Hawaii… even the name sounds dreamy. The way it rolls off your tongue is like waves upon the shore. You can’t help but feel relaxed when you say it aloud. But Hawaii has a reputation for being rather expensive. Not many backpackers dare to set foot there. I have good news, though! You can travel to Hawaii on a budget! There really is a way to visit Aloha State without emptying your pockets!
Here are some suggestions on how to have an epic time without the high price tag:
1) See lava flows (on Big Island)
On Big Island, there is a region called Kalapana. It’s a definite must-do in Hawaii! You’ll be super impressed by the hike (which will take you several hours). In addition to the almost lunar landscape left by the dried lava flows, you can sometimes watch the boiling lava cascade from the Mauna Loa volcano (the largest volcano in the world). It’s downright crazy! As of this update (October 2018), the volcano is not erupting.
I suggest you rent a bike for the first part of the hike. You will then be into the action more quickly. It is super easy to rent one on-site for only $10, including a first aid kit and headlamp. Entry to the site is entirely free.
Nomadic tip: Pack plenty of water and good shoes. And above all, if the volcano is active, be sure to get there about 2 hours before dark. It will be easier for you to spot the lava.
Please note: Access to the hike can sometimes be restricted, depending on circumstances. Check the official Hawai’i Volcanoes website before you go.
2) Trek on the Napali Coast (in Kauai)
On the island of Kauai, you will have the chance to do one of the most beautiful treks in the world. The Kalalau Trail, on the mountainside, overlooks a polar blue sea. The view is breathtaking! It is possible to do the first part of the hike (6 km) without a permit and free of charge. That’s what I did, and it was magnificent.
Keep in mind: You must have a permit if you want to do the entire trek (18 km). For safety reasons, the Napali Coast Park controls the number of hikers allowed in at any given time. So be sure to register in advance! The rate is approximately $20 per day. You can find additional information at Hawaii.gov.
3) Immerse yourself in the world of Jurassic Park (in Kauai)
The island of Kauai, on the natural side, is truly unique. Everything is grandiose! Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park are fine examples of what nature has to offer. The 3,600 feet deep canyon will no doubt blow your mind. It’s no wonder that certain scenes of the film Jurassic Park were filmed there. You won’t have a hard time finding a hike; there are many in the area. I chose the Canyon Trail at Koke’e State Park. Allow for about 2 hours round trip to complete it. And don’t forget to bring a lunch. Rarely will you have a better view to go with your sandwich! Entry to the park is free. So good!
4) Watch the sunset at the top of the Haleakalā Observatory (in Maui)
Hawaii is home to the largest NASA observatories. By going to the top of the Halakaelā Observatory, located 10,000 feet above sea level, you will be able to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life. You will also be able to see the volcano’s massive crater and enjoy the incredible higher-than-the-clouds view.
Nomadic tip: Go there for SUNSET instead of sunrise. Typically there are fewer people there than in the morning. Also, the place tends to be cloudy in the morning, meaning that you are not guaranteed to see the sunrise. And above all, don’t forget to bring warm clothes. It’s VERY chilly up there.
5) Swim with sea turtles (on Big Island)
On Big Island, you must go to a beach called Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Here you will observe green sea turtles in their natural habitat. It is not uncommon to see more than a dozen soaking up rays together. As you probably guessed, the beach is composed of all-black sand. It’s just wonderful! And to make our day complete, entry is free.
Nomadic tip: Bring your scuba mask and a snorkel, so you can admire the turtles while underwater. They are so majestic when they swim! Just make sure to keep a safe distance from the giant turtles so as not to interrupt them.
What should you pack for a budget trip to Hawaii?
To save money and fully enjoy the natural landscape of Hawaii, I suggest you go camping. It is very easy to find free parks where you can pitch your tent. Good news! You’re not in the outback; there are no snakes or other dangerous beasts to bite your toes at night!
Of course, renting a car in Hawaii can open up your options (there are great deals on the Hotwire.com site). Car rentals are often cheaper per day than booking a night in a dormitory. You also have the freedom to go where you want, whenever you want. It’s definitely something to consider when planning your trip. Also, note that hitchhiking remains a safe, free and widespread option. You won’t stay long by the roadside; you have my word!
There you have it! Now all you have to do is pack your bag and discover the beauty of Hawaii on a budget.
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This article was originally published in French and adapted in English by Britney Claveau.