How to go solo backpacking to Hawaii on a budget

Backpacking Hawaii on a budget

When it comes to dream places to visit, Hawaii surely is on the list of many of us. But being one of the most expensive states in the USA, Hawaii on a budget is not something you hear very often…

After spending just over two months in Hawaii, on this post I’ll tell you all my tips on how easy it is to go solo backpacking to Hawaii on a Budget and have a bunch of adventures in between!

Makalawena beach - Hawaii on a budget
Finding a cheap flight to Hawaii

Hawaii is far from everything! how to find a cheap ticket there!? I hear you say.

As part of my adventures travelling for a year, I made it to Hawaii after 10 months all over East Asia.

For me, one of the most incredible backpacking destinations in the world is China where I had lots of adventures.

When I was there I met a couple of travellers that live in Honolulu and casually mentioned that flying from Osaka in Japan to Honolulu is insanely cheap.

Kuli'ou'ou ridge trail summit viewpoint

I didn’t look at it at the time as I was not planning yet to go backpacking in Japan, which I did a few months later. But once there, I remembered of that comment and had a look on skyscanner and yeah…it was super cheap!

I found a one-way ticket for just $120 with AirAsia!!! Hawaii here we go!

If you don’t have Osaka on your way, check anyways as there are other cheap combinations from all over Asia.

Flying from North America could cost the same as on my way out I flew from Kona (Big Island) to San Francisco for just $150 and I saw similar deals to Canada and Mexico.

Accommodation

Awesome, you made it to Hawaii!

hawaii on a budget

Now you face by far one of the most expensive things you will spend money on the island. Even the cheapest hostels all over Hawaii are pretty steep on price when you compare them with Asian countries and even European ones.

When I was backpacking in Oahu I paid only one night at the Waikiki Beachside Hostel at almost US $40 :_(

Booking.com

So, I ruled hostels out pretty quick. You can try your luck to see if you find cheaper prices for Hostels in Hawaii.

Your 3 options for a low cost sleep or a completely free stay are camping, couchsurfing and workawaying!

Pololu Valley hike
Camping in Hawaii

There are lots of camping places all over the Hawaiian Islands, booking is done through different websites as there are several departments administering them and as a general rule you need to book in advance.

For non-residents the prices tend to be around US $20 per night or lower, which is still steep…

I found this State of Hawaii site really good to book many places in different islands.

Some other places do not take bookings and they’re on a first come first serve basis. When I camped on Volcano National Park I didn’t have any issues though, and camping there was only $10.

Camping in volcano National Park
How about wild camping in Hawaii?

Well…although technically forbidden almost everywhere, I was told by a few local friends of some places that in theory you cannot camp but they said it’s absolutely fine.

There are also lots of trails around the islands (at least Oahu and the Big Island) where no one will know you’re there if you pitch your tent late in the day.

MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS

I camped one night on one of these trails in the north side of the Big Island with no problems at all.

As always, if you wild camp, make sure to leave no trace!

camping in hawaii
Couchsurfing in Hawaii

Finding a couchsurf host in Hawaii was a bit harder for me than in other countries, so make sure to start contacting people a bit more in advance than you would normally do.

Most of my time in Honolulu was spent couchsurfing with a great host and that saved my trip as otherwise the budget would have pushed me out of there quickly.

Workawaying in Hawaii

Surely the answer for backpacking Hawaii on a budget is to do some workaways! they’re not only a way to have free accommodation but also in most cases free food and sometimes even some money. But the best of this is for sure to have a proper cultural immersion with the Hawaiian communities!

I did a couple of workaways on the Big Island and loved them.

hiking in hawaii

The work was pretty chilled and met lots and lots of people! just make sure to select a project that adapts to your liking and ask many questions to your hosts before hand so you know what to expect and what will they expect from you!

Moving around Hawaii

I only visited Oahu and the Big Island so please look elsewhere if you visit the other islands.

Oahu is really well linked by frequent buses and with one way tickets at just $2.75 this is surely a cheap way to move around.

If you’re doing a one-day activity such as hiking in Hawaii, make sure to get a day-pass at just $5.50 as it may be likely you will need to take more than one bus to get to the trail heads.

Ka'au trail

The Big Island is terrible for moving around on a Bus, the Hele On bus surely has routes all over, but normally only one bus per day at silly o’clock in the mornings.

The best way to move around on the Big Island is hitchhiking! the locals are well accustomed to pick hitchhikers up and I also got a few rides with other tourists that rented cars. Maximum waiting time was always 5 minutes!!!

Some workaway places also offer cars and mopeds so make sure to look on that when you contact people as that will also help a lot! I went from Kona to Volcano National Park on a little moped and it was quite an adventure!

Volcano national park

If you’re travelling with a friend or more, have a look into renting a car as sometimes there are pretty good deals for car rentals in Hawaii!

Food

To keep your backpacking adventures in Hawaii on a budget, try to cook as much as you can. Ask around if there are food stands from the local farmers as you could get fruit and veggies really cheap and top quality with them.

The local supermarket KTA had some good stuff and better quality than the cheaper Wallmart (at least for produce).

The Foodland supermarkets tend to be more expensive but if you go around 3pm you may find some super cheap hot meals reduced from lunch time.

kuliouou ridge trail views
Activities

Being an outdoor paradise there’s a lot to do in Hawaii for free! go hiking to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world is a no-brainer starter!

Another free activity is just to grab your mask and go snorkelling for an incredible performance of the marine life almost everywhere you go!

Always ask around the locals! I found so many little events and parties/gigs all over the place! there’s almost always something awesome to do in Hawaii for free!

Koko Head Volcano Rim

Planning to go backpacking in Hawaii? Make sure to check my other posts in Hawaii for more ideas! and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about backpacking Hawaii on a budget!

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