Before I get started on this blog entry, let me just make one thing clear: Hawaii is not a budget destination. In fact, it is one of the most expensive places to travel to in the United States, and the US is an expensive place to travel to (depending on the rate of exchange of your specific country, and on season/off season prices). That being said, if you are determined to go to Hawaii, here are some tips and tricks I suggest you utilize.
Choosing an Island:
All the Hawaiian Islands have their own charms, and they are all gorgeous and unique. With these differences in landscape and population, come differences in prices. Maui is one of the most expensive islands to travel to, and Kauai may be one of the cheapest. Prices always fluctuate, especially seasonally.
As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts: research, research, research. Kauai’s off season is during the winter, and it’s still quite warm, so don’t hesitate to go then. Always look up weather fluctuations for different seasons too, as the islands are no stranger to flash floods and aggressive weather.
Another thing I mentioned in one of my last blog posts, is to check prices for plane tickets. The apps Kayak and Hopper help, and sometimes just going onto the airlines website can do the trick. Of course, air miles and air rewards travel points can help. Since plane tickets to Hawaii are not going to come cheap, the key here is to start research early on. Perhaps you may even be able to recognize trends in price changes and (if you’re lucky) catch good deals or sales.
Transportation on Island:
The islands, unfortunately, are not a place easily navigable without a car. If you are under 25, getting a car will be extra expensive considering the underage fee (usually around an extra 25 USD$ a day). A good way to find the cheapest option is to use Kayak, as there is a section of the app that offers selections of cars and prices. Another way to get a good discount on rentals is to use the following website: https://www.discounthawaiicarrental.com/.
If you’re staying in a hostel, you can always get a ride from other people living there. However, this means there is a chance you may not get to see everything, as your schedule is reliant on another person’s schedule.
Another method could be the app Turo. It is like Airbnb, in the sense that you can rent someone else’s car for a day. Kauai, however, is such a small island that there are barely any of these. There are also on a handful of taxis and Uber has just been allowed on island, so the waiting lines for these may be long. A taxi from the airport upon arrival to Lihue was about a 40-minute wait, and this was at midnight. Buses are similar on the island, as they come very rarely and do not cover the entire island.
Two much less reliable, and much less safe options are hitch hiking and renting cars from locals. The reasons hitch hiking is risky, are obvious. Renting cars from locals is a bit of a wild card, as there is no insurance or protection against scamming. Tourists have been known to rent cars that break down with the owner nowhere in sight, and to be pulled over for not having valid license plates. This is a cheap option, but proceed at your own risk.
Airbnb’s on Kauai are extremely expensive. You most likely won’t find anything cheaper than 100$ a night, if you’re lucky. Couchsufing isn’t an option either, as there are no people offering their place up (this being around February 2018, it may change in the future). There are 2 hostels to stay at on the island. My personal favourite is Kauai Beach House Hostel, an open-air hostel right on the beach, with lots of cool people, fun activities, a free table and a fully equipped kitchen. At 38$ a night, this place is well worth it.
As with everything else on the island, food is expensive. Although some people adore spending money trying to find the best poke bowl, and the most decorative smoothie bowl (guilty), it’s possible to find cheap food. Food trucks are always a good option, and there are many of them in Kapaa (where the hostel is located).
One restaurant/outdoor café/shack that I highly recommend is the mermaid café. As for breakfast, Java Kai is right beside the Mermaid Café, and offers a wide selection. It is a great place to get both your morning coffee, and decadent smoothie bowl. For an evening burger and milkshake, Bubba’s is the place to go. Then for dessert, The Spot offers incredible frozen yogurt. Conveniently, these places are all located on the main street of Kapaa, a short walk away from the hostel. Right beside the hostel, is also The Coconut Cup Juice Bar and Café, they offer decadent smoothie bowls and fresh coconuts. Though I recommend getting some coconuts by the side of the street, coconuts are severely overpriced at cafés and are sold everywhere on island by locals who cut them down every morning.
Grocery stores are always a good idea. A loaf of bread can be bought for 1$, along with peanut butter and bananas, breakfast is complete for the week. Buying some veggies and to go meals can cover the entire week at lower costs than dining out.
There are so many fun and free activities on the island, this is by far the best part. With a car, spend the day driving up and around Waimea Canyon, stopping to take as many pictures as possible of course. Beach days are great, but the water is difficult to swim in as the currents are very strong. Make sure to read up on which parts of the island are swimmable at what times. The North Shore is typically too dangerous in the winter, and the South shore too difficult in the summer.
Hiking is a great past time too. The sleeping giant is an easy day hike. The Na Pali coast, however, can’t be missed. The full hike is two days long, and camping permits must be purchased months in advance. Hiking only part of it is also lots of fun, gorgeous and free. A helpful tip is to go early in the morning. The hike gets extremely busy, so arrive early in the morning if you don’t want to park a 20-minute walk away.
The Waimea waterfall (not part of Waimea Canyon) is a bit of a tourist trap in my opinion, as there is just a small area to watch it from above, and it is crowded with tourists taking photos. However, if anyone can brave the trek down (couldn’t find the way down myself, but I’ve been told it is possible and difficult to get there), then swimming at the bottom of the falls may be one of the most gorgeous things to do.
If partying all night and pub crawling is your idea of the perfect vacation, then Kauai is definitely not the place to be. The island has very few party areas and most bars seem to be tame. Quiet hours come into effect at 10pm and last until 8am. Additionally, everyone is up early here. If you don’t wake up every morning around 6 or 7am, then you will definitely miss out on most activities (especially those that crowd early). Plus, the sunsets and sunrises are so gorgeous, it’s worth the early wake up call!
So, I tried fitting everything into one blog post, but I’m sure I missed some stuff. I spent about 5 full days on the island, and it was enough for me. The island is quite small, and most of it is nature. They don’t call it the Garden Isle for nothing! As always, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments below and I will answer them as soon as I can. If anyone has been to Kauai and wants to suggest more things, comment below too!
-Namaste, and always with love
Creator and Writer @ MAP Yoga
RYT-200 Certified Vinyasa and Hatha yoga teacher
The Coconut Cup Juice Bar and Cafe has now been renamed Ohana Juice Kauai