The allure of Hawaii is obvious, with the sun, sand, sea, and culture. Though it is the 50th United State, it still sits 2000 miles from the nearest continent, making it a unique place to visit with a natural beauty that is tough to match anywhere in the world. Hawaii is unlike many other tropical island destinations in that it’s pretty easy to travel independently. Sure, there are plenty of resorts and tours offered if that’s your thing, but if you really want to experience the culture and dig deep into Hawaii, planning an indie trip there is pretty simple.
The usual suspects are available for all travelers to Hawaii. Big, massive, all inclusive resorts. Fancy 5-star hotels. Cheaper, simpler hotels. Hostels. Even camping. One option that is becoming more and more popular among travelers all over the world, including Hawaii, is renting.
Whether you’re coming solo to explore, to spend some time with your significant other, family, friends, or a large group, there is always a rental option for you, and it might turn out to be more affordable than any other available option. Renting, whether it’s a studio apartment, condo, small house, or massive estate, allows you to really experience the region, country, or city you are visiting. With the high cost of getting to Hawaii, saving a few bucks on your accommodation options may be a welcome respite. Add in the possibility of shopping in local markets and cooking your own food, and you may be able to save quite a bit.
Where to go
Hawaii is a collection of over 19 islands, 8 major ones, with 6 open to tourism, so you have plenty of options to suit whatever it is that appeals to you while on the road.
The Big Island
Hawaii, called The Big Island, is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Volcanoes National Park is one of the main highlights of The Big Island and home to the world’s largest volcano (Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet – 4169 meters). It also has the most active volcano in the world in Kilauea. If lava is something you’ve always wanted to see, then this is the place to see it, as a drive around Crater Rim and down the Chain of Craters road will allow you to see fresh lava flow covering the road and active lava heading into the ocean – an amazing experience!
There are plenty of outdoor activities to be had as well, like exploring Mauna Kea, the largest mountain in the world measured from its base, Akaka Falls, a 440 foot waterfall, and plenty of beaches to explore and unwind on. Kehena and Punalu’u beaches, both made of volcanic, black sand, are just waiting to be visited.
Rental options for the Big Island vary from cheap and basic ($39USD/night for a one bedroom suite) to crazy expensive and super posh ($10k/night for a 7 bedroom, one acre, gated estate). There are also a lot of great rental options for under $100/night on The Big Island, so renting instead of going the hotel route can save quite a bit of coin.
Oahu, home to state capital Honolulu, is the most populated island in Hawaii and thus the most developed. Beaches are plentiful in Oahu, with Waikiki Beach being the most well known and perhaps biggest tourist destination in the entire state, while the North Shore are a great place to go for hard core surfers. While most visitors come to Hawaii to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, there are plenty who still like visiting a big, urban oases, and Honolulu provides that.
Outside of the capital, there are plenty of ways to get away from that hustle and bustle. The Koolau and Waianae mountain ranges provide some nice respite from the chaos, with great hikes just outside of Waikiki. While Waikiki is worth a visit, there are still plenty of other beaches to check out what won’t be as crowded or hectic. Kualoa Regional Park, on the northeast side of Oahu, might be your best bet for beach seclusion, while Lanikai Beach has some of the most picturesque waters around. If you’re a surfer, then head to the famous North Shore to tackle some of the biggest waves in the world (winter months are the peak for huge waves and surfing competitions).
Like The Big Island, rentals for Oahu can be had cheaply if you’re traveling on a budget. You can find nice little studios for as low as $60/night, and there are a plethora of options for under $100. Of course if you’re looking to spend the big bucks and really pamper yourself, there’s plenty of options for you, too. Families or larger groups looking to rent a house can do so for around $400/night (3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and many with their own private pool!).
Maui is the second largest island next to The Big Island and has pretty much everything a travel lover would ever want in a tropical destination. Amazing beaches? Check. Crystal clear waters? You betcha. Outdoor activities? Got ’em. Incredible natural wonders? Yup. Top notch cuisine? Mmm, hmm. I’m guessing you get the point.
Hiking options abound in Maui, with Valley State Monument and Haleakala National Park, which has a massive volcanic crater and offers views of five of Hawaii’s eight islands from the summit. If you’re looking for other outdoor activities, try your hand at canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and snorkeling. If Maui is on your Hawaii itinerary, then you may want to consider driving what some call the most beautiful drive in the world to Hana. Hana is a tiny village that is worth a visit, but it’s the drive that keep people going there (though if you choose to stay a few nights, you won’t be bombarded by other tourists, particularly in the morning hours). This drive through the rainforest, past soaring cliffs and beaches, is a day well spent.
Who said Hawaii has to be expensive? Rentals in Maui are no different than The Big Island or Oahu. If you’re looking to do Hawaii on the cheap, then check out apartment options for as little as $50/night. Again, there are a lot of affordable options for rentals here, with many places available for under $100 per night. Larger houses are even cheaper here than other Hawaiian islands, as 3 bedrooms are available for as low as $115/night, depending on the season.
Many think of Hawaii as a luxurious destination, and while the sites, natural beauty, and food are certainly luxurious, the price tag that comes along with it doesn’t have to be that way. Renting an apartment, condo, or house on any of Hawaii’s islands can be an affordable venture, certainly cheaper than a big resort or hotel. Plus you get the added benefit of living like a local while you’re there, immersing yourself in the culture in a way that’s simply not possible when staying in a big resort or hotel.
Flipkey is a great resource for finding rentals around the world. With over 4,500 properties in Hawaii, FlipKey has great local options for indie travelers. FlipKey puts you in touch with vacation rental owners who can provide excellent local information and tips – not to mention good deals on lodging. They also provide travel tips and news on the FlipKey Blog.