This Honolulu Travel Guide shares everything you need to know before visiting the city, including where to stay, what to do and how to save money in Honolulu.
Known for its rich natural scenery, many beautiful beaches and tropical climate, there is a lot to love about Honolulu.
On a trip to Hawaii, make sure to head to Honolulu, even just for a few days. Hike the Waimea Waterfall, climb the Diamond Head and enjoy Waikiki Beach. Learn at the Pear Habour museum, snorkel in Hanauma Bay and make sure to try some shaved ice too.
Typical costs in Honolulu
Budget: Hostels are available for $35 for a dorm bed (even by the sea!), whilst budget rooms for two start at $70. You can also rent an airbnb for around $100; perfect for groups of travellers.
Midrange: Midrange hotels cost $150 – $250 a night, costing on the higher end the closer you are to the beach.
Luxury: 5 star hotels on the beach will cost upwards of $340.
Transport: The best way together around Hawaii is by renting a car; these cost anywhere from $20 – $80 a day. Book in advance and compare prices to get the best deal.
Average cost of food:
Hawaii has some amazing food and you can eat cheap too. You can find $2 tacos from a food truck and there are plenty of grocery stores to stock up using. If eating out, expect to pay at least $6 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $30 for dinner and double that if you are eating in or around resorts.
Best time to visit Honolulu
The best time to visit Honolulu is from mid April to early June and between September to December. These are the shoulder seasons which offer less crowds and cheaper airfare and room rates. There are plenty of things to do in Oahu with kids but make sure to avoid the summer months; these are crowded and too warm to enjoy the outdoor activities.
As Hawaii is at the edge of the tropical zone, it experiences rainy season from November to March.
Where to stay in Honolulu
The Polynesian Hostel Beach is a popular choice on Waikiki Beach; it is rate 4 stars and dorm beds start at $35 a night.
Hostelling International Honolulu is another great choice for those looking for same sex dorm beds. It is just a 9 minute drive from Prince Kuhio Beach and provides free wifi and lockers.
Paniolo at The Equus have wonderful rooms just 800m from the Magic Island Lagoon Beach. The hotel itself is a quirky and fun place to stay, with a nice restaurant, bar and outdoor swimming pool as well.
The Hilton Garden Inn on Waikiki Beach is another great choice. The luxury hotel offers rooms from $135.
Save money in Honolulu
Honolulu is a fantastic place to explore but it can be expensive. However, there are many ways you can save money here too.
- Avoid the beach – If you are traveling on a budget, avoid booking accommodation on the beach. This is always a lot more expensive than other destinations.
- Fly via the West Coast – If you are flying from the US, Try to plan a trip via the West Coast. Flights can be found at decent prices from California but expect much higher prices from anywhere else.
- Limit your car rental – Renting a car is a popular choice for most that visit Hawaii but it can be expensive, as can parking. If you want to see the sights of Hawaii, rent a car for just a few days to see the sights then use TheBus (a public bus in Oahu. You can get a 4-day buss pass from any ABC store, ideal if you plan on doing lots of travel.
- Hotel deals – If you sign up to hotel emails and compare prices on across multiple websites, you can save money, especially not he less expensive hotel chains like Aqua properties and the lower-end Outrigger properties.
- Get a refrigerator – Aim to get a hotel room or rent a place with a refrigerator. This means you can stock up on basics from the ABC stores and avoid eating breakfast out each day.
- Meal Deals – There are many restaurants in the heart of Waikiki that offer special deals throughout the day. Head to iHop and Cheeseburger in Paradise for breakfast specials or the Wolfgang Steakhouse for decent and affordable lunches.
- Free activities – There are plenty of free activities to take advantage of, such as many of the beaches, the Friday Night Fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the free live entertainment and classes at The Royal Hawaiian Center and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
- Coupons – Pick up the local newspaper to find coupons for attractions and restaurants each week. If you plan on visiting a chain restaurant or cafe (such as Starbucks), check for vouchers or gift certificates on Ebay.
- Reward cards – If you travel a lot, why not get a rewards credit card for your favourite hotel chain. Hilton and Marriott have great sign up offer, so you can collect points each time you spend money on the card and then redeem free stays and upgrades worldwide.
- Compare rentals – If you intend on road tripping, make sure you compare prices for a rental car on websites such as rentalcars.com or hotwire.com.
- Avoid checked luggage – If you are flying in or out and visiting for a short period, avoid having checked luggage. You can book budget flights to save money but these don’t always include checked luggage.
- Avoid Public Holidays – Hotel and travel prices rise around the 4th July and Labor Day, so avoiding travelling at this time. If you do want to travel at this time, book everything in advance.
Best things to do in Honolulu
USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor
Corsair Wreck Dive Site
Dolphin Quest Oahu
Ala Moana Center
Polynesian Cultural Center
Kuhio Beach Park
Honolulu Botanical Gardens
Shangri La museum fo Islamic Art, Culture & Design
Honolulu Museum of Art
How to get to Honolulu
Flights – When visiting Hawaii from anywhere else, you will likely be flying into the state. Most visitors land in HNL airport on Oahu first, so from here, you can take the 15 minute drive to Honolulu.
Via Maui – If you are visiting Maui first then heading to Honolulu, there are a few ways you can get between the islands. Most visitors will use Go! Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines to take the 40 minute flight between the destinations. Alternatively, there are charter boats and cruise lines that offer this route too.
How to get around Honolulu
Car – The easiest and most popular way to get around Honolulu is via car. Rental cars are becoming more and more affordable, particularly at Daniel K. Inoue International Airport. Renting a car is a must if you plan on seeing lots of attractions and you are short on time.
Walking – If you are staying downtown or near the beach, you can walk to nearby locations but don’t expect to walk from one side of Honolulu to the other.
Bus – There is a public bus system (TheBus) which can be used to get around but it is much slower than driving yourself. One-way fares cost $2.75 and one-day passes are available for $5.50.
Uber/Lyft – These lift sharing apps are available in Honolulu but keep an eye on the price when you book; these can go up quickly during peak travel times.