Honolulu Budget Travel in 2021

Fully vaccinated and travel ready! Here’s how we saved money on our first trip Post-Pandemic (sort-of).


We had been looking at rental car prices in Honolulu for a while and found that they were ridiculous. We didn’t want to blow all our Chase Ultimate Rewards Points on a ridiculously expensive rental car on our trip. So we held off on booking for a while. Then we ran into a friend that was planning a two- week trip to Boston and needed a dog-sitter. They were super happy to let us stay at their place in Honolulu and lend us their car since they would be saving money on a dog sitter while they were gone.

If you aren’t so lucky to have a friend looking for a house-sitter at your next destination- check out nomador or trusted house sitters. Nomador has a free trial so you can see what it’s like being having to pay for a membership. Nomador is based in France so many of the stays are in Europe. Trusted House sitters seems to be better for US house sitting gigs.

Shopping at Costco

As soon as we dropped our friends at the airport, I hit up the grocery store to stock up on things we would need during our 2 week trip. Costco is great in Hawaii because the prices on gasoline and many grocery items are way better than other stores. I got stuff for quick meals, sandwiches, fruit, and pastries. Then I hit up Walmart and Safeway for the rest of the necessities.

Cooking for yourself is a huge budget saver but if you can save some money for restaurants in Honolulu. The food scene is incredible. This is a great place to try new-to-you cuisines like Hawaiian, Szechuan, Japanese, and just incredibly fresh fish.

Flight Sales on Southwest

Southwest had an epic deal which let us purchase our flights for half price. Normal inter-island rates are pretty reasonable now that Southwest has moved to Hawaii- about $89 each way- but they regularly run deals with great discounts. We used our Southwest miles from our Southwest Credit Card to purchase the tickets and it was 548 points each way.

Free and low cost activities

Oahu has an amazing amount of free activities to choose from. Here are a few:

  • hiking
  • beaches
  • city strolling
  • Hawaii State Art Museum
  • Koko Crater botanical garden
  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
  • snorkeling
  • people watching
  • farmer’s markets
  • sunsets on the beach

Kama’aina discounts

If you’re visiting Oahu from an outer island like us, take advantage of the Kama’aina discounts and don’t forget your Hawaii drivers license.

  • Foster Botanical Garden- $3 for residents, $5 for non-resident adults
  • Honolulu Museum of Art- $10 for residents, $20 for non-residents, free for ages 18 and under
  • Diamond Head National Monument- free for residents, non-residents admission $5 , non-resident parking $10
  • Honolulu Zoo – $8 resident adults, $19 non-resident adults

Tourist Traps To Avoid

We also took advantage of a outer-island promotion at Wet ‘n Wild Waterpark- 3 visits for $39. It’s normally $49 per visit. I have to say I don’t think I can recommend this right now. There isn’t really any social distancing happening there as of writing- July 2021. I think they are limiting the number of people that visit but they also only have about half the rides open at a time so people are crowded into the open areas. The lines are quite long, it’s very crowded, expensive, loud, etc. We spent about 3.5 hours and took 5 rides. We did spend a lot of time looking around for the hot tub and lazy river only to find they were closed because they were hosting a lu’au in the area later in the evening. Some other costs that you might need to pay if visiting the waterpark: $10 parking per day, $13 for a locker rental, $6 for a drink, $19 for a plate lunch. I saw some wise parents eating pizza in the car before heading into the park. But you can’t bring any food or drinks into the park other than water- I had to pour my iced tea out before entering.

I also visited Diamond Head during this trip- I got a nice photo from the top- despite the crowds. I don’t really understand the draw of this attraction. This is pretty expensive for non-residents, crowded, and most of the hike is hot and boring. If you do decide to go, visit the Diamond Head State Monument Google Places page to visit when it’s less busy. Otherwise you will spend a while sitting in your car waiting for a parking spot to open up. Instead I would recommend Ka’ena Point, Tantalus, or Makapu’u lighthouse trails instead- all of which are less crowded, and free. Check out my photos of Oahu here.

More Nerdy Stuff

Budget Travel- Our US Road Trip

Budget Travel- Our US Road Trip

Let’s talk about budget travel. And I mean real budget travel. Not that commercial “travel package” kind of budget travel, but the grimy, do-it-my-goddam-self kind of travel.

Europe Travel For Less

Europe Travel For Less

How much does it need to cost for two adults to spend a month traveling around Europe? In 2018 we visited Europe for about a month. We