Author’s Note #1: most of the places mentioned in this article are for Oahu.
Author’s Note #2: the busiest (and most expensive) months to vacation to Hawaii are July and December.
Author’s Note #3: the prices mentioned are only estimates — the prices will change with availability, season, and time.
Here’s a fact: “Hawaii” and “cheap” do not belong in the same sentence. If you are looking for an inexpensive vacation in a tropical setting, there are other places you could look at, like Thailand, Cancun, or the Phillipines. Hawaii is meant to be a vacation spot for people who have set aside a large budget for their vacation expenses or Americans who want a tropical setting but don’t have a passport. With that said, I am an experienced traveler and want to help you find less expensive alternatives to hotels during your stay in Hawaii!
According to a survey by AAA, a typical couple vacationing in Hawaii spent $793 a day on lodging, food, and entertainment (source). Yes, the number is inflated because of all the wealthy tourists that vacation here, but it’s not that outrageous, as groceries, eating out, and entertainment in Hawaii are all expensive as well.
So what can you do if you’re coming to Hawaii, need a place to stay, but are on a tight budget? Well, here are 6 ways to help you find a cheap place to stay in Hawaii.
Here are 6 Different Ideas to Find a Cheap Place to Stay!
1. Hotel Condos $$$$$
Hotel condos are a combination of hotel service with apartment-type facilities. Vacation companies usually buy them and then rent them out to tourists, but many are owned by hotels as well. They are much cheaper than regular hotel rooms.
Hotel condos are usually equipped with a kitchen and sometimes a washer and dryer! For people who want to save money on food, a kitchen is a big asset, because food at the hotel is expensive. The facilities provided by hotel condos also make them ideal for people who plan to stay in Hawaii for more than a couple of weeks.
Keep in mind that hotel condos are not as luxurious as hotel rooms. Because they are apartment-style, it doesn’t give you that awesome, “resort experience.” Most still have a pool as well as other amenities though.
Here’s a list of several hotel condos (keep in mind that prices in Hawaii are heavily seasonal!)
|Unipack||Waikiki, Oahu||~$130||reviews / reservations|
|Kai Aloha Apartment Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||~$110||reviews / link|
|Aston Waikiki Sunset||Waikiki, Oahu||~$170||more info|
|Ohana Waikiki West||Waikiki, Oahu||~$120||more info|
|Maui Seaside Hotel||Kahului, Maui||~$200||more info|
|Kanapali Ocean Inn||Lahaina, Maui||~$260||more info|
2. Budget Hotels $$$$$
With most hotels in Hawaii, you’ll be spending at least $300 a night. However, certain hotels are usually less expensive and could be considered “budget.” They usually have smaller rooms, less amenities, or are older than other hotels. You’ll sometimes see locals renting these budget hotel rooms for the weekend or for parties because of occasional great, low prices and specials, especially during off-peak season.
|Coconut Waikiki Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||$~130||more info|
|The Vive||Waikiki, Oahu||~$160||more info|
|Aqua Waikiki Wave||Waikiki, Oahu||~$130||more info|
|The Equus||Waikiki, Oahu||~$120||more info|
|Outrigger Luana Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||~$170||more info|
|Shoreline Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||~$160||more info|
|Ilima Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||~$140||more info|
|White Sands Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||~$110||more info|
|Waikiki Grand Hotel||Waikiki, Oahu||~$150||more info|
|Kamaole Sands||Kihei, Maui||~ $120 – $210||more info|
|Maui Seaside Hotel||Kahului, Maui||~ $180||more info|
|Kilauea Lodge||Volcano, Hawaii||~$180||more info|
3. Couch Surfing $$$$$
Note: because you are a guest in someone’s house and may be sleeping on a couch, this is recommended for younger travelers and backpackers, and not couples on vacation.
Couch Surfing is a special, online community for travelers. The purpose of the site is to connect a traveler with a host. The traveler needs a place to stay in the foreign city while the host offers a place for the traveler to sleep. The interaction between traveler and host goes beyond housing though – Couch Surfing was made to bring together people from different countries and to fuel a cultural exchange.
My friends are avid Couch Surfers and on occasion, they brought random European travelers along with them when we went out to bars. I remember one night when I met Couch Surfers from Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands!
So how much does Couch Surfing cost? Nothing – it’s absolutely free. The community itself operates on the principle of “pay it forward” – they will gladly help out travelers because they know that when they themselves travel, there will be someone to host them. This is the key principle of the Couch Surfing community.
All in all, Couch Surfing is a great cultural exchange that you should try if you’re comfortable meeting strangers. Learn more about Couch Surfing at their website.
4. Book a hostel $$$$$
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of hostels, here is a simple equation:
DORM FACILITIES + BUNK BEDS + LOTS OF TRAVELERS = HOSTEL
I’ve stayed at hostels during my travels to China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore and I’ve enjoyed the experience at all of them. The staffs were always international-friendly, they served breakfast, they had free internet, I was able to meet other travelers, and most importantly, the price I paid was much, much less than a hotel. Hostels always have brochures, maps, and other travel information at their front desk. Some even offer social activities and tours.
I haven’t stayed at a hostel in Hawaii, but here are links to several hostels in Waikiki:
|Seaside Hawaiian Hostel||Waikiki, Oahu||$50+||more info|
|Waikiki Backpackers Hostel||Waikiki, Oahu||more info|
|Hostelling International Waikiki||Waikiki, Oahu||$44+||more info|
|Waikiki Beachside Hostel||Waikiki, Oahu||$50+||more info|
|Hakuna Matata||Lahaina, Maui||~$85||more info|
|Wild Ginger||Hilo, Hawaii||$90||more info|
Note: Americans aren’t familiar with hostels, but Europeans in their 20s love them and are a staple for their worldwide backpacking journeys. Expect to see a bunch of Europeans at the next hostel you go to, wherever it is.
5. Bed & Breakfast Inns (B&Bs) $$$$$
While hostels may be great for young travelers, they are horrible for older couples who enjoy privacy and serenity. For the older couples, a great choice for your next visit to Hawaii is a bed and breakfast inn.
B&Bs are private homes which have been turned into commercial housing facilities for travelers. Unlike hotels or hostels, B&Bs are usually located in remote areas, usually near the beach. Because of this, they are great for older couples who want to wake up to the sounds of the ocean and enjoy the Hawaii scenery without all the traffic, noise, and rowdy people of Waikiki.
B&Bs are more expensive than hostels, but cheaper than hotels.
|B&B name||area||price||reviews and reservations|
|Lanikai Bed & Breakfast||Kailua||$90+||reviews + bookings|
|Kalani Hawaii||Haleiwa||$97+||more info|
|Diamond Head Bed & Breakfast||Honolulu||$75+||reviews + bookings|
|The Hula Breeze||Kailua||$149+||reviews /bookings|
6. Air B&B (price varies)
Updated Feb 2015: In this latest update to this popular article, I am now recommending AirB&B.com!
What is Air B&B? B&B stands for bread and breakfast, a term for home owners who would turn their homes into commercial rentals for short term visitors. The home owners would also provide breakfast. Thus, B&B.
How is Air B&B different? Air B&B is actually an online marketplace for finding lodging. Think of it like a much nicer version of Craigslist for rentals… with the awesome review system of Yelp! No more guessing games!
Since launching in 2008, AirB&B has revolutionized finding travel accommodations with its website. Over 25 million guests and over 1 million listings worldwide.
How do I use AirB&B? It’s very easy:
- Just sign up for an AirB&B account here (you’ll get a $25 credit).
- In the top search bar, type in the city you want to travel to (Honolulu, Kihei, Hilo, etc). You can also enter your arrival/departure dates, number of guests, and rental type (full rental/private room/shared room).
- Look at the search results. You can also set price ranges — awesome!
- Click on a listing item. Look at the pictures. Read the reviews. Looks good? Book it!
Hawaii really is an expensive place to visit. And it’s also an expensive place to live! Do you have any other ideas for a cheap place to stay in Hawaii? Please share them in the comments below.