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  • Tasha Meyer

Budgeting in Paradise: Top 5 Money Saving Tips for Traveling to Oahu



With its year-round pleasant weather, continuous sunshine, and white sandy beaches, it’s no surprise that Hawaii is a top vacation destination. Oahu, otherwise known in Hawaiian as ‘the Gathering place”, is home to many iconic people, places, and things.

We know traveling can get expensive, so lets talk about the dreaded “B” word: budgeting. While it’s more enjoyable to bid bon voyage to budgeting during our vacation, lets face it: finding ways to manage your dinero, yen, and franc is important before, during, and after your getaway.

Below, Shaka Guide lists the top 5 money saving hacks while traveling to Oahu so you wont break the bank while on vacation:

Tip #1 : TransportationPublic: TheBus

Private: Turo

Hands down, theBus is the most reasonable of options. Upon boarding, ask the bus operator for the 1-Day Pass and for $5.50, you get up to 27 hours of unlimited rides! According to TheBus’ website timetable, the buses run roughly every 10 -12 minutes through metropolitan areas, though the real average wait time is more like 15-30 minutes. Despite operating on “Hawaiian time”, Shaka Guide likes theBus for being super affordable, having services for the disabled, and island-wide availability. Remember to use Shaka Guide while enjoying the sights because you won’t have to drive!

Another transportation option that is easy on the wallet (and the earth) is a bike rental system called Biki. Depending on the length of rental, rates start at $3.50 for a 30 minute ride. Pick-up and drop-off can be done at different stations, as they are widely available around Waikiki, Downtown Honolulu, and Central Oahu.

If biking isn’t your thing or you just want to travel on your time, we recommend Turo. This peer-to-peer car rental company has rentals for as low as $20.00/day, with options that range from Nissan Sentra’s to Audi A6’s. It works like a traditional rental car company, with a few exceptions . Just keep in mind parking in Oahu can vary from being sparse (Waimea Bay), to being quite expensive (International Marketplace in Waikiki).


Tip #2: Food

Head for the small businesses

What better way is there to immerse yourself in what the locals eat than finding those hole-in-the-wall eateries. For breakfast, Harry’s Cafe on Waimanu Street is a great place for an assortment of local breakfast items like fried rice and pancakes, with prices being $5 or less (daily 5:00 AM- 8:00 AM; raises to about $10-12 thereafter). For lunch, head to Yama’s Fish Market in Moiliili where you can indulge in the coveted plate lunch (Kalua Pig, Macaroni salad and rice for $8.05); Tanioka’s in Waipahu for bentos and poke ($5-8), or Sugoi’s in Kalihi ($7 garlic chicken bentos). End the day with dinner at Bale in Hawaii Kai ($5.00-$12.00) or if you're really hungry, some AYCE: Kats Sushi in Downtown Honolulu ($25.95); hot pot at Little Sheep ($25.99) or Yakiniku at Gen Korean BBQ in Ala Moana ($15.99 for lunch and $26.99 for dinner).

Room for dessert? Always! Head to Kapahulu for some glorious sweet fried dough for $1.25 each at Leonards Malasada or cool down with shave ice in Haleiwa at Matsumotos.


Tip #3: Lodging

Stay at a hostel, home-share,or home-exchange

Hawaii, namely Oahu, is notorious for having very high hotel rates. Even staying during off-seasons in Hotels, VRBO, or AirBNB can become expensive with all the added fees. With that said, pull a Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet (see: “The Holiday” ) and partake in a Home exchange, a home share, or explore the Hostel life. Hostel price range from $21/night and up, while home exchanges and stays operated on bartering items or work, or swapping homes.

With the perfect weather year-round, why not some camping? While Hawaii is an ideal place, camping in Hawaii requires a bit more legwork: Permits start at $12, must be obtained online by the City and County, and may be reserved and purchased up to one year in advance. If you are a planner and would like to apply for a permit to camp in Hawaii be sure to visit Hawaii Camping and Permit Page for more information regarding places available, pricing, and applying for a permit, as these differ across the counties and sites.


Tip #4: Shopping

The Swap meet marketplace at Aloha Stadium

Throw out your preconceived notions of swap meet’s being dingy! As Hawaii’s largest open air market, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Oahu is the exact opposite: there are over 400 vendors that sells things from imported merchandise like shirts, bags, and art pieces, to items like popular local snacks and other Made in Hawaii products. The Marketplace Hours are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m; Swap Meet Hours are Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Sundays from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Admission is $1.00 per buyer, with children 11 years and under being free!

As a side tip, remember to pick up those brochures at the airport, as they sometimes have coupons for food, beverages, activities, and shopping experiences for Oahu island.


Tip #5: Activities

Take advantage of the outdoors!

The great thing about the Hawaiian islands is that it offers many different types of environments to experience. Oahu, for example has many affordable activities; If you enjoy the ocean: stroll along its many shorelines, take a snorkel around Hanauma Bay (entry is $7.50), or whale watch (free) during mating and calving season December-May. Land-lover instead? No worries! Oahu is known for their hikes that are low-cost or even free! Makapu’u, Manoa Falls, Tantalus, and Ka’ena Point are all free hikes with easy to moderate foot power for beautiful views.

So there you have it! Some of our favorite travel tips for your globe-trotting self while still keeping your budget intact. Don’t forget to experience Oahu with Shaka Guide’s Driving Tour app as your travel buddy! Take those reigns, get out there and enjoy your Oahu vacation without spending a pretty penny; you can do it!

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