Hawaii on a budget might seem impossible, but as bargain hunting Scots, we were determined to turn our dream into a reality and go backpacking in Hawaii. The hardest part, however, is finding cheap accommodation. It’s no secret these islands are renowned for beach resorts, and honeymoon villas so is it possible to find accommodation in Hawaii on a backpacking budget? If you are the sort of person who looks for fluffy bathrobes and a pillow menu, this post isn’t for you. Instead, we’re focusing on the bargains and the basics for those travelling Hawaii on a budget.
This guide covers not only the best places to stay in Hawaii that we experienced, but we share a few tips from other travel bloggers to give you even more variety and options depending on your budget (and travel style.) From camping to couch surfing, hostels in Hawaii to honeymoon havens – this guide shares suggestions across the main islands with costs and tips for each.
CHEAPEST ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS FOR TRAVELLING HAWAII ON A BUDGET
Hotels in Hawaii
We spent 5 weeks backpacking Hawaii and not only did we love every minute; we learnt a trick or two which can help save you some serious dollar. We found it surprising just how common hostels in Hawaii are however sometimes the absolute cheapest is not always the best option. For example, a hostel that is $5 more per night might include breakfast or airport shuttles. Some hostels in Hawaii offer surf lessons or free snorkel hire, and some even have free BBQ nights and island tours.
These little extras all add up, so weigh up what’s included for those extra few dollars as overall, it could save you in the long run. Also, If you are travelling as a couple, 2 dorm beds can still prove more expensive than a private double room, so check both options when looking for hostels in Hawaii.
When we visited the Big Island, we found Airbnb to be the cheapest for accommodation. Airbnb can be perfect for those travelling Hawaii on a budget as unlike hotel rooms; you will have access to kitchens to make your own food or also stay with locals who can recommend things to do away from the usual tourist traps.
We stayed in a “jungle hut” on the Big Island through Airbnb complete with outdoor shower, terrace and kitchen. If like us, you love finding quirky accommodation Airbnb is the perfect alternative to the usual budget hotels or hostels in Hawaii. Our Airbnb host on the big Island also taught us fire dancing and even offered to take us to see the lava on their boat. We shared beers, card games and memories we’ll never forget so always recommend giving it a little look if searching for budget accommodation in Hawaii.
Camping in Hawaii
It’s no secret we love camping. From camping in Australia to campervanning in New Zealand and even spending most our Summer at camping at music festivals in Scotland, it made sense we gave camping in Hawaii a try too.
To be honest, this is one of our favourite tips for those staying in Hawaii on a budget! Camping permits are incredibly cheap, and not only will you fall asleep under the most amazing stars you’ve ever seen, but you will wake up to the most incredible views also!
Unlike hostels in Hawaii, you’ll have no noisy neighbours sharing your sleeping space and you can still enjoy romantic evenings without the resort price tags. Bonus points there’s very few creepie crawlies and no snakes in Hawaii ready to take a nibble as you nap (take note, Australia.)
If you are travelling to Hawaii on a budget, this is a great alternative for accommodation. As we were travelling as a couple, we didn’t couch surfing a go, but it can be a great way for solo travellers to meet people and usually, get treated to a local tour guide happy to share their home and a few hidden gems.
Couch surfing is super popular in Hawaii with over 13000 hosts. It’s a great way to live like a local instead of being surrounded by other tourists. Always make sure to read reviews thoroughly and remember to have a backup plan just in case your host falls through or plans change.
We love, love, LOVE house sitting and again, it’s the perfect way to stay in paradise without the price tag. Our first taste of house sitting was in Australia as we didn’t fancy staying in a hostel over Christmas & New Year (because peak prices and peak homesickness) instead we gave housesitting a try and within days we were hooked! Essentially you receive free accommodation in exchange for looking after someone’s home and (sometimes) pets. We use Trusted Housesitters which was £89 for a year (yup, an entire year of accommodation for £89 – cheaper than one night in a hotel in Hawaii!
This is the main reason we were able to go backpacking in Hawaii. We used Workaway, which like couch surfing links you to local hosts where you can stay with them for free. Unlike couch surfing, however, you are expected to volunteer your time in exchange for a place to stay.
After using Workaway in Switzerland, Hawaii and Crete we cannot recommend it enough – not only have we saved so much money on accommodation, we have made friends for life, learnt new skills, dined like kings on local food and found hidden gems off the usual beaten track thanks to locals sharing their knowledge.
Best of all, like house sitting you pay a one-off fee for the year and then you have access to unlimited free accommodation across the world. We will add however, that competition is TOUGH for finding hosts in Hawaii, so make sure your Workaway profile is optimised for hosts to say yes and read our guide to Workaway for our best advice.
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
When backpacking Hawaii, we found that Oahu was the cheapest island – both for accommodation and because there were so many free things to do and cheap places to eat on Oahu. Although the majority of our time on Oahu was spent with our Workaway family, so we asked some travel bloggers for their best budget tips on Oahu accommodation.
Oahu is a hot tourist destination, so naturally, the accommodation costs can be pretty steep to go along with it. But if you are looking for hotel style accommodation on a budget, I have a couple of tips for saving a little money.
Firstly, stay away from the main tourist stretch of Waikiki and the big resort-style accommodations. It’s a short and pleasant stroll down to Waikiki, but significantly cheaper than the hotels along the beach.
Secondly, it’s always worth checking any prices quoted on booking sites against the price quoted by the hotel. In Hawaii, many hotels charge resort fees which get added to the cost of your room that could be between $10 and $40 a night which they don’t have to quote in your room rate. Some hotels will waive these fees as an incentive to book directly with them.
I stayed at the Coconut Waikiki along the canal. It was clean and comfortable with an included breakfast, close to a bus stop, ABC stores and about a 7 minute walk down to the tourist drag. It was also near some funky bars and restaurants that weren’t so busy. Check out Lewer’s Lounge for a great little cocktail jazz bar.
By Holly, Globeblogging
The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel
Firstly, The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel shouldn’t be confused with the Waikiki Beachside Hostel, which is located literally next door. I’ve stayed at both hostels, but I preferred the boutique option. It has a rooftop area that’s perfect for chilling, free breakfast and weekly events. The hostel organises tours every day of the week to places like Hanauma Bay, the North Shore and Pearl Harbor.
Dorm room prices begin at a very reasonable $36 per night. I stayed in a four-bed female dorm room, and it was fantastic – with an ensuite bathroom and a full-sized fridge. As for its location, the hostel is located two blocks from Kuhio Beach. This is at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki and thanks to its breakwater, Kuhio Beach is a great place to swim. I highly recommend staying here if you’re a fellow backpacker or looking for somewhere to stay when travelling solo in Hawaii.
By Hayley, Hayley on Holiday
Aqua Aloha Surf Hotel in Waikiki
Finding a decent budget hotel in Waikiki can be tough. However, the Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki is amazing for people travelling to Hawaii on a budget. For one thing, they offer free breakfast. That’s hard to find in Waikiki hotels. Plus, they have a pool area with cabanas and grills perfect for BBQing. And they have a fantastic coffee shop downstairs.
They offer useful amenities like WiFi, beach towels and chair rentals, laundry facilities, cold water in the lobby, Waikiki Shuttle Service to Ala Moana Shopping Center, etc. And each room has a mini-fridge and microwave, making it easy to prepare simple food in your room to save some extra cash. This boutique hotel is just steps away from Waikiki restaurants and shops and just 2 blocks from the iconic Waikiki Beach. Rooms start at just $132 for a room large enough for a family of two adults and two kids.
By Marcie, Hawaii Travel with Kids
Waikiki Beachside Hotel
If you are looking for other backpackers to party/hike/adventure with, this is THE place to stay. It is a sociable, affordable hostel just a block away from Waikiki beach – what more could you need when travelling Hawaii on a budget?
Not only does this hostel offer free entertainment in their courtyard but it regularly has offers such as 7th night free or discounts on studio bookings (perfect for groups!) We also loved the location not just for the Waikiki beach factor, but because it is just a 10-minute drive from one of our favourite hikes on Oahu, Diamond Head and just 6 minutes from one of the best places to eat in Oahu – Eggs n Things!
Dorm rooms are on average $40 per night, but this will vary depending on the time of year.
Hostelling International Waikiki
If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Waikiki, Hostelling International is the perfect solution! Not only is it just a 2-minute walk from the famous beach, dorm rooms start at just $33 (if you’re a member, $36 if not) They also offer private rooms for just $74 per night per couple (members) which is crazy considering the location.
Facilities include free wifi and a fully stocked kitchen as well as free boogie boards to attempt a wave or two in Waikiki.
Backpackers Vacation Inn & Hostel, North Shore Hawaii
One of the best places to stay on Oahu if you’re travelling Hawaii on a budget is the North Shore. To us, it also felt far more authentic than Honolulu and perfect for those looking to surf or snorkel. With so many things to do on North Shore that are backpacker budget-friendly, staying here is ideal as you avoid the crowds (and prices!) of Waikiki but will still gain a true taste of the Hawaiian way of life.
Backpackers Hawaii is ideal for those visiting Oahu on a budget thanks to a variety of room types to suit all travel styles. Their accommodation options include dorm beds, private beach studios, and even cabins pretty much on the beach. Their accommodation is also nearby of one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu – Waimea falls as well as just minutes from the beach.
To us, it’s one of the best hostels in Hawaii as not only do dorm beds start from just $30 per night; they even offer free snorkel gear, saving you extra dollar! As a tip, it is also only 6 minutes walk from one of our favourite places to eat on Oahu – Aji Limo food truck. An absolute must if you’re visiting the North Shore!
WHERE TO STAY ON MAUI ON A BUDGET
Wai’anapanapa State Park Cabins
Booking a few nights in a Wai’anapanapa State Park cabin just might be the highlight of your trip to Maui.
Located near the end of the Road to Hana (a must-do when visiting Maui), the cabins are within walking distance of the famous black sand beach. Not only is the location ideal, but the cabins are affordable at only $90 a night. Each cabin sleeps six people and is equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and three sets of bunk beds.
Staying in a cabin in Wai’anapanapa State Park will require some advance planning. Bookings can be made up to a year in advance and it’s best to try to book as early as possible. There are only twelve cabins and weekends and holidays book up fast.
Insider tip – Cabins five and six have ocean views from the deck.
By Diane, travelswitheli.com
Hosmer Grove Campground, Maui
Hosmer Grove Campground is a drive-up campground in Haleakala National Park. You can find the campground at your left, right after the park entrance. It’s located at an elevation of 7000 ft (2132 meters) in the cloud belt of Haleakalā, a massive volcano which forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Due to the elevation, it can be pretty chilly, especially at night.
It’s a first-come, first-serve campground and it can only accommodate 25 campers. The campground is a large grassy field, and you can just set up your tent anywhere. There are also a couple of picnic tables, running water, BBQ grills, pit toilets and garbage cans.
From the Hosmer Grove Campground, it’s only a 25-minute drive to the summit of Haleakalā, from where you can see the gorgeous sunrise (make sure to get a sunrise permit here).
The best thing about this campground? You can camp there for free – making it one of the best places to stay in Hawaii on a budget!
By Jacoba, Op reis met Co
Banana Bungalow Maui Hostel
Although slightly more expensive than other hostels in Hawaii, Banana Bungalow is perfect for backpackers as is provides a free airport shuttle and a weekly itinerary for visitors. If you are backpacking Hawaii, this is one of the best ways to see the island without paying a premium for car hire or a rip-off tour. Instead, the hostel organises day trips which are included in the price of your stay, including hiking Haleakala volcano mentioned above.
Due to the fun, party atmosphere and daily tours, it is one of the most popular hostels in Hawaii, so you will need to book in advance as it books up early. Dorm beds are around $50 per night and private rooms from $125 per night. As a tip, it is also cheapest to book with them directly.
The Northshore Hostel Maui
Located in Wailuku town, North Shore hostel also offers a free airport shuttle which is ideal for those visiting Hawaii on a budget. Again, there are many other freebies which will help backpackers save big bucks. These include a free pancake breakfast (who doesn’t like free pancakes!?) as well as beach shuttles, Lao Valley shuttle, free wifi and activities.
For those looking for a more relaxing time on Maui, this is the Hawaii hostel for you as it, not party central like Banana Bungalow. There are rules in place to ensure everyone gets a peaceful night sleep – perfect for a day of exploring!
Dorm bed $46 + private double room $94 including breakfast.
WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI
Honueaua International Hostel
Honueaua International Hostel is located in the arty town of Kapaa (on the eastern side of the island) and super close to the beach. It is a perfect hostel if staying in Hawaii on a budget as it’s exactly how you’d imagine hostels in Hawaii to be – family run with chilled Aloha vibes. If you’re looking for a party hostel, this wouldn’t be your first choice. However, with so many things to do in Kauai you will want to save all your energy for exploring the island!
The hostel also offers free boogie boards and snorkelling equipment which is perfect for the nearby Fuji Beach or 1.1 miles Waipouli Beach which is 1.1 miles from the hostel.
Due to the friendly atmosphere and laid back vibes, this hostel can book up well in advance, so book early to avoid disappointment. There are three ensuite dorm rooms, four semi-private rooms inside dorms, and two deluxe private rooms in the main house. Dorm beds are approx. $33 per person, private single rooms are $57, and private doubles are $74 (prices will vary depending on the time of year.)
Kauai Beach House Hostel
Kauai Beach House Hostel is also in Kapaa but literally on the beach. It is one of the best hostels in Hawaii thanks to its renowned sunrise views over the water. If a swim at the beach doesn’t take your fancy (as if) the hostel also has an outdoor pool open all year round for added #flashpacker vibes.
The staff will instantly make you feel at home, and again it’s more of a community hostel that party place so perfect for a relaxing few days.
There is a range of rooms available, many of which offer stunning views over the ocean. Dorm beds start at $38 per night with private rooms costing $103.
WHERE TO STAY ON THE BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
If you are looking for budget accommodation on the Big Island, there are two main towns – Hilo which is on the east coast and Kona on the west.
As a tip, Hilo is closer to the Volcanoes National Park, which is probably the reason you’re visiting the Big Island – to watch the lava!
Kona, on the other hand, is more beachy with slightly better weather and more popular with those snorkelling or scuba diving. However, we LOVED the coffee plantation tour we did near Kona as well as whale watching (both of which we enjoyed for free!), so it’s also a great place to stay if you’re visiting Hawaii on a budget.
We stayed in a jungle hut on a farm near Hilo, complete with free fire dancing lessons, outdoor shower and the friendliest Hawaiian hosts. It was an experience we’ll never forget and one that easily tops our quirky accommodation finds. Sadly, it’s no longer on Airbnb (although there are MANY other wee huts on the Big Island that look equally epic and for as little as $40 per night.)
Tropical Roundhouse Bed & Breakfast
Also available to book on Airbnb this bed and breakfast is situated in Pahoa, within 550 yards of Lava Tree State Monument and 5.6 miles of Lava Tree State Park.
It is nestled within 10 acres of picturesque jungle, which you can admire from the beautiful sun terrace that surrounds the property. It offers spacious, comfortable rooms ideal for those visiting Hawaii on a budget and ready to fall asleep to the sounds of nature. There is also continental and buffet breakfast available each morning, best enjoyed with views over the tropical garden.
It is $131 for a private, double room for 2 people complete with balcony, garden view and exceptional breakfast.
My Hawaii Hostel Hotel, Kailua-Kona
If searching for Insta-worthy hostels in Hawaii – this is THE perfect place. The fresh, modern feel screams millennial yet despite the boutique-like aesthetic the hostel is very reasonably priced at just $40 for a form bed and $80 per person for a private room. There is indoor & outdoor social areas as well as a communal kitchen. The hostel is also just minutes from the beach, with snorkel hire available (cheaper than from the beach!)
As a tip, the Kona trolley stops right outside and for $2 can take you into town. As a tip, if you go into Kona we highly recommend the “On the Rocks” bar – we stopped here for a beer and ended up watching whales jump right out of the water.
Hilo Bay Hostel
If you’d rather be in town and less secluded, Hilo Bay Hostel is a fab hostel in Hawaii. Expect typical Hawaiian décor and hospitality, complete with onsite restaurant and huge common area perfect for socialising. There is also a shared kitchen, perfect for saving extra pennies as well as free coffee and tea.
There are many nearby attractions such as the East Hawaii Cultural Center (around 100 yards) and The Pacific Tsunami Museum (200 yards), and the beautiful Rainbow Falls are just a 5-minute drive.
Dorm beds are $30.00 with standard private rooms costing $79 (For 2 people) and deluxe private rooms (with private bathrooms) starting at $89.
MONEY SAVING TIPS FOR BUDGET ACCOMMODATION HAWAII
- Bonus points for kitchens: Although we LOVED the food in Hawaii we did try and search for accommodation with at least a fridge or microwave so we could prepare picnics, store beers etc. to save money.
- Find the freebies: As mentioned, don’t judge the hostels in Hawaii purely on the price per night – compare what’s included. Are there BBQ nights? Entertainment? Airport shuttles? Or in our case, free fire dancing lessons. When travelling Hawaii on a budget things like free snorkel or surfboard hire and the occasional free meal will save you some serious dollar.
- Make friends – split the cost. Sometimes with single occupancy hotels will bump up the price. For family rooms or studio apartments, it can often work out cheaper per person to book as a group, so don’t limit your search to just dorm rooms.
- Think of transport links – there is nothing worse than finding super cheap accommodation then realising it’s gonna take 2 taxis and a bus to get there. Incorporate your transport costs and parking fees into your accommodation search. Are airport shuttles included? Is parking free on-site? Is there bus stops nearby? Miles = money!
- Timing is key – If visiting Hawaii on a budget, you’ll notice accommodation is cheaper from September to mid-December. However, also note hurricane season occurs from June to November – so weigh up the pros and cons. Most free things to do in Hawaii aren’t so fun in heavy rainfall (hiking in a Hurricane anyone?), so although you’re saving money on accommodation by booking outwith peak times, you may end up spending more on activities. As a tip, we travelled in January to February, which proved cheaper but also peak whale watching season which was an epic experience.
- Golden Week – If searching for cheap accommodation in Hawaii, avoid the last week of April and the first week of May. This is known as “Golden Week” where thousands of tourists travel to Hawaii from Japan, so accommodation is not only scarce but expensive.