Whether you’re visiting Honolulu for a weekend or a week, the state capital and gateway to the islands has plenty to offer the budget friendly traveler looking to experience authentic Hawaii without breaking the bank. From accommodations to can’t miss restaurants, we’ve got you covered for an unforgettable and authentic Honolulu getaway. With the famous Waikiki nightlife stretching along the beachfront and the iconic Diamond Head volcano creating a stunning backdrop, Honolulu is a perennially popular travel destination for good reason. Between the beaches, the nightlife, and the rich cultural history of Oahu, there’s something for everyone in Honolulu. Here’s some of our top suggestions for where to stay, what to do, and where to eat to really capture that Aloha spirit.
If you’re island hopping and looking to fly to Honolulu from another island on your vacation, book your flights with Island Air. We offer flights between Hawaii’s most popular islands starting at $59, with quick and comfortable nonstop direct flights. Travelers who prefer bundled deals can check out package deals on Island Air, which include flights, hotel options, and car rental with pick up right at the Honolulu International Airport.
1. AQUA RESORTS: A popular hotel chain with more than 10 unique hotels in Honolulu, Aqua Resorts has something for everyone, from mid-range accommodations to boutique hotels with fun themes. The Aqua Palms Waikiki is just a block from Waikiki Beach and is a great option for a clean, affordable, mid range hotel. Guests can easily walk to the white sandy shores of Ala Moana Beach Park and the shops at Ala Moana Center. The Aqua Palms has a pool, parking garage, and is located right next to the Wailana Coffee House. Bring your room keys for 10% off! Aqua Resorts frequently runs sales and promotions on their website, so be sure to check out applicable discounts.
2. AIRBNB:Travelers looking for somewhere truly one of a kind to stay have plenty of locally hosted apartment and room rental options on Airbnb. A quick search of Honolulu on your travel dates will reveal tons of options for rooms, beachfront condos or entire homes for rent that each have their own unique character and local charm. You can even stay on a wooden ship docked in the harbor!
3. SHERATON PRINCESS KAIULANI: If you’re looking for an affordable and family friendly hotel, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is a great option to consider. Featuring various package deals and promotions, the Princess Kaiulani boasts a brand new gym, a huge pool, beach front views, and family friendly extras like free parking and free kids meals. It’s right across the street from the beach, and just a few blocks walk to the Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo, so family friendly activities are easy and convenient from here. Be sure to check out their Family deals site for seasonal promotion packages.
4. TRIP ADVISOR: Island Air partners with TripAdvisor on booking package deals, and their site is a great source to compare and contrast hotel options for your travel dates to Honolulu. There’s a ton of options in Waikiki and beyond, and TripAdvisor is a great way to search by whatever filters you want—whether you’re looking for something family friendly or secluded and peaceful. There’s a budget friendly dream hotel for every kind of traveler, it’s just a matter of finding it. TripAdvisor keeps things simple.
5. YELP: Yelp is your best friend when it comes to getting the inside scoop on what a hotel is really like, from reviews of guests who have stayed there before. Depending on what amenities you’re looking for during your stay in Honolulu, set your filter options by price, location, top rated, and more. You already know this, but Yelp is also a great way to check out honest reviews of restaurants and activities you’re considering on your Hawaiian getaway, too. After your trip, you can add your own reviews to help other travelers, too!
1. CAR RENTAL: When booking through IslandAir, consider booking your car rental up front as a package deal, so you can just pick it up from the airport and get to the good stuff. There are several rental agencies to choose from, including Hertz, Dollar, and Alamo.
2. BIKE RENTAL: If you don’t need a car, consider exploring the island by bike with a rental from Waikiki Bike Rental. They’ve even got surfboard racks and GoPro cameras, for whatever adventures you want to document.
3. PUBLIC TRANSIT: Another great option is Hawaii’s public transit system. Download the phone app for Hawaii’s Bus, which will show you routes, stops, and up to date schedules for getting around Honolulu for just $2.50 a ride.
What To Do:
1. MONOA FALLS: You can’t miss Honolulu’s stunning natural waterfalls while you’re visiting. From a beautiful 1.5 mile hike from the road through the rainforest, Monoa Falls emerge from the foliage with a stunning 150 natural drop. It’s an easy hike with a beautiful view for birdwatchers, photographers, and anyone who appreciates a nice nature escape.
2. `IOLANI PALACE: The beautiful `Iolani Palace, built in 1882 by the last King of Hawai`i, King David Kalakaua, has a rich cultural history worth checking out. Take an interior tour of the former palace of the Kingdom of Hawaii (now a museum), or just explore the beautiful grounds for free.
3. DIAMOND HEAD: Hike the ridge along Hawaii’s most iconic 300,000 year old volcanic crater for some of the best views on the island. The site of a few U.S. military outposts, Diamond Head has a rich cultural history along with its geological credentials.
4. HANAUMA BAY: This is your best bet for consistently great snorkeling conditions, with a natural coral reef located just off the beach. Bring your own gear or rent from one of the shops along the the bay. You’ll be swimming with turtles, Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (the state fish of Hawaii), milletseed butterfly fish, yellow tangs, trumpet fish, angel fish, and many more natural wonders that go way beyond the aquarium.
5. PEARL HARBOR: The Pearl Harbor memorials and museum is a must-see site for the history buff or anyone who hasn’t experienced this powerful monument to our country’s past before. Be sure to arrive early in the morning to take advantage of free parking and beat the lines. Free admission includes an informative short video and the chance to visit several historically significant sites, including the USS Arizona memorial and the USS Bowfin submarine. Pearl Harbor is a beautiful monument and a great way to learn firsthand about the heroism of so many soldiers who fought during World War II.
1. DUKE’S WAIKIKI: Located right on Waikiki Beach, Duke’s is the place to go for a good fruity cocktail or a well-priced casual meal. Duke’s is known for its friendly beach vibe, and has two dining areas: the Barefoot Bar and the Dining Room. Both have very reasonable prices on fresh seafood, burgers, and family friendly fare. The view is spectacular, as you’re literally right on the beach.
2. HALEIWA JOE’S: Located in the town of Haliewa, about an hour’s drive north of Waikiki, Joe’s is another casual beachfront spot to take in the world famous surfing and sunsets from the waterfront dining area. They’ve also got live music and entertainment most nights, so be sure to check their schedule.
3. TIKI’S GRILL & BAR: Tiki’s is a another great beachfront spot for happy hour cocktails, fresh local food, and a great beach party vibe. Be sure to check out their events schedule. Tiki’s has a great lineup of local bands and hula dancers providing authentic Hawaiian entertainment. Come for the Mai Tai and be sure to stay for the spectacular sunsets.
4. WAILO SHAVE ICE: This local gem’s been in business since 1940, and for good reason. Nothing beats a cool shaved ice on a hot day, and there are literally thousands of flavor combinations at this popular mom and pop shop. Let your inner kid out with a sweet—and colorful—treat.
This is just the tip of the wave of all there is to explore in Honolulu. There are so many natural wonders to check out here, as well as unique and unforgettable fresh dining experiences, that you’ll be sure to want to come back for another vacation to Hawaii’s capital. And with so many great budget friendly options, you really can’t afford not to.
Images via: Flickr/Bill Gracey; Flickr/Andy; Aqua Resorts; Flickr/John Prince; Airbnb; TripAdvisor; Flickr/Kanaka Menehune; Flickr/Andy Beal; Flickr/Michelle Lee; Flickr/Eric Tessmer; Flickr/Daniel Ramirez; Flickr/Chistopher Chan; Flickr/Lara; Flickr/Andie712b; Flickr/Rob Berthof; Flickr/Shannon