Is Maui expensive? Yes. Can you travel Maui on a budget? Absolutely. Just because you are traveling to an expensive place doesn’t mean that you have to spend your life savings. There are ways to save money while traveling Maui without having to sacrifice the experience. I am a frugal person by nature but I know when and what to splurge for.
Maui on a budget
Getting to Hawaii in general is expensive. I mean the Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated island chains in the world what do you expect, but if you keep a look out you can get some great deals. Southwest Airlines has recently started flying to the Hawaiian Islands and offer cheaper prices to get here and also inner island. Airlines like Hawaiian, American and Delta all fly direct to Maui. Bye bye connecting through Oah’u 👋.
I always use Skyscanner to search for my flights. Skyscanner is great if you are flexible and/or want to find the cheapest way possible. Pick your departing city and destination and choose to search based on cheapest month. Voila you’ve gotten your flight.
Other sites I like to check when looking for flights are Kayak, Momondo and email’s from Scott’s Cheap Flights.
when to go
Are there preferred months to travel…yes. Whale season runs mid December to mid May. When I have friends or family that are planning to visit me, I always tell them to come during whale season.
Every year thousands of humpback whales begin the trek from frigid Alaska to the warm shallow waters of Hawaii to have their young. Going on a whale watch is a real treat and something I would want to specifically travel to Maui for.
The holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) also coincides with whale season and the busiest time in the islands. Being the busiest also means that accommodations are more expensive at this time. If you want to see whales but stick to Maui on a budget I’d recommend coming in February or March. A negative to coming during these months is rain, it rains more in these months than any others.
Winter months are pleasant to visit. Winter in Hawaii is guaranteed to better than where you came from. If you plan on coming during the winter, even tho it’s Hawaii don’t forget to pack a light jacket and pants. It does get cold on Hawaii especially at the summit of Haleakala. Last year it snowed on top and stuck for on the ground for days.
Summer time you can find cheaper accommodations and flights. Lahaina in Hawaiian is translated as cruel merciless sun so prepare for summer temperatures to be in the mid 90’s and no shade when you are cruising around town.
Maui’s transportation system is very limited so renting a car is necessary. This is an expense you can’t cut out. Driving around the island with the top off of your rented Jeep Wrangler is touristy but super fun. Driving around West Maui or the road to Hana, one of Maui’s top attractions are best experienced when you have your own four wheels.
Traveling with another couple or with a group of 4 through Maui can help cut a lot of costs. Splitting the vehicle and hotels 4 ways cuts down two of the most expensive expenses drastically.
Where to Stay in Maui on a Budget
One of the biggest expense you will occur while traveling through the Hawaiian Islands is the cost of housing. Of course it would be wonderful to live luxurious for the week that you’re here but sometimes the budget rules.
Airbnb’s are usually cheaper than hotels and come with a kitchen. This way you can cook some meals in and save money instead of eating out. Check out what’s available here.
If you really want to cut down the cost of hotels, camping is a great option when traveling around Maui. There are a handful of campgrounds around the island that will cost about $25 dollars a night to rent a spot in a campground for the night.
Wai'napanapa State Park
Haleakala National Park
Not into renting your own gear? Stay in your own tentalow at Olowalu Camp. Image a tent and a bungalow have a child, voila the Tentalow. This is a great option if you want a privacy and do without the resort atmosphere. Each tentalow comes with 2 twin beds, a sink, solar powered lights, open closet space and a private outdoor shower. The bathrooms are campground style but assigned 2 tentalows per bathroom so you’ll only be sharing with a 2-4 people.
Check out my Stay ↓
If staying in West Maui these are great budget options.
Maui Garden Oasis
The Royal Lahaina
Napili Kai Beach Resort
Great Maui budget options in South Maui.
Maui Coast Hotel
Kula Star Dome
Find out about the pros and cons of each area of the island and where to stay in the detailed guide below.
food & drinks
Food along with everything else on Maui is expensive. An easy and fun way to stick to Maui on a budget is by searching for happy hours.
Of course buying food from the grocery store and preparing your own meals will save you money. Buying at the local Farmers Market will be the cheapest, freshest produce around.
best happy hours ↓
- $1.25 Oysters
- Half off all beer & wine
- Live Music
- Variety of food on the pupu menu
- On Friday’s all day happy hour at the only rooftop bar in Lahaina.
- Longest happy hour on Maui
- 15% off all appetizers
- Aloha drinks (Mai Tai’s, Pina Coladas etc) on special
- Live music
- Huge selection of pupu’s on the happy hour menu including sushi.
- $4 Margaritas & Mai Tai’s
- They also have a late night happy hour
- Cheap wine
- Lots of choices for food and for $7 and under
- Beautiful view over looking Napili Bay
- Outside seating
- They have a regular and a reverse happy hour.
- The poke tacos are out of this world
- Huge selection of beer
- Flatbread pizzas 😋
Cheap Tasty Eats ↓
Unfortunately Maui doesn’t have much of a night life. I’m not complaining but a lot of people I meet that are visiting Maui are always surprised at the lack of bars and clubs to go at night.
Most restaurants close at 10 pm and since I am writing this post in June a lot of bars and restaurants are still closed due to the 14 day quarantine imposed on travelers coming from over seas or the mainland.
When it is safe to travel again here are some of my favorite bars that offer great nightly specials and a fun atmosphere.
activities to do in maui on a budget
- Surfing – $85 for group lessons
- Sunsets/Sunrises – FREE
- Hiking – At most $30 for the entrance fee into Haleakala National Park or use your National Parks Annual Pass
- Beach days – FREE. All the beaches in Hawaii are open to the public so you have plenty to pick from.
- Snorkel – $12-$18 a day for mask & fin rental
- Chase waterfalls – FREE. Although places like Twin Falls kindly accept donations.
- Paddle boarding – $50 board rental
- Cliff jumping – FREE
- Kayaking – $65 kayak rental
- Go on a Whale Watch
Traveling Maui on a budget tips in a nutshell:
- Buy a National Park pass, if you follow my 7, 10, or 14 day Maui itinerary you’ll be visiting Haleakala National Park 2 or 3 times so getting the park pass basically pays for itself.
- Tap water is safe to drink. Bring a hydro-flask or reusable water bottle to fill up with water at your hotel or the sink.
- Traveling with a group of 4 splits vehicle and hotel costs 4 ways
- Search for happy hours, eat, drink, enjoy, repeat.
- Search for flights based on whole month and be flexible on the days that you leave and return.
- Buy reef safe sunscreen for less before you land.