How to Spend Less Than $30 A Day on O’ahu

spend lessLots of people like saying living in Hawai’i is expensive. Meanwhile back in June I collected some numbers for grocery shopping in Honolulu and I have to tell you, they weren’t all that bad. Did you get sticker shock? Maybe on a few items, like milk can get up there in costs. Right now (like as I’m typing this in November 2017) gas prices are at $2.99 per gallon. Pricier than the rest of the country but cheaper than you thought, right? You can spend less while you’re on vacation.

Why did I choose $30? I honestly just picked it out of thin air (I’m not even kidding). There are so many blogs talking about seriously cheap budgets like $25 a day, $20 a day, and even $10 a day! Lets not get too carried away. That $10 a day guide by the way, he says to go dumpster diving. There’s no need to go to that extreme while vacationing on O’ahu! Lets spend a little money, but keep it reasonable.

A Place to Stay

Couchsurfing, that’s literally the answer here. It’s completely free and there are plenty of hosts on O’ahu and in Honolulu. It has a large network and there are different levels of getting verified (no one wants to stay with a creeper, am I right?) and people love to leave reviews. Go ahead and stay with the safest guest while couchsurfing and spend less on your vacation.

Money spent: $0

Getting Around

spend lessThe bus, that’s literally it’s name, TheBus. I have a love hate relationship with the bus system on O’ahu. Sometimes it’s super timely. I get from point A to point B without a problem or wondering why we’re not moving when there is no one in front of us? Other times they’re late, or 10 minutes early, or disappear into the vacuum of space. The website with it’s HEA is great for tracking when and where the next bus is coming, and they have an app.

Money spent: $2.50 per adult
There is a 1 day pass now that is $5 per adult for the whole day. If you’re going to be getting on an off the bus more than twice I suggest this option.

How to Eat

spend lessGrocery shopping, of course! Walmart is on the island if you really want to be cheap. There is also Costco. Local grocery stores are like Times Supermarket or Foodland. They’re all over O’ahu and are easy to spot. Most have bus stops in front of them, or at least nearby so getting there and back again isn’t much of an issue. They charge 10 cents a bag at most places now (or just straight up don’t have them) so bring your own or pay.

Money spent: This depends on you.
I can easily spend just $25 or less per week but then again, I don’t cook a lot. I suggest if you are cooking a lot, perhaps $40-$60 for the week for one person, again, depending on what you buy. You’ll spend less than you think.

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What to See

Aloha Tower

Just outside of Downtown, Honolulu is the Aloha Tower. Quite an underrated site if you ask me. At 10 stories tall, you can see all of Honolulu harbor. The only sad part is it closes at 5pm (otherwise it would be the perfect place to watch the sunset, but you can’t). Before the 1950’s and aviation for regular people really took off this was how everyone made it to Honolulu, through Honolulu harbor. Today it’s a small Aloha Tower Marketplace, with housing used for HPU up the street mostly. If you go here, you’ll spend less for sure. Although, parking is metered. Just take the bus.

Money spent: $0

Iolani Palace

Walking around the outside of this beautiful building built in the early 1870s is completely free, which means you can spend less on your vacation. If the grounds aren’t enough for you a tour can cost a pretty penny. Inside the barracks for the guards (where the tickets are sold) you can watch a movie for a few minutes about the entire history of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani (the last monarchs of Hawai’i). From Memorial Day to Labor Day members of the US military get free entry inside because it’s a Blue Star museum, how cool is that?

Money spent: $0
Or 21.75 per adult, if it’s in your budget why not?

Capital Building

Surprisingly, there is a replica of the liberty bell in front of the capital building in Honolulu, did you know that? Walking around this building is completely free too, which means you still spend less money! It’s a modern building, in the shape of a volcano to represent the island state. The inside is open air and you can see the sky if you look straight up.

Money spent: $0

Izumo Shrine

Just on the outskirts of Chinatown is the Chinese Cultural Plaza. Walking around that is nice if you’re into it and has some great views since it’s on a river. On the edge of the cultural plaza is the Izumo Shrine which celebrating the Japanese culture in Hawai’i. Even though this is right on the tour bus stops, not many people stop to enjoy it.

Money spent: $0
Unless you give an offering or buy one of the expensive good luck charms at the visitor’s center.

Pearl Harbor

A day every American will remember and the anniversary is coming up faster than we realize! Seeing this site is completely free unless you have a bag. Seeing the USS Arizona is free. It was completely sunk back in 1941 and hundreds of people died on it during the attack. It was never taken out of the water, mostly because it’s these people’s tomb and facial recognition technology didn’t exist back in the 40s. Today it’s their last resting place, so if you visit please be respectful!

Money spent: $0
If you have a bag, $4.

Hawaiian Birthstones

In almost the exact middle of the island is the Hawaiian Birthstones. Ancient Hawaiians would give birth here if their child could be part of the “ali’i” or royalty. Basically if the child would someday become chief. This is off the beaten track and there isn’t much there commercially. No one is selling things off to the side and there won’t be any lines to stand in to look at something.

Money spent: $0

Hula Show

There is no need to spend tons of money to see a show. A free show happens on Kuhio Beach Park every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night from 6:30-7:30 or 6-7 November-January. At the Ala Moana Shopping Center everyday at 1pm is another hula show. This one only lasts about 20 minutes. On Sunday it’s the keiki show (with children) meanwhile every other day it’s adults dancing hula.

Money spent: $0

Valley of the Temples

On the other side of the island now in Kaneohe is the valley of the temples. While there are many temples and shrines to visit (hence the plural) the biggest attraction is the Byodo-In Temple. It’s actually a replica of a temple, since if it was an actual temple tourists wouldn’t be allowed to enter. The views seen in this place is amazing too. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop! Maybe you can get yourself a kimono.

Money spent: $3 per person

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Bishop Museum

Want to learn the history of the Polynesians? The actual one, not the one Disney made with Moana (great movie by the way, love it!). The Bishop museum is where it’s all at. If you have children I also suggest going here, they have lots of fun games in it. I did get weird looks for being an adult and playing…so it really is just for children. The history is great for adults and the architecture rivals the palace.

Money spent: $22.75 per adult

What to Do



A pillbox is used in the military for fight tactics and these old pillboxes have some amazing views of Kailua and Waimanalo. This isn’t a very common hike to do (After living here for over a year, I only heard about it like 2 weeks ago). Although it is a short one and has some amazing views overlooking the ocean and the valley below.

Money spent: $0

Koko Head

This hike is much more famous. It’s on the dry side of the island so it’s no the same greenery you’re probably used to seeing in all of these photographs. In Hawaii Kai is Koko Head and has an extensive hiking area. I’ve never hiked it myself, but I’ve heard it’s for a bit more of an experienced hiker. It can get tough, but I hear the view is worth it.

Money spent: $0

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Diamond Head

The most famous hike for last! There are others on the island, but lets not make this list too long. Diamond Head used to be a military installation. It isn’t anymore. Today people from all over the world hike up this mountain to see a famous view of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. The hike itself isn’t even a whole mile one way, so it’s put this into the easy category.

Money spent: $1


The beaches on Oahu and the rest of Hawai’i are begging to be snorkeled and seen! Buying good snorkel gear can cost about $20. There are some really cheapy ones for like $13 or you can go super high end and get the ones that are $50+. Hanauma Bay is famous for snorkeling, but it’s also $7.50 to get in, plus parking. If you want a less famous beach try out Electric Beach on the other side of the island near Kapolei. It’s less crowded and parking is free. When I was there I didn’t see any bathrooms, so come in a bathing suit already!

Money spent: $20

Getting Souvenirs

Don’t spend any money in Waikiki. It’s way overpriced. Instead, hop on bus 42 and get to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday before 3pm. On the outside of the stadium tons and tons of tent selling everything you see in the ABC stores in Waikiki and then some. You can get whatever you want carved into some Koa wood if you want, or just buy some cheap post cards. Need more luggage? It goes for about half the price here.

Money spent: $1 to get in per person, after that, it depends on you!

If you mix up the things that actually cost money and the things that are free (there are so many to choose from, is it possible to have too many things to do?) then you can easily spend less than $30 a day while on Oahu. Couchsurfing, free. Grocery shopping, just spend $50 for one whole week and pack snacks or a lunchbox on the go. The bus doesn’t allow you to eat on it either, by the way. After that you’re home free for some cheap things to do while on Oahu.

About Leanne

Leanne got the inspiration to travel the world at 12-years-old when her family moved from Washington State to Florida. Although she still had to attend 7th grade she used her time to gain inspiration from travel bloggers. Now, 7 years later, here she is! Today she’s living in Honolulu, Hawaii and preparing herself both physically and mentally to travel the world. Come join her here on Countries To Go!

5 comments on “How to Spend Less Than $30 A Day on O’ahu

  1. I have been dying to go and visit Hawaii! Can’t wait to snorkel and dive there, Leanne. But it is quite far from NYC and I have to save first before heading there with my family :). I do read that Hawaii can be expensive so thank you so much for the tips! Looks like we have so many beautiful places to visit there. Cheers…

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