This article was written before the Lahaina Fires on 8/8/2023. Old Lahaina Town is destroyed and travel and tourism in West Maui is closed until 10/8/23. Please be aware of the current situation on the Island while reading any previously written information about the Island of Maui. While the island needs tourism to survive, many people and businesses mentioned in this article lost their premises and employees lost their homes so unfortunately, may not be operating at this time. Please continue to be mindful of the ongoing situation on Maui while planning your trip and visiting the island. Current information regarding Travel to Maui at this time can be found HERE. Our thoughts and condolences are with our Maui Ohana during this devastating time. Mahalo for your consideration and understanding.
Maui is an island of stunning natural beauty set in an idyllic tropical paradise. Smattered with high-end luxury accommodation and smack bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean it really is the stuff dream vacations are made of. However, none of these things add up to a cheap destination. There is simply no way around it Maui is an expensive place to visit.
While anyone looking for a budget vacation should probably just cross Maui off their list, there is no reason to see Maui as unaffordable, and there are many ways to get flights, accommodation food, drink, and activity costs down to a minimum. It is still going to be an expensive trip but it need not break the bank completely. Our Guide on How to Visit Maui on a Budget will show you all the best ways to save money and get the best value out of your time on this Island Paradise.
Whether you are looking for bargain-basement accommodation to enjoy the natural beauty of the island or looking to bag top-end hotels at the lowest price or just looking for ways to stretch the budget a bit further we have everything you need o know to make the most out of any budget.
Let’s assume a 2,500-mile swim or kyack paddle is out of the question, really you only have two options to get here, a Cruise, or by Plane. 90% of Maui’s visitors fly in and as we are not the biggest fans of cruise ships this is what we will focus on. However, if you are on a cruise you may well find some great tips further down on saving money when you are there.
Unfortunately, flights are one of the trickiest parts of a trip to bag at the best price. Flights To Maui are considerably more expensive than other internal flights in the US even though they are a very similar length to coast-to-coast flights, they are typically twice the price at least.
This said bargains can be found and flights can be booked to Maui for as low as $200 return if you hit the perfect time of year and book at just the right moment. Airline flights are a Live Market and are really hard to predict exactly when prices will be at their lowest. As budget flights are typically non-cancellation flights with stiff penalties for any alterations it is always a bit of a gamble.
We use a selection of tools to help us find the best deals and the cheapest flights. First of all Google Flights has a great search capacity that allows you to compare different dates on the flight calendar to see when is cheapest. However, this is only a live view and things can change fast.
Flight Comparison Sites such as Skyscanner and Momondo, offer the ability to compare Online Travel Agents’ prices, these can at times be quite a bit cheaper than booking direct, and while they have issues with customer service and alteration fees. If you foresee no reason to need these services they can save you a few $$.
The real trick is booking at the right time. This is a two-part issue. One booking at the cheapest time of year and two, booking at the right time with the airline. We cover the low season and cheapest times to travel to Maui below.
Flight prices for any particular date go through a few peaks and troughs. They are typically very low as they are released, or drop really low a few days after. This is to get the first “lump” of seats sold. After this prices creep up and can stay there for a number of months. However, there is no set pattern and various sales or algorithm calculations can cause seat prices to plummet at any given point.
Prices often, but not always, also dip a few months out, but this is entirely dependent on the current level of availability. If a flight is nearly full prices will rocket and not come down again. Because of this and the fact we like to plan trips to Maui well in advance, we aim to book in that early window, grab a price we are happy with, and never look back.
$250-300 is a decent price to pay for a direct West Coast flight while <$200 is very low. $4-500 is a more typical peak season flight price without hitting a bargain deal. Leaving it late is a gamble but there can be great deals to be had especially if you are flexible!
Cheap Eats and Happy Hours in Maui
Food is not cheap in Maui! This is a big understatement and food and drink can quickly be the biggest expense of your entire trip! When you consider how much hotels cost and how costly flights are it’s hard to imagine you will be spending more on food than that! But the reality is restaurant prices are very high on the Island.
Even modest restaurants can have entree prices of $30-50, with a family of four you can easily see how this can lead to $2-300 food bills daily! Fortunately, Food and drink also offer some of the BEST opportunities to save. With our food and drink tips, you can slash that $300 daily food bill right down and still have an authentic Hawaiian experience, in fact probably MORE authentic!
The simplest way to save is to eat most of your meals from the supermarket. Many accommodation options in Maui have kitchen facilities and you can use these to cook up some amazing meals using incredible fresh Hawaiian ingredients. We start EVERY Hawaii trip in the grocery store stocking up on essentials.
Grocery Prices on the Island may cause you to have a bit of a coronary, everything is the same as on the mainland but as it all has to make its way across 2500miles of the pacific ocean prices are a lot higher. The Secret is to Shop like a local.
Some things are really cheap and these are usually local produce. Amazing fresh fruit and veg, Amazing Poke, some of the best coffee in the world, and Pineapple that will blow your mind and make buying at home nearly impossible (Pineapples just are not the same after sampling Maui Gold!) The problem with this is these types of products are seasonal.
The Hawaiian Islands do not produce great food year-round. So when Advacodos are in season the shops are bursting with the biggest, plumpest, fruit you have ever seen and are so utterly creamy and delicious that their tiny price tag is hard to believe, however when they are not you will pay a premium for rock hard tiny Hass Avocados from Mexico!
So you need to buy with your senses, buy locally from what is available, and really get a taste of the best Island Produce on offer!
You can also save a bundle by buying your own drinks. A Nice Glass of Wine on the Lanai, a fridge full of beer, and a few choice ingredients to make your own Mai Tais will save you a fortune on Bar and restaurant Prices. Drinks are not cheap in Maui!
Most condo complexes on the Island have outdoor BBQ areas. These contain several outdoor Gas Grills available for residents to use. This is one of the most wonderful experiences on the island. Sitting outdoors, with an ocean view grilling your own steaks with a gentle island breeze, MaiTai in hand…
…Sorry drifted off for a minute there.
Honestly, the joy of outdoor cooking means we actively avoid eating out as it is just so much more fun sipping your own cocktails, grilling your own meat, and watching the sun dip into the ocean! This is 100% Hawaii!
When we do eat out we hit the island’s Happy Hours. The restaurants on the island can be seriously pricey. With incredible menus and wonderful oceanside settings, these are some of the most magical places to eat but they really do charge the earth. However many offer Happy Hour Dining and drink deals that let you sample some of the island’s best eateries at a fraction of the cost. Menus are usually limited to Apitizes or PuPus but this is perfect as these smaller plates, often at 50% off allow you to sample more island tastes than on a big meal!
And of course, you can hit the cocktail menus, there is almost always a Mai Tai and you can start your journey into becoming a Mai Tai connoisseur!
We have a full article detailing Maui’s BEST Happy Hour Deals
The majority of residents on the island work in the hospitality and tourism sectors. These are the happy friendly people you meet every day on the island. This Aloha Spirit comes from living in one of the most beautiful places on the entire planet, your holiday is their LIFE! It does not come from the tiny pay packet they receive for their efforts! But Locals need to eat too and you can be assured they are not dining in the high-end tourist restaurants but Locals eat out too and there are many low-cost Local dining options that help you really appreciate the island-style life!
Fish Tacos – Fish Tacos are a real island favorite and there are loads of locations selling amazing Tacos all over the Island. Jawz Tacos Food van in Makena, Maui Tacos in Wailea, and Kahaluia and Ono Tacos in Lahaina
Aloha Mixed Plate – Hearty portions of traditional Hawaiian food.
Huli-Huli Chicken – a Must Stop on the Road to Hana, the Huli-Huli Chicken stand is legendary. Just past Hana at Koki Beach Park, this rustic hut serves the most amazing chicken you have ever tasted. Basted over an open fire with a secret marinade it will blow you away!
Paia Fishmarket – Originally in Paia but now with a Southside location in Kihei and one in Lahaina (also now in Waikiki! ) serving fresh and locally caught fish for budget prices and large portions a real taste of the ocean!
It does pain us to say this, but we are as guilty as anyone, sometimes the easiest way to grab a cheap bite is to stick to what you know. There are many fast food and chain restaurants all over the island and sometimes you just want that hole filling.
Locals and Tourists alike still fill up on Mcdonalds, Taco Bell, Panda Express, and KFC. We wish we could ignore them and hit the local spots EVERY time, but sometimes you just need a little of the familiar, feel free to Judge us! We even, on occasion, pass up the amazing Maui Coffee for a more familiar Starbucks! On occasion that is, not often!
Of Course, we still encourage you to splash out, some of the dining experiences on Maui are mind-blowing, but by scrimping on most of your meals you can save for those special meals and have an incredible experience rather than wasting money in sub-par restaurants that cost the earth
Best Restaurants on Maui!
Where to Stay in Maui on a Budget?
Accommodation on Maui is NOT cheap. There are very few budget hotels and $200 a night does not get you many options! But while the ultra-high luxury resorts of Wilwa and Kaanapali with their $1000 night rooms are certainly appealing to Celebrities and Billionaires, they are beyond the means of most. That does not mean Maui is unaffordable you just need to look in the right places. We often stay in the best locations on the island but refuse to pay the highest prices. Here are our top picks for ultra-budget and budget luxury!
Choosing a district is the first choice and while there are many budget options in Kihei and Kahana there are still budget choices in the higher-end resorts such as Kaanapali and Wailea even Napili and Kapalua have some budget options. While there are some affordable hotels in Kahului we really don’t advise staying there. It is too built up and has limited access to good beaches.
To work out where you want to Stay on Maui Check Out Our Guide Here
Tiki Beach Hostel – One of the cheapest places to stay on the island the Tiki Beach hostel offers super cheap accommodation, far from luxury but a great backpacker’s choice!
Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas – Situated on mays beach the other side of Black Rock gives this budget-friendly resort its price tag, but we love May’s Beach and find this side of the Rock more peaceful and natural, and the ocean here is nearly always calm, clear and filled with sealife!
Royal Kahana Maui by Outrigger – Basic Oceanfront High-rise Condo Complex with stunning views.
Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger – Beautiful grounds and envious oceanfront location with simply stunning views over to Molokai, a little slice of paradise, and home to the world-famous Gazeebo Restaurant!
Castle Kamaole Sands – Situated just across from Kamaole III Beach Park, one of the finest beaches on the island. This is getting as cheap as hotels come in Maui and the Apartments are not super high-end. They are clean comfortable and perfectly situated tough.
Days Inn Maui – Wow a Days Inn, everyone’s dream vacation hotel (Sarcasm)! However, this one is a little bit special. We have never stayed in a Days inn that occupies such a phenomenal location. Oceanfront with wonderful sea views it really is that little bit of budget paradise! It is far from the high-end luxury that many expect in Maui but is definitely priced that way and it is practically in Wailea, right on the beach and that is all the REALLY matters in Maui.
Wailea Grand Champions Villas – at over $200 a night Budget in Wailea has a different meaning. These incredible Villas are a great find though. They are nestled up in hills above Wailea and have breathtaking views. The area is incredibly peaceful and only a short hop down to the beaches and resort amenities. These fantastic Villas give a real taste of what Maui Life is like…be warned!
If you are looking for Private let’s check out:
Grab a Package Deal
Things have moved on from Package deals. The internet has given us the power to be our own travel agent and we find you normally get much better deals, flexibility and choice booking separately. However, from time to time Travel Agents get things wrong.
Due to the way they operate by pre-booking flights and hotel rooms before selling the trips they can get themselves into a pickle if things do not sell well. This can mean they are going to actually lose money. In these instances, they can offer really great rates to help cut their losses.
There are no guarantees here but checking package deals with Travel Agents can unearth some serious bargains.
When to Book
The Biggest tip on booking is to time it correctly, and we do not mean the time of the year (that is the next section) we mean how far before your trip do you book. Like flights, this is a gamble as the hotel market is a live market. But unlike Airline Tickets there is a cheat to this. Some Booking agents allow completely free cancellations. This means you can book early safe in the knowledge you can always cancel for free should the prices drop or you find a better price elsewhere
This is why we use Booking.com. Most hotels offer free cancelation and you can book straight away, confident you can change your plans or rebook at a better price, even if that price is on Booking.com itself. We have done this many times and saved $1000’s of dollars over all our trips. Often the initial price is the best one we see as booking early is often the best way as the prices are lowest, but often the price does drop and we simply cancel and rebook at the lower price!
When to Stay in Maui?
The other way to save hotels is by booking out of season. This is a great way to book cheaper flights and accommodation on Maui as there is just no bad time to be on the island. The island enjoys year-round warm temperatures, balmy seas, loads of sun, and only infrequent and short rains. There is no rainy season and nothing you might be inclined to call winter. In fact, their winter is actually the busiest time to visit the island as people seek shelter from the frigid North American winters.
Late March to June offers some of the best weather on the Island and some of the lowest prices. Crowds are minimal as people often enjoy spring at home and you can even catch the tail end of the whale season. The Summer months see the annual getaways rocket as people head on their family vacations. These see a spike in bookings over July and August and prices and crowds soar.
As the kids head back to school, September and October offer incredible weather, September is just as good as august, but with lower prices and lower crowds, water temps can even hit their highest in these months. As November approaches the risk of storms and rain increases, and as the Whales and Holidays approach prices creep up again, but you will find bargains in November.
December offers some of the poorest weather, but in Maui, that is still a long way of bad weather, rainfall increases, and the chance of big swells increases which can negatively affect snorkeling and ocean activities. The Whales season is in full swing and the Island is still an awesome place to visit. As people are really busy with Christmas and holiday planning you can find some real bargains before the big day. After that New year, January, February, and early March are peak seasons and prices will be at their highest.
Find out more about the Weather in Maui here
Getting Around Maui on a Budget
The simple answer is to get a Hire Car. Maui is really very sparsely populated and getting around between places of interest, attractions, beaches, and tourist hotspots are best done with your own wheels. The only other way of getting about cheaply is the Maui Bus, and while this is seriously cheap, only $4 for an all-day pass, it just doesn’t work well enough for a whole trip where you want to visit as much as possible. Busses are infrequent and only head to the tourist resorts.
In the long run, you will save more by hiring a car than using the bus as you can head to the supermarket easily, stock up on food and drinks and ingredients to make your own Mai Tai’s. You can organize your own trips to Haleakala and Drive the Road to Hana rather than relying on expensive tours.
Money-Saving is about more than just using the cheapest available it is about maximizing your spending on Maui, a Hire Car is one of the best buys available! Of course, for some, hiring a car is not an option and we can appreciate this, We talk about getting around Maui without a car here for those who can’t hire a car, but from a strict money-saving point of view you really should.
Budget Rent A Car
The simplest way to save is to book the cheapest possible. People love cruising the island in Droptop Mustangs or open-top Jeep Wranglers. And while these are really fun, they are usually double the price of a regular compact or midsize rental.
If you are traveling from outside the US then we tend to recommend RentalCars.com. They offer fantastic free cancellation policies meaning if you find a better price or your plans change you can easily swap your rental. They also include insurance () and this is really handy as otherwise, you will need to buy a costly Insurance package with your rental.
Insurance is not a big issue for American visitors as you are usually covered on your own policy or have it included on your Credit Card, make sure you check your details. This means it is cheaper and better value to book from a local specialist. Our pick of these is DiscountHawaiiCarRental.com
Prepare for a shock! If you are from the mainland prepare to be shocked at how expensive the Gas is If you are from outside the US, prepare to be shocked at how cheap it is! Americans really have no idea how their cheap Gas is compared to the rest of the world, but for Americans, it is pretty steep on the Island. Prices are normally up to $1 a gallon more than on the mainland obviously this varies hugely from state to state,
Parking in so many of USA’s cities is a complete nightmare. Maui is a total exception. Free parking is available in just about all of Maui’s towns, cities, tourist hotspots, and beaches. While at peak times getting a spot requires patience, there are always free lots you just have to strike it lucky and keep trying.
In towns, there are often paid lots, which can be an option if the free spaces are full but we find circling the free lots a few times normally results in space. Don’t ignore Street parking either. Regulations are pretty relaxed, and as long as you take note of any restrictions such as maximum stay and return time you will be fine.
Most attractions, lookouts, beaches, or landmarks will have free parking lots, and if not there will be pull-outs when you can leave your car while visiting. As long as you do not just abandon your vehicle at the roadside all is well.
Things to do for FREE or Cheap in Maui
There are NO private beaches in Maui every beach has the right of access and almost all beaches have free parking within walking distance. Most big Beaches have Beach parks that offer Free amenities such as Showes, Toilets, Picnic Tables, and BBQ areas. With this in mind, it is hard to think of a better free activity than a day at the beach! Oh, and we should mention Maui has some of the best beaches in the WORLD!
With only a small outlay you can indulge in one of the most popular activities on the Island. Maui’s underwater world is even more beautiful than its above-water landscape, and that is a hard ask! Ocean Life is abundant, Vibrant, fascinating, and downright spectacular.
From Coral reefs teeming with fish to majestic Sea Turtles and a million different things in between the ocean is just filled with life and every snorkel experience brings something new. From rank beginner to advance snorkeller, there is everything available in Maui and everyone should check out these wonders at least once.
For us, Snorkelling is an EVERYDAY activity and we get a bit tetchy if we haven’t had our fix of turtles and reef fish on any given day. Check out our full guide to snorkeling on Maui with tips on Gear, Safety, and where to Snorkel on this wonderful Island.
Free Hula Shows
Lahaina Cannery Hula Shows -We love Luau’s and make sure we attend one every time we are in Hawaii, however, they are a very expensive activity. While some are considered budget Luau’s these are still nearly $100 a head, so not conducive to serious budget traveling.
We still feel A Luau is a worthwhile investment and worthy of a splurge, but if you want some of the Hawaii hula Magic without the cost then the FREE Hula Shows at the Cannery Mall in Lahaina are the perfect answer.
These shows lack the Rasmataz and theatre of the big-budget Luau Shows however they are far more authentic and give a real feel for what authentic Hula Dancing is all about.
Considering Maui’s amazing ruggedness and huge areas of wilderness hiking on the island is actually pretty limited. There are not really that many hiking trails and most of the routes are confined to the coast. Nearly all of the West Maui Mountains are closed to the public in order to protect its incredible and ancient biodiverse Cloud forest.
Things are better on Haleakala but there are still fairly few trials considering the amount of wilderness area. This is partly due to so much of the island being protected along with the fact so much of the land is privately owned by the plantations.
However, from a Vacation perspective, there is more than enough to go around. As we said there are only a few trails but they are some seriously stunning, and worthwhile hikes that will have you standing gasping scarcely able to comprehend the vistas on offer!
From short treks through the jungle with picture-perfect waterfalls to hiking mountain ridges in an ancient cloud forest. From gentle coastal Paths to hiking a collapsed volcanic crater the size of Manhattan! Maui has it all!
Maui has some pretty incredible wildlife. The remote location of the Hawaiian Islands means it has a pretty unique Biosphere. Checking out this wildlife is a great way to spend time on the island. Some of it is really hidden while others are very much in your face. We have several guides on the different creatures you may encounter while on the island.
The other thing to mention about Maui’s wildlife is very little of it is any danger to humans, there are a couple of exceptions (Jelly Fish, the rare Shark attack), but unlike so many Tropical locations the creepy crawlies, snakes, and other nasties people can find troubling are pretty much absent, even mosquitos are pretty rare compared to most tropical locales, another result of being so utterly remote to the rest of the world.
Road To Hana
Assuming you have a hire car the road to Hana is a very inexpensive day out, costing only a tank of gas, a few snacks, and maybe some Banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread stand! For this, you get to journey along one of the most spectacular roads in the entire world. The Hana Highway snakes through pristine rainforest along plunging coastal bluffs, over endless bridges, and past countless waterfalls, all ending at one f the most remote coastal villages in America.
It really is a journey into a lost world and one of the best things to do on Maui.
Sunrise on Haleakala
The vast majority of Maui’s landmass is made up of Haleakala. A colossal Sheild volcano that measured from its base, deep in the depths of the pacific ocean, is the third tallest Mountain on earth*. This gigantic peak gives you a unique opportunity to witness the sunrise from high above the clouds over a truly stunning and unique landscape.
Fortunately for anyone not versed in mountaineering, there is a road leading all the way to the summit so everyone can witness this incredible, daily spectacle. The Haleakala Crater is seriously otherwordly and offers a remarkable setting for the rising sun. Get there early and you will be treated to one of the world’s best dark skies as the milky way is easily visible to the naked eye, then watch the remarkable colors as the sun climbs up over the cloud-covered ocean revealing shades of orange and red like you have never imagined, finally once the sun is aloft you can explore the volcanic landscape and look down on the rest of Maui and catch a glimpse of the Big Islands towering Volcanoes.
Despite requiring a really unsociable alarm call of 2-3 am the Sun Rise on Haleakala is not to be missed. Read all about planning your trip up Haleakala here. It is not quite free as you need to pay for entry to the National Park and sunrise requires a free booking that incurs a small booking fee, but for the payoff, it is a really good value adventure. You can always catch up with the lost sleep on a sun lounger that afternoon!
* Everest and most of the Himalayan giants have a much higher elevation, but they are measured from sea level as they are part of the Asian continent. As Haleakala rises directly from the Pacific Abyssal plane, The majority of its height is underwater. The two tallest peaks are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa over on the Big Island.
Discount Hawaii Attractions
While there are loads to do on the island that cost little to no money and we definitely encourage everyone to take full advantage of these, for many a trip to Maui is a special occasion and they want to splurge on a few special experiences. There is no shortage of ways to spend your money on Maui, with a wide range of fun, exciting or romantic things to do.
- Helicopter Tours
- Whale Watching Trips
- Snorkeling Sails
- Sunset Dinner Cruises
- Diving Excursions
- Luau’s with Open Bars
- Atv Tours
- Even Submarine Trips
There is a lot to do and this is on top of the free/cheap activities we have already mentioned. There are a whole host of discount Activity providers and it can be a real challenge to know which offers the best deal and if they are trustworthy.
On the whole, we steer clear. Often then the best price can be just booking direct and you are likely to get the best service too. However, as with most things, over the years the best always ride to the top. Tom Barefoot’s Tours has been offering excursions, trips, and tours in Hawaii since 1975 and has the best relationships with vendors out of any provider. We see the biggest discounts through Tom and always check out his prices before booking.
Tom Has Now Sadly Closed his business and we are in the process of finding an alternative reliable partner, but for now, just book direct for the best price!
Have Your Say
What are your favorite ways to save money on Maui? got any great tips and tricks to share with our readers? A great place for bargain eats? A great Happy Hour? or Something fun to do for free? Whatever you have to share please drop us a comment below. And if you have any questions at all on this article and money-saving in Maui just fire away in the comments.