Visting Maui on a budget can take a bit of extra planning and maybe even some redefining of your definition of the word "budget".
But while it's no secret that Hawaii isn't the cheapest place to visit, Maui does offer plenty of ways to knock a few bucks off of your total trip cost if you know where to look. From cheap eats to free things to do and everything in between, here are our top money-saving tips for Maui.
Maui on a budget: Know before you go
Expect to pay more
Yes, this is a budget travel guide but the fact is that things just cost more in Maui (and Hawaii in general). Even a bunk bed in a hostel can go for upwards of $50 per night. For this reason, it's even more important to plan and budget accordingly. Just adjust your expectations, don't expect to always find rock bottom prices, and remember that it's all worth the cost of an awesome vacation.
Use caution when enjoying nature
Whether you're swimming, hiking, or snorkeling, enjoying the island's magnificent nature is one of the best ways to enjoy Maui on a budget. But remember that even in paradise things can go wrong. For example, some of Maui's popular beaches have incredibly strong currents, some roads are more dangerous than others, and, well, sometimes you just roll an ankle on an uneven trail. You don't need to be afraid of this beautiful place, just be careful.
Rethink your food plans
Part of travel is experiencing the local food and restaurants, so we're not telling you to 'brown bag' it 3 times a day. However, the cost of meals does add up quickly here. Consider saving some money by renting a condo, Airbnb, or VRBO that has a kitchen and cooking some of your meals at home. The island has plenty of familiar grocery stores including Costo, Walmart, and Safeway to stock up once you arrive.
Also, remember that restaurant Happy Hours are your friend and they're widely available.
Free and cheap things to do in Maui
Soak up the sun on Maui's best beaches
It should come as no surprise that one of the most enjoyable free things to do in Maui is simply hitting the beach. The only tricky part is choosing which one. Are you ok with a few fellow beachgoers or are you looking for your own private stretch of sand? How does a black sand beach sound? With these questions in mind, here are some of the best beaches in Maui.
This small crescent-shaped stretch of beach is a bit further from some of the tourism hubs but for many travelers and locals alike, Hamoa Beach is a destination that’s worth the journey, as it’s often dubbed one of the most beautiful beaches in Maui.
As the most popular beach in West Maui, Kaanapali Beach offers something for every type of beachgoer. Along Kaanapali’s three miles of sand, you can spend your time sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and even cliff jumping off of Black Rock, a 12-18 foot cliff near the Sheraton Maui.
Honokalani Black Sand Beach
While there’s more than one black sand beach on Maui, Honokalani in Waiʻanapanapa State Park is by far the most famous. A popular stop on the Road to Hana drive (just past mile marker 32), the pitch-black volcanic sand of this beach is a truly unique experience.
Thanks to its abundance of reefs and wildlife right off the coast, Maui is an excellent snorkeling spot.
Of course, you could pay for a snorkeling trip and have an awesome time. But if you’re traveling on a budget, there’s plenty of fun to be had snorkeling right offshore for free. Some hotels offer snorkeling rentals, otherwise, you’ll obviously have to spend a few bucks on your own gear. Beyond that, all you need to do is pick a spot and dive in! Just remember that you must do your research before heading out, as many of Maui’s beaches are subject to strong currents and rough waters.
Some of Maui’s best free snorkeling spots include:
Go bargain hunting at the Maui Swap Meet
If you can’t resist a good deal or love checking out the local markets, the Maui Swap Meet is the place for you. For just a 50 cent entrance fee, you can hunt for deals on just about anything, ranging from jewelry and handicrafts to fresh produce and Hawaiin shaved ice. The Maui Swap Meet happens every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the University of Hawaii Maui College.
Watch the surfers and sea turtles at Ho’okipa Beach Park
Unlike other parts of Maui, people don’t come to Ho’okipa for pillowy soft sand or turquoise water. Instead, it’s become known as a great place to get a look at tons of Hawaiin Green Sea Turtles and to watch both the kite surfers and regular surfers catch some big waves. If you’re lucky, you might even see some monk seals.
Where to stay on a budget in Maui
Aloha Surf Hostel
Located in the heart of historic Paia on Maui’s north shore, Aloha Surf Hostel is one of the best all-around hostels for backpackers. They offer rooms and communal spaces that are clean, comfortable, and colorful. They’re conveniently located near the beach, shops, and cafes. Plus, they offer free daily tours in their 14-seater van.
Located on Maui’s North Shore, Banana Bungalow is a great place to stay for the social traveler. This hostel also offers free tours daily, from whale watching to crater hiking, and social events that include Monday Happy Hours, Friday keg parties, and garden barbecues.
Hakuna Matata Hostel
As their tagline “Aloha for the rest of your days” suggests, Hakuna Matata is a relaxed, comfortable hostel where you’ll feel right at home. Small and cozy, this spot is especially popular with female travelers thanks to their 2 female-only dorms. The hostel is a short walk from the beach, where you can make use of their free surf, snorkel, and kayaking gear.
Cheap flights to Maui
Recently, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Maui. On average, our members spent $312 on their tickets to Maui and saved over $197 per ticket. Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals that Dollar Flight Club members have received recently.
San Francisco (SFO) to Maui (OGG)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $295
Average Price: $410
Minneapolis (MSP) to Maui (OGG)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $427
Average Price: $540
Las Vegas (LAS) to Maui (OGG)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $326
Average Price: $495
Best cheap eats in Maui
This is about as budget-friendly as it gets but definitely don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Foodland is a local Hawaiin supermarket chain with a solid prepared food selection. Grab some paper plates, fresh poke, and SPAM musubi (think SPAM sushi), and hit the beach for a picnic.
Food trucks have become increasingly popular in Maui and it’s easy to see why. While restaurants in Maui (and the rest of Hawaii) can often be a bit pricey, food trucks offer a more casual, cheaper alternative. You can find food trucks around popular spots like beaches or the Maui Swap Meet or sometimes just near the roadside. Some Maui food trucks worth seeking out are Thai Mee Up, Ono Tacos Lahaina, and Like Poke.
808 Deli is a classic local deli that is the perfect spot for affordable sandwiches, salads, and even gourmet hot dogs topped with creative toppings like kimchi or mango salsa. You can usually expect a bit of a wait at this popular spot so calling ahead isn’t a bad idea during peak times. Once you’ve got your order, head to the beach right across the street to chow down.
Start planning your trip to Maui
If you enjoy the great outdoors, don't mind eating from an award-winning food truck, and are willing to plan a bit, your trip to Maui doesn't need to break the bank.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.