How to Eat Cheap in Hawaii

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 find cheap eat in Hawaii

farmers markets and how to Eat Cheap in Hawaii going to farmers markets

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.

To find where the local markets are, look at the various free food magazines at your airport kiosk or check online for these local farmers markets on each island.

Eat at the malls in Hawaii

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

Eat at popular and cheap food trucks in Hawaii
Eat at popular and cheap food trucks 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

How to eat cheap at Happy hour places in Hawaii
West Hawaii on the Big Island by NOel Morata

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

local foods from Hawaii picnic style

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

Make your own meals in Hawaii to save
Make your own meals in Hawaii to save

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

Local plate lunch at popular take out places in Hawaii

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

Dine 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

Eat at local places to save money in Hawaii

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

Bento-Box in Hawaii

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

Try some plate lunch specials in Hawaii
Try some plate lunch specials in Hawaii

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 from Hawaii

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.

Check out these other food related posts from Hawaii

Popular Hawaii dishes you need to try

Traditional Hawaiian food favorite dishes

Hawaii chocolate making and tour

How to eat cheap in Hawaii

Comfort foods of Hawaii

Hawaiian style banana bread

Mango season in Hawaii

Hawaii love for Spam and recipes

Pineapple season in Hawaii

How to eat cheap in Hawaii

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  1. Alina

    I don’t usually leave comments on blog posts but this one deserves a comment. Thank you so much for this detailed article! It’s very useful and really gave me food for thought (wink wink 😉) for creative approach to dining out in Hawaii 😊 my partner and I are vegetarian, we don’t eat meat, fish or eggs.. do you have any recommendations of places that are worth for us to check out while we’re here (on Oahu) for good and affordable vegetarian options? Any info is very much appreciated 🙏

    • emorata

      Thanks for the comment on how to eat cheap in Hawaii, there are vegan / vegetarian options available, I haven’t spent a lot of time investigating outside of noodle shops but many restaurants do have options for non meat eaters, you can check with each of the menus in the links provided or places recommended.



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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.