Hawaii Tips and Tricks: Saving Money

This is a guest post by contributor Thrifty Tourist, who will be making frequent posts on Travel Summary going forward. Thrifty Tourist is just getting started in social media and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Hotel Review: Grand Wailea Maui – A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  2. Hawaii Tips/Tricks
  3. Hotel Review: Hilton Hawiian Village
  4. Admirals Club / JAL Sakura Lounge HNL

As a new blogger, one of the things that I really wanted to accomplish was to have my readers be able to replicate my trips rather easily.  I am like you: I have a real daytime job, I have a family and I don’t have any credit card links to support my travels, yet I do Travel Rich. On my recent trip to Maui and Oahu I was able to save money a number of ways in order to make the trip more economical.

As was mentioned in Part 1, I received the two nights at the Grand Wailea for free. While my situation was uncommon in that respect, I did provide information on how you can use your points to also stay at the Grand Wailea or you can use the two free weekend certificates that you receive with the new Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. Yes, the certificates are valid for the Waldorf Astoria Collection as well.

Aside from the hotels and flights, Hawaii can be expensive since almost everything you buy on the mainland will be more expensive in Hawaii. For example, a standard price comparison anywhere in the world is a Big Mac combo at McDonald’s  A Big Mac is a great product to use as a gauge of prices as you can almost always find a McDonald’s in any country and certainly every state that you visit in the U.S. A Big Mac combo, which runs over $5 in the U.S. (non-airport locations), is over $7 in Hawaii. Due to the remote location away from suppliers in the mainland, everything is generally priced higher in Hawaii. However, there are a number of other ways to make your trip in Hawaii more economical.

Yup...this is my standard unit of measurement.

Yup…this is my standard unit of measurement.

After renting my car at the Maui Airport, I drove out of the car rental area and spotted a Costco not even one mile from the Airport. I pulled into the parking lot and quickly noted the price of gas at the Costco gas station in the parking lot. The price of gas was cheaper by $0.10+ at Costco than it was at any other gas station that we saw in our 4 days and over 300 miles of driving in Maui. If you have a rental car and membership to Costco, it will be cheaper to fill up at this Costco before returning your car at the airport.

We also noted that while McDonald’s was priced higher than the mainland, the infamous Hot Dog and Slice of Pizza was still $1.50 and $1.99 respectively. Another benefit of the Maui Costco was that the food stand is located outside of Costco, so you don’t need membership to get it.

If you plan on taking a guided snorkeling tour, going parasailing, going scuba diving, taking a helicopter tour, going whale watching, taking a sunset cruise or any other popular guided activity, then Costco is the place for discounts. Costco sells heavily discounted gift certificates for each of these activities and more. Pictures are not allowed inside Costco, so my blurry picture below is the best I could do. Stopping at Costco before making your reservations with tour companies can save you between 40-60% off!

So many discounts!

So many discounts!

If you plan on getting a spa treatment like I did at Maui’s top rated spa, The Grand Spa at the Grand Wailea, which Condi Nast Traveler rated as Top-10 in the entire U.S., you can get a discount at Costco as well.  Because of the popularity of The Grand Spa you will want to book early, before you arrive in Maui. The good news for me was that my Costco in Los Angeles sells two $50 Spa Finder Certificates for $80. Buy multiple packs and head over to The Grand Spa where they are accepted as cash. I used them with no problems whatsoever. They are also valid at the Travaasa Hana Spa (see Part 5 of this trip report coming soon).  I also gave a tip on finding a deal on a couples massage and lunch for two in my Grand Wailea Hotel Review post.

While at Costco, you can also pick up bottled water, snacks and food at prices that are heavily discounted compared to grocery stores in the area. Heck, you can even pick up a Hawiian Shirt at Costco for $19.99 and wear it to both casual and high-end restaurants and events. Before this post starts looking like a Costco advertisement I’ll move on….

You can also find many deals for on activities in region specific magazines, conveniently located in the baggage claim area of the airport. Magazines called “Wailea”, “Kihei”, “Lahaina”, etc.  You’ll want to pick up each and every one of these magazines because often times you might be staying in the Lahaina region, but you’ll want to try a Spa in Wailea or use a snorkeling tour operator based out of Kihei. While there is some overlap in the magazines, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a handful to ensure you find the best deals.

There are already many blog posts around the blog world about discounted car rental deals, so I won’t get into them here. I wanted to point out that while I was on just a 4-day trip to Maui, I rented a car from National Car for an entire week (5 days), as the weekly discount ended up being cheaper than any discount or coupon code I could have used for a 4-day rental. As a Amex Platinum Card Holder, I receive National Executive Club, Hertz Gold and Avis Preferred membership. Each of these provides different levels of discounts and features that can be used to make your trip more economical.


Of course you can also access the Groupon and Living Social pages for Hawaii and see any deals that may attract you, something that slipped my mind at the time. While my wife and I were on a tour that we booked directly with the tour operator, we overheard other passengers detailing how they got “…a steal” and overheard them saying how they paid an amount that was 50% less than what we paid through Groupon!

These are just some Tips and Tricks I picked up in Maui. Hopefully they will help you Live Frugal….Travel Rich.



  1. Did you calculate how much you spent a day?
    Hawaii’s on my list of place to visit, but I’m concerned about the costs. Not sure why I should go to Hawaii, vs a cheaper location like Bali, given my fear of the costs. I’m on the east coast, so it would have to be a major trip.

    • I didn’t actually calculate how much we spent per day, but that is a great suggestion for my future trip review posts. Also, I was like you and was aware of the high cost of traveling to Hawaii and actually avoided Hawaii and traveled to other beach destinations of Monaco, Maldives, Bahamas, etc., first. But after a little research and a lot of preplanning, I was able to leverage many of the same discount techniques I use to live frugally in Los Angeles and apply them to Hawaii….something you really can’t do easily in foreign countries

  2. ABC stores in Hawaii are pretty cheap. I found the gas prices and food to be similar to LA/NY. Aloha gas stations are pretty competitive. Shop where the locals shop! The hotel prices are just a bit blown out of proportion on peak Hawaiian travel dates

  3. Why do bloggers always go to spa’s? It’s not like you are working hard for a living, same for stay at home Mom’s and Trophy wives. The people who should go to the Spa for a rubdown are people who work for a living, Painters, Carpenters, Landscapers and such……………..don’t you think?

    • I don’t know about other bloggers, but I actually have a full time job (outside of blogging) and I also play recreational ice hockey and a spa treatment once in a while can really help relieve stress and soothe aches and pains.

    • Why so judgemental anyone can go to a spa you don’t have to work hard to treat yourself once in awhile and how do you know they aren’t hard working moms you don’t know any body’s life to be judging them only god can do that

  4. There are a couple of hostels on Oahu that are really cheap. Also, you can stay at bed & breakfast inns for much less than hotels. Time share and condo renting can be cheaper than hotels and you can prepare most of your own meals (buy food at Costco or local grocery stores or the fantastic farmer’s markets.) Remember, the locals don’t have any more money than you do for eating out. Eat where the locals eat and avoid the higher priced tourist restaurants. Then have a splurge dinner towards the end of your stay.
    Check out Craigslist for short and long term rental stays. Or try house or pet sitting. Camping on any of the Hawaiian islands is fantastic. You can rent cabins at some of the state parks.
    Check out the local newspapers in the “what’s happening” section; there are many free or cheap activities that the locals go to which tourists rarely see and they are more fun than the packaged tourist attractions.

  5. Excellent info and tips on saving money on activities!
    I tend to book resort stays through timeshare owners.
    $800 for a one bedroom lock off with Murphy bed in second room for the kids, corner ocean front high floor unit with wrap around lanai and mini kitchen.

  6. Fantastic tips! I have troubles saving money when I am traveling. Actually I am doing exactly the opposite thing. I spent more than I have. Thank you for sharing your article. I am going to follow your tips next time ..or at least I will try 🙂 Best regards!

  7. I love Hawaii. It’s one of my favorite places to go. However, I really want to take a helicopter charter of their volcano national park. I didn’t know that you could potentially get helicopter rides as part of a package deal. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that the next time I visit. Thanks for the tip.

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    I really hope to view the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well.
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