Is it possible to book a trip to Maui vacation on a budget? Absolutely! The key is flexibility and planning. Read through our tips to create a Maui itinerary that makes the most of your time and saves you money on your vacation to the Valley Isle.
Maui is a popular destination all year round. However, there are better times to travel, like September, when school is starting, or May/June, when school is ending. Compared to December- March, these tend to be less busy times and a starting place for looking at airfare. The best way to book your trip is to be flexible with your dates. Use an app like Airfare Watchdog to receive alerts on flight deals. Southwest now flies to Maui and looking at their low fare calculator from the west coast, there are roundtrip flights for $400 if you book them 4-5 months from the west coast. They also include checked baggage, which can be a significant expense when traveling with a family.
Vacation rentals will generally be less expensive than a resort, with the added benefit of having your own kitchen and free parking. Traveling with another couple or a friend can cut that cost in half. There are a lot of affordable options for a Maui vacation rental, especially if you're flexible with your dates and location. If condo owners get a cancellation, they may lower their prices for last minute travel. The key is to keep looking and not be too set on a certain area of the island. Whether you stay in Lahaina or Kihei, you can have an amazing time.
One thing tourists tend to do is overspend on food at Costco. If you're only staying for one week, there is no need to buy everything in bulk. You'll likely end up not eating most of it and leaving unopened items for the condo owner to use (which is great for them, but not ideal if you're looking to save money). Outline the meals you'd like to enjoy and then plan your meals at your condo accordingly. This may mean being less spontaneous, so leave that flexibility in your budget and schedule if that is important to you.
Good items to buy at Costco:
1. Salmon - 4-6 servings
2. Apples - boxes of 8 perfect for snacks on the go
3. Bananas - Best price on island
4. Eggs - 18-2 doz eggs for breakfast. If you have four people in a condo at 1-2 eggs per day, this the most economical choice.
5. Cheese - Best price on island
6. Pre-made dinners - a good option if you don't want to cook but want to eat at your condo.
7. Milk - Best price for one gallon
8. Alcohol - Bottles of wine can be purchased for under $10 a bottle. This is also the best price for hard liquor and beer. (If you don't have a Costco membership, alcohol is the only item that can be purchased.)
Items like cereal, snacks, bread, pasta, veggies, fruits, coffee, creamer and meat can be purchased at other big box stores, a grocery store or local farmers market. We would recommend buying less than you think you'll need and going back in the middle of the week if you need more.
Sure you could splurge and go to Mama's Fish House but another way to keep your food purchases on budget while still enjoying the best Maui restaurants is by going to the plethora of food trucks, eating at restaurants without a view and asking about Happy Hours. Ask locals where they prefer to eat to get the latest recommendation. Restaurants without a view tend to have less expensive meals, so look for the places away from the beach. Many places do have a Happy Hour during off hours. An early dinner or very late meal may mean significant savings. Get your meal to-go and take it to the beach for a sunset experience without the fancy price tag. With a little creativity you can eat well, find a sunset view and spend less.
A rental car on Maui is a must to get around and not be constrained by Maui's slim Uber, taxi and public transportation services. Book your car as soon as you book your flight. One of the best places is Kimo's, a local rental car company that often times is considerably more affordable than the rental car companies at the Kahului airport. Since you aren't required to pay for a rental ahead of time, keep checking prices in the time leading up to your trip. You may be able to find a better deal. If you travel with others, the car is another expense you can share. Gas is least expensive in Kahului at Costco and Safeway. Of course, you can always find a great place to stay, grab a cab to your location and plan to stay close by, utilizing the pool and beach as your main entertainment. With a little research you can find an area with amenities within walking distance.
Just because you want to visit this Hawaiian Island affordably doesn't mean you need to skim on some of the best things to do. Maui offers a wide range of activities that can be done for little to no money.
The beach: Maui consistently gets on "World's Best Beaches" lists from major publications. All of Maui's beaches are free, except for Wai'anapanapa State Park, which utilizes a reservation system to keep the crowds under control, and Makena State Park, which charges for parking. Otherwise, all beaches are available to the public at any time, including Big Beach, Wailea Beach and Honolua Bay. There may be some parking areas that have locals only hours, but that doesn't prohibit anyone from walking to that beach and enjoying it. Check out our guide to best Maui beaches for more information on which ones to visit and why.
Many condos have beach accessories, such as chairs, coolers and boogie boards available for use. Be sure to check with the condo you would like to reserve so you know if renting these items will be an additional expense. Walking the beaches, playing in the waves and enjoying the scenery is all free and a wonderful way to spend a vacation.
Hiking: Maui has many easy to moderately hard hikes around the island. There are hikes inside of Haleakala National Park, like Hosmer's Grove, Pipiwai Trail, Sliding Sands and even into the Haleakala crater. The cost to get into the park is $30 and it's good for 3 days. If you're interested in hiking these trails, be sure to plan them within that 3-day period, so you only have to pay once. Iao Valley State Park is another picturesque hike. This state park has a $10 parking fee, with trails, photo ops and a river. On the west side, the Waihee Ridge Trail is a beautiful trail that is free to hike.
Haleakala National Park: The House of the Sun is the largest dormant volcano in the world, with a crater that measures 20 miles in circumference. It is known for its sunrises overlooking the Big Island, but reservations can be difficult to obtain. We recommend going up at sunset to experience the crater at over 10,000 foot elevation. Temperatures at the crater are 30-degrees colder than sea level, so plan accordingly.
The Road to Hana: This all day journey to east Maui doesn't need to be expensive, aside from gas and your time. Bring a packed lunch and snacks and there are plenty of free stops along the way. Take a look at our Road to Hana guide for details on where to stop, restrooms and mile markers to make the most of your day.
Live Music at Coffee Shops and Restaurants: There are often free shows around Maui at different venues, like cafes where there is no charge to listen to live music. The Wharf Cinema Center has live music at Down the Hatch. This restaurant is in an open air mall venue with a bar. They have a Happy Hour from 2-5PM and live music from 3-5PM. This is a popular place, so arrive early for a good seat and enjoy the $5 drinks. Monkeypod in Ka'anapali has live music daily at 1PM, 4PM and 7PM. Their Happy Hour is from 3:30-5:30, so head over there at the beginning, to take advantage of their 4PM show. Mana'o Radio has a calendar of live music all over Maui. With shows happening every night, there's something for everyone.
Farmer's Markets/Swap Meet/Town Parties: There are farmer's markets all over the island. This is a great way to buy your produce and support local businesses. The Maui Swap Meet is every Saturday from 7-1PM at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. It's 50 cents per adult to get in. There are booths with everything from clothing and jewelry to coffee and coconuts. Maui used to have a town party every Friday of the month. Since Covid, only two town parties have returned. Lahaina, 2nd Friday, and Kihei, 4th Friday. Lahaina's town party is located on Front Street and Kihei's town party is at the Azeka Mall. Besides food and shopping, there is live music. It's free to walk around and enjoy the bands that play.
The Maui Tropical Plantation: This working agricultural plantation is 1800 acres of beautiful Maui majesty. Nestled below the west Maui mountains in Waikapu, The Maui Tropical Plantation is a place of peace and rich history. You can walk around the grounds and learn about the plants and trees situated on the property, which is a home to the endangered Nene goose, along with ducks, turtles, fish and the Black Crowned Night Heron bird, also known as Auku'u. These birds are fascinating to watch, as they stare into the pond waiting for a fish they can grab with their long beaks and swallow whole. The Plantation sells duck food for $5/bag, so visitors can feed them. There are many activities (zip line, tram tour, farmers market, shops and restaurant) to partake of on the property, but it is completely free to walk around the grounds, sit by the pond and enjoy the scenery.
Polynesian Dance Shows and Hula Lessons: Want to emerge yourself in the Hawaiian culture? The Lahaina Cannery Mall hosts free hula lessons every Tuesday at 2:30PM. The Shops at Wailea hosts free performances of hula and other Polynesian dances every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30PM. The Outlets of Maui in Lahaina have still not brought back their shows after the Covid pandemic, so check their website for updates.
Watch Windsurfers and Surfers on the Northshore: Take a drive into Paia and stop at Ho'okipa Beach Park, one of the top wind surfing beaches in the world. Traditional windsurfers and kite surfers fly through the air in an entertaining whirlwind. Big wave surfers will join them during high surf season. And there are always sea turtles sunning themselves on the sand. Please keep your distance from the wildlife and dangerous waves. This is a great beach to wade in the tide pools. Free parking at this location makes it a must do while visiting.
Whale watching from shore: The Maui Nui Basin, a whale sanctuary between Maui, Lanai and Kaho'olawe, is the best place to see spouts and breaches. While you won't get up close and personal with the whales like you can during a boat tour, whale activity is definitely easy to spot from shore.
South Maui Gardens: This hidden oasis, located in Kihei, is a plant nursery and community garden on 7 acres of shaded manicured land. There's a coffee shop and many food truck options along with live music throughout the garden. A Farmer's Market pops up every Thursday morning from 9-1PM. Live yoga classes are available Friday's from 9-10AM and 4-5PM. It's free to walk through and sit by their koi ponds.
If you're able to fit a tour into your budget, here are a few of the most affordable Maui activities:
Huaka’i Luau – Journey Through Polynesia in Maui!
The Huaka'i luau is centrally located at the Maui Ocean Center and is $40-$80 less than some of the other popular luaus. This venue has free parking after 5PM with an ocean view and live band. The show contains traditional Polynesian movement and includes fire dancing, a feature that other "traditional Hawaiian luaus" do not have on their program.
Snorkeling - 2-Hour Molokini Express
This tour is not only inexpensive, but has a 10:30 start time, so you can sleep in and then go on a water adventure. The boat will get your tour to the crater in about 15 minutes and you'll have an hour of stunning snorkel time. Molokini Crater is only accessible through a tour. With its clear waters, colorful fish and protected reef, the Molokini Crater is generally safe for visitors to snorkel without having any experience.
Deluxe Whale Watch
We love this whale watch with its promise that if you don't see a whale, the next tour is on them! Enjoy the beautiful views from a comfortable catamaran and sail the open seas in search of some whales. Each tour comes with either breakfast or lunch as part of your two hour excursion. If you're visiting Maui during whale season, this activity is a memory not to be missed!
Kaanapali Sunset: Take pleasure in viewing Maui from the ocean during a magnificent sunset cruise. Experience 2 hours on a catamaran, sailing through the waters between Maui and Lanai. You'll depart from Kaanapali beach and enjoy picturesque views while partaking of pupus and assorted beverages. Truly a magical and, perhaps, romantic way to spend an evening.
We've looked at some prices 3-4 months out for travelers coming from the West Coast. Flights from other areas of the continental US or other countries will typically be more.
The price for a couple to travel to Maui is around $3500 for a week, without taxes, fees, activity tours, expensive restaurants, alcohol and being able to find the best travel deals. A more realistic budget would be $4000. So while being affordable is relative in this case, there are ways to keep your expenses lower with smart planning. Check out our Maui itinerary to see how we recommend spending your time here, regardless of how many days you are staying.