When you’re spending time in Honolulu there are literally hundreds of activities tourists and locals alike can enjoy, but some of those things are going to be a little easier on your wallet than others. For the traveler in search of a budget friendly, authentic Hawaii experience, here’s a collection of tips and suggestions on where to stay, how to get around, what to do, and where to eat.
First, you need to get there.
One way to make your trip a little easier to plan is to look for a package deal, which includes flights, hotel options, and car rentals with pick up right at the Honolulu International Airport.
Most people also want to drop in on a few other islands during their visit. For quick and easy island hopping, book your flights with Island Air. Flights between Hawaii’s most popular islands start at just $59.
Once you’re there, you’ll need a place to stay.
Aqua Resorts is a popular hotel chain with more than 10 unique hotels in Honolulu. Their Aqua Palms Waikiki is just one block from Waikiki Beach. The Ala Moana Beach Park, Ala Moana Center, and Downtown Hawaii are all within walking distance, and The Hawaii Convention Center is a short drive away. They frequently run sales and promotions, so keep an eye on their website for relevant specials.
Airbnb is a great option for those who would rather experience the island from a local home or apartment. They have plenty of listings for unique rooms, condos, and even entire homes hosted directly by local residents. Each one has it’s own charm, and you’ll feel more like you’re really living in Hawaii as you enjoy your stay.
The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is a great family friendly option, complete with a gym, a pool, free parking, free kids meals, and most importantly: beach front views. It’s located just a few blocks away from the Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo, both fun activities for the kids. They often offer package deals and seasonal promotions on the Family Offers section of their site, so make sure to check that before you book.
Tripadvisor is a great resource for comparing hotels (as well as for natural sites, activities, restaurants, and more.) They’re also a great resource for package deals since they partner with Island Air. Their site will let you filter by whatever you want, so you can find what you’re looking for without having to skim through a million options. You can add your own reviews to help fellow travelers.
Yelp is something you’ve probably used already when you’re exploring new places. It’s great for candid reviews of hotels, from real guests who have stayed there. It’s also useful for finding restaurants and activities. Like Tripadvisor, you can add your own reviews to help future travelers.
Once you’ve arrived and settled into your rental, you’ll need a way to get around.
Car rentals are super easy to book through IslandAir. You can usually get them included in your package deal and pick it up right from the airport.
Bike rentals are a fun way to get around without needing to worry about parking. You can pick them up right from Waikiki Bike Rental. They’ve even got surfboard racks and GoPro cameras available, so you can ride and record your latest surfing adventure.
Public transit is available via the bus system for just $2.50 a ride. You can check out the routes, stops, and up to date schedules here.
Once you’re mobile, you’ll want to explore.
Manoa Falls is a stunning natural waterfall you’ll come to after a beautiful 1.5 mile hike through the rainforest. It’s a beginner level hike that the whole family should be able to keep up with. There are tons of beautiful views along the way with lots of opportunities for taking some impressive photos.
`Iolani Palace was built in 1882 by the last King of Hawaii, King David Kalakaua. You can learn about its rich cultural history during a guided tour or just explore the grounds on your own. Though it once served as a palace for the king, it has since been turned into a museum.
Diamond Head is a breathtaking hike along the ridge of Hawaii’s iconic 300,000 year old volcanic crater. This trail has some of the best views you can see on the island, so bring a camera.
Hanauma Bay is where you’ll want to go for the best snorkeling. There’s a beautiful reef full of thousands of species to discover. You’ll have the chance to swim alongside turtles, Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (the state fish of Hawaii), milletseed butterfly fish, yellow tangs, trumpet fish, angelfish, and so much more.
Pearl Harbor has memorials and a museum that are definitely worth seeing. If you arrive early enough in the morning you get free parking, not to mention you’ll beat the crowds. Admission is free and includes a viewing of an informative video, plus the chance to visit several historically significant sites, including the USS Arizona memorial and the USS Bowfin submarine.
After all this excitement, you’ll probably be hungry.
Duke’s Waikiki, as you could guess, is located on Waikiki Beach. It’s well priced and great spot for good fruity cocktails paired with a casual meal. There are two dining areas: the Barefoot Bar and the Dining Room. Both have fresh seafood, great burgers, and are family friendly.
12th Ave Grill is a great family-owned restaurant with delicious American style cuisine. It’s perfect for families, and it recently won an award from Honolulu Magazine for the best restaurant of 2015.
Haleiwa Joe’s is about an hour drive north of Waikiki in the town of Haleiwa. This beachfront spot has live music and entertainment most nights, so be sure to check their schedule to decide what night you want to go.
Tiki’s Grill & Bar is another great beachfront spot for cocktails–especially their Mai Tai–and fresh local food. They have a great lineup of local bands and hula dancers that perform regularly, so again, make sure to check the schedule to decide when you want to go.
Highway Inn has been serving authentic Hawaiian cuisine since 1947. Their friendly staff is more than helpful in teaching you about what their dishes are and what to order. This is a great place to get a taste of the best of local cuisine.
Wailo Shave Ice has been a staple of the area since 1940. There are literally thousands of flavor combinations, and they’re a great treat after a day on the beach.
There are plenty of moreamazing activities and delicious restaurants you can check out in Honolulu that are not mentioned here, and it would be impossible to get to them all, but this is a great place to start. The best way to discover more of the island is to get yourself out there and talk with fellow travelers and locals. If you open yourself up to the amazing experiences Honolulu has to offer, you’ll be sure to make memories that last a lifetime.