Here’s a great secret – you don’t have to spend a fortune to spend time in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong – if you want to stay at first class properties, fly in the front of the plane and eat at some of the world’s finest restaurants, Hawaii will certainly afford you the opportunity. However, it is also possible to visit Hawaii, see the sites, eat well and experience the Islands up close and personal without breaking the bank.
Airfares are a real trick, but here’s the trick – don’t buy a published fare! Any good travel agent will know how to purchase your ticket through a tour operator holding contracts with the airlines flying to Hawaii. Purchase a ticket with an online site and, chances are, you will pay hundreds of dollars more than the fellow sitting next to you on the plane.
In addition, remember that most of Hawaii has many, many budget-friendly accommodations. In fact, one of the suggestions we will make that applies to each of the islands below is to ask your travel agent about condominiums and smaller lodges and inns. Many of these establishments are perfectly well located, charming and offer a real opportunity to meet the locals in a way that the larger hotels and resorts do not.
Although we are going to look at only four of the islands in this article, the one quality that every island has in abundance is its scenery and the easy accessibility to the scenery via a rental car. Self exploration by automobile is one of the most exciting and least expensive ways to enjoy the islands.
Almost every activity below is either free or costs less than $10.00 per person. Even better, these are only a small sampling of the free or low costs activities available.
Oahu is a favorite of those in the know looking for a combination of the terrific water and beach life Hawaii offers as well as the cosmopolitan landscape of Honolulu. Many flights from the continental United States land in Oahu, so it is often the first island visitors see.
- Rent a car and drive Oahu. This island takes a back seat to none of its sister islands. Oahu is absolutely gorgeous and easy to explore on your own. There are many waysides to visit, small villages to drive through and easily walked trails and hikes, not to mention the beaches!
- The Royal Hawaiian Band performs at Iolani Palace on Fridays 12:00-1:00 p.m. and at Kapiolani Park on Sundays from 2:00-3:00 p.m. The Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States and served as Hawaii’s capitol until 1969. Admission to the grounds is free.
- Visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Sunken by the Japanese during the bombing of Pearls Harbor, over 1,000 navy soldiers perished aboard. Free tours offered daily on a first come basis.
- Walk to the top of Diamond Head crater. A moderate walk, it is well worth the effort. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers amazing views of Waikiki. The hike up is only slightly more than .7 miles and will take about an hour for slow walkers.
- The North Shore – here is some of the most famous surf and the biggest waves in the world. Dotted with quaint villages, a drive along the north shore is great entertainment for little more than the cost of a gallon of gas and lunch!
- Visit the International Marketplace, and take in the crafts and wares of the island’s local merchants.
- Visit the Father Damien Museum and learn about the amazing history of Kalaupapa, Molokai where the Catholic priest worked with those suffering from leprosy.
- Visit the Waikiki Aquarium and learn about the amazing marine life inhabiting the waters surrounding Hawaii.
- Near the Polynesian Cultural Centre, wade over to Goat Island to explore the tidal pools in the surrounding area. Wear suitable shoes to protect from the sharp coral. If you have children, don’t miss this opportunity!
- There is a free nightly hula dance and the Halekulani Hotel.
The Big Island
The largest Hawaiian island and the only one with a currently active volcano, the Big Island has spectacular drives and beaches with colorful villages and two distinctly different sides of the island. The Big Island will be bigger when you leave than when you arrive as the volcano there deposits several square acres of land each year.
- Lapakahi State Historical Park – a historically accurate Hawiian Village offering tours on the North Kohala coast.
- Akaka Falls about 13 miles north of Hilo is actually two waterfalls seen across the valley and one of the most photographed locations in the Islands.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is only $10 per car load. Rangers will lead visitors to locations where nature’s most awesome spectacle can be safely viewed.
- Honaunau Bay is a great place to snorkel.
- The black sand beaches of Punaluu and Kehena are must-see locations for every visitor. The black volcanic sand is simply amazing.
- Waikoloa’s Queen’s Marketplace offers Hawaiian craft classes and entertainment for free.
- The Puako Petroglyph Hike reveals more than 3000 petroglyphs of uncertain, mysterious origin that to this day have not been fully understood.
- The Kukui Trail is a 2 ½ mile path dropping into the Waimea Canyon where a large swimming hole awaits.
- The rugged cliffs of the Na Pali coast are without equal in the Islands or even elsewhere for that matter. Kauai is a great place for hiking and gazing at the amazing scenery. Its uncrowded beaches are some of the finest in the Hawaiian islands.
- Kokee State Park boasts Waimea Canyon and a great hiking trail of moderate difficulty.
- Kauai’s waterfalls are terrific and Wailua Falls especially so.
- Be sure to visit the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and, if in season, watch the annual migration of the humpback whales.
- The Kalalau Trail and Valley is a great way to see the Na Pali Coast. Here experienced hikers will find the Hanakapiai Falls, a 300 foot cascade into a pool.
The perennial favorite island of many, Maui is Hawaii’s second largest island. Maui is named after the ancient god that raised the Hawaiian Islands up from the ocean. Although developed, there is plenty of room to get away from it all, with beaches and forests that are nearly as pristine as the Hawaii of old.
- Drive the Road to Hana and experience for than 600 hairpin curves as you gaze out on vistas that are far too distracting for any driver. On the way, stop to walk up to waterfalls or shop at roadside stands.
- The Red Sand Beach of Kaihalulu is both beautiful and, on occasion, au natural, so take care of taking the children. But while we are at it, all 81 of Maui’s beaches are free, so enjoy!
- Be sure to stop at the Lahaina Whaling Museum in Lahaina. If you are there on Friday, it’s Art Night on Front Street, sponsored by the Lahaina Arts Society.
- Walk on a black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park.