Waikiki on a Budget

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

Aloha! We’ve just returned from a fantastic five nights in Hawaii. What a destination. There is something for everyone and you can do as little or as much as you like. For Kiwis, it’s a great option with the flight time only being eight hours from Auckland and the time zone is pretty much the same as here, but a day behind. We didn’t have any jet lag.

After picking up incredibly cheap flights in a sale, we were already on our to having an affordable adventure. Here are our top tips for taking the family to Hawaii on a budget.


There are ABC stores on almost every corner in Waikiki and they offer really affordable food and drink (as well as a lot of other things like souvenirs, jewellery and apparel). Choose from fresh meals (sushi, sandwiches, fruit etc) or snacks like chips and chocolate. Easy to access and open all the time.

If cafes are more your thing, there are many to choose from. We had the International Market Place across the road from us and ate breakfast there some mornings.

MJ enjoying pancakes for breakfast at Basalt

We also hit up popular places like IHOP and The Cheesecake Factory. Being so iconic though, it’s likely you’ll have to wait a get in. Top tip, the portions are generally HUGE! We shared most meals and that was more than enough for us both.

A highlight was visiting Leonard's Bakery for their famous malasadas, recommended to us by a fellow Kiwi. Malasadas are are like a doughnut without a hole, and you can have them filled or plain. Be prepared to line up for that too but it is so worth it - yum!

Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery


Waikiki is perfect for pedestrians so we walked most places. The Ala Moana Center is popular and the buses go regularly. We got a day pass each, under $10 for us both. If you want to hire a car we were told about Turo, it’s like Uber but for car hire and includes insurance and cleaning fees, you can do it for a day if you like. Just make sure you feel comfortable driving on the other side of the road! For everything else, we booked an Uber.


Hawaii has a lot to offer when it comes to sightseeing. You have the option of booking a tour or organising your own thing. We did a mix of both. See our blog posts about the hikes we did at Diamond Head and Manoa Falls, and our snorkelling trip at Hanauma Bay. Those were our top three but there are plenty more attractions including Pearl Harbour, the zoo and the aquarium.

Sun, Sand and Surf

The weather was incredible in Hawaii and it’s like that all year round. It makes Waikiki beach a haven for both locals and tourists. Surfing is big here with waves everyday. Lessons are available at the beach if that’s your thing. Otherwise just pick a spot in the beautiful golden sand and enjoy a swim.

The sunsets are also a must-see. We headed to the beach every evening to watch the sunset, it became our ritual. They are breathtaking and typically get a round of applause from everyone watching! On Friday nights there is a free fireworks show by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Definitely do that, it is spectacular!

Be sure to take food with you. We planned to have a beautiful meal at one of the ocean-front restaurants to watch the fireworks but we went down way too late and by the time we got there, the wait time for a table was over an hour! Ended up buying snacks and having a picnic on the beach.


The Ala Moana Center is worth a visit. It’s huge so you could easily spend the day there. It’s a mix of high end and high street stores with lots of dining options too. We also went to Ross Dress for Less that sells designer brands at discounted prices. And there’s plenty of shopping in Waikiki itself and it’s all open late so you’re spoilt for choice. Apparently there’s an outlet mall too but we didn’t make it to that.

Overall we found Hawaii didn’t break the bank even though we were told it was going to be expensive. Our tip is to go with a budget and get a currency converter app on your phone (we use A lot of things seem cheap but when you convert them back, they really aren’t!

On our last night when we were packing to get ready to go home and couldn’t be bothered eating out, we ordered pizza from the hotel restaurant. It was $23, converted back to NZD it was about $34 which we would NEVER pay for a pizza!

But if you get the chance, go to Waikiki. We will definitely be back.

- Kiki & MJ

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