You probably think you’ve paid for the bulk of your trip before you even show up with your airfare and accommodations already paid for, but you’d be surprised how quickly the other stuff adds up. You’ll be bombarded with activities and excursion opportunities from the minute you arrive at the airport. So once you’ve go the big stuff paid for, how do you save money once you get there?
There really is a lot you can do for free in Hawaii and thankfully, the free stuff is some of the best stuff!
Beach bumming: Everybody comes to Hawaii for the beaches right? Well get out there and see them! If you’re staying at a beachfront hotel or condo, the temptation is to just hang out on “your” beach, but the awesome thing about Hawaii beaches is that each one looks a little different, especially on different parts of the island. One of my favorite things to do is go “beach hopping.” Plan to visit a different beach each day (or a couple each day) until you find your favorite. You’ll soon realize that different beaches are good for different things. Some are great for swimming and boogie boarding, some for snorkeling, and some for beach combing. Do some research before you get there and make a list of all the beaches you want to check out. Here’s a tip: You’ll have a much more comfortable day at the beach if you have the right gear. Many surf or gear shops will rent chairs, umbrellas, coolers, boogie boards, etc. to you for the week. Trust me, you’ll have so much more fun if you have the right gear instead of just sitting on a towel in the sand the whole time. But if you are going to rent, I would price check it first as it may be cheaper to buy your own gear at Costco and leave it behind at the end of your trip. Read about my favorite Maui and Kauai beaches as well as my favorite beach town on Oahu.
Snorkeling: Another great Hawaii pastime is snorkeling and many of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii can be accessed right off the beach. If you have your own gear at home, bring it along. If not, there are plenty of places where you can rent by the day or the week (always rent from a gear/surf shop and not your resort as they’ll really gouge you!), but I would suggest picking up a set at Costco when you arrive. You’ll get a nice set for close to the weekly rental price at a gear shop plus you know you’re the first person who’s used it. FYI: Many gear rental places advertise snorkeling gear for $1.99/day but once you get to the shop you realize it’s for kind of a crappy snorkel set and they end up “upselling” you on a more expensive rental. You usually come out ahead just renting your own. Check out my favorite snorkeling spots on Maui and the Big Island.
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Hiking: If you really want to see the best of the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll usually have to get a little off the beaten path. Hiking is free and this is how you’ll see some of the best scenery in Hawaii. Do some research in advance to know which hikes you want to do (or ask a local!). I recommend getting a copy of the Hawaii Revealed guidebook series. You’ll be able to find them places once you get there but I would order it from Amazon in advance (you’ll save a lot of money!) Here are links to the Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and Big Island versions (affiliate links). Also, read about my favorite hike on Kauai here.
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Sight seeing: Besides gorgeous beaches and hikes, each island has a number of sights (historic, cultural, and natural) that are must sees. On Oahu, you’ve got to see Pearl Harbor, the sights of Waikiki (including the Iolani Palace), Hanauma Bay, and the famous north shore (check out 20 FREE things to do in Honolulu/Waikiki). On Maui, don’t miss the Road to Hana and the summit of Haleakala. The Big Island has Hawaii Volcano National Park plus four other historic and cultural sites ran by the National Park Service. On Kauai, you’ve got to see the Waimea Canyon, fern grotto, and tree tunnel that leads to historic Koloa town. Some of these sites (especially the National Parks may charge an entrance fee, but it proportion to the time you’ll be able to spend there it’s a good use of money!
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