Cheapest Islands In Hawaii: How To Enjoy Your Trip On A Budget

Hawaii is the place of a dream that many people want to visit once in a lifetime but usually hesitate due to the price. However, saving your budget while visiting this archipelago isn’t an impossible task. If you choose a suitable destination and plan your trip carefully, then travel to Hawaii won’t cost much more compared to other popular destinations. 

Let’s find out the cheapest island in Hawaii you can visit and useful tips to help you keep your budget intact in this article!

What Are The Cheapest Islands In Hawaii?

The Hawaii archipelago has many minor islands, islets, atolls, etc., but only 07 inhabited islands exist. The Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu are generally considered the most budget-friendly options, while Maui and Kauai tend to be the pricier choices. Molokai is another good option for budget-minded travellers, though there are fewer accommodation and activity choices here.


Cheapest island in Hawaii - CabinZero

O’ahu is usually known as the cheapest island in Hawaii. Photo by Hana -

O’ahu is recommended by many residents as the cheapest island in Hawaii to travel. With a population of more than 800,000 people, this is the most crowded island in Hawaii, resulting in a vibrant atmosphere and many hospitality facilities to choose from.

The lowest accommodation cost here is $150-$200 per night. And a meal can cost around $10-$30. The plus side is that there are many free or affordable attractions. When sightseeing in O’ahu, you won’t have to spend much time deciding what to do on a budget.

A must-do when coming to O’ahu is to emerge into its beaches: the Waikiki Beach with a view of the Diamond Head crater or the Lanikai Beach with crystal clear water. You should also visit trails, waterfalls, botanical gardens, and museums to admire the island's wonderful nature and diverse culture.

Another tip is that some people say that the flights to board Honolulu airport are usually the cheapest in Hawaii, so this is also an effective way to save money. Research for the low season and book your ticket far before.


Cheapest island in Hawaii - CabinZero

Moloka’i offers an authentic Hawaiian experience. Photo by Eugene Kalenkovich -

Moloka’i is known as the least visited island in Hawaii. If you are looking for a trip with serenity, less crowds, and the opportunity to enjoy nature by yourself, then this is the perfect place to visit. 

The most famous destination at Moloka’i must be the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a place filled with the history of Leprosy patients since the 1800s. Keep in mind that you must have a permit to visit this place. Another distinguished activity is visiting the local farms, from plumeria to macadamia. And, of course, you can’t miss out on the beaches and trails here. 

Most of the destinations above are free entrances. The cost of accommodation and food is reasonable, though there might not be as many options as in O’ahu. And there isn’t any direct flight to Moloka’i, so transiting from other islands might be a big add-on to your budget. 

The Big Island (Hawai’i)

Cheapest island in Hawaii - CabinZero

Kamakahonu Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on The Big Island. Photo by Damien -

As its name suggests, the Big Island is the biggest island in the Hawaii archipelago. Therefore, there are plenty of hospitality facilities for you to choose from when travelling here, from luxurious resorts to budget-friendly hostels. You can ensure a comfortable night here for only $60.

The island is filled with various sightseeing sites that you can visit for free, both natural and cultural. The first to mention is the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where you can see volcanoes, craters, past eruptions, and lava flows.

There is also a Rainbow Falls surrounded by the jungle where you can see rainbows on sunny days. And many other places like the Huliheʻe Palace, Puʻukoholā Heiau, caves, volcano tubes, etc.

How To Save Your Budget In Hawaii?

To be honest, the basic price of islands in Hawaii is almost the same as that of other islands. To keep your budget, you have to take other variables into account. Your current destinations, what you will do there, your priorities, etc. Here are some tips to help you save your budget in Hawaii.

Avoid The Peak Seasons

The first thing that will save you money is to avoid the peak seasons. Instead of heading off on holidays or in summer, try travelling in spring or autumn. The weather in Hawaii is warm all year round, so there is no need to worry that you can’t enjoy the beautiful beaches here, though there might be some rainy days.

During peak season (Dec-April), flights can range from $800-$1,500+ per person (roundtrip), depending on your origin city. However, if you fly into the less touristy islands (Oahu or Big Island) during shoulder seasons (May-June & Sept-Nov), prices might drop to $500 or less per person.

Flying To Hawaii Islands On A Budget

The first rule of thumb is to book budget airlines. Airlines like Southwest or Spirit might offer lower fares but be prepared for potential baggage fees and a more basic flying experience. Aim to book your flight 2-6 months in advance for the best prices.

Look for deals on flights to or with a layover at a West Coast city, then book a separate, potentially cheaper flight from there to Hawaii. Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), and Portland (PDX) often have the best deals to Hawaii.

CabinZero tips: American travellers don’t need a passport to fly to Hawaii. 

Cheapest island in Hawaii - CabinZero

Consider flying from the West Coast to save on airfares. Photo by Ingmar -

Plan Your Activities Beforehand

When travelling on a budget, it’s best not to do anything spontaneously, as it might cost you much more than it’s worth—research what you want to do and where you want to go first. Compare the prices between different shops to find the best option.

If possible, prioritise the free activities first, then calculate your budget for everything and fill in the costly ones. There are activities you might think you want, but not necessary to enjoy the island, for example, a helicopter trip or cruise.

We recommend you plan everything in detail, like when you should do it, which transportation you should use to get there, etc. Most of the islands in Hawaii have public transportation, such as buses. There are also taxis and Uber; you can always walk to save money.

Keep It Short & Simple

The longer you stay on the island, the more you will spend. This is obvious as you must pay for accommodation, food, activities, etc. If you are on a budget, consider shortening your trip and make it simple. Enjoy your trip on a single island for around a week instead of having fun on various islands for dozens of days.

Of course, limiting your time and destination would also limit your experience. But there are more than enough activities you can do to create a memorable trip. And what’s left to explore on your later trip if you tried it all in one go?

Getting Around Wisely On A Budget

Cheapest island in Hawaii - CabinZero

Buses are cheap, and easy to get around Hawaii on a budget. Photo by Ryan Tishken -

Skip the rental car if you are not planning on going outside Waikiki or to the North Shore. The price is about $30 per vehicle per day. If you do, find some overnight free car parking on Google Maps (the parking fee is $$$$ in Hawaii), and don’t leave anything in your cars to avoid theft. And note that some travel insurance may not cover certain services like Turo rentals.

The bus systems are affordable and extensive. For example, TheBus on Oahu offers a $5.50 day pass. Renting a bike or exploring on foot is also a good idea to take in the sights and the sounds. Hitchhiking is legal on some islands, but prioritise safety and use your best judgment.

Hui Car Share is another option. However, you must plan ahead (when you will need a car and where the nearest place to rent one is). We advise renting or sharing a car only for specific days when you plan to explore areas not covered by public transport.

Staying For Cheap In Hawaii

Hostels like The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel or North Shore Hostel offer affordable lodging and a chance to meet fellow travellers. Budget hotels and vacation rentals can be found on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. You can expect to spend at least $50 per night for a stay in a hostel.

Have you ever thought about camping on the beach? Hawaii has many beautiful campgrounds, often located in state parks. Camping permits are affordable and allow you to stay in stunning locations. Check out options like Malaekahana Beach Campground on Oahu.

Eat And Shop Like A Local

In most destinations, the shops for travellers are usually more expensive than those for the locals. And in Hawaii, it is no different. When going out for food or souvenirs, search for shops away from the tourist spots or the local markets.

To tell which is for the locals, research before you come. Read the reviews on Google, look for posts on social media, etc. Mind you, a shop for tourists doesn’t mean it’s not good. It might suit your taste better, as the products were adjusted to tourists liking. However, the local shops will bring you a different experience that can only be found at that destination.

Food trucks and local diners offer delicious, affordable meals. Try shrimp trucks on the North Shore of Oahu or plate lunches from local diners. Or you can stay somewhere with a kitchen and cook your own meals to save on food costs.

Take advantage of restaurant happy hour specials to sample local cuisine and drinks at discounted prices. Look for local farmers' markets for affordable fresh produce and snacks.

Know Your Travel Style

Mark your priorities to separate your budgets into different categories. If you can’t stay in a small room with the least amenities, spend more on accommodation. If you are an adventurer who likes to experience extreme sports, spend more on the activities. 

Once you have your priority list, you can decide which category you will spend more and which to spend less. Thanks to that, minimise the chance of overspending your budget.

Know What To Pack

To save your budget, avoid buying as much stuff on the trip as possible. This means packing your luggage smartly with all the things you need. Create a checklist to ensure you cover everything. 

If you save your budget on accommodation, they might not provide amenities like shampoo or toothbrushes, so bring your own. And if you intend to go on foot mostly to cost less on transportation, bring comfortable shoes. Consider every factor so that you won’t buy anything unplanned.

Pack 2-3 quick-drying tops (think neutral t-shirts, a tank top) and a long-sleeved option for evenings or sun protection. Opt for two pairs of shorts and consider convertible hiking pants that zip off to become shorts. Pack a light sundress that doubles as a swimsuit cover-up.

Bring The Right Luggage

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Shop Now

The secret to packing cheaply to Hawaii is to start with the right backpack. Think about it. Most airlines charge fees for checked bags, which can significantly add to your travel costs. Packing everything in a carry-on backpack can potentially avoid these fees altogether.

Furthermore, you are saved from the hassle of lugging around a heavy suitcase or stumbling upon sandy beaches, rocky trails, or crowded streets. A good travel backpack can double as a daypack for hikes, beach trips, or exploring cities. You don’t need to carry an extra bag.

Check out our extensive range of CabinZero backpacks, meticulously designed for lightweight, budget-friendly travel. Perfect for your Hawaiian adventure, these backpacks ensure you travel efficiently and stylishly, all while keeping your expenses in check. Explore the convenience and durability that CabinZero backpacks bring to your island exploration.

What Affordable Activities To Do In Hawaii?

After choosing the cheapest island in Hawaii to visit, be aware of the activities you will join. Or else, the cheapest will become the most expensive in no time. Here are some free or affordable activities worth enjoying in Hawaii that you can consider.


There are various trails on almost every island of Hawaii. You can hike in popular mountains like Mauna Kea or hike to waterfalls, craters, etc. National parks and state parks in Hawaii also have trails. Depending on your level and the time you want to spend hiking, you can easily pick out the suitable route for yourself and spend quality time exploring nature and stunning views of the island.

Visit The Monuments

Visiting the monuments might not be entirely free, but it surely costs little. There are a lot more historical monuments on the islands of Hawaii than you think. Usually, the entrance fee will be around $5. If you take on a guided tour, it will cost more. But they have many tour options to serve your needs, so rest assured that you can have an interesting trip.

Aside from monuments, you can also visit museums here. They have a wide range of museums, from historical to art and astronomy ones. Each has its own story and exhibit worth knowing.

Take A Walk On The Island

Cheapest island in Hawaii - CabinZero

Be prepared to be amazed at the little things you encounter along the way. Photo by Maridav -

The simplest way to enjoy a Hawaii island, or any destination, is to walk. Of course, you shouldn’t wander in secluded places. But walking at the centre of the bustling areas of the island is highly recommended. 

You will get to immerse in the island's atmosphere, see the locals' lifestyle, listen to interesting stories from other travellers, etc. Though sounding simple, walking on the island will help you explore little joys you didn’t expect.

Hit The Beaches

No Hawaiian vacation is complete without spending time at the beach.  Hawaii boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with soft white sand, clear turquoise waters, and excellent waves for bodyboarding or bodysurfing.

Popular choices include Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu, Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island, and Kaanapali Beach on Maui.

Hawaii is popular for things like diving, snorkelling, and sailing. However, these activities will cost at least $100 per person. So if you want to try water sports, the best options are to check if it’s included in the hotel service or go for cheaper ones like kayaking, boat trips, etc. Bringing your own equipment can further save rental costs.

Enjoy The Local’s Markets And Festivals

Visit local markets, such as the Hilo Farmers Market (Big Island) or KCC Farmers Market (Oahu), for fresh produce, local crafts, and affordable meals. Although the items can be pricey at times (a small cup of tea may cost $7 at Kaka'ako Farmers Market), the experience and vibe are more than makeup for it, especially since you are supporting the local community.

Enjoy free live music performances throughout the day in various locations across Hawaii with the Make Music Hawaiʻi festival. Prefer to immerse in the Hawaiian culture? Join the Lei Day Celebration for lei-making demonstrations, competitions, traditional Hawaiian entertainment, and food vendors.

Luaus can be expensive, and many other ways to experience Hawaiian culture exist. Attend free hula performances, visit cultural centres, or take a ukulele lesson.

It’s All About Planning Ahead

Travelling to Hawaii on a budget doesn’t mean you have to suffer and limit your needs. It’s about planning, calculating and balancing everything. There is no guaranteed cheapest island in Hawaii for everyone because it depends on where you fly from and what you like to do. However, if you are prepared, keeping your budget won’t be a problem. Do you have any suggestions for helping our fellow travellers make the cheapest trip to Hawaii? Comment down below or share this article!

Claire Thuc

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