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How to plan a budget friendly trip to Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii is an urban and rural oasis with a mix of city life in Honolulu and chill vibes of the beaches in surrounding towns.  The style on the island is beach casual and life runs on island time.  It can be a pricey tourist destination, but there are many options for fun in the sun that will not break the bank.


Waikiki Sunset - How to plan a budget friendly trip to Oahu, Hawaii



Oahu is surrounded by stunning water and beaches.  There are endless beautiful oceans to explore.  There are plentiful opportunities for snorkeling, SCUBA, sailboat tours, parasailing, surfing lessons stand up paddle boarding and canoeing.

To save money on excursions I check out Groupon under “Things to do” in Oahu to look for deals on excursions.  I have saved up to 60% off excursions using coupons from Groupon.  Purchasing a Groupon is like purchasing a coupon.  It does not guarantee that space will be available on the day that you want to do an excursion.  Before buying a Groupon I always read the fine print and call the excursion company prior to purchase to see if they will have an open spot for booking on the day that I want.  If so, I buy the Groupon and then schedule my excursion.


Waikiki Beach:

Waikiki Beach, located on the south side of Oahu, is home to tourists, surfers, beach front hotels, world class restaurants, and bars. Waikiki is the perfect beach to take a surf lesson, stand up paddle boarding or take a sailboat tour of the water. You can also find snorkeling and SCUBA adventures leaving from the harbors around Waikiki.  Expect the beaches to be crowded with many selfie taking tourists. Waikiki is the perfect spot to watch the sunset on the island, so grab your camera!

To save money on food and drink look for happy hour specials during select times of the day. Many restaurants will also have acoustic live music performing.  Save money on entertainment by checking out singers and bands while you eat.  For a quintessential Waikiki experience check out Hawaiian Native and Grammy award nominee, Henry Kapono and friends band at Duke’s in Waikiki (2335 Kalakaua) on Sunday from 4 until sunset.  Entrance is free and you can head right to the dance floor to dance and sing along to the music as you watch the sunset over the water.


Rainbow over Waikiki in Oahu Hawaii - How to plan a budget friendly trip to Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Beach:

Located on the windward side of the island, Lanikai Beach is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  It has iconic mokes in the middle of the water, which is one of those Instagram perfect shots that you cannot miss.  You can rent canoes and paddle to the mokes or spend the day enjoying the perfect water and sand on the beach.

The North Shore:

The North Shore of Oahu is home to world famous surfing competitions at the Banzai Pipeline.  In winter time the pipeline is where you will see those big waves and competitions that surfers from around the world come to Oahu for.  Turtle Bay is a small North Shore beach where you can view sea turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs.  Shark’s Cove is a good spot to bring your gear to dive or snorkel.

Haleiwa is the main town on the North Shore and is filled with eclectic beach shops and eateries.  Stop in Haleiwa for some shaved iced at Matsumoto’s (66-087 Kamehameha Hwy #605) and an angel wing mural picture at Collette Miller’s Global Angel Wing’s Project mural.  Outside of Haleiwa you can find a harbor with boats that have sea adventures; including swimming with sharks!

Money Saving Tip: Ride the Bus

Unlike other islands in Hawaii, Oahu has a public transit bus system that connects points on the whole island.   Fare to ride the bus is $2.50 per ride or $30 for a 4-day pass. The Honolulu area, including Waikiki Beach, is heavily trafficked by the bus system and easy to commute without a car.  Save money on car rentals by spending a couple of days enjoying the city life and riding the bus.


View over the Lanikai Mokes in Oahu Hawaii - How to plan a budget friendly trip to Oahu, Hawaii


Oahu is a hiker’s paradise.  It is hard to go anywhere on the island and not see a mountain! You do not have to be an expert hiker or hike for miles and miles to find gorgeous views. There are many shorter trails on the island that have breathtaking views. The fees to park and enter hikes are either free to minimal; making taking a hike a great, budget friendly way to see the island.

Diamond Head is the iconic mountain on the eastern side of Waikiki Beach with beautiful views of the ocean. The trail is 1.6 miles round-trip on a paved granite path and is heavily trafficked by people of all ages and nationalities. There is a $1 per person in or $5 per car entrance fee. The Manoa Falls Trail is a 1.5- mile trip to and from the beautiful Manoa Falls waterfall through the lush green wildlife of Hawaii. There is a $5 fee to park at the entrance to this hike. The Kaiwa Ridge (Pillbox) Trail in Kailua is a 1.6-mile round-trip trail with stunning views of Lanikai Beach and the mokes.   There is no fee to enter or park at this hike.  Parking is street parking and is on a first come, first serve basis in the neighborhood surrounding the hike.

For more trails for all levels of hiking experience check out All Trails.


Shavedice - How to plan a budget friendly trip to Oahu, Hawaii


Oahu has shopping for all price ranges, although it can be harder to find the more budget friendly places. Here are some ideas for places to go to find a deal and avoid paying luxury prices for goods.

The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet (99-500 Salt Lake Blvd, Aiea): This is a giant flee market in Aiea every Sunday from 6:30am -3pm and Wednesday and Saturday from 8am to 3pm.  It has over 400 local vendors selling everything from souvenirs to food and essentials.

The Hyatt Farmer’s Market (2424 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu):  This is a local farmer’s market selling fresh local produce at fair prices. It is every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-8 at the lobby in the Hyatt in Waikiki.  Go here for fresh island fruit and veggies as well as other local goodies and treats.

For clothes and apparel check out Forever 21 (2301 Kalakaua Ave Honolulu), Victoria’s Secret 2230 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu) and Ross Dress for Less (333 Seaside Ave, Honolulu).  These stores are all centrally located in Waikiki and offer more budget-friendly stylish shopping options.

Hawaii can be an expensive vacation destination.  However, with some simple planning there are a lot of things that can be done on a budget.  Utilizing public transportation and taking advantage of the free natural beauty on the island are helpful ways to reduce spending. Now it is time to start planning your Hawaiian adventure!


Julia Kuhn standing in front of painted angel wings - How to plan a budget friendly trip to Oahu, Hawaii


Julia Kuhn is an American wanderlust Speech-Language Pathologist who works locum positions across the United States.  She has had the pleasure of calling Honolulu home and loves the island life.  She runs a blog to inspire healthcare professionals to travel at

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