Genius Ways To Experience Oahu On A Budget – More Fun, Less Money
Visit Oahu on a budget and still have the time of your life? No problem.
Oahu is a beautiful destination and the most frequented island of Hawaii. But, with all the perks comes increased popularity. That means Oahu is expensive–prices add up fast! Follow this guide to see Oahu on a budget.
Afterall, there’s no need to be constantly worrying on a vacation where you should be relaxing!
Where To Eat In Oahu On A Budget
Some of the best places to eat are the ones locals frequent and if you do your research or happen to stumble upon one, you’ve hit a great hole in the wall. You can use apps such as Yelp or TripAdvisor and add a price filter to your searches.
Don’t worry you won’t go hungry even if you’re on a budget!
Other dining options include the local farmer’s markets such as the Kailua Town Farmer’s Market, Kaka’ako Farmer’s Market in Honolulu, or the Farm Lover’s Market in Haleiwa. You can usually find fresh, locally sourced meals for much less money than you could at a sit down restaraunt.
If your lodging allows, you could save a lot on visiting a nearby grocery store and cooking your own food.
Have a Costco or Sam’s Club card? Visit either of these stores in Honolulu and stock up on some snacks and grab a hot meal like a slice of pizza or hot dog for just a few bucks. If you’re commited to your budget, this could really add up to save you some big bucks!
Or, if you just want to relax and have the food brought to you in a more traditional sit-down setting, here are a few places aroudn the island we love.
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North Shore Budget Eats
Cost: Under $10
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Hours: Everyday 7:30 AM-6:00 PM
Address: 66-030 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Haleiwa Bowls specializes in their smoothie and acai bowls! They have a variety of flavors available, one being blue majik. It’s rich in amino acids and antioxidants, but also adds a pretty shade of bright blue to your smoothie bowl. This is a great place to grab lunch because it’s nice to cool down from the hot sun by having a cold smoothie… and it’s healthy!
Cheap Eats In Kailua
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Hours: Everyday 7:00 AM-8:00 PM
Address: 131 Hekili St, Ste 102, Kailua, HI 96734
Kono’s is a little hole in the wall spot with a local, small beach town aesthetic. Try to get out here for breakfast as their Bombers breakfast burrito with Kalua pork has highest reviews! For the health conscious, they have a variety of smoothies from you to choose from!
Affordable Food Around The Koolina Resorts Area
Koa Pancake House
Cost: Under $10
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Hours: Everyday 6:30 AM-2:00 PM
Address: 91-590 Farrington Hwy, Kapolei, HI 96707
The Koa Pancake House serves a variety of breakfast options such as pancakes, omelets, and some other non-traditional breakfast options such as a fish plate with rice! The pancakes are huge, soft, and sweet, with the macadamia nut ones being the favorite!
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Honolulu & Waikiki Budget Dining Options
Cost: Under $10
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Hours: Everyday 7:00 AM-9:00 PM
Address: 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Rainbow Drive-In is known for their delicious food and massive sizes. Try the mixed plate that comes with chicken, fried mahi mahi, and teriyaki beef with cabbage, macaroni salad and two scoops of rice for only $8! We guarantee you’ll leave satisfied!
Poke bowls are must for seafood lovers visiting Oahu.
Cost: Under $10
Accept Credit Cards: Yes
Hours: Tues-Sat 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
Address: 747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
Ono Seafood specializes in their cheap, quick, and flavorful meals that each come with a free drink! Park at Safeway next door because the parking lot fills quickly at the restaurant. The poke bowl with spicy ahi has the best reviews, so order up and take it to the beach to enjoy!
Oahu On A Budget? Here Are Some Top Activities To Do
Okay, I promise this entire section won’t be about Shaka Guide, but as the best budget-friendly way to see Oahu, we have to at least mention it!
Shaka Guide offers two driving tours on Oahu. They’ll cost you less than $10 bucks each, or you can bundle both of them together and save even more money. Depending on which parts of the island you want to experience, you can choose from:
East Oahu Shoreline Driving Tour
On the East Oahu Shoreline driving tour, you’ll loop around the southern part of Oahu and visit some of the best beaches and scenic overlooks the island has.
Circle Island Driving Tour
If you want to visit the North Shore and have a rental car (see below on how to rent a car on a budget in Oahu), then the Circle Island Driving Tour is a must. Not only will you be treated to awesome stories and scenic drives, we’ll also point out tons of side trips and stops you can make without breaking the bank.
In fact, most won’t cost you any money at all.
These act as personal guides so you don’t have to get a real one that’s more expensive! We’ll inform you all about the beaches and volcanic landscapes on the South Shore tour while taking you on a historical and sightseeing adventure through the North Shore on the Circle Island Driving Tour.
Shaka Guide also offers two walking tours:
- The Heart of Waikiki tour takes you through the famous landmarks, explore the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and visit the beach!
- On the Downtown Honolulu tour, you’ll visit Iolani Palace which is the only royal palace in the U.S!
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Go On A Hike!
Oahu has plenty to offer the budget traveller who loves adventures, nature, and drop-dead gorgeous views. One of the most popular activities on Oahu is taking advantage of the extensive system of trails. You can even enjoy a nice swim or waterfall view at some of them!
One of our favorite hikes is the Ehukai Pillboxes…
Ehukai Pillbox Hike
Enjoy one of many hikes for a totally free, epic Oahu experience.
The Ehukai Pillbox Hike offers panoramic views of Ehukai Beach and the North Shore coastline of Oahu. The elevation is 900 ft and takes around 30 minutes to complete! It’s best to do this in good weather as the trail gets muddy and slippery in rain.
You can also check out some Oahu Hikes That Give the Haiku Stairs A Run for The Money. Surprsingly, you can get some pretty epic views even on some of the easier hikes on that list.
Snorkeling At Kahe Point Beach Park
Kahe Point Beach Park in Kapolei is a favorite destination among snorkelers. The water is said to be the clearest on the island and the fish population is dense. It’s also called Electric Beach due to a plant across the street that outflows clean, warm water into the beach attracting more sea life!
This beach, like others, does tend to get crowded on the weekend, so come early to secure a parking spot. Otherwise, check near the roadway for overflow parking. Once you get in the water, even on the most crowded days, there’s plenty of space to for everyone.
Free Hula Show In Waikiki
What better way to enjoy an evening on the beaches of Oahu than to see a hula performance right in front of you!
This takes place every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 6:30-7:30 pm on Kūhiō Beach in Waikiki. The performance starts off with the lighting of the torch followed by the hula dancers performing to live music.
Catch a free hula show at many of the resorts in Waikiki. Everyone is welcome whether you’re staying at the hotel or not.
The free hula shows are also kid-friendly, so bring the whole family along!
Tip: Some other resorts have free hula shows or lei making you can take part in. Ask around to see if there’s a closer place to where you’re staying for more convenient options.
Where To Stay If You’re Visiting Oahu On A Budget
If it’s your first time visiting Oahu, we highly recommend you read our Oahu trip planning guide whether you’re on a budget or not. You’ll learn the lay of the land and we’ll introduce you to all the different districts in the island so you can choose the best area to stay based on your wants and needs.
That being said, resorts and hotels are quite pricey here in Oahu. One of the most affordable lodging options, besides camping, is to rent an Airbnb. Here are a few picks in popular areas of the island just to give you a feel for what’s out there.
Airbnb Bayview Condo
Located on the East side of Oahu at Kaneohe, the Bayview Condo is the perfect option for groups or families. For $70/night you can rent this apartment that fits six guests.
If you split the cost with others would only cost ~$12/night! However, even without splitting it would still be cheaper than the cost of a hotel plus this has a kitchen!
Airbnb Uncle Blake’s North Shore Ohana
Driving the Circle Island tour and want to layover a night on the North Shore? Check out this sweet Airbnb listing!
Uncle’s Blakes is the perfect accommodation for solo travelers or couples. It’s a shared room in a house right on the edge of the Haleiwa town close to the beach, shopping stores, and great restaurants and it’s only $30 a night!
Tip: Avoid the North Shore during the winter months from November-February when it’s the busiest.
Hours: 7:00 AM-7:00 PM
Price: Campsites start at ~$10/person, hold 2-10 people; Suites are ~$60 and ~$120/night, house 4 people
Malaekahana State Park is one of the most popular camping sites. The calm waters allow excellent conditions for swimming, paddle-boarding, and snorkeling. There’s a food truck available from Thursday to Monday offering meals when you don’t feel like making your own.
Sand Island State Recreation Park Campsite
Hours: Only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights
Price: $45 per campsite per night
Sand Island is located on the South of Oahu in Honolulu. This 102-acre park gives you the entire view of the Honolulu coastline to Waikiki. Only tent camping is offered here!
There are several options for transportation around Oahu. The most affordable option is to stay in Honolulu where there’s public transportation that’ll allow you to get around without spending too much per day on a car.
In Honolulu you can take Lyft or Uber if you don’t need to go far. It’s more convenient than the bus or bikes and not too expensive for short trips. However, depending on the time of day, they can charge more.
BikiBike — Honolulu’s Bike Share Program
For a low-cost alternative, there’s a bike share program located in Honolulu and Waikiki called Biki Bike. Unlock the bike using a credit card, the Biki App, or a Biki Pass. Just pick the bike up at one of the locations and drop it off to another docking station that’s close to your destination.
There shouldn’t be a shortage since there are over 130 Biki Stops! This is a cheap and fun option to get around as you only pay $15 monthly for unlimited 30-minute rides. A single ride will cost you $3.50, but it may be worth it to get the unlimited pass as less than five rides would equal the unlimited option!
Honolulu’s Public Bus System
TheBus is Oahu’s city transportation system. TheBus has an extensive network throughout Honolulu making it an easy and affordable option. A one-way fare costs $2.75 for adults and a one-day pass is $5.50. Children 17 and under pay $1.25 for a single ride and $2.50 for a day pass. Children 5 and under are free!
You can also ride the bus just about anywhere else on the island, outside of Honolulu. Yes, even all the way to the North Shore! Just keep in mind more distant trips will take a longer due to frequent stops by the buses. But if you’re really trying to see Oahu on a budget, this is one of the most affordable ways to get around.
The Waikiki Trolley’s
The trolley is an affordable option in Waikiki to get you to certain destinations. The route is not as extensive as TheBus, but it covers major attractions. Single passes are $25 and you can get a one-day pass for $45, or a four-day price for $65, or a seven-day for $75.
We recommend spending the extra on the multiple day passes to save a ton on the one-time rides or one-day passes if you plan on staying in the Waikiki area.
How To Rent A Car On Oahu On A Budget
Sure, renting a car can be expensive, but we recommend doing so for at least a day. Whether you opt to take the Shaka Guide Circle Island tour or not, if you plan on visiting the North Shore, the best way to get there really is by car. Plus, you’ll get the chance to wander around the island a little bit at your own pace!
There are a lot of cool side adventures we point out on the way to the North Shore you’d miss out on otherwise.
Car Sharing In Honolulu
Turo and Hui Car are low-cost car rental alternatives. Turo is set up like Airbnb for cars. Input the dates you need online, the pickup and return location, then choose a daily rate of a car that fits your budget from a private individual, not a corporate rental agency. Prices are typically much lower than the traditional rental agencies–perfect for seeing Oahu on a budget.
Hui Car is a station-based car share program that lets you book a vehicle by the hour. Download the app to reserve a car, unlock it with the app, and return it to a station when you’re finished! Each reservation includes gas, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance!
Have The Best Vacation Ever While Seeing Oahu On A Budget!
There’s a reason Oahu is known as the Gathering Place–it’s stunning!
And you don’t need a ton of money to see it’s most beautiful parts.
Oahu is known as the Gathering Place with more than 4.5 million visitors annually! When you get to admire the views of this gorgeous island you’ll see why so many people visit.
During your vacation here, you don’t want to be completely focused on your budget, let us help you with that part.
Download the Shaka Guide Oahu App to help you make your trip as smooth as possible and take advantage of our blog for advice, our free walking tours, and our budget-friendly driving tours!