10 Budget-Friendly Maui Travel Tips

Just because Maui is a popular travel destination doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. There are dozens of affordable ways to experience Maui’s beauty, so for travelers who are tight on cash, here are 10 travel tips for experiencing paradise on a budget.

1. Take advantage of free entertainment

Luaus are fun, but the costs can add up. For budget-friendly hula performances, check out the free hula shows at the Lahaina Cannery Mall. Whalers Village in Ka’anapali has free events on their stage, including lei-making classes, hula classes, and arts and crafts sessions, with live music on most weekend nights. Since the schedule of events is constantly shifting, visit their website for an up-to-date calendar. Join the locals at the weekly “Friday Town Parties,” or enjoy free music shows on the Baldwin House lawn along Lahaina’s famous Front Street.

2. Enjoy a ride on the Maui Bus

Rental cars can be expensive, and the Maui Bus has a convenient schedule that covers most points on the island (including the airport). Fares are $2 per boarding or a one-day pass is $4. Although the bus does run to the airport, riders are not allowed to board with luggage that can’t fit under their seat. Want to explore for a few days? Rent a car for the days that you need it and return it when you’re done. Many rental companies offer free pickup, and travelers can save money by renting a 2WD car in lieu of one with 4WD.

Big Beach at Makena State Park. Photo © Kyle Ellison.

3. Relax at the beach

A day at the beach is an integral part of a Maui vacation, but pricey add-ons like cabanas and cocktails can obliterate any budget. Instead, escape the resort districts and head for a local hideout. Baldwin Beach is an island favorite for bodysurfing and jogging, and Makena State Park has some of the best sunsets on the island. Pack a towel, a picnic, and some Doc Martin’s sunscreen (hyper-waterproof), and kick back beneath the shade of a palm tree for a day of cheap fun.

4. Take a hike

Hitting the trails is free, and it’s also a great way to see the island. In West Maui, spend a morning on the Kapalua Coastal Trail, looking out across the channel toward Moloka’i. South Maui boasts the Hoapili Trail which leads to an ancient Hawaiian village, or you can trek through bamboo in East Maui to 400’ Waimoku Falls. You could also easily spend a day hiking Haleakala’s moonscape or ambling through the Redwoods of Polipoli for an out-of-the-way adventure.

5. Camp

Save money on accommodations by utilizing a tent, cabin, or campground. The Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park is the best campground on the island ($15/car). An added bonus is that you can enjoy the Pools of Ohe’o before most visitors arrive. Both Polipoli and Haleakala Crater have backcountry cabins ($75-90/night), and Camp Olowalu offers oceanfront campsites on one of West Maui’s best snorkeling spots ($20/person).

Pitch a tent in Kipahulu. Photo © Kyle Ellison.

6. Enjoy happy hour!

Believe it or not, it’s easily possible to get dinner on Maui for under $10 per person, and several restaurants have happy hours that run late enough for you to turn them into early dinners. At the Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai, stuff yourself for under $10 at a table with an ocean view. If you order right before the 5pm cutoff, you’ll be able to catch the sunset.

7. Golf in the afternoon

Planning to golf in Maui? You can save 50% by playing in the afternoon. Afternoons are often windy, but if the forecast calls for light winds then the only difference is the price. Or, in lieu of the resort courses, tee off at Pukalani Country Club, Kahili Golf Club, Maui Nui, or the Dunes at Maui Lani, where rates are even less than at resorts. On Lana’i, the nine-hole Cavendish golf course is totally free.

Golfing in Lanai. Photo © Kyle Ellison.

8. Spend a rainy day in a museum

If it rains, escaping into a Maui museum is an affordable and informative alternative to being outside. In West Maui, the Whalers Village Museum is only $3 per adult, and the Lahaina Heritage Museum only asks for a donation. Central Maui’s Bailey House Museum offers history for $7, and at South Maui’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, visitors can broaden their knowledge of humpback whales completely free of charge.

9. Travel during the shoulder seasons

The months of May, October, and early November are the “low” seasons in Maui, and this is when travelers can find deals and still enjoy good weather.

10. Volunteer

Finally, when it comes to authentic experiences in Maui, many of the best are free. By volunteering with organizations such as Maui Cultural Lands, the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, or Friends of Haleakala National Park, you can access beautifully remote parts of Maui, gain cultural insight, and form friendships.

Kyle Ellison

About the Author

Kyle Ellison began researching the island of Maui when he first moved there at the tender age of five. Back then, the island still had three sugar mills, Wailea didn’t exist, and early mornings were punctuated by the sound of bombs falling on Kaho’olawe. The island has changed considerably since then, but Kyle’s love of Maui has remained.

A Maui resident, surfer, and diver, Kyle has led groups of divers as a divemaster at Molokini, led scuba tours on the island of Lana’i, hosted hundreds of hikers on Maui, and proposed to his wife off the island of Moloka’i while diving with hammerhead sharks. Kyle’s son can usually be found splashing in the water at Baldwin Beach.

As a freelance writer, Kyle’s work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Travel + Leisure, Maui No Ka ‘Oi, Ka’anapali Magazine, AOL Travel, Escape, Journey Viator, Gadling, Afar, and the Huffington Post, and on the Travel Channel. His travels have taken him to 65 countries and 49 U.S. states. He also helped found a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships for students in Cambodia.

For more info on Kyle and his travels, visit him at kylethevagabond.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kylethevagabond.

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