There’s no getting away from it, Maui is a very expensive place to vacation. Although, there are some fantastic things that you can do absolutely free or on the cheap Maul if you plan for things in advance. Even though flights and hotels maybe be a bit pricey, you do activities, adventure experiences and DIY self-tours that fit your interests and are affordable or even free. With so much to see and do on the island, take the time to see what is available and note some of these fantastic free or cheap things to do on Maui is up to you to discover and experience.
29 Free or cheap things to do Maui Island
1. Explore the black sand beach, tidepools and caves at Wai’anapanapa State park
Located off the Hana highway, this state park has so many unique sites and attractions located in the park with a black sand beach, freshwater caves, a heaui (temple) and a natural stone arch as well as tide pools that turn red from all the fresh water shrimp in the pools.
2. Maui Swap meet
A fantastic place to spend a few hours and find some great deals or a real treasure, the Maui swap meet at the University of Hawaii in Kahului from 9 to 1pm every Saturday. There are over 200 vendors selling fresh produced to finished goods and take away foods, hand-made crafts and crafts, tourist souvenirs and other locally made gift items. There is a 50 cent entrance fee for the swap meet charge per person which is a great deal!
3. Visit the upcountry town of Makawao
Slower paced and friendly the small town of Makawao up country is cooler and low key than the lower coastal areas of Maui. In town you’ll find lots of cool art galleries, boutique stores, restaurants and upscale shops in this cowboy town turned trendy hangout spot with a nice artsy vibe with local stores to make it feel authentic and lived in.
3. Explore Paia town
The funky surfing beach town of Paia in North Maui has gotten edgier and cool with a lot of fun and hip coffee shops and bakeries, colorful art galleries and boutique stores and trendy cafes along with the standard surf shops around town. Paia maintains that small town vibe and acceptance to travelers dropping by and hanging out on the way to Hana or enjoying the surf culture at Ho’okipa beach park. It’s the perfect spot to check out all the surfers and wind surfers plying the big waves in the North Shore of Maui.
4. Maui Fridays
Every Friday at a different location in Maui is part of
Maui town Fridays with food truck vendors, art and crafts booths, food from
local vendors and live entertainment programs sponsored by the County of Maui.
You can check out this website here for
more information and details to Maui Fridays
Check out the Friday events below
• 1st Friday of the
Month, Wailuku (Central Maui) on Market Street
• 2nd Friday, Lahaina (West Maui) on Front
• 4th Friday, Kihei
(South Maui) at Azeka Shopping Center Mauka
5th Friday, Lanai
5. Free winery tours
On the slopes of Haleakala at Maui Wine -free winery tours
are given at 10:30 and 1:30pm daily of the winery and tasting room. There is a
nominal fee for the wine tasting segment of the tour.
For tastings in its Kings cottage with 5 tastings for $10 of various local blends and tropical inspired wines.
6. The Banyan tree of Lahaina
Planted in 1873, this famous banyan tree is huge at over 60 feet tall and has 12 major trunks that make it look like several trees but is actually just one tree. Covering an area of over 200 feet, it provides shade for over 2/3 of an acre and has many benches set so you can sit in the shade.
7. Free concerts at the Shops of Wailea
Every third Wednesday at the Shops of Wailea at the fountain court from 5 to 7:00, free entertainment acts from Hawaii’s top local entertainers perform for free at these regular concert series. Parking is free the first hour and validated if you purchase over $25 at a shop. Check out the calendar here for event details. There are free hula shows every Tuesday and Thursdays from 5:30 pm also at the shops.
8. Walk around the Maui Plantation
Stared as a show plantation 30 years ago showcasing over 40 crops that are grown and harvest on site. The plantation has hundreds of local and tropical plants listed and also has a farm stand, restaurant, coffee café and retail store on site for visitors to explore for free.
9. Check out Iao Valley State park and botanical gardens
You can tour the beautiful botanical gardens, display ethnic villages and easy hikes through this scenic valley self-tour and all for free. It’s a nice place to enjoy lush tropical plantings and show gardens and natural settings in this gorgeous botanical garden. Check out their website here for more details to visiting the park.
10. Do some fun hikes in Maui
Most hikes are free in Maui with the exception of some park entry or parking access before you head out on those trail heads. Check out these 10 popular hikes here for inspiration and planning your next hike to some spectacular views, waterfalls and other lush landscapes in Maui.
11. Do a self-tour of Historic Lahaina
Once the first capital of the Kingdom Hawaii, Lahaina has 62 historic landmarks in this trail that you can visit on a self-tour of the important and historic sites around the city. You can check out the web tour here for more details on the places that you can follow directly on this trail and at your own pace.
12. Free whale watching
From Mid-December to Mid-May in Maui is whale watching season and if you pick a spot on the beach or coastline, you’re bound to spot some whale action at a distance or maybe closer depending on how deep the water levels where you are hanging out in. Be patient and look out for those water spouts and your spot them, hopefully closer to the shoreline.
13. Art inspiration at Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center
If you love historical places combined with art, visit the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center in upcountry Maui. Offering a variety of local art classes, art studio space and an art gift center, this wonderful non-profit organization uplifts the art community with visual art promotion in this historic and gorgeous building that you can do a tour or easy self-tour.
14. Free Hula and Polynesian dance shows in Maui
If you love dance and free performances, you can check out the free programs every night except for Mondays at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel at the Tiki Courtyard. Performances start at 6pm so get there early for the best photo spots and seats. The shops at Wailea offer a free hour dance program every Tuesday and Thursday starting at 5:30pm.
15. Free Music performances and community Festivals
There are so many free festivals happening every week in Maui offered through the visitor’s bureau and other organizations. You can check the local papers, the tourist magazines or even the tourism website here for an updated list of free events and festivals happening in Maui when you visit.
16. Road to Hana
If you’re game to visiting the famous road to Hana in Maui, then wake up early for this easy but sometimes slower pace and travel through some one lane bridges to Hana. It’s about the journey and some of the scenic spots and attractions you visit along the way and just outside of town. Check out the best Hana experiences here for more inspiration and details to visiting the east side of Maui and the must visit spots along the way.
17. Maui’s amazing beaches are free
Maui is beach heaven and there are so may wonderful beaches to enjoy on the island. Golden sandy beaches, black sand beaches and even a red sand beach are located all around the islands and free for the public to enjoy. You can check out the best of the beach scenes in Maui here for more information and locations of what locals favorite beaches are on the island.
18. Watch the big surf action at Ho’okipa
Just north of Paia town is Ho’okipa beach park where all the big waves and wind surfers hang out. Free parking at the beach park offers some wild action on the surf with surfers and wind surfers trying to find the biggest wave action on the beach.
19. Black Rock diving show
Fronting the Sheraton Maui at Kaanapali, every night before
sunset on the Black rock, you’ll see the diving at its best and done several
decades in this nightly ritual. Starting with lighting of the tiki torches and
then a blast from a conch shell starts the diving fun with a string of warrior
20. Enjoy sunset on the beach
Can anything be better and simpler than enjoying sunset on the beach at Maui? Well maybe a nice cool drink and some pupu’s (appetizers) but it definitely is a nice was to end a spectacular day on the beach then to watch the sun go down with those striking warm and golden colors and just witnessing another beautiful day in Maui.
21. Free Hula Lessons, Hula shows and Ukulele classes
If you’re musically inclined, head out to the Lahaina
Cannery Mall which offers free hula lessons every Thursdays at 5:00 pm to learn
some basic moves and free hula shows are performed every Saturday and Sunday at
1pm to popular Hawaiian songs.
If you want to try an ukulele class for free, head out the to stage area on Tuesdays at 5:30. Even if you just want to brush up on some new chords, put this on your calendar.
22. Enjoy snorkeling at its best in Maui
With some of the best beach parks and snorkeling venues around the island, you’ll have some fantastic snorkeling to do and free. Maui’s best snorkeling spots are easy to get to and you can check out the best snorkeling spots here from beaches, bays and nature reserves for more information on where to go on the island.
23. Visit the Kealia pond National Wildlife Refuge
This 691-acre refuge located on the south-central coast hosts many endangered birds. There is a visitor’s center that you can learn about the native birds and then explore the 2,200-foot boardwalk with interpretive guides and exhibits.
24. Art Galleries of Lahaina
For Art lovers, it’s easy to visit all the art galleries centered in Lahaina for this pleasant art discovery tour. Covering a spectrum of art from glass, ceramics, jewelry, painted mediums to sculpture, you’ll enjoying seeing all the local artists promoted at all these fantastic galleries in town and maybe take home a lovely piece of art from Maui. Check out the top galleries to visit here for locations and what you’ll see in town.
25. Ka’anapali historical walk
You can enjoy a lovely beach walk in Ka’anapali and visit
many historic sites along the way. You’ll find some great markers with
historical references that show interesting facts that are well presented in
the easy coastal walk. Check out the main attractions here
for more information.
Here’s what to do in Maui cheap
26. Go for a local shave ice treat
For a cheap and delicious treat try some local shaved Ice and the local favorite shop to try some of the exotic flavors. There’s so many fantastic places to try shave ice on the island, but check out the local favorites here for more inspiration on where to go for the best of the best in Maui.
27. Go to a local farmers market in Maui
You can go to a variety of farmers markets around Maui to get fresh produce and finished goods, take-out meals, arts and crafts and locally made products that you can take home. It’s fun to see where the locals shop, hang out and support local vendors on the island and try some delicious made foods yourself. Check out the following farmers markets available to visitors in these farmers markets on the island for where to find the local markets, timeframe and hours.
28. Enjoy strawberry picking and eating
You can pick your own strawberries at $4 per pound and have a picnic on site at the Kula Country Farms on the slopes of Haleakala. While you’re picking some really sweet strawberries don’t forget to enjoy some of those gorgeous views of the Maui landscape far below and take some nice photographs of the area.
29. Lavender and views
Check out the lavender farm at Kula – for only $4 entry,
you can enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scents of lavender fields and
gorgeous views at the 4000 elevation of the Ali’I Kula Lavender farm. The
beautiful views of lavender fields and panoramic scenery of Maui landscape is
hard to beat when you head upland in Maui.
Where to find the best hotel deals in Maui
Days Inn by Wyndham – affordable and oceanfront, simple and clean rooms and parking included in this budget friendly motel in Kihei area
Hale Pau Hana Kihei – also a budget friendly inn in Kihei fronting Kamaole Beach II. These apartment style units are small but clean with plenty of eateries close by.
Ka’anapali Ocean Inn – oceanfront in Ka’anapali district with comfortable with ocean views, simple and clean in a great area and budget friendly.
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For such an expensive place to visit, you can actually do a lot of things for free or on the cheap in Oahu. From seeing attractions, doing an adventure experience, or just enjoying the beach in Oahu, there’s quite a lot you can do for free or cheap if you plan ahead and take advantage of all the free things you can do below. Check out the best free or cheap adventure experience in Oahu below to inspire to discover what you can do here on a dime.
Top 15 fun or cheap things to do in Oahu
1.Go on a hike
There are so many amazing hikes that you can do around the island and most of them are free and a great way to see the fascinating and beautiful landscape of the area. Check out these fabulous hikes here for more details and inspiration.
2. Go snorkeling for free in Oahu
Snorkeling can be done around the island at various places where the tropical fish and coral still thrive and you have some snorkel equipment available to use. Among the most popular places include the protected snorkeling beach at Haunama Bay, Sharks Cove and Kahe Point Beach park. To find out the best spots for snorkeling check out all these fantastic snorkel sites here for you to visit for more information and additional web sites.
3. Rent a bike
You can do a cheap bike rental in Oahu at Waikiki through Biki which has over 130 Biki stops around Honolulu and rates as cheap as $4.00 in a one way route to longer use passes. Check out the Biki system and fares here for more details on these cheap rent a bikes here in Honolulu area.
4. Climb Diamond Head
One of the most popular attractions to do in Waikiki is to climb Diamond Head and enjoy the spectacular views of the city and coastline below. The visit and hike up through Diamond Head is only $1 for admission or $5 per car to the park and the hike up is about 1.4 mile roundtrip walk or about a 45 – 60 minute round trip walk depending on how many stops you make along the way. You can do this easily and better in the early morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat but also get spectacular light for views and photography. Check out the parks website here for more details and hours.
5. Ride The Bus around the island
A different take on riding around the island on the cheap instead of renting a car or doing a tour, you can go on The Bus on a one way trip around the island for only $2.50 and this includes one free transfer/stop you want to do along the way. Check out more details on the circle island bus tour cheap or multi day passes on The Bus here for more information.
6. Visit a botanical garden
You can go to a many of Oahu’s botanical garden for free and explore the many tropical plants and lush landscapes on your own instead of booking a tour. Check out the Parks and Rec botanical garden site here of all these spectacular gardens for doing your own DIY tour or follow along with a docent on a guided tour.
7. Explore Pearl Harbor for free
If you catch da bus to Pearl Harbor or an inexpensive Uber ride, the rest of the visit and boat trip to the monument to the USS Arizona is all free. You can visit the grounds, video show and docent tour all for free as part of the national monument at Pearl Harbor. and the Arizona Memorial You do have to book reservations in advanced at this site to secure a timed entry admission, so book early. Although there are cancellations and availability different times during the day.
8. DIY historic walking tour of Honolulu
You can actually join a free walking tour of Honolulu’s historic attractions here and enjoy the highlight attractions and key monuments in the area. This walking tour will give you a peek to the history, settlement and architecture of this historic district in Honolulu. The DIY tour is free and just follow the direction on the web site.
9. Go body surfing
There are so many wonderful body surfing beaches on Oahu and Waikiki beach being the most popular beach to do that in with a fantastic sandy bottom to enjoy this sport. Check out these other fun body surfing spots around the island you can go and have a real water adventure
10. Go surfing for cheap
If you know how to surf, all you need is to rent a board for a few hours and there are many beach areas that have hourly renting of surf boards available for you to enjoy. Check out this site for more information on rentals available in the area. If your new to surfing, you can go on the cheap by watching some free You Tube tutorials to get the basics and then rent a board and hang out with the newbies on the beach.
11. Kayaking on the cheap in Oahu
Same as surfing above you can rent a kayak for a nominal amount by the hour or half day to save on some costs of the equipment versus doing a kayak tour which is pretty pricey with the various operators. Check out this site for places you can actually rent kayaks by the hour.
12. SUP boarding on Oahu
Want to do some SUP or try a SUP (Stand up Paddle) experience? You can do like the other water sports above by renting a SUP board by the hour from various locations. If your new to SUP, check out some easy beginning You Tube videos for basic instructions on how to get started on this easy sport.
13. Challenge yourself to climb up Koko Head
Climbing the steep Koko crater trail is a big challenge but you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Eastern side of Oahu on your 1050 steps up to the top of the crater. Parking is free and easy and the trail head is easy to spot and before you know, you’ll be doing a major stair master challenge. Check out more details of the Koko Crater trail here for more information and images.
14. Go running at these iconic Oahu routes
Picture a perfect beach and jogging through the soft sands back and forth a few times to get a workout in and enjoy the scenery at the same time. Or you can run through various historic districts or fantastic landscapes that are beautiful to pass through and enjoy these popular local running routes. Check out these top runs in Honolulu here for more inspiration and images.
15. Enjoy a waterfall at Manoa Falls
A relatively easy hike to get to at Manoa falls, this short .8 mile roundtrip hike is easy and passes through green and scenic landscapes meandering through bamboo forests, rainforest and the base of the Exercise mountains. You’ll walk parallel to the Manoa stream until you hit the base of the waterfall which is 150 feet in height. Check out the details of visiting the Manoa falls and surrounding areas here for more details.
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Eating out in Hawaii is very expensive. If you are on a tight budget, you need to plan carefully and know the cheap venues that will save you big time visiting the islands. Check out these top tips and ideas on how to eat cheap in Hawaii and you will enjoy all the wonderful Hawaiian cuisine and local flavors cheap, cheap!
Here’s how to eat cheap in Hawaii
Go to farmers markets in Hawaii
Farmers markets are a perfect place to sample local prepared foods, food trucks and other specialty vendors very cheap. You can buy local produce, finished goods and other cooked/prepared foods from food vendors that will save you big time with your wallet.
Malls are very popular foodie venues with food courts that offer a variety of specialty and local flavors for you to try. Inexpensive local fast food venues like Zippies, L&L foods and Blanes are local favorites throughout the islands along with on Island specialty food venues.
Go to your local Hawaiian grocery store
Outside of finding foods that you can prepare yourself, check out the local deli departments and over the counter take out food departments that are cheap and offer easy to buy prepared foods that you can take home or do a picnic at the beach or a favorite venue.
Food truck venues in Hawaii
Many of the islands offer food truck venues at different locations and times that a very cheap alternative and tasty option that will satisfy your need for delicious and inexpensive dining
Cheap Happy Hour venues in Hawaii
At a fraction of the price of an entrée in many popular restaurants and most hotel eateries, going at happy hour (typically ranging from 3 to 6pm) is a great way to save some bucks. Offering cheap drink specials and pupus or appetizer selections, you’ll taste some yummy foods and drinks for a fraction of those outrageous dining venues at an earlier time frame.
Pack a picnic
From any of the venues above at farmers markets, grocery stores or specialty food purveyors, you can create a unique one of a kind picnic in some of the most scenic locations for a dime (or at least cheaper). Buy your favorite dishes or take out food and you’ll be saving on the per plate mark up, taxes and tips with a nice view (hopefully) at your picnic.
Make your own meals
If you have a condo or timeshare, you will typically have a full kitchen or grilling area that you can take advantage of making meals, preparing your own food for each meal, snacks or even your own happy hour cocktail and pupu time.
Use coupons or two for one dining offers
You can find coupons online or even with popular tour magazines offered at tourist kiosks in many venues. Take advantage of these coupons or popular coupon sites like Groupon to to get a discount on your meals
Shop at the big box stores like Costco, Walmart or Target
Many visitors to the island make Costco or Target their first stop to fill their carts with drinks, snacks and prepared foods or ingredients cheaper for those on a strict budget to save from expensive dining venues. Look for these mega store options to take advantage of the bulk rates and save big time on your favorite food items to prepare and enjoy.
Cheap local take out or local Hawaii food venues
One of the cheapest dinging options would be to look for local food cafes or fast food brands that are popular with local taste and flavors. Favorite local venues include places like L&L food chains, Blanes foods, Zippies, Daichi Ramen and other brands which offer inexpensive local style food to try and enjoy. Many of these venues are located in malls so there is plenty of parking and options to find exactly what you are craving.
Dining at ethnic restaurants in Hawaii
Since Hawaii is home to many nationalities and specifically of Asian heritage, you’ll find inexpensive food venues catering to these ethnic groups. Typically cheap Asian cuisine from Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Thai and even Mexican food are the most popular and cheap alternative to cafes and restaurants. Eating family style and trying out all these different flavors is the way to go when you crave something ethnic and local.
Eat at lunch time, but splurge at business lunch menus
Breakfast and dinners eating in will save you big time, but
if you want to splurge do it during lunch when many places offer lunch specials
to cater to local business/government workers who are looking for cheaper
business lunch special.
A sampling of local favorite dishes and specialty food you can find around the islands
Bento boxes – You can find these Japanese inspired bentos with different types of local foods and not strictly Japanese at fast food eateries, mom and pop stores to even grocery deli counters
Spam musubi – A staple snack with sticky rice and spam wrap
with a seaweed cover like a burrito, it’s fast and cheap and sold in a variety
of take out places to grocery stores
Plate lunch specials – Many cafes, deli counters and grocery stores have plate lunch specials with an entrée, macaroni salad and typically two scoops of rice
Shave ice – a favorite dessert with fluffy shaved ice with a multitude of concentrate tropical juices that is poured over them and sinfully delicious.
Japanese snacks – you can find a variety of popular Japanese snacks including arare, Japanese crackers, nuts and other spiced yummies at many mom and pop shops, Longs drugs stores and grocery stores for sale typically in the Asian sections. Pick up a few that look interesting to try out and enjoy
Moco Loco – Another local favorite with many different
toppings but the classic is scoops of rice with a country fried steak or meat
patty with gravy and topped with a fried egg
Kalua pork – A traditional Hawaiian staple with pulled pork in sandwiches, plate lunches or an entrée with other Hawaiian food
Huli Huli chicken – Rotisserie style chicken that is moist
and tasty that satisfies those with a need for really delicious local chicken
Ramen soup dishes – Ramen is a popular favorite food for
take out or do it yourself with the core ingredients that make this comfort
food easy and delicious
It takes a little bit of planning and research to save money
when you eat out in Hawaii, but these options will give you a sense of eating
out and tasting different local markets and flavors for a fraction of the cost
to dining and save you big time. Enjoy all the local flavors of Hawaii and do
try out all the mom and pop shops in all the islands and your taste buds and
wallet will love your well earned choices.
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