Aug 16

How to Vacation on the Cheap in Oahu

I know I keep teasing you with mentions of Hawai’i, but my in-depth Hawai’i posts are starting up on my next Travel Tuesday (two weeks from now)–to be continued until I finish writing about everything I did there! Til then, here’s another teaser post. :]

Before I get to the meat of this post, this whole “vacationing on the cheap” thing heavily depends on a couple factors.

  1. You need to be okay with walking a lot.
  2. Embrace the use of public transportation. Having a smartphone with Google maps will help a lot.
  3. Plan beforehand.

I’ve walked and used public transportation for pretty much the first 24 years (minus the year I was 23) of my life and I have a wealth of experience with planning out my life (aka stuffing in a billion activities into a single day for months/years on end–hello, college), so this wasn’t much of an issue.

vacation on the cheap oahu

This packing list is by no means complete, but they were things that I dragged along with me on my travels that proved to be rather helpful!

  • Clothes
  • Plastic bags + ziploc bags
  • Phone + waterproof case
  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Portable charger
  • Cash + coins (buses take exact change)
  • Flip flops/Sandals
  • Swimsuit(s)
  • Hat
  • Bag
  • Combination lock


Although I was originally going to take up Relson Gracie’s offer to chill at his house(?!?), our schedules didn’t end up lining up (noooo!), so I found a place (basically half a room in an apartment) on Airbnb for ~$29/night. Not bad for being in the heart of Waikiki and within walking distance to a whole ton of different things, huh? :O


If you really want to go all-out on the frugal vacationing (I allowed for food splurges because poke bowls and acai bowls are my epitome of happiness in life), most Airbnb places will probably have a kitchen, so you can buy groceries and cook food for yourself! I went with a middle-ground and would sometimes buy discounted food from the grocery store to eat that day.


Hiking tends to be a pretty inexpensive (if not free) activity, and there are so, so many places to explore in Honolulu. I had about 30 different hikes on my list and obviously couldn’t get to every single one (one can dream, right?!). Someday…


View from the top of the Diamond Head Summit Trail!


If you love being by the ocean (one would hope you did since you’re going to Hawa’i?), there are a billion beaches in Hawai’i. Most of them are free unless you’re driving and need to pay for parking!


Sherwood Beach! <3

Groupon/Living Social deals

Every now and then, I scout these for good deals if I know there’s something that I want to do somewhere and don’t really feel like paying full price for it. I managed to snag a pretty awesome deal for snorkeling at Hanauma Bay!


Royal Hawaiian Center

The Royal Hawaiian Center (located on 2201 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815) offers free classes from Monday to Friday, and live entertainment from Tuesday to Saturday. Lessons include…

  • Hula
  • Lomilomi Hawaiian Massage
  • Hawaiian Storytelling
  • Lei-Making Class (classes limited to 1st 25 people)
  • Hawaiian Quilting (quilting kits provided for ~$30)
  • Ukulele (limited to 25 people; you can retrieve a number from the Helumoa Hale Guest Services staff starting at 10am to secure a spot!)
  • Lauhala Weaving

The free entertainment includes a Polynesian Cultural Center Show, Rock-A-Hula (Mini Promotional Show), Hawaiian Entertainment (includes Hawaiian music + hula ‘auana), and hula kahiko!

I managed to get in on the Lomilomi Hawaiian Massage class and the ukulele class, but the lei-making class filled up way too quickly, so none of that for me. :[


I’ve been a Yelp Elite (heh) since 2009, and it’s my go-to whenever I visit a new place since I plan all my travels around food! You can often find some great deals there by checking in or mentioning it…or you can filter your searches with the single dollar sign for cheap eats and outings!


I got 15% off an awesome SUP lesson with free beach rentals in Kailua with Yelp!

  • Have you ever been to Hawai’i? What would you do there?
  • What are your tips for frugal travels?

Check out my other Travel Tuesday posts!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fairyburger.com/vacation-cheap-oahu/


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  1. Rachel G

    When we went to Oahu two years ago it was a major budget trip–as in, it was a crazy idea we had to make a long layover in Oahu while we were on our way, moving to China from the USA. SOOO worth it, since the flight was practically free that way (we had to buy tickets to China anyways…and the cost of splitting up the tickets was negligible). We also did Airbnb, although ours was $75 a night–a tiny private guesthouse detached from the owner’s main house, which was great for the two of us, and it had it’s own kitchen so we did breakfasts at home. Strangely enough my favorite meals in Oahu were pulled pork sandwiches at Whole Foods. But then….pulled pork sandwiches done right is already my favorite food ever. Most of what we did was hiking, and exploring via the public bus. People say Oahu is worth spending money on, and sure, I bet it is, but if you don’t really have the money, it’s still worth going to because it was amazing–even on a cheapo budget!
    Rachel G recently posted…This One’s for All the Smartphone Lovers Out There…My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Oh man, haha. Oahu is such a wonderful place to have a layover. I’d take any chance I could get to do that! 😛 A private guesthouse for $75 a night is an awesome deal! I just went with a shared room because I was traveling alone and didn’t need much of anything. I was scared to step into the Whole Foods there (because Whole Foods is akin to Whole Paycheck to me, hahaha), but I did really like scouting the deals in their grocery stores! Being able to find poke everywhere was so nice. :]

      Definitely agreed! I know Hawai’i has a reputation of being a super expensive place to visit, but it definitely doesn’t have to be as crazy as people make it out to be!

  2. Divya @ Eat Teach Blog

    These are great tips! A few years ago, I travelled to Hawaii and I couldn’t believe how much it cost for simple produce!
    Divya @ Eat Teach Blog recently posted…Text Message Tuesdays: Wedding TextsMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      There were definitely some really expensive things in the grocery store, but I think shopping their local produce made it a lot more affordable!

  3. jennifer

    Oh, I’m a little jealous, haven’t been there in 22 years! I remember the Royal Hawaiian Center though, but darn, didn’t get to do a lei making class — that would be so fun!

    1. Farrah

      I’m sorry! Before this time around, it’d been about 13 years since I’d been there. The Royal Hawaiian Center was awesome! I wish I’d been able to do the lei-making class too, but someday! 😛

  4. Susie @ Suzlyfe

    Excuse me while I go look at plane tickets. I wish those were cheaper! When I was in Hawaii I was on a service trip, so we were pretty darn cheap and stayed in hostels and at YMCA camps. But honestly? it was pretty perfect.
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Past, Present, Future : A Quick TributeMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Yeah, plane tickets are where it’s somewhat of a killing, but maybe on the off-season? (Since weather there is pretty darn nice all year round anyway… 😛 )

      I was originally going to stay in a hostel, but then I found that cheaper Airbnb! I’d much rather take those over paying hundreds for a hotel! :]

  5. Rachel @ RachelMcMichael.com

    Wow!! This place looks perfect!!
    Rachel @ RachelMcMichael.com recently posted…How to Prevent BurnoutMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I wanna move there! 😛

  6. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

    I’d be just fine with all the walking, hate public transportation, but…
    One day…one day I will go to these beautiful tropical places… 😛 Haha!
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted…Gluten-Free S’mores PancakesMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Public transportation can be a little annoying sometimes, but it saves so much money! *-*

      Yes you will! <3

  7. GiGi Eats

    LOL – I am so not a cheap vacationer! Noppppeeee! My dinners alone cost $100 AH HA HA!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Gobble Up This “Plucking AVOCONTROL” RecipeMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      hahaha, jealous! 😛 That feeds me for 1-2 months!

  8. Tricia @ MissSippipiddlin

    My fitness group was just talking about Airbnb last night too! These are all great tips and I hope one day I will get to see some part of Hawaii!
    The only way I am able to travel so much is in our RV. It may not be a tip for everyone but if you have a camper or rv, branch out and take it to places other than campgrounds. I stay in it for 90% of the races out of town and either tow our car or use a service like Uber to travel.

    1. Farrah

      Ah! I hope you get to go at some point too!

      I’ve never traveled in an RV before, but I think it’d be a lot of fun to use it to go traveling (I’d probably start first with camping, but still 😛 ). That’s an awesome way to cut down on costs for races! 😛

  9. tianna

    thanks for these tips, Farrah! I’m dying to visit Oahu – looks so beautiful! thanks for the advice ♥
    tianna recently posted…5 Steps to Glowing Skin for SummerMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I hope you get to go sometime! <3 It's such a gorgeous place!

  10. Marsha

    I’ve been to Kauai and Maui. When we went to Kauai we made a stop to visit Pearl Harbor first. Hawaii is so beautiful! I do things like Groupon, Living Social, VRBO to find good deals for vacations. If we drive somewhere, I try to pack as much food as I can, because it’s always cheaper at home than in vacation areas.
    Marsha recently posted…How to View Your Setback as an OpportunityMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I think I stopped by both of those for a reallyyy short time about 13 years ago–I’d love to go back someday! + hooray for finding great deals online! :O I’ve never heard of VRBO, but I’m gonna have to look into that!

  11. Kristy from Southern In Law

    Ahhhh, what a gorgeous place to explore!

    We always cook ourselves when we’re travelling, firstly because it’s often impossible for me to find somewhere “safe” for me to eat (being a coeliac in a foreign place and not knowing anyone who’s been there done that it’s not worth the risk of being sick for the rest of a vacation!) and secondly because it’s so much cheaper! We also loveeee Airbnb!
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Kristy’s Random Ramblings #6My Profile

    1. Farrah

      So true! With strict food restrictions, it’s definitely a lot safer to make your own food than to trust it at a new/foreign place. Yay for saving money!? :O And ah, Airbnb. So glad it exists!!

  12. Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Oohhhhhhh!!!! I’m so glad you got to go and have fun! You are seriously good at saving money. I’m glad you splurged on some acai and poke bowls– truly vacation food at it’s finest!
    I keep telling the Hubs it’s time to go back again. 🙂
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    1. Farrah

      Ah, it was good stuff! The acai and poke bowls were way too hard to pass up, so I didn’t bother trying. ;P I hope you guys get to go back sometime! :]!!

  13. Montana@ Pretty Lil Mudder

    Never been to Hawaii but it’s totally on my bucket list! Those beaches look gorgeous! Blue blue water!

    1. Farrah

      I hope you get to go sometime! :D!! I loved all the blue! <3

  14. Hannah

    This is almost exactly how I plan vacations! I’ve found awesome Groupon deals even for overseas trips. Too bad the flights are expensive no matter what….downsides of flying out of a small airport 😛

    1. Farrah

      True that. :[ (If teleportation were a thing, that’d be super awesome, hahaha.) At least the rest of the trip usually doesn’t end up being toooo expensive though? :]

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