You are currently viewing Backpacking Hawaii: The Only Guide You Need
Man In Painted Church In Hawaii

Backpacking Hawaii: The Only Guide You Need

Despite our travels round the world, there’s two words that continuously shock people most – backpacking Hawaii. Surely, it’s reserved for the rich? A haven for the honeymooners? In some parts yes, but we were determined to tick Hawaii off our backpacking bucket list and now that we have, we’re sharing the secrets on how we did it. Not only will this guide cover a full cost breakdown for backpacking in Hawaii, but even how we spent a month on Oahu without spending a penny on accommodation!

From the best hikes to the must see beaches, there are so many free things to do in Hawaii that backpacking is much more affordable than you’d initially think and this guide will share both the highlights and hidden gems. Backpacking Hawaii on a budget is not only doable but we had the most unforgettable time and didn’t feel like our modest budget held us back, here’s our secrets.

Statues Overlooking The Ocean In Hawaii


Choose your Island

If like us, you had no idea that Hawaii is made up of more than 100 islands your first task is choosing which island to visit. There are eight main islands although only six are open to visitors –  one is privately owned and one access is prohibited.

Before backpacking Hawaii you need to ask yourself these questions:

  • How much is your budget?
  • How much time do you have?
  • What do you want to do whilst you’re there?

All are magic in their own way, so we’ve provided a very brief roundup before your backpacking Hawaii adventure begins.

Girl Walking Between Palm Trees Onto Island In Hawaii


The second largest island. Due to its mountain ranges and valleys, it is often referred to as the Valley Isle. Maui is the second most popular Hawaiian Island with tourists however, as it is nicknamed “playground of the wealthy,” it is not the most popular if you’re planning on backpacking Hawaii as budget accommodation can be hard to find!


Also known as “Garden Island” Kauai’s tropical climate means the island is covered in waterfalls and lush vegetation. Kauai is not only the fourth largest of the islands but the fourth most visited also. If beaches are the reason you’re backpacking Hawaii, Kauai has more coastline with beaches than any other Hawaiian island. The best part? As there are so many beaches (and far less visitors) it’s likely your footprints will be the only ones there!

Hawaii / The Big Island

The island of “Hawaii” is more commonly known as The Big Island. Although the largest island, it is the third most popular choice for visitors and is the best island if you want to see lava. When we were backpacking in Hawaii, we found everything to do in Big Island is either very cheap, or free – perfect for those on a budget!

Couple Standing On Igneous Rock In Hawaii


Molokai is the fifth largest Hawaiian island. The population is approximately 8,000 residents with the majority based in or around the main town, Kaunakakai. Nearly 40% of Molokai’s residents are of Hawaiian descent, earning it’s nickname as “The Most Hawaiian Island”. It is home to the world’s highest sea cliffs and the stunning Kalaupapa Peninsula. If you’re looking for tours and resorts, Molokai is not the place. With only 1 hotel on the island (plus a few condos as holiday rentals) and only a handful of alcohol licenses, expect a slow and cultural experience of “the old Hawaii” not catered to tourism.


Believe it or not, nearly the entire island of Lanai was once covered by a pineapple plantation, earning it’s nickname as “The Pineapple Island”. Although most of the island is still undeveloped, several resorts and golf courses are now open to tourists, making it the fifth most visited Hawaiian Island.


As it’s the seventh largest island, we’ve included it in our wee round up, however it’s impossible when backpacking Hawaii to visit Niihau as it is privately owned.


As the smallest of the eight main Hawaiian islands, Kahoolawe is only 45 square miles! Again, you will be unable to visit when backpacking Hawaii as the island is uninhabited and as it was once used by military for target practice, access is prohibited because unexploded artillery shells are still present on the island.


Finally, home to Honolulu, as well as Pearl Harbor and the world famous Waikiki beach, it’s no surprise if this is the only Hawaiian island you’ve heard of. With nearly 4.7 million visitors visiting Oahu each year, it is the most visited of all the Hawaiian islands. Due to its popularity, there is accommodation on Oahu to suit all budgets as well as numerous free activities, making it the ideal island if you’re planning on backpacking Hawaii. If looking for hostels in Hawaii, Oahu is home to the majority – again, making it one of the best islands for backpackers.

View Of Buildings And Beach In Honolulu

What is the cheapest Hawaiian Island?

In an ideal world we’d all have the time and money to visit every island however if backpacking Hawaii on a budget we recommend Oahu and The Big Island. If searching for the cheapest Hawaiian island, this post compares the cost of them all, with the Big Island and Oahu proving most popular.

In this backpacking Hawaii guide, we will share a few hidden gems including the best free activities and money saving tips so you can stick to a budget on these paradise islands. We also put together the best budget accommodation in Hawaii with suggestions for each island, as accommodation will likely be your biggest expense. We guarantee with these tips your time backpacking Hawaii will be incredible, without breaking the bank!

Open Road With Palm Trees Either Side While Backpacking Hawaii


Organise Visas

Like Mainland US, you do not need a Visa for Hawaii for up to 90 days, if the intention of your trip is solely sightseeing, transit or in this case backpacking. For backpacking Hawaii, you will likely be required to purchase an ESTA through the Visa Waiver Program.

As you are visiting Hawaii on a budget, you will be glad to hear an ESTA is relatively cheap and costs $14 (about £9) and generally is valid for multiple trips over a period of two years. Like all trips, check if you require a Visa as everyone’s passport follows different rules.


Work Out Your Budget

Firstly, read our post on how anyone can afford to travel the world to learn a few bonus tips to save for your backpacking Hawaii trip. Secondly, prior to backpacking Hawaii, Daz the excel enthusiast created “the spreadsheet of doom” a budget planner which helped us track our savings prior to our travels and track expenditure whilst we were away, this can be downloaded for free from our resources page.

We detail below EXACTLY how much a month backpacking in Hawaii cost and also our top money saving tips including how to stay for free!

Overlooking The Sea In Oahu While Backpacking Hawaii


Fun fact, backpacking Hawaii for FREE is possible. Well, sort of. Although you will still need to pay flights, the most expensive thing about backpacking Hawaii is accommodation and this is how to stay (and play) in Hawaii for free.


When backpacking Hawaii, 4 weeks were spent on Oahu where we didn’t spend a single penny on accommodation thanks to Workaway. In exchange for practising English and a few household chores we dined like kings and stayed a stone’s throw from Honolulu for free.

Our lovely host family also gave us a car to explore the island and took us to the best places to eat in Oahu which only the locals know about! Sound like a good deal? Not only did we create a full Workaway review with absolutely everything you need to know so you can join too, we also let you in on a few secrets as to how to get your dream host to say yes.

Workaway is super popular in Hawaii, so competition for hosts is high – but we can help! To ensure you stand out in your application email read our Workaway tips and also, watch our YouTube video where we interviewed our Workaway host in Hawaii about why he chose us and what makes profiles stand out.


Are you ready for a cultural exchange by working and staying in 170 countries around the world?

Sign Up Now
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.


We so wished we discovered this prior to backpacking Hawaii. The idea is simple – you care for the home and pets of a holidaying family, and in exchange you stay in their home for free. There are many US families who have holiday homes on Hawaii, so there are many homes looking for sitters (like you!)

During our travels in Australia, we spent Christmas in a beautiful home with a private pool for free thanks to joining Trusted Housesitters. For the small fee of £89.00 per year (which is basically one night’s accommodation) you have one year of unlimited access to beautiful homes all over the world. Better yet, with our referral code you’ll get a cheeky discount!

If you are new to housesitting it can be difficult to get your first stay without reviews. As a tip, we used our reviews from Workaway, Airbnb and also gave character references to our first hosts to show we were responsible applicants who can run a home. 

25% Trusted Housesitters Discount

Get 25% off your Trusted Housesitters yearly membership

Join Now
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.


We’ve yet to try couch surfing as we’ve had the best time using options 1 and 2 above, however it is hugely popular with people backpacking in Hawaii. The site lists nearly 13,000 hosts in the state of Hawaii alone! It is the perfect balance between the two options mentioned above – you aren’t expected to volunteer your time like Workaway, but the house isn’t empty like Trusted Housesitters.

Essentially, it’s a bed to sleep in for free, although we have heard rave reviews about fabulous hosts who also play tour guide during your stay, or teach you how to make local food. Staying with a local will always be more educational than an expensive resort and it also beats being in a hostel where you are surrounded by other backpackers rather than locals.

Couple In Hawaii Wearing Leis


We’re not the type of people to sugar coat the truth – paradise comes at a price. Although a Hawaii backpacking trip is definitely doable, do not expect it to be as cheap as backpacking Europe. Hopefully you’ve learned a few tips on free and budget accommodation in Hawaii which can save a huge chunk of your budget.

The time of year also plays a major factor and by us backpacking Hawaii in January this was peak season so flight costs were high. We recommend reading this post, which has numerous strategies for finding the cheapest flights to Hawaii specifically.

As a rough guide backpacking Hawaii costs are as follows:

Hostels In Hawaii: £30.00 – £50.00 (for a dorm bed)
Airbnb Room: £40.00 – £75.00+
Car Rental Per Day: £20.00 – £40.00+
Food Truck Lunch: £7.00 – £12.00
Coffee From A Cafe: £2.50 – £3.50
Beer At The Bar: £5.00 – £6.00+

Colourful Painted Van Next To Palm Trees In Hawaii

Backpacking Big Island Cost: 2 People, 6 Days

Transport Cost (Approx. £300)

On the big island we hired a car through Thrifty, the car hire including insurance was approx. £200.00 for the 6 days. We also spent around £100.00 on fuel during our time on the Big Islands (this was roughly 3 full tanks).

Compare Car Hire

Compare car hire prices at Skyscanner

Compare Now
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Accommodation Cost (Approx. £276)

We booked our accommodation through Airbnb for the Big Island as it proved the cheapest. It’s no secret we love quirky accommodation, and we stayed in one of the most unique places during our time backpacking Hawaii –  a jungle hut outside of Hilo.

It was ideal for visiting Hawaii on a budget as it had cooking facilities to make our own food (which was the intention, but we ate out as the food was too good). Due to the time of year, this accommodation was considered “cheap” for the Big Island.

However, it was one of the most unique experiences that we have ever had as the hosts taught us fire dancing, introduced us to traditional ahi poke, played poker with us in the evenings and shared their culture which provided priceless memories that a typical resort would not.

Food, Drinks & Activities (Approx. £270)

Most of our activities on the Big Island were free, our highest expenditure was eating out, due to having just arrived from the UK our jet lag meant we were awake at 5am, and asleep by 8pm which resulted in eating out almost every meal.

Backpacking Oahu Cost: 2 People, 27 Days

Transport Cost (£40)

Our Workaway host was kind enough to give us a car to use during our time on Oahu, so the only transportation costs we had were for fuel which was super affordable (compared to UK costs of fuel.)

Accommodation Cost (FREE)

This was the main reason we were able to go backpacking in Hawaii – our accommodation on Oahu was FREE due to Workaway. You can read our full Workaway review to decide if its for you but understanding Workaway may not be for everyone, we have put together a guide of hostels in Hawaii giving you ideas for the best budget accommodation across all islands.

Food, Drinks & Activities (£700)

We were provided with 3 meals a day by our Workaway host however, we did eat out at some amazingly cheap places which were hidden gems, thanks to our hosts suggestions. Although a few are pricey, many places to eat in Oahu are affordable on a backpacking budget.

The most expensive activity that we did whilst backpacking Hawaii was the Polynesian Cultural Center which was approx. £110.00 for both of us, but it was a definite highlight from our time on the North Shore. We did splurge a little on food, drinks and activities because we were saving on accommodation, however this still only came to £350 each for 27 days on this epic island which shows Hawaii on a budget is possible!

Colourful Street Art Saying Aloha In Hawaii


1. Transport

On Oahu, download “Da Bus” app for real-time information about where the nearest bus is and you can even take a virtual tour to understand what you’ll see on route. It’s the most cost effective to buy a one-day pass for $5.50 to hop on and off at your leisure. Uber also is in use, so use our money off voucher to save extra pennies!

2. Refillable Water Bottle

This should be common sense by now, but bottled water is expensive and ruins our beautiful planet. There are so many ways to be a responsible traveller that are particularly important when backpacking in Hawaii. The easiest is ofcourse to take your bottle with you as it’s so easy to fill up and it’s free!

Girl Looking Up Towards The Trees In The Rainforest Wearing Osprey Farpoint 70 Backpack

3. Timeshares

If backpacking Hawaii, these are the perfect way to save money! As explaiend in this timeshare guide, if you can spare an hour or two to listen to the most boring presentation of your life you will score a free (or heavily discounted) activity or gift voucher as a thank you.

Just show some fake interest but don’t actually commit to buying anything. There are SO MANY as you walk through Honolulu, particularly nearby the larger hotel chains such as the Hilton. Just look for anyone smartly dressed holding a leaflet, chances are they’re selling a timeshare!

4. Utilise Airbnb

An Airbnb host is often the perfect money saving way to get your own tour guide. On the Big Island, not only did ours teach us fire dancing, but they gave us our first taste of traditional Ahi (Tuna) and offered to take us out on their boat to see the lava. We’ve found Airbnb hosts are also fantastic resources for things to do, hidden gems and local places to eat away from the usual crowds.

Thanks to the kind locals, we saved big bucks on these activities when backpacking in Hawaii. Accommodation on Airbnb is often far cheaper than most hostels in Hawaii not to mention the advantage of cooking facilities so you’ll save money on eating out.

5. Pick Up Leaflets At The Airport

If you are backpacking Hawaii, this is an amazing tip as we were able to do a free coffee plantation tour thanks to a coupon found in a leaflet from the airport. In some larger tourist guide magazines, the back pages are filled with vouchers and discount coupons so definitely grab a few as you wait for luggage. Even a free takeaway coffee, or 10% off voucher will help kyou save money when travelling Hawaii on a budget.

6. How to Find Discounted Tours

Discount sites will become your new best friend if visiting Hawaii on a budget with Get your Guide & Groupon being our favourites. Although we recommend many free activities there are some unmissable tours such as Polynesian Cultural Center or North Shore Tours which are so worth the money and we really recommend when backpacking Hawaii.

Girl Playing With Two Children In Hawaii

7. Travel Off Season

This is common sense, but when backpacking Hawaii you will soon realise it’s the vacay destination for American families which is not only reflected by the busy beaches and traffic but air fares and accommodation costs. May and September are ideal months for visiting Hawaii on a budget, they’re perfect for the best weather, least crowds, and lowest costs.

8. Eat Like a Local

Before we went backpacking Hawaii we didn’t realise just how commercialised the islands would be – there are Starbucks, Walmarts and McDonalds just like mainland US. (You can read about our first and nearly last ever McDonalds experience in Hawaii here)

However, not only is it better culturally to eat in local places, but also on your wallet! Thanks to our Workaway hosts who showed us the best cheap eats, we put together a detailed guide on the best places to eat on Oahu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even sweet treats!

We particularly recommend buffet dining as there are so many places that offer this in Hawaii. A one off fee + eat as much as you like = a backpacker’s dream!

2 plates of food with rice and meat

9. Avoid the Beaten Track

This is probably an obvious tip, but one which many people forget when backpacking in Hawaii. If you stick to places such as Waikiki you will pay a premium for food, drink and activities. For example, surf board hire or snorkel hire will be much cheaper on the more remote North Shore beaches than Waikiki.

Dinner and drinks will have a higher service charge in Honolulu compared to the beach bars further along the coast. If you explore the more unique things to do on Oahu, instead of the tourist traps you will have a more authentic experience whilst saving money!

10. Go Camping

Camping on Bellows Field Beach Park was a favourite memory from our time backpacking Hawaii. In Oahu, a 3 day camping permit (Friday to Monday) is only $32 which is incredible value for money to fall asleep listening to the ocean and wake up to the best sunrise.

Don’t forget your camping essentials and book your camping here. As an extra money saving tip, we also have a guide to the best camping recipes so you can cook big meals for your group and save money on dining out!

Sitting Round A Campfire In Hawaii


Now we have the finances out the way, let’s get into the fun stuff. Getting to Hawaii is the expensive part but once you’re there, it’s surprising just how many free activities there are! When backpacking Hawaii we were able to dine like locals, tick lava off our bucket list and see some of the best views all without splashing the cash. In Oahu we did have the advantage of living with locals who showed us a few hidden gems which we’ll share with you too. On the Big Island our Airbnb host was an unexpected hero teaching us fire dancing until the early hours of the morning!

Watch Our Highlights From Backpacking Oahu Below

Go Hiking

If you want the best views of Oahu without spending a penny, then you will LOVE these hikes on Oahu. Hands down, the best hikes we have ever done (although hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing would be a close contender). The best part is, there are hikes on Oahu suitable for all abilities. If you are beginners (like us) or you only want to drag yourself away from the beach for an hour or two, Oahu has the perfect hike for everyone – totally free!

Girl Standing On Lanikai Pillbox In Hawaii

Visit the North Shore

Escape the expensive resorts and over prices restaurants of Honolulu, and head to the North Shore for a true taste of Hawaiian culture. When backpacking Hawaii, the North Shore had so much to see and do without spending a penny. Luckily for you, we created a round up of the best things to do in North Shore Oahu, with free highlights including the arty town of Haleiwa and the dole pineapple plantation (which is free to enter, you just need to buy the famous dole whip!)

Free Activities in Waikiki

Imagine backpacking Hawaii and getting to learn ukulele, hula dance and weave a lei all FOR FREE. The Royal Hawaiian Center has a jam packed schedule of free workshops, events and entertainment to encourage visitors and locals to embrace the authentic Hawaiian culture and traditions. Find the class for you, from their busy events schedule here.

Kaka’ako – Downtown Honolulu Street Art

No Oahu itinerary would be complete without a morning spent here. Kaka’ako is north-west district of Waikiki and home to some of the best street art we have ever seen, even after living in Melbourne for 6 months! Thanks to the graffiti gurus at Pow! Wow! Hawaii, an organisation that promotes street art and artists, this otherwise sleepy industrial area full of mechanic garages, warehouses and factories has been transformed into the most colourful outdoor gallery with few walls left untouched. Such a fab find when backpacking Hawaii as it’s too easy to spend a whole morning here, discovering art around every corner!

Colourful Street Art Flowers In Hawaii

Sunset Cinema on The Beach

What better way to spend an evening on Waikiki Beach that in front of a huge 30-foot screen watching one of your favourite movies? Approximately once a month, sunset on the beach hosts an outdoor cinema so you can do just that – completely free! Who said backpacking Hawaii was expensive?! View the schedule here.

Statue of Duke Kahanamoku

Standing right on Kuhio Beach (a part of Waikiki Beach) is the statue of surf legend Duke Kahanamoku. The statue is a popular photo opportunity with tourists, but four nights each week around sunset, a traditional torch lighting ceremony takes place by the statue. This is then followed by a free one hour hula show with talented entertainers so it’s definitely worth a look!

Statue Of Duke Kahanamoku Holding Leis In Waikiki

Fireworks at The Hilton

This was one of our favourite evenings from backpacking Hawaii. Each Friday, the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free firework show on Waikiki Beach. With the fireworks show starting at 7:45pm (or sometimes 8pm depending on the season) we took a BBQ and some deck chairs and made it a full evening affair. It does get crowded so arrive early to secure your space and that way you can also watch the beautiful sunset beforehand!

The fireworks take place near Duke’s lagoon – which is another free thing to do when you’re backpacking in Hawaii. It is a man-made, 5 acre salt water lagoon suitable for swimming and paddle boarding that’s completely free to enter.

Pearl Harbor

A Pearl Harbor visit must be done when in Oahu to not only learn about the devastating events of December 7th 1941 but to experience a day that changed the course of history and forced the US into World War II. Each morning 1,300 free tickets are released, so arrive for doors opening at 7.00am to ensure your Pearl Harbor visit.

From the visitor centre, you pick up your tickets and watch a film on the historic events of Pearl Harbor before taking a shuttle boat to the floating memorial shrine, which has been built on top of the sunken Arizona. It is a once in a lifetime experience and one which we feel anyone backpacking Oahu will appreciate.

United States Flag Over The Water

Byodo-In Temple

Ok, slight lie, this one is NOT free but it was only $5.00 per person and so worth the money. The Byodo-In Temple is such a beautiful and peaceful place to visit during your time backpacking Oahu. It is a non-practicing Buddhist temple which welcomes people of all faiths to enjoy it’s beauty and peaceful surroundings.

It is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park and is a small scale replica of the Japanese Byodo-in Temple which is over 500 years old! It was built in the late 60s to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii however has been used as a film set in recent years with episodes of Hawaii Five-O and Lost being filmed there.

Red Japanese Style Byodo In Temple In Hawaii


From our time backpacking Hawaii, the Big Island was everything we hoped and dreamed. It was like witnessing worlds colliding with the luscious rainforest, fiery lava and mesmerising ocean all in one place. The landscape of the Big Island is mind blowing and best of all, exploring the island’s natural beauty is completely free – you just need to know where to go!

Backpacking Hawaii – Watch Our Big Island Road Trip

How to See Lava on The Big Island – For FREE

One of the main reasons we wanted to go backpacking Hawaii was to see lava. Since the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in August 2018 both the landscape and local people were left devasted after 13.7 square miles of land was covered in lava, destroying over 700 homes and covering over 30 miles of road.

We drove along Crater Rim Road and Chain of Craters Road, before parking up (for free) and then you have an option for hiring a bike to do the 10km trek, a shuttle bus or walking (which is obviously the free option)!

You leave around dusk, as it’s easy to spot the glow of the lava and then you can enjoy the most incredible stargazing as you return once the sun has set. From all the countries we have visited, stargazing here was hands down a highlight of our time backpacking Hawaii – to be honest, we found the stars even more incredible than the lava!

Due to the recent eruptions, the access routes we used during our trip may no longer be in use so do your research prior to establish where and how you can see lava on the big island. Do not let the eruption deter you from backpacking Hawaii as the island relies on tourism and even if the lava is not currently flowing the landscape is otherworldly regardless!

The Painted Church, Captain Cook

The Painted Church is officially called St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church and is situated in the South Kona district near Captain Cook. To be honest, when backpacking Hawaii we have no idea how we stumbled upon this stunning hidden gem but it is so worth visiting.

The interiors are adorned in colourful paintings and depictions of the bible, painted by a priest Father John. These paintings were used to teach the Bible as many people could not read or write. Like most churches, it is completely open and free to enter.

Man In Painted Church In Hawaii

Watch The Snow & Stars at Mauna Kea

When backpacking Hawaii one of the best free activities is stargazing. We were mind blown by the amazing array of stars due to the little light pollution and stunning open spaces. When visiting the Big Island one of the best viewing points for both the stars AND snow (yes, snow in Hawaii) is Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is in fact a dormant volcano, and at 13,800 feet above the Pacific Ocean, not only is it the highest point in Hawaii (hence the occasional snow) but technically Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world. This is because if you measured it from the base under the ocean, Mauna Kea would be 33,000 feet which is even taller than Mount Everest!

We drove from the Mauna Kea Access Road up to the visitor centre, which is around 9,200 feet above sea level. We did the drive around sunset which was one of the most beautiful drives, but it was so busy we struggled for a space, so arrive as early as you can.

It is worth waiting around as the stargazing here is a once in a lifetime opportunity – even better it’s completely free! It can get chilly so we recommend taking a jumper and trainers instead of flip flops as your toes will get cold! As a little tip, the visitor centre sold overpriced pot noodles and hot chocolate as free hot water is provided, so if you take your own tea bags, noodle pots etc you can keep warm whilst you stargaze without getting ripped off.

Due to our rental car, there was rules on how far up Mauna Kea we could drive. To be honest, this didn’t affect our view of the night sky as we could see it regardless of the fact we weren’t at the summit. Keep this in mind during your backpacking Hawaii adventures if you have plans to tick the highest point in Hawaii off your bucket list as your hire company may not let you.

Sunsetting Over Mauna Kea In Hawaii

Go Chasing Waterfalls

Another (free!) highlight of the Big Island is the beautiful waterfalls dotted around the island. There are two which you must squeeze into your backpacking Hawaii schedule as they will take your breathe away!

Rainbow falls

The Rainbow Falls are an 80 ft. waterfall in the Wailuku river in Hilo. As the name suggests if you time it well, you can view a rainbow formation over the falls. The best time is early morning as you’ll see the rainbow and also beat the other sleepy holiday makers.

Akaka falls

Involves a short, easy but very scenic hike taking around 1 hour. Firstly you will arrive at Kahuna falls which plummet 100 feet, follow round the bend to Akaka falls which are an impressive 442 feet! When backpacking Hawaii, these cannot be missed!

Hilo Farmers Markets

The town of Hilo itself is fun to explore and wander the colourful streets. We loved the quaint shops, authentic architecture and vibrant street art. When backpacking Hawaii, try and time your visit to Hilo to coincide with the farmers markets (find the schedule here).

We were stunned at how big the avocados were here and haven’t found bigger since! Not to mention if you do buy anything, their produce is far cheaper than supermarket chains and you’ll be supporting locals.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo

After wandering round Hilo, there is Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo nearby – the only natural rainforest zoo in the United States. The luscious plant life is just as interesting as the animals, with so much to see and learn. It was the first time we’d seen peacocks in the wild as there were several roaming the car park here, which Lauren found particularly fascinating! It is free to enter (although we gave a donation and encourage you to do so) and it is open 9-4pm every day. More info here.

Coffee, Chocolate & Macadamia Plantation Tour

Fun fact, Hawaii is the only US state where cacao is grown and there are numerous coffee, macadamia and cacao plantations which offer free tours! The best part about free tours? Free samples! We did the Mountain Thunder Coffee Tour and loved it.

We found it in a leaflet we picked up from the airport as mentioned earlier, so definitely keep an eye on those back pages of tourist magazines for coupons like this! The tour lasted around 30 minutes and then there were free tasters of both coffee and tea as well as the tastiest chocolate covered coffee beans. More info on Mountain Thunder.

Coffee Beans At Mountain Thunder In Hawaii

Panalu’u (Black Sand) Beach

Panalu’u beach beach is unforgettable for two reasons: black sand and turtles. It was the first time we had ever seen both and it was such a memorable experience, we beg you to add this beautiful beach to your backpacking Hawaii bucket list. It is also possible to camp and snorkel here. Please be careful near the turtles, there are laws in place in Hawaii regarding how close you can get with hefty fines in place.


Hopefully after reading this you are ready to go backpacking in Hawaii. Don’t forget to read our tips on how anyone can afford to travel the world, download our budget tracker, get your Workaway profile set up and take note of a free activity (or 10) you’d love to do!

Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions for those visiting Hawaii on a budget – we’d love to add more to this Hawaii backpacking guide (and have an excuse to return!)

Pinterest Pin - Backpacking Hawaii - Man In The Painted Church
Pinterest Pin - Backpacking Hawaii - Surfer Statue Holding Leis
Pinterest Pin - Backpacking Hawaii - Surf Boards Lined Up Against Wall


When Darren the WordPress wizard & excel enthusiast met Lauren the storyteller and wannabe wanderluster, a grand adventure was bound to happen. Through Faramagan they document their tales (and fails) with a refreshing and unfiltered approach. By avoiding adulthood one adventure at a time, they hope to inspire others to do the same.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Emma

    Oh this is so useful! I’ve been wanting to head there to backpack but was worried it would just be all couples!

    1. faramagan

      You will have the best time – so much more to do for those on a budget than people realise!

  2. madhu sharma

    Wow this is awesome.Hawaii is in my bucket list and I m planning to visit this year.thanks for sharing this

  3. Emma

    So many fun things to do in Hawaii. That painted church looks beautiful. I thought Hawaii would be really expensive but if you look carefully you can make it a cheaper trip

    1. faramagan

      Exactly why we wrote this guide – we thought the same, but Hawaii on a budget is possible!

  4. Kiana

    Ahhh… where I grew up. Thanks for sharing about backpacking there. It was fun looking at pictures from home and reading about your experience there 🙂

    1. faramagan

      What a wonderful place to grow up! We loved every minute – it’s an incredible place.

Leave a Reply