You can easily spend hundreds of dollars per day on Hawaii tours and activities, but you definitely don’t need to empty your wallet to enjoy the islands of aloha. Here are tried and true strategies that will help you get the most out of your tour time and dollar.
1. DIY Tours
I often see brochures for organized, paid tours to places that are absolutely free for anyone to see. For example, on Oahu, tours that include going to see the USS Arizona and Punchbowl are very popular, but you don’t have to pay a dime to see these two top spots. So make sure you plan some do-it-yourself (DIY) tours as you make your Hawaii vacation plans.
Another example of creating a DIY tour is that Andy and I created our own tour to find sites where the hit TV show LOST was filmed on Oahu. We could have spent nearly $500 for the two of us on an organized tour, but we had a blast on our adventure.
2. Take advantage of all the free things to do and see in Hawaii.
Aloha State offers a playground of inexpensive, but memorable activities. In fact, most of Hawaii’s highlights are free! With Hawaii’s waterfalls, national parks and hiking trails, there’s no doubt that Hawaii is more than just a pretty beach.
- Maui’s Top 7 Free or Nearly Free Things to Do and See
- 10 Best Free Activities and Sites on Oahu
- Best Free Activities on Kauai
- Best Big Island Budget Activities
3. Plan ahead and shop online.
There are some things that you simply can’t DIY, like helicopter tours and luaus. Those activities are big ticket items, too. To get the best bang for your buck, I encourage you to do a bit of online research before you go on your vacation. Take that time to comparison shop, read reviews and reserve your spot. Maybe I’m too much of a planning nerd, but I’d much rather spend my vacation time enjoying Hawaii rather than researching tours while I’m there on that treasured vacation time.
Another benefit to researching and booking online is that many business offer very good discounts when you book direct and they aren’t paying a middleman. For example, Safari Helicopters offers a $68 discount (from $229 to $161.20) on their 60-minute Deluxe Waterfall Safari Kauai Tour by booking direct online. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters discounts their 55-minute Kauai helicopter tour, too from $225 to $196.65 – a $28 savings.
Do shop around, though, as sometimes the middleman offers the best deal. Sometimes, the Hawaii activity brokers/discounters can offer a better rate. If you find an activity you’d like to do, check to see if you can find a better deal by searching Bing or Google for the activity along with the word discount.
4. Check discount sites
In recent years, extreme discounters like Travelzoo, LivingSocial and Groupon have emerged to offer vouchers that save around 50% or more.
- Travelzoo has partnered with Go Visit Hawaii to provide an exclusive Hawaii deals page. Deals are always changing. They typically include activity, spa, getaway and dining discounts.
- Check Oahu (Honolulu) LivingSocial Deals that also offer both restaurant and tour deals.
- Check Oahu (Honolulu) Groupon Deals that offer both restaurant and tour deals.
5. Keep your eyes peeled for coupons.
In my visits to Hawaii, I’ve come across some very good money saving coupons, but I’ve had to look in lots of places to find them. Here’s where I’ve discovered good tour and activity coupons.
- The free driving guides and maps that the rental car companies provide a few useful coupons.
- Flip through the free magazines and guides that you’ll see in the baggage claim area of each Hawaii airport.
- Bank of Hawaii has some good online coupons from time to time. See both the travel and entertainment categories for tour and activity coupons.
Hawaii Entertainment Book offers great luau coupons that recoup the cost of the entire book with just one admission, but this book is only useful for visitors going to Oahu only. Update: we are hesitant to recommend the Hawaii Entertainment Book after a brief closure in 2013.
6. Take advantage of free entertainment.
I’m continually amazed at the excellent quality of free entertainment that’s offered by restaurants, resorts and shopping centers all across Hawaii. It’s so very easy to find, too. Some of our favorites places are:
- On Maui, we like Whaler’s Village in Kaanapali and the Shops at Wailea.
- On Oahu, check out Waikiki Beach Walk and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki. Plus also see our guide to the best places for a sunset drink and entertainment in Waikiki.
- On Kauai, look up the events and entertainment at Poipu Shopping Village on the South Shore.
- On Hawaii, the Big Island, Waikoloa Beach Resort has two shopping centers with entertainment and activities. Also, check out the Shops at Mauna Lani. On the other side of the island, look into events at the Volcano Art Center – including their free rainforest walk.
For a few more suggestions, see our post on the best places to find free entertainment and activities in Hawaii.
So, these are my top six ways to save money on Hawaii vacation activities and tours. What other ways have you used to save money on your visits?