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Blog Home

Oahu On A Budget – More Fun, Less Money: Updated for 2020

Oahu is a beautiful destination and the most frequented island of Hawaii. But, with all the perks comes increased popularity. That means Oahu is expensive and costs add up fast! This guide will show you how you can have visit Oahu on a budget!

Things to Do in Oahu on a Budget

1. Shaka Guide Audio Driving Tour or Walking Tour

At approximately $100 per adult and $70 per person, the cost of a guided bus tour adds up fast, especially if you’re traveling with the whole family. Shaka Guide provides an alternative with self-guided audio driving and walking tours on Oahu! You’ll have a guided tour in your rental car that plays through the car stereo for the everyone to enjoy. At just $24.99 for the Oahu island bundle — which included six driving tours and two walking tours — it’s a considerable saving! Learn more about Shaka Guide’s Oahu driving tours below:

Driving Tours ($11.99 each or $24.99 for the Oahu Tour Bundle) 

  • East Oahu Shoreline Drive: Loop around the south-eastern coast of the island visiting scenic lookouts, hikes and Hanauma Bay, a famous snorkel spot.
  • Grand Circle Island Tour: Traverse the island stopping at historic sites, foodie towns, and Oahu’s North Shore.
  • Legendary North Shore Loop: North Shore is in the name and it’s a focal point of this tour. Stop at world-renowned beaches and learn about the island’s surf history.
  • Honolulu’s Backyard Rainforest Tour: Hawaii’s capital is more than just high rises and Waikiki Beach — visit the city’s beautiful valleys for hikes, waterfalls, and gardens.

Walking Tours ($4.99 each or $24.99 for the Oahu Tour Bundle) 

  • Heart of Waikiki Walking Tour: Explore one of Hawaii’s most famous neighborhoods by foot.
  • Historic Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour: Learn about Hawaii’s royal past!

If you’re looking to save some money, and don’t want to rent a car for your whole trip, check out the transportation section below to learn how you can rent a car for just a day or by the hour!

RELATED POST: What To Do In Waikiki Beach

2. Go on a Hike!

Oahu has plenty to offer the budget traveller who loves adventure, nature, and drop-dead gorgeous views. One of the most popular activities on Oahu is taking advantage of the extensive system of trails. You can even enjoy a nice swim or waterfall view at some of them! The best part? There are hikes for every skill level so even if you’re not an avid hiker, you can still find one you’ll be comfortable with.

Here are some of our favorites:

Ehukai Pillbox Hike

The Ehukai Pillbox Hike offers panoramic views of Ehukai Beach and the North Shore coastline of Oahu. The elevation is 900 ft and takes around 30 minutes to complete! It’s best to do this in good weather as the trail gets really muddy and slippery in the rain (or after it’s rained too).

Manoa Falls (closed due to Covid-19)

This easy-moderate hike located in Honolulu is perfect for the whole family. You’ll trek through the rainforest to reach an 150-foot waterfall. Please note, there’s a $5, cash-only parking fee. Visit on Shaka Guide’s Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour.

Diamond Head

Diamond Head is one of the most popular hikes. Walk to the summit to find sprawling views of Honolulu and Oahu’s south shore. Please note, there is a $10 parking fee per car. If you’re walking or taking another mode of transportation to the trail the cost is $5 per person (you do not need to pay $5 on top of the $10 parking fee). Visit on Shaka Guide’s East Oahu Shoreline Drive.

Check out our Diamond Head Travel Guide to learn more!

Koko Head Stairs

When you reach the summit of Koko Head Stairs you’ll lookout onto the turquoise shores of Oahu’s east coast. However, this hike is not for the faint of heart, it’s rated moderate to difficult for its extremely steep incline.

RELATED: Looking for more challenging hikes? Check out Oahu Hikes That Give the Haiku Stairs A Run for The Money

3. Snorkeling At Kahe Point Beach Park

Kahe Point Beach Park in Kapolei is a favorite destination among snorkelers. The water is said to be the clearest on the island and the fish population is dense. It’s also called Electric Beach due to a plant across the street that outflows clean, warm water into the beach attracting more sea life!

This beach, like others, does tend to get crowded on the weekend, so come early to secure a parking spot. Otherwise, check near the roadway for overflow parking. Once you get in the water, even on the most crowded days, there’s plenty of space for everyone. You’ll need to bring your own gear, but you can buy for a good price at ABC store!

Looking for another snorkel spot? Check out Shark’s Cove on the North Shore (it’s also a spot on Shaka Guide’s Grand Circle Island Tour). There’s no admission fee, but you will have to rent or bring gear.

4. Free Hula Show In Waikiki

What better way to enjoy an evening on the beaches of Oahu than to see a hula performance right in front of you!

You can watch a FREE hula show in Waikiki every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 6:30-7:30 pm on Kūhiō Beach in Waikiki. The performance starts off with the lighting of the torch followed by the hula dancers performing to live music.

Tip: Some other resorts have free hula shows or lei making you can take part in. Ask around to see if there’s a closer place to where you’re staying for more convenient options.

5. Hit the Beach

One of the great things about visiting Hawaii is that so many of the best things to do are completely free. One must-see spot: the beach! You were probably planning on doing some beach hopping while visiting Oahu and you’ll be happy to hear that all the beaches are FREE to access. Below is a list of some of our favorite spots:

  1. Waikiki Beach
  2. Kailua Beach
  3. Banzai Pipeline (not safe for swimming)
  4. Lanikai Beach
  5. Ala Moana Beach Park
  6. Ko Olina Lagoons
  7. White Plains
  8. Sunset Beach (pack a picnic and stay for sunset)
  9. Waimea Bay
  10. Waimanalo Beach

Where to Eat in Oahu On a Budget

North Shore Budget Eats

Haleiwa Bowls

  • Cost: Under $10
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Everyday 7:30 AM-6:00 PM
  • Address: 66-030 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Haleiwa Bowls specializes in smoothie and acai bowls. They have a variety of flavors available, one being blue majik. It’s rich in amino acids and antioxidants, but also adds a pretty shade of bright blue to your smoothie bowl. This is a great place to grab a healthy and affordable lunch in Haleiwa.

Kono’s North Shore

  • Cost: Under $15
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Everyday 7:00 AM-2:30 PM
  • Address:66-250 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Get slow-roasted pulled kalua pork that’s been cooked for hours. Kono’s is known for their breakfast bombers, a large tortilla with eggs, potatoes, and cheese, with a variety of fillings. This popular spot also has sandwiches, plates, wraps, and milkshakes.

Shrimp Trucks (Giovanni’s, Big Wave, Romy’s) 

  • Cost: Under $15
  • Accepts Credit Cards: It depends
  • Hours: Vary
  • Address: Kahuku and Haleiwa

The North Shore has an array of shrimp trucks serving up plates piled high with garlic butter shrimp. There are so many to choose from, we can’t pick just one, but head to Kahuku (there are other types of food trucks there too — most are cash only) or Haleiwa and have your pick!

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice 

  • Cost: Under $5
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Everyday 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
  • Address: K66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712

We can’t forget about dessert! Stop by Matsumoto’s for a shave ice, ice shavings topped with flavored syrup. Choose from options like lilikoi (passionfruit), lychee, green tea, and guava; just to name a few!

Affordable Food around the Ko Olina Resorts Area

Koa Pancake House

  • Cost: Under $10
  •  Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  •  Hours: Everyday 6:30 AM-2:00 PM
  •  Address: 91-590 Farrington Hwy, Kapolei, HI 96707

The Koa Pancake House serves a variety of breakfast options such as pancakes, omelets, and some other non-traditional breakfast options such as a fish plate with rice! The pancakes are huge, soft, and sweet, with the macadamia nut ones being a favorite.

RELATED POST: 10 Best Places To Go on Oahu With Kids

Honolulu & Waikiki Budget Dining Options

Rainbow Drive-In

  • Cost: Under $15
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Everyday 7:00 AM-9:00 PM
  • Address: 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Rainbow Drive-In is known for their massive plate lunches. Try the mixed plate that comes with chicken, fried mahi mahi, and teriyaki beef with cabbage, macaroni salad and two scoops of rice for only $12! We guarantee you’ll leave satisfied.

Ono Seafood

  • Cost: Under $10
  • Accept Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Tues-Sat 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
  • Address: 747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

Ono Seafood specializes in their cheap, quick, and flavorful meals that each come with a free drink! Park at Safeway next door because the parking lot fills quickly at the restaurant. The poke bowl with spicy ahi has the best reviews, so order up and take it to the beach to enjoy!

Foodland Farms 

  • Cost: Under $15
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Everyday 6:00 AM-9:00 PM
  • Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814

Stop by Foodland, a grocery store in Ala Moana mall, for pizza, sandwiches, a hot/cold food bar, and — best of all — poke. Foodland is consistently rated one of the top poke stops on the island. Get chunks of fresh caught raw fish over a bed of white rice for about $10!

Shirokiya (closed due to Covid-19) 

  • Cost: Varies
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Depends
  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 AM-10:00 PM; Sunday: 10am – 9pm
  • Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Ste. 1360, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814

Shirokiya is large, open air Japanese food hall with an assortment of stalls serving up items like bentos, ramen, sushi, musubi, yakitori and more!

Musubi Cafe

  • Cost: Under $5
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Hours: Everyday 7:00 AM-8:00 PM
  • Address: 2427 Kuhio Ave, Fl 1, Aqua Pacific Monarch Hotel, Honolulu, HI 96815

If you’ve never tried musubi, it’s a popular snack/breakfast that consists of rice, topped with a piece spam, wrapped in nori (seaweed). You can get it additional ingredients like egg, avocado and cucumber. Musubi Cafe has a bunch of options at an affordable price!

Where To Stay If You’re Visiting Oahu On A Budget

If it’s your first time visiting Oahu, we highly recommend you read our Oahu trip planning guide whether you’re on a budget or not. You’ll learn the lay of the land and we’ll introduce you to all the different districts in the island so you can choose the best area to stay based on your wants and needs.

Vacation Rentals

…That being said, resorts and hotels are quite pricey here in Oahu. One of the most affordable lodging options, besides camping, are vacation rentals like Airbnb. You’ll also find rentals in areas like the North Shore or Windward Side (Oahu’s eastern shore) where lodging options are scarce.

Tip: Avoid the North Shore in the winter when the major surf competitions are in session.

Camping

On Oahu, you can camp under the stars in a number of picture-perfect settings. Whether it’s the beach or even a garden, you’ll be surrounded by the island’s natural landscapes.

Malaekahana Campsite

  • Type: Private
  • Hours: 7:00 AM-7:00 PM
  • Price: Campsites start at ~$10/person, hold 2-10 people; Suites are ~$60 and ~$120/night, house 4 people

Malaekahana State Park is one of the most popular camping sites. The calm waters allow excellent conditions for swimming, paddle-boarding, and snorkeling. There’s a food truck available from Thursday to Monday offering meals when you don’t feel like making your own.

Sand Island State Recreation Park Campsite

  • Type: State
  • Hours: Only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights
  • Price: $45 per campsite per night

Sand Island is located on the South of Oahu in Honolulu. This 102-acre park gives you the entire view of the Honolulu coastline to Waikiki. Only tent camping is offered here.

RELATED: For more information about camping on Oahu, check out our guide here.

Budget Hotels on Oahu

Although vacation rentals and camping will be the most affordable options for your Oahu stay, that doesn’t mean you won’t find a hotel for a decent room rate. Here are some properties to consider:

  • Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki
  • Castle Waikiki Grand Hotel
  • Kuhio Banyan Club
  • Aqua Oasis
  • Royal Kuhio
  • Park Shore Waikiki Beach

Brands like Aqua and Castle usually have decent rates. You can also look at apps like Hotels Tonight for last-minute deals. And, when you’re looking at hotels, don’t forget about resort fees, these add up fast!

Tip: Book in the shoulder and low seasons, which are September-November and January-March, to save!

Transportation

There are several options for transportation around Oahu. The most affordable are in Honolulu where there’s public transportation that’ll allow you to get around without spending too much per day on a car.

In Honolulu you can take Lyft or Uber if you don’t need to go far. It’s more convenient than the bus or bikes and not too expensive for short trips. If you do need to venture out and don’t want to use a ride share, here are some choices:

1. Biki Bike — Honolulu’s Bike Share Program

For a low-cost alternative, there’s a bike share program located in Honolulu and Waikiki called Biki Bike. Unlock the bike using a credit card, the Biki App, or a Biki Pass. Just pick the bike up at one of the many locations around Honolulu drop it off to another docking station that’s close to your destination.

There shouldn’t be a shortage since there are over 130 Biki Stops! This is a cheap and fun option to get around as you only pay $15 monthly for unlimited 30-minute rides. A single ride will cost you $4, but it may be worth it to get the unlimited pass as less than four rides would equal the unlimited option!

2. Honolulu’s Public Bus System

TheBus is Oahu’s city transportation system. TheBus has an extensive network throughout Honolulu making it an easy and affordable option. A one-way fare costs $2.75 for adults and a one-day pass is $5.50.

You can ride the bus just about anywhere else on the island, outside of Honolulu. Yes, even all the way to the North Shore! Just keep in mind more distant trips will take a longer due to frequent stops by the buses. But if you’re really trying to see Oahu on a budget, this is one of the most affordable ways to get around.

3. Car Rentals

Sure, renting a car can be expensive, but if you’re staying in Waikiki, you can save by renting for a portion of your trip rather than your whole stay. You can even rent for just a day as there are a bunch of locations to pick up and drop off around town and in the major resorts. We highly recommend renting a car for at least one day. This way you can venture out of the city at your leisure and take a Shaka Guide driving tour!

4. Car Sharing In Honolulu

Turo and Hui are low-cost car rental alternatives. Turo is set up like Airbnb for cars. Input the dates you need online, the pickup and return location, then choose a daily rate of a car that fits your budget from a private individual, not a corporate rental agency. Prices are typically much lower than the traditional rental agencies — perfect for seeing Oahu on a budget.

Hui Car is a station-based car share program that lets you book a vehicle by the hour. Download the app to reserve a car, unlock it with the app, and return it to a station when you’re finished! Each reservation includes gas, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance.

Have The Best Vacation Ever While Seeing Oahu On A Budget!

Just because you’re on a budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing Oahu vacation. There are so many ways to have an activity-packed stay without breaking the bank! From the island’s seemingly endless beaches and hiking trails to a guided audio tour with Shaka Guide, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from!

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