Which is the Least Expensive Hawaiian Island to Visit?

April 10, 2018

If going to Hawaii is on your bucket list, you might be wondering what the least expensive Hawaiian island to visit is. The answer: Oahu.

If only trips to paradise were free, right? Everyone knows traveling to Hawaii is not cheap. But that doesn’t deter people from visiting. In fact, travelers save up for months with the goal of visiting one or more of the islands.

Oahu: The Least Expensive Hawaiian Island to Visit

Due to the abundance of hotels, activities, tours, and attractions, Oahu is the most affordable island for tourists to visit. Between the competitive prices and myriad of things to do, those looking for a budget vacation to Hawaii will find that Oahu is exactly what they’ve been searching for.

Even though Oahu is considered the least expensive Hawaiian island to visit, you still need to do your research. Price shopping for hotels, activities, and transportation ensures you find the lowest prices available.

When scouring the Internet for affordable travel rates, keep these tips in mind:

Skip the Rental Car
If you were debating renting a car while visiting Oahu, think again. Oahu’s public transportation is easy to use and inexpensive. Every time I visit Oahu I use a combination of public transportation, ride-sharing services, and Turo for days when I want to go to the North Shore.

Be Selective of Hotel Location
While the hotels on Waikiki Beach are gorgeous and full of amenities, so are the hotels a few blocks away. Try to find a hotel that isn’t directly on Waikiki Beach for lower nightly rates. These hotels are also within walking distance of the beach and other Waikiki area attractions. Why pay more for beachfront access when these convenient hotels cost far less?

Visit in the Off-Season
For even cheaper rates on hotels, flights, and activities, visit Oahu in the off-season. Typically, the spring and fall seasons boast smaller crowds and better prices. Be sure to double check the calendar and make sure you’re not booking a trip during a school break either!

Rent a surf board and catch a wave on the North Shore of Oahu.

Inexpensive Things to Do on Oahu

Since Oahu is considered the least expensive Hawaiian island to visit, you’re probably wondering what there is to do on the island. Oahu is bursting with exciting (and cheap) activities to do, including:

  • Snorkeling ($)
  • Hiking (Free)
  • Ziplining ($)
  • Pearl Harbor (Free/$)
  • Bishop Museum ($)
  • Going to the Beach (Free)
  • Surfing (Free/$)
  • Touring the Dole Plantation ($)
  • Waikiki Aquarium ($)

To make sure you stay within budget, have an itinerary planned out for each day. That way you’ll know exactly how much you’re spending on food, transportation, and fun!

Which of the Hawaiian islands will you visit?

Can I Visit the Other Islands on a Budget?

While Oahu is the least expensive Hawaiian island to visit, that doesn’t mean you can’t explore the other islands for less! Planning a Hawaii vacation on a budget is easy, so long as you do your research and follow our advice.

Take Advantage of Free Activities

When you visit any of the Hawaiian islands, you’re instantly immersed in a lush tropical paradise full of with adventure. Each island offers an extraordinary amount of free things to do including lounging on pristine beaches, exhilarating hikes, snorkeling, nature walks, and so much more. Do your research and stretch your budget by taking advantage of these free activities.

And, while not all activities are free, many are affordable. Renting a mask, snorkel, and fins cost me a whopping $12 for the day on the North Shore of Oahu. That’s it!

Shop Around for Flights

Arguably the most expensive part of a Hawaiian vacation is the flights. Depending on where you are coming from in the world, flights can annihilate a travel budget.

With this in mind, it is imperative you book your flights strategically. In addition to being on the lookout for airline sales and other travel promotions, use these tips to find a cheap flight:

Be Flexible
Unless you plan to use airline miles or points to book your flight, it is in your best interest to be flexible with your travel plans. Everything from the airline you book with to the time of day you fly has an effect on the end price. Being flexible with these factors can help you secure the least expensive flight to your island of choice.

For instance, I found it was far more affordable to book a ticket to LAX on one airline and the next flight to Honolulu on another. You may find that flights later in the day offer cheaper rates. Be flexible and shop around!

Don’t Book Too Soon or Too Late
A study showed that booking a flight anywhere from 3.5 months to 3 weeks in advance is the “sweet spot” for prices. Booking too early or too late can lead to a surge in fares. When searching for flights, be sure to use a site with a pricing indicator which suggests the best time to buy.

Visit Hawaii During the Off-Season

Again, visiting Hawaii can be super affordable when you don’t travel during peak seasons such as the summer or winter. If traveling in the off-season is not an option, look for other ways to save such as free activities or other lodging choices.

Book a Condo or Suite

At first glance, this bit of advice may seem counterintuitive. Don’t condos and suites cost more than a typical hotel room? While, yes, they are more expensive, you save more in another area of your trip: food.

Condos and suites often have a kitchen or a kitchenette, which allows you to cook your own food. While I highly encourage you to sample Hawaii’s heavenly cuisine, you can save money by cooking breakfast and lunch for yourself.

Bundle Your Hotel and Activities

For even greater travel discounts, look for opportunities to combine your hotel and activities into a vacation package. The Bundle it! option from Reserve Hawaii is the perfect way to save! Build your own vacation package with your choice of hotel, luau, and activities and watch the savings roll in.

Ready to plan your inexpensive trip to Hawaii?

Visit Hawaii for Less

With a bit of planning and research, you can travel to Hawaii without spending far too much. Those looking for the least expensive Hawaiian island to visit should book a trip to Oahu. However, it’s also possible to travel to Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai without draining your travel budget.

Have you planned an affordable trip to Oahu or the other islands? Tell us how you saved!

  1. Waimea Bay Beach is great for cliff jumping (8m backflips), plus there is Diamond Head for hiking to the top. Turtle Bay we saw turtles there. We went there in July, 2021.

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