The Best Ways To Save Money While Traveling To Maui On A Tight Budget

There's no question that Maui, Hawaii, is an idyllic tropical escape. Within its five regions, visitors will find an abundance of beaches and natural wonders, including Napili Bay Beach and Haleakala Crater, amongst many others. Simply put, a Maui vacation is a bucket-list experience. Perhaps the only drawback is that Maui, the second largest island in Hawaii, is notoriously expensive. The locale is known for its astronomical cost of living; however, high prices affect not only its citizens but the tourists as well, as accommodation prices have seen a sharp increase since 2021.


Unsurprisingly, this was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, in August 2023, the Maui Wildfires devastated the island, economically and otherwise. Consequently, accommodation prices decreased from 2023 but remained costly, according to Maui Now. Case in point: Several of Maui's resorts, such as the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua or Hyatt Regency Maui Resort And Spa, cost upwards of more than $400 per night.

This is all to say that a vacation to Maui won't come cheap. Coupled with inflation, which is affecting all travel prices, your trip could ultimately break the bank. Nevertheless, it is possible to experience a Maui getaway on a limited budget, like some of the more affordable island destinations around the world. Although it will take plenty of planning, your wallet will thank you for it in the long run.


Travel to Maui in the off-season

Three million tourists visit Maui annually (via NPR). No doubt, visitors flock to this destination during the island's busiest seasons: winter and summer. Unfortunately, those who travel to Maui at this time can expect every aspect of their vacation, including airfare, car rentals, and more, to come with a higher price tag. Hence, if you have a small budget, travel in spring or fall, Maui's off-seasons. Yes, the Hawaiian island is an unexpectedly perfect fall destination. Temperatures are in the 70s year round, which means you can have a beach day any time, including in April or October. Most importantly, planning your vacation during either of these seasons means overall lower prices. There's less of a demand, thus, there's more supply.


In a 2023 article for Business Insider, writer Teaghan Skulszki documented her experience traveling to Maui in the fall and the advantages that came with this decision. She revealed that she only paid $300 for roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Maui. In addition, Skulszki emphasized that the island and its many popular eateries and attractions, including Haleakalā National Park, were uncongested. Ultimately, she stated that this allowed her to have a more authentic travel experience. On that note, if you know you want to travel to Maui in the spring or fall, purchase your airfare months in advance to get even more bang for your buck.

Opt for low-priced attractions in Maui

When visiting any island in Hawaii, skip the tourist traps, but this is especially the case in Maui. This will ultimately prove cost effective. For instance, luaus, snorkeling excursions, and farm tours can all cost hundreds of dollars, especially if you're traveling with family. Instead, enjoy many of Maui's budget-friendly attractions. For example, Maui Walking Tours offers free tours of Kihei and Wailuku. Dates vary for this educational experience and reservations can be made online. Moreover, beaches like Kaanapali Beach, Napili Bay Beach, and Ho'okipa Beach Park are not only breathtaking but free to visit.


If you have a rental car, driving the 64-mile Road to Hana is a must. Think of this drive as a self-guided tour. There are several scenic stops along the way, including Ho'okipa Beach Park. In addition, there are other free attractions to discover, like Ke'anae Arboretum and Hamoa Beach. Twin Falls is another popular destination on the Road to Hana. This gorgeous waterfall is also a swimming spot. Bear in mind that there is a small parking fee to access Twin Falls. Likewise, there are a variety of things to do in Maui for $30 or less, such as visiting Wai'anapanapa State Park or Haleakalā National Park. Given this, it is entirely possible to have a vacation of a lifetime in this coastal utopia with limited funds.


Stay at a hostel or camp in Maui

Maui is synonymous with beachside resorts, the best of which are ultra-luxe. These can cost a pretty penny. If you need economical lodgings, consider a hostel. The Aloha Surf Hostel (pictured) in Paia features shared dorms and private rooms that can accommodate up to three people. You can expect to pay under $200 per night, excluding taxes. Of course, staying in a shared dorm is the cheapest option. Complimentary breakfast is provided. In addition, Aloha Surf Hostel offers guests free tours and transportations around Maui, including to the Road to Hana and Makena Beach State Park. Another option is Howzit Hostels in Wailuku. It's similar in price and amenities. This includes shared dorms (including a females-only dorm), private rooms, and free tours. Free breakfast is also provided. 


However, if you're on a tighter budget, you can camp on Maui. Waiʻānapanapa State Park, for example, offers cabin rentals. This will set visitors back $100 per night. Tripadvisor reviewers say you must pack your own food, bedding, and other necessities for your stay at these no-frills cabins. But don't let this deter you. As one Tripadvisor reviewer explained, "Fantastic camping experience! Staying here enabled us to really take our time with the Hana sights! Cabin was clean and spacious — it's not a hotel, but I'm not sure I would categorize it as rustic when it has a microwave!"

Dine at Maui's food trucks or small, locally-owned eateries

In addition to its mesmerizing natural beauty, Maui is acclaimed for its local cuisine. Although there are several upscale restaurants, you don't have to spend a lot of money to eat well. Maui has food trucks throughout the island offering affordable and delicious meals. Thai Mee Up is an award-winning food truck with pad thai, green curry, and more. Happy Belly Food Truck serves Asian-fusion dishes like sliders, udon drunken noodles, and pork belly bao. Visitors can eat at either mobile eatery for under $20.


Beyond food trucks, Maui has various low-cost eateries for quick bites. At 808 Deli, you can get sandwiches, paninis, salads, and hot dogs for under $20. Although slightly more expensive, South Maui Fish Company is renowned for its tacos and received a Tripadvisor Travelers' Choice award in 2023. As for dessert, you can't go wrong with Island Cream Co.

Note that if you plan on eating at a food truck or making a to-go order in Maui, the island is plastic free. Therefore, it's unlikely you will receive disposable cutlery. Make sure to add a portable utensil set to your packing list. These are widely available online for under $10.

Take advantage of Maui's public transportation

If you want to explore Maui and drive the Road to Hana or Kahekili Highway, a dangerous but stunning scenic road, renting a car would be best. Of course, this won't come cheap and can cost hundreds of dollars. If you can't include this in your budget, no problem — there is public transportation. The Maui Bus public transit service is only $2 for a single ride or $4 for a daily pass. Although opting out of a car rental may limit what you can see and do in Maui, there are 12 bus routes that can transport you throughout the island. Notably, the Maui Bus can take travelers to and from Kahului Airport. 


Keep in mind that there are luggage restrictions. Simply put, the more compact the better: It must fit on your lap or underneath the bus seat. If it's too big, you will not be allowed on. That said, Tripadvisor reviewers say that the Maui Bus is stringent when it comes to this rule. However, others commend it. "We were very impressed with Maui Bus as the buses were clean and air-conditioned. The bus was always on schedule and not crowded," said one individual, who referred to it as "A good economical alternative." For those who plan on using the Maui bus, there is an app available on iOS and Android that can aid in finding routes and more.