Food expenses on a trip can really add up but with a little know how you can still enjoy the local food scene without having to brown bag it everyday. Here are 6 tips for saving money on food in Hawaii:
1.Stock up at the store. Everybody knows how expensive food is in Hawaii so every little bit you can avoid buying at your resort or a restaurant helps. Obviously, if you’re staying in a condo or vacation rental, you can buy enough groceries to cook all of your meals, but even if you don’t have a full kitchen, (or don’t want to cook every meal) there are still some things you can stock up on to save you a little cash. I would suggest at least grabbing a case of water, sodas, and liquor to mix your own drinks as well as plenty of snacks. If you have a membership, Costco is usually the best shopping option in the islands. Even buying in bulk, you’ll find their prices are often much cheaper than local grocery stores, plus they also have a pretty big prepared foods section (oh lord, that mac and cheese!). If you’re looking for brands you have at home, all of the islands have Walmart and all but Kauai have Target. Safeway is also a local grocery chain that you’ll find throughout the islands. If you shop there, I suggest signing up for their free loyalty rewards program, as it will usually save you at least $5-10 in one stop.
2.Pack picnics. Even if you don’t have a kitchen or don’t want to assemble your own lunch, stopping and picking up a picnic lunch before heading to the beach will usually cost you less than lunch in a restaurant. Many grocery stores have prepared food that you can grab and go but I suggest stopping by local markets or general stores and picking up something yummy to go. Many resort areas have ABC Stores or Whaler’s General Stores that have great food sections. And on each island you’ll find a variety of local markets where you can pick up a plate lunch to go.
3.Try food trucks. All of the Hawaiian Islands have a good truck scene, but Oahu and Maui’s are probably the most developed. Oahu is famous for its food trucks along the north shore (especially Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck) and Horhito’s taco truck in Maui across from Kalama Beach Park has (what I think are) the best fish tacos in Hawaii. Whenever you see a food truck, don’t be afraid to pull over and check it out!
4.Get away from resort areas. Resort areas are always the most high dollar areas of the islands and of course food there will usually be on the pricier side. Venture out of the resort areas to more local towns to find cheaper and more local options. There are still plenty of places that tourists frequent that aren’t considered resort areas so you don’t have to get too far off the beaten path to find good deals. For example, on Maui, leave Wailea and head to Kihei or the north shore and leave Ka’anapali and Kapalua and head for Lahaina. On Kauai, leave Princeville and head to Hanalei or leave Po’ipu and head to Kapa’a. On Oahu, Waikiki is surprisingly cheap. But if you’re staying in Ko’olina, head to the north shore instead. On the Big Island, leave Kohala and head towards Kona.
5.Hit up happy hours. If you’re staying in a resort area (or just want to explore a bit), I recommend trying new places during happy hour. Everywhere from resort pool bars to more upscale restaurants usually have a happy hour that includes not just drink specials but food specials as well. To find the best ones, ask the locals what their favorites are.
6.Plan your splurges. If you do want to have a nice diner or two out, I suggest planning ahead instead of just blindly walking into a place. Do some research ahead of time to make sure you pick a good place. There are plenty of tourist traps in Hawaii that will cost you an arm and a leg and leave you disappointed. On Maui, Mama’s Fish House is a must do for a nice dinner. On Kauai, try the Beach House in Po’ipu. On Oahu, Rumfire is great, and on the Big Island, I like Ulu Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge.