How to travel on a budget in this wallet-busting paradise

How to travel on a budget in this wallet-busting paradise
How to travel on a budget in this wallet-busting paradise
This story is part of Traveller’s Destination Guide to Hawaii.See all stories.

Peach-hued sunsets, palm trees swaying in the breeze, exhilarating ocean swims and the gentle, sensual allure of the hula dance. There’s so much to love about Hawaii, but it tends to be an expensive destination.

Throw in a weak exchange rate to the US dollar (one Aussie dollar was buying 65 US cents at the time of writing) and it can be a wallet-busting paradise. The good news is it doesn’t have to be. I’ve visited more than 20 times and picked up a few budget hacks along the way.

There’s so much to love about Hawaii, but it tends to be an expensive destination.Credit: iStock

Flights from Australia are relatively cheap, if you avoid peak season and school holidays. Keep an eye on sale fares. Jetstar (jetstar.com), for example, regularly offers return flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Honolulu for under $600. Hawaiian Airlines (hawaiianairlines.com.au) sale fares to Honolulu (return) are often priced around $1000 and include two checked bags up to 32 kilograms each, plus wine, beer and island-inspired meals. That first sip of a mai tai on the rocks always sends me straight into holiday mode.

Once you’ve landed in Honolulu, there are several transport options from the airport to Waikiki or the North Shore. As in many parts of the world, taxis are the most expensive. Shared shuttle rides to Waikiki hotels are under $US20 ($31) a person, and Ubers aren’t much more, so long as surge pricing isn’t in effect.

Where to eat and drink? Follow the locals and avoid the tourist traps.

Where to eat and drink? Follow the locals and avoid the tourist traps.Credit: Greg Straight

The biggest expense for Hawaii holidaymakers is accommodation. Beachfront resorts in Waikiki are some of the most beautiful in the world, but price tags tend to exceed $1000 a night. For the rest of us, more affordable options are found a few streets back from Waikiki’s golden sand. Check out prices at Romer Waikiki at The Ambassador (romerhotels.com), Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki Hotel (aquaaston.com) and Stay Hotel Waikiki (stayhotelwaikiki.com), where you’ll find rooms for under $305 a night, plus taxes and resort fees.

Speaking of resort fees, many Australians baulk at the compulsory daily charge (usually $40 to $75) that covers amenities such as Wi-Fi, water toys, in-room coffee and pool towels – things we’d normally expect a resort to provide as part of the room rate.

You probably won’t have much luck arguing with the front desk staff to remove the fees, but there is a way to avoid them – join a hotel rewards program and book your stay on points. Programs such as Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt offer members the benefit of waived resort fees on award stays.

Beach resorts in Waikiki are beautiful, but expensive.

Beach resorts in Waikiki are beautiful, but expensive.Credit: jhorrocks

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Where to eat and drink? Follow the locals and avoid the tourist traps if you plan to save bucks. Locals nosh on delicious, reasonably priced fare at Rainbow Drive-In (rainbowdrivein.com), Steak Shack (steakshackhawaii.com), Paia Fish Market (paiafishmarket.com) and the Royal Hawaiian Center’s food court.

Stock up on essentials at Waikiki Market (waikikimarkethawaii.com), a new supermarket with locally inspired foods including poke, seafood, fresh fruit and deli items.

Happy hour offers some of the best deals on substantial plates and cocktails. Eat early to save big. Try Eating House 1849 at International Market Place (royyamaguchi.com), Heyday Pool Bar & Restaurant (heydayhawaii.com), Redfish at Wayfinder (redfishpoke.com), and Monkeypod Kitchen (monkeypodkitchen.com). Finish the meal with an inexpensive sweet treat from Leonard’s Bakery (leonardshawaii.com) or a shave ice stand.

Skip the pricey boutiques along Luxury Row and instead soak up the free cultural programming at the Royal Hawaiian Center (royalhawaiiancenter.com). Enjoy hula performances and lessons, live music, lei-making classes and basket-weaving demonstrations.

See the current exhibition at Capitol Modern (capitolmodern.org), formerly Hawaii State Art Museum, with free entry to Hawaii’s biggest little art collection.

Last but never least, swim in the glorious Pacific Ocean. Waikiki’s turquoise water stretches more than three kilometres along the coast. It’s free and it’s fabulous.

The writer travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism Oceania. See gohawaii.com/au

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Source: smh.com.au

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