Tips for Exploring Oahu on a Budget
Is your daydream of breezy Polynesian afternoons sipping Mai Tai’s in nearly nude leisure 2,000+ miles away from home just that?
Have you ever sat in your living room in sweats watching Hawaii 5-0 only to look out at brown and gray skeletons of wilderness outside and long to catch surf on the infamous North Shore?
Rumors abound: Hawaii is expensive. Indeed, The Gathering Place comes with a hefty cost. But, there are a few sneaky ways to keep your costs down, Oahu on a budget is possible.
If Oahu is on your bucket list, here are some tips to cut down expenses, even on a proletariat budget.
Oahu on a Budget
Here’s a few tips and tricks to explore Oahu on a budget.
Don’t Come In The Summer
Oahu weather is pleasant year-round. With countless sunny days and average temperatures ranging 76-84 degrees F Jan-Dec, why wait till summer to visit? Sept-Feb roundtrip flights range $450-$800PP West Coast, US and $550-$930PP East Coast, US. Beginning March and continuing through the summer, rates double and triple rapidly.
Check out Kayak.com or expedia.com for aggregating travel search engines and a flexible search format that allows you to search up to an entire year for the best prices. Keep in mind that rates will be higher December for holiday travel and surfers hoping to catch the North Shore’s 25-30ft winter waves.
Consider Renting a Vacation Home/Condo
Paradise leisure need not break the bank. Hotels vary $145-$750 per night from basic lodging to luxury fittings. Howbeit, many people rent out their condos, homes, and timeshare for more nominal fees. The result, come pleasant amenities like private patios, on site laundry, and well-working kitchens.
Many anticipate the bustle of designer shops, landmark dining, and roadside beaches in Waikiki. For those looking to get away from saturated tourism, Kailua Beach, Hawaii Kai, and Haleiwa (North Shore) present local feels and world-famous sights.
When looking at the Oahu map, locations east of Honolulu are more popular. One might also enjoy the Leeward (West) side of the island, but locations north of Ko Olina and west of Haleiwa are remote.
Airbnb is the best place to find affordable vacation homes in Oahu, search below:
Rent a Car or Moped and Do Your Own Thing
Depending on the time of the year, an economy or compact car rents for barely over $200 per week. It will also buy you sweet abandon. You then have the flexibility to move on your schedule, stay somewhere other than Waikiki, get groceries for your kitchen and dine where the locals do, go island adventure seeking, witness contrasting beaches on the island, and freedom from wallet-sucking establishments for susceptible (and mostly sunburned) tourists. However, always give yourself extra time and cash for parking, which is a commodity depending on where you go.
It is also important to research the beaches in the area of where you wish to stay. Some beaches like Sandy Beach, Waimea, and Pipeline are not safe for amateur or small swimmers, especially during the winter months.
Eat Like a Local!
There is a general rule of thumb when it comes to food in Hawaii: It’s only expensive when you try to eat like you are on the mainland where cows, chickens, and farms are readily available.
Come to Hawaii with an open mind for fusions of island and Asian cuisines. Most Hawaiian dishes consist of at least one meat, two scoops of rice (usually white), and a scoop of macaroni salad.
There are many types of fish and poke available for eating, some of the freshest tastes you will ever find! Fish, fried meats, and starches are plentiful and cheap eats. The North Shore furnishes scattered varieties of food trucks for cheap ingesting. All over the island, there are tiny ugly Hawaiian Barbecues, bento counters, and sushi houses with Ono island vittles awaiting your consumption and not the bottom of your wallet.
Try something new! Consult StreetGrindz for a list of local food events happening across the island for an opportunity that will make your inner foodie hula.
Must Eats On the Cheap in Oahu
Looking for cheap food in Oahu? Here’s where to go:
If you are still craving familiarities like milk, eggs, and potatoes, some mainland chains scatter throughout the island and average $2.30 – $4.80 more per meal.
Cheap A** Things To Do in Oahu on budget
When doing Oahu on a budget, you need to find the cheap things to do. Here’s a few options to keep you busy while sticking to your travel budget.
Ko Olina Lagoons
These manmade lagoons are the perfect place for families with young children seeking calm water by Disney’s Aulani Resort. Parking and access is free, but prepare to wait 15+ minutes for available spot. Resort quality, bath house, grass, outdoor showers. No personal umbrellas or tents allowed.
Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
If you want to see what sets Hawaii apart from other tropical destinations, you will find it here. $3.00 and you witness one of the most breathtaking scenes on the island overlooking the entire windward side and the commanding Ko’olau mountain range crashing into the Pacific Ocean. Oh, and wild chickens in the parking lot.
If you want stories and insight to an influential part of Oahu, checkout Chinatown. Adventure is the word of the day as you push, shove, and advert eye contact while wondering where the dim sum that dingy-fish-star anise-urine smell emits from. Herbal medicines, lei shops, and the best d*** produce markets on the island are here.
Interesting varieties, people watching, and seemingly endless supplies of bubble drinks. Walk by the old Wo Fat building of where the Hawaii 5-0 character is named.
Buy the trendy and cheap, cheap, cheap clothing and hot knock-offs that question their endurance to stay on your body for more than one wear.
Stop by the Hawaii Heritage Center on Smith St. and for $1, hear about how the Asian families risked their lives and family relationships to work the plantations, the two fires that almost wiped out the area, and the bubonic plague that caused them. Peruse around the markets and buy dragon fruit and rambutan. Here you will experience the unfamiliar. Then, go back to your room and scrub your feet with bleach.
Honu Watching at Turtle Beach
Turtle Beach on the North Shore is a nice place to sit on some big onyx-colored pointy rocks and watch the turtles or “honu”. One of the best sunset locations on the island and in the summer, turtles will come on the sand to lay their eggs. Easy beach access with free parking.
Souvenir Shopping at the International Marketplace and the Aloha Stadium Swap
Both exhibit the best in variety and cheap souvenirs. Easily stock up on souvenirs at either place for $30 or less if done right. Remember to negotiate prices slightly(too low is just insulting)and don’t let someone charge you $4.00+ for a sandwich bag of pineapple or sugar cane.
- International Marketplace Pros: great finds, beautiful area in the heart of Waikiki, shaded, near shops
Cons: In the heart of Waikiki, parking is expensive and almost ridiculous
- Aloha Stadium Swap Pros: great finds, expansive variety that goes on and on, flea market finds, very cheap prices, $1 entry includes parking, parking is straightforward to find
Cons: lack of shade, besides shaved ice – limited concessions, blazing sun rubbing your face
Halcyon temple placed in the foreground of the awe-inspiring Ko’olau mountainside. Admission is $3 per adult, $2 for seniors, and $1 per child. Featured on Hawaii 5-0, Magnum P.I., and the ABC Series, Lost.
Additional Tips for experiencing Oahu on a budget
- Pack sunscreen. Otherwise, you might find yourself paying up to $28 for a regular tube in Waikiki… or in some serious pain.
- Bring or Buy Your Own Snorkel Gear
- Pack Sunglasses
- Carry cash. Many places outside of Waikiki do not accept credit cards.
See? Your Mai-Tai-coconut-bra-wearing-lau-dancing fantasies in Oahu can be your reality.
With earnest planning, even the biggest haoles can exploit an adventure of a lifetime. Get out your pencil and scratch paper, buy an ugly floral shirt, and pack a sun visor the size of a fishing trolley. Just think, you will be referring to every one as “Brah” and shaking your okole to the ukulele in no time.
Visiting Hawaii? Check out these posts: