Hawaii (Oahu) on the cheap

We took advantage of a Jetstar sale where the return flight was free. The flight was very good for a budget airline, which surprised us a lot. We are both over 6ft and we had plenty of legroom,  despite not being in an emergency exit row. The staff were also excellent. Despite the fact the Aussie dollar is not doing too well against the US dollar, we did our best doing this trip this trip affordably. Here are some recommendations for doing it on the cheap.

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What to do?

Be sure to hire your car at the airport, if you hire a car in Honolulu you will pay 10 fold. Hiring a car will expand your range and will allow you to book accommodation in less expensive locations. We also got an upgrade to a Jeep, and so have most people we’ve talked to. The bus is a good cheap way to get around, just pay as you hop on. We also found ourselves doing plenty of walking since everything is pretty close and it’s flat so it made it easy to check out many of the shops, resorts, bars and restaurants.

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Waikiki is a tourist hot spot, which equates to inflated prices. If you are in Waikiki, the beach is great value, it’s free. Head a couple of blocks back from the beach and you will find some cheap eats and places for board hire if you want to hit the waves.

Where to stay?

We stayed at the Waikiki Beach hotel, just a few hundred metres from the beach with restaurants, a pool and generously sized rooms. Considering the hotel prices in Waikiki, this was reasonably priced. However, the addition of resort fees makes it more expensive than you expect.

Otherwise, book AirBnB, this will save you on resort fees and expensive parking fees. Hawaii is a tropical island with beautiful beaches and scenery, do you really want to hang by the pool or do you want to explore the Island?

Where to eat

Ok, so we have covered where to sleep and how to get around. Below are some quality cheap eats for you to check out;

Marakume Udon

A great few solid tips led us to Marakume Udon for some freshly made Udon noodles. Watch the noodles get rolled and cooked in front of you, then add your chosen toppings of egg, tempura and flavourings like chili flakes and wasabi, Tenkasu (tempura crumbs), Welsh green onions and ginger. Although there is a long line, it moves fast, so it was worth paying a visit. So cheap, $5 or less for the Udon! Amazing udon it is.

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Musubi Cafe Iyasume

Musubi is a popular little snack that we wish they had in Australia. It’s a thick block of sushi rice that is topped with marinated spam and sometimes other toppings like egg, bacon, and seaweed. They do sell them at 7 eleven and other stores but our favourite was at this little cafe close to our hotel. Freshly made and still warm! They also sell other foods like poke, rice bowls, and bento boxes. This place has some info about the history of spam and sells merchandise too. We became regulars here and the food is cheap. Approx $2-3 per piece.

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Doraku

We found this via google recommendations. To be found on the 3rd floor of the Royal Hawaiian Center, this Japanese Izakaya has a range of sushi, sashimi and tapas plates at reasonable prices. We recommend the grilled squid and tofu salad.

Hideout at the Laylow

To be found up some escalators within the Laylow hotel. We had a coffee from Hideout. Loved the peach and green tones of the styling and cool menu board. Staff here were also super friendly. The place is an urban oasis and you’ll also find a bar and plenty of outdoor seating with a brunch and dinner menu. Inventive and creative Hawaiian based dishes.

The street food hall

A place with street style vendors inside; pizza, fried chicken, tacos, ramen, healthy and even a bar in the centre of this food hall has a good happy hour as well as $2 Kirin on tap all day

Myrna bird tiki bar

This is inside the above mentioned venue and it does good cocktails. “The Endless Summer” was mixed with rum, Pimms no.1, chareau sloe, lemon lime, strawberry and mint. We also had one in a giant parrot glass – the “Antidote of the South Seas” (Parrot) with Scotch, Ardbeg, pineapple, lemon, ginger, lilikoi and Absinthe. Creative, refreshing and flavourful.

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Leonard’s Bakery

We were recommended by multiple people to visit here whilst in Hawaii. These are the original malasadas (Portuguese donuts), lighter and fluffier than most and so so delicious. You can also get other varieties like those filled with custard, guava or macadamia nut to name a few. You can tell that this place is good due to a few factors; it’s been operating since 1952, there’s a full car park and a struggle for a spot as well as the fact it’s open from 5:30 til late.

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Waikiki Yochocho

An underground alley of Asian influences mini eateries. A way to explore multiple dining destinations at an affordable price. Sushi, Ramen, bbq, Mochi, Sake, whisky and more. Easily found off the main esplanade in Waikiki, under the Waikiki shopping plaza.

Maguro Spot

A great spot selling freshly made poke bowls. Select your base (brown or white rice, or salad), add your choice of salmon, tuna or mixed as well as a sauce choice. Decent servings, reasonably priced in a super casual environment. We would be happy to eat here every day.

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Kona coffee purveyors

A great coffee place in Waikiki – they do excellent coffee including espresso, milk based, cold brew, nitro and more. An amazing range of patisserie goods too.

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North Shore

The Sunrise Shack

Small little coffee shack with Açai bowls and positive vibes. They sell organic bullet proof coffee with vegan ingredients and a variety of types of bullet coffee, made with coconut oils, MCT oil and almond to name a few. They also have smoothie bowls, including our favourite, the mango and dragon fruit, granola, honey and berries. You can also choose some add ons. They also have other bowls including a Blue Dream Bowl, healthy bites such as avo on toast and my absolute favourite, the rice cake topped with peanut butter, honey, strawberries, coconut and Goji berries. They also sell smoothies and fresh cold-pressed juices. Come here for a healthy snack and to refuel after a day at the surf.

https://www.sunriseshackhawaii.com

Giovannis Shrimp Truck

Another recommendation to us that was spot on! On the North Shore, this little graffiti decorated food truck was pumping out the shrimp; garlic and butter, chilli and served with 2 scoops of rice and a lemon wedge. The crowds were evident of the popularity of this place alone, and no wonder – the shrimp were good. It’s been operating since 1953!

http://giovannisshrimptruck.com

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Aji Limo Truck

A great little roadside truck stop in a car lot where there are plenty of food trucks. We had some poke here with salad. You can get plenty of varieties. It was a nice meal, more expensive than we found in Waikiki and not as good but nice all the same.

Kailua

A small town on the east coast of Hawaii, which is quieter and more relaxed that the main strip of Waikiki. It has an amazing beach and lovely markets and a few great cafes and restaurants.

Over Easy hi

We put our name down on the the iPad and waited about 15 minutes before a table came available. We sat at the counter watching the chefs in action. Whilst the menu certainly does have plenty of egg options, there’s lots of variety. I ordered eggs on toast with a side of amazing pickled vegetables. We also ordered the special; the pumpkin pancakes. These sweet pancakes were filled with spices and cream and were super fluffy and delicious. They were absolutely enormous and we couldn’t finish them, and took half home for later. We also quite liked the coffee here, and appreciate the free top ups.

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What else to do? 

  • Shop at the Ala Moana Centre
  • Waikele Premium Outlets
  • Visit Diamond Head
  • Duke Paoa Kahanamoku statue – father of surfing!
  • Head to the North Shore and check out Pipeline and Sunset Beach

We hope this is helpful to you if you’re in Hawaii and trying to do it on a bit of a budget!