Hawaii can be an expensive vacation destination, but it doesn’t have to be! Your accommodations will likely be the most expensive component of your vacation budget, but you can trim those costs with these money savings ideas.
1. Go to Hawaii when the rates are down.
During low seasons you’ll find great rates and/or enticements such as one night free, resort credits and free breakfast for two. As I mention in my recommendations for the best times to visit Hawaii, hotel rates are usually at their lowest during these timeframes:
- April (except around Easter)
- May (except around Memorial Day)
- September (after Labor Day)
- November (except around Thanksgiving)
- December before the 20th of the month
You get the best hotel deals during those periods because demand is typically down for various reasons (which is worth explaining in a separate post.) I’d like to note that these times are not bad times to visit Hawaii.
2. Stay in Hawaii’s value centers.
Value centers? Well, that’s a nicer way of describing the cheapest areas of Hawaii. These areas are plenty nice, but they’re just less expensive than some of the other major resort areas. I’ll list these value centers by island.
- Kauai – Kapaa and Lihue on Kauai’s east coast offer quite a few value priced hotels and condos. You’ll also find a very good selection of inexpensive condos in the Poipu Beach area on the sunny south shore. Poipu is one of our favorite places to stay on the island with the good restaurants and nearby shopping.
- Big Island – Kona hotels and condos tend to be inexpensive. For an inexpensive vacation on the luxurious Kohala Coast, consider condos in the Waikoloa Beach Resort. Both areas are great bases for exploring the island, plus good restaurants and shopping are nearby.
- Oahu – Waikiki Beach used to be one of the cheapest places to stay in all of Hawaii, but its popularity grew in 2012/2013. Opt for a hotel that’s “across the street (Kalakaua Avenue) from Waikiki Beach” for an oceanfront feel for less than the oceanfront cost. For even more savings stay a block or two away from the beach. You don’t necessarily need a rental car for your Waikiki vacation, but if you do rent a car, please be aware that parking can be both a challenge and a sizable expense. See my post on finding free and reasonable parking in Waikiki.
- Maui – The Valley Isle can be a bit trickier for finding inexpensive accommodations. Look for condos in Kihei, where you can easily find vacation rentals for under $150 per night. You can also find a few inexpensive vacation rentals dotted around the Lahaina and Kaanapali areas.
3. Consider a vacation condo or villa rental instead of a hotel.
See my article Why Staying in a Condo on a Hawaii Vacation is a Savvy Choice which details obvious plus hidden ways that you can save bucket-loads of money on your Hawaii vacation. You’ll pay rates roughly equal to (and sometime less than) hotel rates, while enjoying more privacy, space and use of a full kitchen while on vacation. VRBO.com is our preferred site for finding condos in Hawaii and beyond. They have the most options by far. Another site to check is Airbnb.com but they tend to have smaller spaces such as just a room or a studio.
4. Consider combining airfare and/or car rental for more packaged savings.
If you have the time and inclination for online comparison shopping, consider packaging your hotel room with other major vacation expenses. Online discount travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity allow you to search car, room and flights as well. To make sure you’re getting the savings, it’s best to check the prices of each individual component for comparison.
If you have a membership to Costco, some of the very best car and hotel deals we come across are offered by Costco Travel. For a trip to the Big Island that we took in March 2017, we booked a car and room package through Costco. It also included daily buffet breakfast for two (a $70 daily value) and a resort credit. We got the room and car for far less than the best price we could find on Expedia, Trivago, etc. for just a room only!
If you want to search for the cost of a room only, TripAdvisor is a good site that searches multiple online travel agencies for quick and easy price comparison.
5. Use hotel bidding sites.
If you don’t mind getting a pot luck hotel room, use travel bidding sites like Priceline and Hotwire to get rock bottom hotel rates. I’ve not personally used any of the hotel bidding sites, but my friend Kyle has. A couple years ago, he used Priceline to snag a sweet deal at the Marriott Waikoloa on the Big Island for only $125 per night. At that time, the lowest advertised rate anywhere else was going for $209.
When using hotel bidding sites, Kyle recommends reviewing betterbidding.com and biddingfortravel.com for advice. Kyle says that at these sites, “People share their bidding strategies and “victories,” so you can sometimes get a sense of what you might be successful with.”
Kyle said, “I have never been disappointed with my Priceline reservations, although I usually only try for three-star properties and above (usually four-star only in a place like Hawaii or a major city), so that might have something to do with it. I honestly feel that without Priceline there would be times that I would have had to cancel a planned trip, or at least cut back a few days, because of the cost–there’s just so much potential for saving.”
6. Check Travelzoo
Travelzoo sometimes has really good Hawaii hotel deals. They don’t have a great “inventory” of deals for Hawaii, but it’s worth checking.
7. Beware of resort fees and parking as you comparison shop.
As you’re shopping around for your Hawaii accommodation, make sure you compare apples to apples. Some resorts charge a daily resort fee of $15 and up. These fees supposedly cover items like fitness center use, in-room coffee maker and supplies, parking, etc – amenities that may be included in the rates of other hotels.
Look for hotels that offer free self-parking. You’ll save a bundle in valet fees and tips. Make sure you know the parking options and fees of a resort before you book – particularly if you are staying in Oahu.
8. Consider alternative accommodations – hostels and camping.
Can you believe a stay at Hawaii’s most iconic beach resort can cost as little as $13.16 per night? You can get a deal like that at the Waikiki Beachside Hostel, for example. To begin to look at hostels, check out TripAdvisor’s specialty lodging on each island.
Camping in Hawaii offers another alternative for inexpensive stays – approximately $18 per night for up to 6 persons. You can even camp right on the beach at some parks. For Hawaii camping information and permits, see this link to Hawaii State Parks.
9. Subscribe to Go Visit Hawaii.
Here on GoVisitHawaii.com, I list the best of the best accommodation deals that I find. Usually once per month, I’ll list the best flight and hotel deals that I come across. If you aren’t already subscribed, read this article for the instructions on how to get your updates.
To help you determine if you’ve found a good accommodation deal, here are the Q1 2017 average hotel rates per this Pacific Business Journal article.
- Oahu average $233 per night
- Big Island average $264 per night
- Kauai average $218 per night
- Maui average $376 per night
While those rates will fluctuate throughout the year, Maui always has the most expensive average rate.
For more advice on choosing a place to stay, see our article on how to choose the best Hawaii accommodations for you.
I hope that you’ve found new strategies and ideas to help you save money on your Hawaii accommodations. My wish is that these strategies will get you to Hawaii more often than you’d imagine is possible.