Hawaii is expensive. It’s a honeymoon destination full of people happy to take your money. Just getting there is going to be expensive no matter where you’re coming from and once you get there it’s around $70 to get from one island to another.
That being said, there are definitely ways to visit long-term and relatively cheaply. Once you’ve followed Chris Guillebeau’s advice to get your plane ticket there for free here are some ways to save money on accommodation.
A no-brainer, of course, for savvy Indie Travelers such as yourself. You’ll find hostels in all the major towns of Hawaii, but plan early and don’t assume you can just show up in the evening and get a dorm bed for the night. No need to book your whole trip ahead of time, but it’s a good idea to secure your accommodation for the first week before you get there.
Bringing a tent can save you a lot of money, but it can also be a frustrating experience in dealing with bureaucracy. The easiest campgrounds to find information about are the state and county campgrounds. They’re all an excellent deal, most costing $5 or less, but you must get your permits ahead of time and they are only available at the various state and county offices, though the state office does let you order permits by mail.
If you prefer traveling without planning far ahead of time or can’t easily get to the offices during business hours this can be frustrating. One other thing to think about: ask around about the specific campgrounds you’re considering, especially the county campgrounds on Oahu, as some have a reputation for not being very safe.
Don’t let these points discourage you from camping in Hawaii. The campgrounds are gorgeous, and very popular among backpackers. Just be aware of what can complicate the experience.
A great way to meet the locals and learn how to use Hawaiian slang without sounding like a tourist. Couchsurfing.com also has some great little tours that you don’t even need to be couchsurfing to go on (I got invited on a tour while waiting for the bus), as well as other great tips for traveling on a budget. Be sure to treat your host to dinner!
Sleep in your rental car
If you have some experience with sleeping in a car while traveling this is a great way to have the convenience of a rental without spending extra. In fact, if you get a week-long rental the daily price will probably be less than a hostel.
Check out the timeshares
You can get some incredible deals by taking advantage of the economic downturn and splitting a timeshare with a couple of people. You may not be able to work the price-per-person down to less than a hostel, but you can get close and you’re definitely getting more for your money. If you’re camping for most of your trip treat yourself to week at a timeshare. Planning early is always good, but keep checking Craigslist.com and other listing sites. You can find some fantastic last-minute deals as people realize their place is going to sit empty next week and what you’re offering is better than nothing. Negotiating can work wonders.
Work for a hostel or farm
Planning on staying for a while? Trade your time for your accommodation. Like hostels everywhere, those in Hawaii are looking for people to work in them. This is another case where planning ahead will improve your chances. There aren’t many hostels in Hawaii and lots of young travelers are looking for jobs. Call hostels a few months ahead to ask about their policies.
If you’d rather work outside, check out WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). Two organizations connect Hawaiian farm owners with workers: WWOOF Hawaii and WWOOF USA. Both organizations charge a fee to access to their listings. After that, it’s up to you to apply and work out something with the farm owner. WWOOFing experiences will vary greatly with the farm, so do your research. Ask the owners to be very clear about what your responsibilities will be and what you’ll receive in return. Most WWOOF trades are 20-30 hours a week for room and board.
You don’t need to join a WWOOF organization to find opportunities. It’s just a nice way to find all the information in one place and know that the farms are legit. Try checking Craigslist.com, do some Google searches or call up hostels and ask them what local farms are hiring.
Despite the expense of getting to Hawaii, you don’t need to spend all your money on accommodation to enjoy your time there. Have you saved money on accommodation in Hawaii? Please leave tips in the comments.