How I Managed To Avoid Spending A Fortune Traveling To Hawaii

I’ve always wanted to go out to the islands. Hawaii, that is. It has been a life-long dream of mine to walk barefoot on the white sandy beaches with the crystal blue waters… And in the summer of 2016, I managed to make it come true, for less than what I was paying for rent in New York City.

Here’s how I did it. (Just a heads up, I was a solo traveler, didn’t care about layovers, was flexible with time, and had a friend who lives on the island.)

I think it was around May when I started to look for flights out to Hawaii — my goal was to be on the island just as tourist season was coming to a close. That meant late August and early September. I opted for the former and chose the last week of August.

If you haven’t used Skiplagged before, you should, because it saved me a ton of time. It really helps if your time is flexible and fortunately, I had a flexible vacation period — and I didn’t care if I had a layover (or two). What ended up happening was I bought an early one-way flight out to Hawaii for about $305, with a layover in Dallas, and a separate return home leg for about the same price, with a layover in Dallas and Philadelphia — I figured I’d take my sweet time coming back home. I wasn’t in a hurry to see NYC again.

I also booked a room using Airbnb for five nights at $48 a night, which came to $268, including a $29 service fee. The building was in a super convenient location in Waikiki (which mean I could walk to virtually any restaurant and to Waikiki beach in under five minutes). [Update: Looks like they’ve since remodeled their condo to fit more people! It’s a great location and safe! I didn’t need an air conditioner because it was just naturally cool and breezy!)

The night before my flight out, I received a notification that my flight was going to be delayed, so I called American Airlines (I have a frequent flyer membership with them) and sorted out the issue. The representative got me on an even earlier flight that would let me comfortably catch my connecting flight! (Thank you, AA!)

The flight was fairly uneventful, except when we were to fly from Dallas to Honolulu and we were delayed for about 45 minutes. The delay was due to some loose plastic trim around the emergency door that the mechanic ended up temporarily “fixing” with duct tape. I’m still alive, so it worked!

I can remember touching down at Honolulu. The beach to the right of us, the mountain ahead of us, it was really amazing to see. I remember myself repeating “I’m finally here, I’m finally here, I’m finally here,” in my head. I never got a lai when we landed, but I think that’s only a Hawaiian Airlines thing (correct me if I’m wrong), and I somehow made my way out of the airport. Honolulu International feels very…70s. I called an Uber and a minivan came to pick me up and took me to my Airbnb. Turned out the driver was Korean, and he gave me some tips on where I should go eat and sightsee. The Uber ride cost me $50, thanks to rush hour traffic and surge pricing.

The room at my AirBnb was very comfortable. Eric and his mother, Kumiko welcomed me with open arms and gave me ideas on where to go and how to get around. I ended up buying a four-day bus pass (and used it all four days), which cost $35, at the convenience store literally across the street.

I spent a lot of money buying food and water — the first meal I had was at a Thai restaurant across the street from the Airbnb (~$21).

I tried the Spam Musubi from the 7/11 ($1.55):

The Loco Moco from Aloha Kitchen ($12):

And I went to Waiola Shave Ice with Sara — she paid for the shaved ice to welcome me to the island!

I can’t forget about the best pork tacos I’ve ever had in my life at Alejandro’s Mexican Food — their burrito bowl will set you back only $7.50 and it is absolutely amazing.

I also got some garlic shrimp and kalbi at Ono Steaks and Shrimp Shack. That was roughly $15.

I would recommend going out of Waikiki to experience more of Oahu — I traveled up to the North Shore to get an unforgettable breakfast burrito at Kono’s ($8.35) — and I also bought shaved ice at Matsumoto’s but it was too sweet and big for me!

As for activities, everything I did was essentially free. Hiking, running, and sleeping on the beach.

I ran from my Airbnb to Diamond Head — I think the entry free is like $3.00. I managed to take these shots:

And hiked Kuliouou Ridge with Sara:

And went to Ka’ena Point,  the western-most tip on Oahu, with Sara and Allen.

Took a bus to Lanikai Beach:

Took the bus to Haleiwa (where I had the best breakfast burrito at Kono’s…) and got super sunburnt!

I would have more photos of my trip up, but my phone…I had to reformat my old phone because the OS ended up dying on me.

All-in-all, I think I spent roughly around $1500, including my airfare and accommodations, meaning I spent around $600 on food, activities, and souvenirs.

Not a bad haul, I’d say.

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