The state of Hawaii is known for being one of the most beautiful places in the world, but visiting usually comes at a price. We’re here to give you our best money-managing tips to make a trip to the island of Kauai an affordable option for anyone!
Traveling Kauai on a Budget
Where To Eat for Cheap in Kauai
Multiple meals out can end up being a significant part of your travel expenditures in Kauai. Here are a few ways you can stick to a reasonable budget.
If you are traveling with a group or family, I would highly suggest getting groceries upon arriving as many hotels and villas include full kitchens. Foodland’s deli in Princeville and Kapaa offer an awesome place to grab lunch or dinner. Their Ahi Poke is inexpensive and delicious!
If you don’t want to cook or if you are traveling solo, you can find meals for $10 or less at one of the many food trucks scattered along the rim of the island. If you’re like me, you’ll have leftovers for a second meal (or a snack).
For the health conscious travelers, Living Foods market in Poipu or Koloa will be your go-to spot for snacks and to grab a quick bite to eat. Their hot food is just as good, if not better, than any of the other restaurants on the island.
Poipu is a tourist town, so plan on spending MUCH more for food than you would in Lihue or Kapaa. Hanalei is expensive as well, but I didn’t find it to be nearly as expensive as Poipu.
Cheap Eats in Poipu: Da Crack, Makai Sushi (inside Kukuiula Market), Kauai Food Truck (Koloa)
When To Visit Kauai
Given Kauai’s always moderate, warm weather, there really is no off-season and airfare and hotel rates remain relatively unchanged year round. However, if you avoid holidays and peak summer months and travel during low-tourism months — April, May, September, and October — you may find more likeliness of getting discounts.
When To Save
If you plan on snorkeling every day, consider bringing your own snorkel gear as long as you have the room in your luggage — just make sure to take into consideration baggage fees. If you don’t have your own travel set of fins and mask, rentals aren’t too expensive in most places (about $5-6/day), and some even offer a deal when you rent for a week.
Although it might not be as exotic as ordering tropical mixed drinks at the resort bar — buying alcohol at a local market will save you large amounts of money in the long run. Stocking up on liquor and beer at the market can save you as much as 5-10 times on alcohol during your whole vacation. If you have the room, pack a few snacks in your luggage as well!
As far as on-ground transportation goes, rent a car. It’s the most affordable and convenient way to explore Kauai. If you’re staying in Poipu, for example, the Na Pali Coast is a 3-4 hour round-trip drive.
We searched around and found a car for under $20 per day, excluding insurance. If you’re in the USA, most insurance companies will cover you for rental insurance, so check your policy before spending the extra money on insurance.
When To Splurge
Splurging is a little too easy if you aren’t careful, so I would recommend limiting yourself to one or two costly (but worthwhile!) experiences.
A helicopter tour is worth a MUST when visiting Kauai. Book a tour with Blue Hawaiian to get an aerial view of lush scenery and waterfalls you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. If you plan to limit yourself to one “splurge” activity, this should be it.
Affordable Hotels in Kauai
Aston Islander On The Beach, in Kapaa — on the island’s western coast — is a charming oceanfront hotel within walking distance to boutiques, restaurants, and a market for groceries. If you book in the off-season or well in advance, you can reserve a room for as low as $150/night!
On the southern tip of the island, Koloa Landing is a great value in Poipu. It’s close to shopping, beaches, a golf course, and daytime activities – plus each room has a kitchen! These amenities plus a central location will save you time and money.
Packing Essentials for Kauai
Rash Guard – I always pack my long-sleeve rash guard on island trips. It protects you from the sun when snorkeling and provides a little warmth in the winter months when the water gets chilly.
Reusable Water Bottle – Refilling your water bottle not only saves money, but it’s so much better for the environment! We use this CamelBak water bottle at home, but if you want something more compact, this collapsible water bottle is perfect for travel days and hiking.
Trekking Poles: If you plan to do any hiking along the Na Pali Coast, bring foldable hiking sticks! Many of our fellow hikers wished they had walking sticks to keep them from falling in the mud and assisting with the river crossings.
Rain Gear: Plan for rain on the Na Pali Coast! Bring a poncho or, even better, a light rain coat.
Dramamine: Definitely bring this for any boat rides along the Na Pali Coast. You may even want to take one before your helicopter flight; it can get bumpy. Dramamine has a Non-Drowsy version that we bring on all of our trips.
For more Hawaii packing and budget travel tips, read our Budget Travel Guide for the Island of Maui!