traveling oahu & maui, hawaii on a budget

I’ve got the travel bug.


It lives inside of me and there’s no exterminator that can make it go away. But there’s one problem – life is expensive and so is travel, so how do I make the two work hand in hand?

Well, that’s where I get creative.

I for one will never be a resort girl, which works in my low-budget favour. Sure, it’s nice for a day or two, but where I really want to be is in a tent by the sea, on a mountainside, or a secret spot hidden in trees. Just me, my sleeping bag and people I like.

So, Hawaii.


I never really had a desire to go. I always felt like it was a resort flooded, family vacation destination. This was until I googled “cheap vacations from Vancouver,” and found round trip flights for $440.

Before committing, I looked on Pinterest. Shortly after, I booked a flight and created a pinboard full of Hawaiian dreams.


No one to plan for but me, myself and I. What do I want to see? Where do I want to go? And how much can I do with approximately $1000 in my pocket.

A lot. Let me tell you.


Waikiki. If you a resort lover, hang here. I spent two nights in hostels $25 at the Polynesian (see my other blog on my interesting experience) and $31 at Hosteling International. It was a means to an end for catching flights and a place to rest my head. Waikiki is busy, full of buzzing tourists and shops. Nothing wrong with that folks, but if you crave wide open spaces, read on.

The bus on Oahu is possibly the greatest transportation service. For $2.50 a trip, you can ride the island. Don’t be fooled, like any other public transit it’s slow, crowded, and sometimes… stinky. But it’s awesome.

I rode up to the north shore and managed to be the last person on after 2.5 hours in the dark. The driver guided me to my hostel – backpackers north shore and I made my way to the (closed) office. I got my key and peered through the window at the common area. It was like a tree fort and a far cry from my Waikiki experience. Hippy surfers welcomed me and pointed me to Plantation Village, 200 yards down the road.

They said, “just follow the smell of the ganja.”


I was welcomed with open arms – people buzzing around, hula hooping, catching wifi and sipping beers. Ah yes, home. $31/night, for three nights.

The village was a wide variety of people; travelers, transients and hopefuls to call the north shore their home. Everyone was friendly, helpful and up for fun.


Those days were local bliss.


The hostel rented squeaky cruiser bikes for $5/day


which I used to cruise 23 miles of north shore beaches. Coffee at the Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa, Acai bowls at Crispy Grinds food truck across from Pipeline, snorkeling in Sharks Cove


and sunsets at Waimea Bay.


Three days flew by far too quickly in a place I could stay for a while.


A celebratory bonfire was a great finale to an epic north shore experience. The people I met and the experiences I had there made a great mark on my life.


It was time to say mahalo, I was maui-bound.

I was fortunate enough to know two crazy Tasmanians who were already touring Maui and I decided to piggy back on their adventure. For a mere $130 round trip from Oahu, it was a price that couldn’t be beat for a second island adventure.

Stepping off the plane in Maui, the entire vibe was different. Mellow, peaceful, serene.

The boys whipped up in a balling white minivan and at the very sight of it I knew we were in for a good time. After our “hey, it’s been a whiles” and hugs all around, we were off to explore Maui Island life. Lucky for me, the boys had already rented a van for their entire stay at a whopping $15/day (hey, big spender…) and they were keen to drive anywhere on the island.


“Well I guess we better get you some snorkel gear,” Rob stated, as we cruised up to Boss Frogs where I paid $6/day.

My intro to Maui was swimming beside sea turtles, climbing down rock cliffs (I may have smashed my phone, a blessing in disguise) and throwing our bodies into waves riding them to shore. Building a fire on the beach and falling asleep with sandy feet is my absolute favourite thing in life, and on Maui it’s a regular affair.


It was four days of waterfalls, beaches, and volcanoes, and I even had my turn at “steering” (as the aussies say) around some pretty sketchy, super beautiful roads. Despite nearly giving the boys a heart attack, we always made it one piece.



Camping wherever the wind blew, (for free…) I couldn’t have been more at home. Aside from the foreign lingo my friends from the opposite corners of the planet used. (Chilly bin??)


You truly don’t need much to be happy on Maui. Just a pair of goggles and a couple of tuna sandwiches will do.


There were many tales to tell between the nights and days of this magical trip, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. We can go into detail about the crazy lady who invaded our campsite, or losing my swimsuit to the waves over wine and snacks sometime.

I’m here to tell you that you can choose your own adventure. Nothing needs to hold you back.

You create your own limits.


If you’ve got some change in your pocket and you need to escape to sunshine – get creative.

The most memorable moments I’ve made in my life have happened on a shoestring, with other people who have a taste for adventure.

Life is full of little joys. Here in Hawaii and around the world, it’s our job to discover them and let the joys fill us.

So, cashing out.

Flights: $580, Accommodations: $149, Cash: $360 (food etc.)

Total: $1089

And, I didn’t even feel like a homeless person.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brent says:

    Emily! Thank you for your blog post, it contributed to the plan a friend and I have for our Hawaiian excursion coming this January. I have a favor to ask though – we’re trying to track down Minivan similar to that of your story – one we can sleep in too! Do you know where your friends found theirs? Ive posted in a few other spots but you’re the only one with on the ground experience.

    PS – super random that you also happen to be in Vancouver.



    1. emventurer says:

      Hey Brent!

      Great to hear you’re heading on an adventure yourself, it was so much fun, and a great experience to do cheaply. They renting their minivan through a rental at the airport. Usually if you check online through hotwire or expedia you can find decent deals. They put the seats down and either slept in it, or had air mattresses that they purchases at walmart and would blow them up and sleep under the stars. All the best in your planning! Hawaii was amazing. Definitely worth every penny of my not very deep pockets. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.