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.

Salt Flats Beach is a campground on Kauai.
Salt Flats Beach is a campground on Kauai.


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.

The morning view from the balcony of our timeshare.
The morning view from the balcony of our timeshare.

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.

Search for cheap accommodation here.

Your thoughts on "Cheap places to stay in Hawaii"

  • Aloha Jessica, Nice creative list! Regarding beach camping, each of the county offices issue permits, but the way the counties are organized can be confusing. Here's a decoder list: - Maui County - includes the islands of Lanai and Molokai and of course Maui - Hawaii County - the Big Island of Hawaii - Kauai - Kauai, of course - Honolulu - this is perhaps one of the more confusing ones, because the whole island of Oahu is considered to be Honolulu county. At the moment, it's easy to get inter-island fares even cheaper as there is a bit of an airfare war going on. Currently, flights are advertised as low as $27 one-way. One more luxurious way to stay in Hawaii for cheap is to rent a condo and share it with friends. We stayed in a 2400 square foot condo in the swank Kapalua area of Maui for 8 nights for $2000. There were 4 of us sharing it, though we could have added two more to spread the cost more. For the four of us we averaged spending $62.50 per person per night. Two great benefits of a condo - we could cook our own meals and wash our clothes.

    on February 28, 2009 at 1:04 am Reply
    • what is the name of the condo you stayed in?? and what time of year did you go??

      on February 9, 2012 at 9:20 pm Reply
  • Hello! We are Lydia and Victor the authors of http://objetivolima.wordpress.com (also nominated by Lonely Planet in the Best Spanish language blog cattegory). We would like to congratulate you for your blog and congratulate you on your nomination and wish you all the best. Kind regards Lydia and Victor

    on March 1, 2009 at 3:33 pm Reply
  • Thanks guys, good luck to you too. For those of you that don't know, it's time to get over to Lonely Planet and vote for Indie Travel Podcast for Best Podcast.

    on March 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm Reply
  • About cheap places to stay in Hawai'i, check out www.globalfreeloaders.com. There is also a really good UK site (that has a US counterpart) that has listings from people looking for home exchanges all over the world. Now if I could just remember that site.... hang on... BRB... Back... Ok, here's the link: http://www.homelink.org/index.jsp

    on March 2, 2009 at 12:36 pm Reply
  • Also a good option on Big Island: Kalani Oceanside retreat. You can camp here very comfortably for as little as $40 for a single (or $55 for two). (Must bring own tent, although towels are provided free of charge.) Lodge rooms, cottages, shared dorm rooms, and tree house rooms are also available (but more expensive.) The setting is beautiful, right across from the ocean in a secured area near the back end "entrance" to Kilauea Nat'l Park. Basic stay includes use of the facilities, pool, sauna, etc. Other packages are available including healthful meals (vegan and veg options all the time!), yoga classes, bodywork, workshops and island excursions. 4 - 12 week volunteer stays can also be arranged. The food is great. Free wi-fi is on the premises. Beautiful place and truly a bargain considering the high cost of Hawaii. And no, I don't have any connection to the place other than being a satisfied camping customer of days past. I would definitely return without hesitation. http://www.kalani.com/

    on March 3, 2009 at 1:57 am Reply
  • You're all making us want to head over to Hawaii! But not this year...we already have tickets booked to Tonga and are eyeing up some other Pacific islands. They're all so nice and accessible from New Zealand which will be base until next January.

    on March 3, 2009 at 9:41 pm Reply
  • Shelia - I was amazed at the deals we could get. My parents visited while I was traveling around Hawaii and we were able to get a luxury condo for $150 a night. $50 per person per night isn't as cheap as a hostel, but we easily could have had another couple people stay with us as well, and it was extremely luxurious! WriterWriter - Thanks for the link, Homelink looks like a great resource! Laura - Thanks for the tip. I loved the big island. If I go back I'll check it out.

    on March 6, 2009 at 8:37 am Reply
  • Wow-- I like the idea of sleeping in a rental car. But need to rent a bigger car like SUVs or MPVs. You can put all your belongings in the car without the hassle of checking in and out of hotels. Can bring a tent too!

    on October 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm Reply
  • As far as WWOOFing in Hawaii (Maui) our 2 acre bonsai farm is located on the North Shore of Maui in Haiku. if interested we can be seen at: WWOOF Hawaii under Olinda Bonsai & Ornamentals. we have a newly completed guest house and work in covered greenhouses. thanks ! Randy

    on November 28, 2009 at 5:20 pm Reply
    • Randy! Is there a way I could get in contact with you, My friend and I are looking for WWOOF Farm on the Islands! Thanks, Paul

      on July 3, 2012 at 3:03 am Reply
  • I'm moving to Hawaii in May and have been looking to do a farm exchange like you are all talking about where I live on the farm and work in exchange for rent. I know all of these website are really good but I don't have the money to pay for a membership. Is there any one who can suggest me to someone or something that doesn't cost money to get contact info?

    on March 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm Reply
  • Hi Meagan, Some of the sites will give you descriptions of the farms without telling you the name. Sometimes from the descriptions and a good google search you may be able to figure out what farm it is (Hawaii's a pretty small place!) and try contacting them directly. You may be able to find some farms without the WWOOFing site to begin with. I was able to find a couple just by searching things like "Farms near Hilo." Also, you might try contacting one of the local hostels and asking them. Or maybe some blogs of other travelers who have done WWOOFing. You may find someone on one of these sites who has used their membership to find a place, but still has time left on it. They may share their password or let you buy it from them for a discount.

    on March 29, 2010 at 11:29 am Reply
  • We have some friends getting married in Hawaii this year, but I don't think we're going to be able to fit the flight costs in with our other plans. It's a shame, since I was looking forward to finally using these resources!

    on March 14, 2011 at 12:58 am Reply
  • Excellent travel information. Very useful! I've really been meaning to plan another vacation to Kauai. At least tomorrow is WIki Wiki Wednesday..can't wait to see what deals KVR has in store.

    on December 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm Reply

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