honolulu and there is always a line. (they’re that good!) There are lots of small bakery busses scattered throughout the island so look for them while you’re out traveling.

          24. Shaved Ice from Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha made with real fruit syrup.

          25. If you are a fan of sushi, you might want to check out Poke Bowls.

            26. Acai Bowls made with fresh and frozen fruit are a must.

            27. On one of those hot summer days, there’s nothing more refreshing than a healthy smoothie from Lanikai Juice. You can’t get fresher than fruit that grows in the backyard.

            28. Make your own smoothies from fresh fruit from farmers markets. One thing I did multiple times while in Hawaii. Freeze some of the Hawaiian apple bananas for a creamy smoothie later on. Apple bananas are smaller and a little tarter than regular bananas and they grow in Hawaii. Recipes are abundant on the internet. 

            29. Buy local coffee and make your coffee where you are staying.

            30. Loco Moto, a contemporary Hawaiian meal consisting of rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy can be found in most restaurants.

            31. Papaya Boats from Banan will have you taking pictures for your friends. If you love banana ice cream, this is the place to go. And if you’ve never tasted banana ice cream before, you definitely must; its waay better than it sounds.

            32. If you like seafood, check out the street food busses on the North Shore.



              33. A visit to Hawaii would not be complete without going snorkeling. A great place to snorkel is Sharks Cove on the North Shore. Sharks Cove is enclosed by reefs and very popular for first-time snorkelers as it is protected from the waves. The reefs form the shape of a shark, hence the name.

              34. Electric Beach is the next place on my list of snorkeling places. It is next to the Hawaiian Electric Plant and though the beach is not exciting to look at, underwater is full of action and beauty. The cooling pipes from the Plant bring out clean warm water attracting tons of sea life. Not only is there sealife aplenty, but the waters here are also arguably more clear than anywhere else around the island.

              35. Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation on the east side of Oahu. There are a few rules to abide by and an entry fee of $7.50 for visitors. Children 12 and under are free. This is a great spot for new snorkelers.

              36. Baby Makapu’u Beach Park also on the east is a great spot to swim with turtles and find cool shells.

              37. For a snorkeling beach in Waikiki check out Sans Souci Beach.  


                Note: Not all beaches have lifeguards and there are strong currents that can carry you out to sea even in the mild seasons. Always check with experts and be sure the site fits your abilities for a safe and enjoyable swim.



                38. Hawaii can pretty much be called surf capital of the world as it is the birthplace of surfing. Surfing lessons can be expensive but well worth it. Aloha Beach Services offers some of the best prices.

                  39. Watch surfers take on the waves at Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay and Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline)


                    hikers on Koko Head trail

                    40. Diamond Head Crater Hike is the first thing you should do after landing in Honolulu. The crater was formed when Koʻolau Volcano erupted thousands of years ago and was home to the first military base in the Territory of Hawaii, Fort Ruger, in 1909. Both historic and scenic, this trail is highly recommended.

                    41. Yet another amazing trail from history is Koko Head Stairs. During WWII the military built bunkers at the top of Koko Head Crater and built a railway to move supplies and personnel up and down. With 1,048 railroad ties acting as “stairs” for your climb, this trail is for the adventurous hiker. (in photo)

                      42. Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is the second most popular trail on Oahu, Diamond Head being the first. This trail is paved from the parking lot to the top and ends with a gorgeous view of the lighthouse, the windward coast, as well as some neighboring islands. It’s about a 2-mile round trip hike. There is not much shade on this hike so keep this in mind when you plan your trek. (Oasis is a picture I took near there, available in 2 canvas sizes on my store.)

                      43. Check out Oahu Hiking Trails for great tips, hiking safety, and guides.

                        44. Oahu Hike lists all the trails on Oahu from easy to extreme. They also offer guided hikes.

                          Things to Do

                          palm tree-sunset

                          45. Touring Pearl Harbor is an amazing experience and well worth the price of the tickets. To be in this place that is such a huge part of recent American history is sobering, not to mention standing above the place where over 1,000 sailors lost their lives.

                            46. The US Army Museum of Hawaii has great reviews and is a good idea if you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day.

                              47. The Dole Plantain where you can learn all about pineapples, feed fish in ponds, and eat outside while enjoying the beauty of peacocks is a refreshing activity. There are many free and cheap things to do here. The pineapple whip is a must.

                                48. Though not free, the maze at the Dole Plantation is amazing. It was named the world's largest maze in 2008 by the Guinness Book of World Records.

                                  49. Visit Halona Blowhole on the east side of the island. If you’re an early bird, try getting there before sunrise for some incredible moments.

                                    50. Makapu’u Tide pools, although off the beaten path, are beautiful to see. Be prepared for the steep trail leading to them.

                                      51. Take a boat tour out of Honolulu. I did the glass bottom boat and really enjoyed my time. We saw turtles and lots of fish and the guide was very friendly and knowledgeable.

                                        52. Swim, paddle, or walk at low tide to the Chinaman’s Hat.

                                          53. Visit the International Market in Honolulu. Three stories built around a banyan tree, this market is like no other. It’s full of restaurants and nice shops; sit and enjoy a nice meal under the shade of the tree. Even though it’s in the middle of downtown, it feels as if you’re somewhere remote.

                                            54. Enjoy the calm waters of Honolulu’s famous beach, Waikiki Beach.

                                              55. Watch fireworks every Friday night at 7:30 on Waikiki Beach for free.  

                                                56. Listen to musician Henry Kapono live for free at Duke’s Waikiki.

                                                  57. Check out the hula show and torch lighting ceremony at Kuhio Beach every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Free to the public.

                                                    58. If the Hawaiian language interest you, sit in on a Sunday service conducted in the Hawaiian language at Kawaiahao Church.

                                                      59. The banyan tree near Turtle Bay Resorts was planted in 1873 and has been used as the film location in at least 7 movies and TV series including, Pirates of the Caribbean and Hunger Games. It is free to walk around and admire this huge, ancient tree.

                                                        60. Speaking of cool movie film places, Kualoa Ranch is one such place. There are many outdoor activities to do here as well such as zip lining, kayaking to a secret island, and rides, both on horseback and ATV.

                                                          61. Look for turtles at Turtle Beach on the North Shore.

                                                            62. Drink a cup of coffee on the beach and watch the sunrise over the sea.

                                                              63. Sip a cold coconut on the west shore at sunset for a gorgeous evening.

                                                                I hope this list helps you make your Hawaiian dream a reality! Everyone needs to see this beautiful place at least once in their life. Which one of these did you use/do on your Hawaii vacation? Have some more tips? Leave a comment! Aloha

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