Saving Money on Hawaii Vacation Tours & Activities

horseback riding tour

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.

Birds of Paradise at PunchbowlI wrote a series of posts on the best free or nearly free things to do on each of the four major islands. Here are links to each of those posts.

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. We’ve found this to be particularly true when it comes to helicopter tours.

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 online for the activity name 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

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. Some of the free shows are like going to a small luau, but without the food. Some of our favorites places are:

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?

  1. There are endless fun and free things to do on the Big Island!

    A few the I recommend are:

    1. Kealakekua Bay (snorkel with spinner dolphins!)

    2. Kiholo Bay (Sea Turtle Lagoon!)

    3. Waipio Valley (tough hike down and up but beautiful! Blacksand Beach, waterfalls, river flows into the ocean)

  2. I will definitely check out the groupon deals site.
    Heading to Oahu next month.
    Please drop by my travel tips website when you can.

  3. My wife and I are planning our trip to Hawaii – 4 islands. We have much pleasure to your pages with ideas and advice.
    We would like to try a helicopter tour on Kauai, but which company should we choose, what would you recommend?

  4. Hi all! My husband and I spent our first day of the our Maui vacation and we just got this amazing deal that I will share here. We went to Times Supermarket on Lower Honoapiilani Rd for water and they had a vendor from the Diamond Resorts set up there. We met Mike Hursey who gave us this deal: $16 USD for two tickets to the Royal Lahaina Luau (regularly about $98 per person), a free professional photography shoot and a $50 gift certificate for the Times Supermarket. You have to be an American or Canadian, make over $75k household income, at least 28 years old and have a major credit card. This is to promote Diamond Resorts worldwide. The catch was we have to participate in a 2 hour tour at the Maui Diamond Resort, but we can chill on their beach and eat at their restaurants, and valet parking is free. Not sure how long this promotion will last. There are also crazy wholesale-price deals on other activities like water and boating activities, zip lining and tours. Have fun!

  5. Could you please send me some information on – What to do and how to save money while visiting HILO. Thanks

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