4 Ways to Enjoy Honolulu on a Budget

Sunset at Ala Moana Beach Park!

I’ve been in Hawaii (on the island of Oahu) for about a month now, and I wanted to share a quick video I made a few weeks ago as I was starting my morning here in Honolulu! This is a little of what my day looks like right now, from where I’m living to where I go to get work done.

While it’s relatively expensive to live here, I’ve learned a lot about how to enjoy this tropical paradise without spending a ton of money all the time. Some of the best ways to enjoy Honolulu on a budget are to secure affordable accommodations, fill up on cheap local eats, use low-cost transportation and enjoy inexpensive entertainment. Here is my short list of options for each!

1. Secure Affordable Accommodations


I’ve been staying at the YMCA, which offers convenient, safe lodging for budget travelers – best deal on the island as far as I’m concerned. It’s centrally located near Waikiki, the beach, trolleys and all the bus lines. The set-up is like a hostel, with private and double rooms, plus community bathrooms and showers.

1455956_754218117937490_801652418_n This is my room at the YMCA in Honolulu, right across from Ala Moana Shopping Center. Twin bed, desk, dresser, no frills. It’s not the Hilton, but the price is right at $255 per week which comes out to only $37 per night! Best of all, you get to use the YMCA’s pool and gym facilities, plus take unlimited fitness and wellness classes, all for FREE. I’ve been loving the morning yoga!

Another option for affordable lodging is the YWCA for women travelers to Honolulu at just $45 per night for the lowest-priced room. I haven’t actually stayed there yet, but I plan to visit soon!

2. Fill Up on Cheap Local Eats


Between housing and food, your expenses can really add up here! Since I live in a hostel environment, I don’t have a kitchen or even access to a refrigerator. We do, however, have a community microwave. I use that to prepare one of my usual breakfasts of oatmeal with almond butter and bananas or heat up rice and tuna for a quick dinner. For the meals I eat out, I shoot for a maximum of $10 per meal, which isn’t hard considering the local food culture here revolves heavily around rice and noodles! These are some of my favorites listed below.


 Portuguese sausage breakfast

Yummy Portuguese sausage breakfast at Atkinson Grill!

  • Traditional island breakfast with Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs and 2 scoops of rice at Atkinson Grill: $6
Shoyu ramen

Shoyu ramen with roast pork at Gomaichi!

  • Shoyu (soy sauce) or Tan tan ramen with roast pork at Goma Tei or Gomaichi: $10
  • Shoyu chicken mini-plate with rice and potato mac (macaroni salad with potatoes, a yummy island staple!) at Maui Kitchen: $6.25
Shoyu chicken

Shoyu chicken mini-plate from Maui Kitchen!

3. Use Low-Cost Transportation


In Honolulu, cabs are not really a sustainable way of getting around. You’re already paying $3.00 as soon as you get into the cab. A short trip a few miles down the road can run you about $10. Instead, consider these cheaper options for exploring the island.

  • Walk. Your feet are free! I walk several miles a day between the YMCA, park, beach, my office, and the different coffee shops, cafes and restaurants in Waikiki.
  • The Bus. You can ride for $2.50 each way and extend your trip with a transfer for a free trip back!
  • Waikiki Trolley (Pink Line). This trolley goes back and forth between Ala Moana Shopping Center and all the major points of attraction in Waikiki for just $2.00 each way.

4. Enjoy Inexpensive Entertainment

Waikiki Beach

A beautiful day at Waikiki Beach!

As you can imagine, there are a TON of touristy things to do here on Oahu. I love the luaus and island tours as much as the next person, but as a repeat traveler to Hawaii, I’ve seen many of the main attractions already. So I focus most of my time on free or low-cost ways to appreciate the amazing weather, culture and music here. These are a few of my top picks!


Roots Odyssey at Mai Tai Bar

Live reggae music from Roots Odyssey at Mai Tai Bar!

Everyone keeps asking me “isn’t Hawaii expensive?” The answer is YES, but there are also lots of options for budget travelers to be able to enjoy the island without going broke. Personally, I think the cost of living here is a small price to pay for a place where the weather is always amazing, the beaches are always beautiful and the people are always greeting you with a smile and an “aloha!”

Leave a comment: Have you been wanting to visit Hawaii but were intimidated by the cost? What are some ways you can reduce your expenses for a short or long-term trip to Honolulu?

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