Visiting Hawaii On The Cheap: Part 3 (Activities)

This continuing series of posts is about Visiting Hawaii On The Cheap; a location normally not known for low costs.  In part one of this series, we covered saving money on flights, lodging, and rental cars.  In part two we saved ourselves tons of money by eating delicious food in Hawaii.  In this final installment (Part 3) we’ll cover the fun stuff…Activities!



At some point in the distant past, someone decided that vacations should look at lot like work.  This person was probably a Type-A personality that couldn’t sit still for 5 minutes.  As this popular convention goes, vacations should be filled with activities, scheduled timelines, and (hopefully) a little fun to keep ourselves occupied.  

Due to tragically short vacations in the United States, many people pack their vacations to the brim with activities.  If you’ve ever taken a vacation like this, it’s exhausting!  Whether you prescribe to this line of thinking or not, I firmly believe my family doesn’t go on vacation to watch TV in a hotel room.  So how does Mr. Tako’s family fill their vacation days in Hawaii, and how do they do it cheaply?  Let’s find out!



Who could possibly write about Hawaii and not mention the beaches! Hawaii has fantastic beaches, probably some of the best in the world. The water is warm, and the sand is soft.  They are a great place to relax and take a nap in the shade.  Let the gentle Hawaiian breezes soothe you to sleep.  

Some beaches will have big waves.  Some will have palm trees.  Some will be busy and filled with tourists.  It’s all about which beach you decide to visit.  There are no ‘private’ beaches in Hawaii, so you can visit the same beaches as the super wealthy who inhabit that area.  

One of the best thing about Hawaii’s beaches (besides the fact they’re extremely beautiful) – they’re free!  No admission required!  All beaches on Hawaii are free and public. 

Millionaire Homes by the beach.
This beach was surrounded by multi-million dollar homes. The rooftops are just visible in this photo. Using the same beach as people this wealthy felt oddly satisfying.

Sometimes getting access to certain beaches (the best ones!) can be a bit difficult. One of the best internet sites to traverse this problem is Kona123. I have no affiliation with this website, but I used it pretty extensively in my trip planning.  They have detailed listings of all beaches, great photos, parking instructions, and complete instructions on how to access them. Occasionally the instructions read a bit like “Go down the road for a bit, turn left at the big rock, and then turn right at the next goat”, but I’ve found them to be pretty accurate.  

Those instructions got us to many fantastic beaches.

Hawaii Beach 1   Hawaii Beach 2

Hawaii Beach 3  beach flower


Volcano National Park

The Island of Hawaii has a national park, aptly named “Volcano National Park“. Unsurprisingly, it has a volcano!  Kilauea is one of the few active volcanoes in the world tourists can visit.  Unfortunately, this activity isn’t free, typically the entrance fee is $15 per car.  If you fill a van to capacity like we did, the cost per person is pretty minimal; $2.50 per person in our case.

VNP entrance
Volcano National Park entrance taken from our rental van. The entrance fee is $15 per carload. While not exactly cheap, if you maximize the number of people in your car-load, the cost per person can work out pretty cheap!

Note:  There is one way to get into Volcano National Park for free.  Visit the park on one of the free days!  We missed it by about a week.  This year, there’s extra free days due to the National Park Service’s 100th birthday!  Visit one of the 127 National Parks that normally charge an entrance fee!

Volcano National Park is a “must see” if you ever visit Hawaii.  There really is no place else like it in the world.  It’s a great educational destination, giving you ample opportunities to learn about volcanoes, lava, and their study

Kilauea Crater   Steam Vent

Learning About Lava   VNP Gas Warning

If your kids like hiking, they should do well at Volcano National Park.  There are rigorous hiking trails, but there’s also easy ones for families too.  Paved paths like this one abound in the park.  You can spend the whole day hiking at Volcano National Park, so budget your time accordingly.

Kid Friendly VNP
Our oldest is only 3 years old, but he had a blast hiking on Volcano National Park’s nice paths.

I should emphasize the fact that Volcano National Park is also fantastically beautiful.  The whole park is filled with beautiful vistas, tropical jungles, and unique plant life.

Jungle  Moore Jungle  VNP Flower

In addition to the hiking trails, a volcano and the jungle, there is also this cool lava tube you can walk through. (Unfortunately my photos are limited to areas that had sufficient light)

Lava tube entrance  Lava tube exit


Kona Coffee

Hawaii is the only state in the United States where coffee is grown.  This happens along the mountainside near Kona, HI.  The growing region with the perfect conditions is a strip of land only about a mile wide and 20 miles long.  There are numerous small coffee farms in that region.  

If you’re even slightly interested in farming or coffee production I recommend you check it out.  Many of the numerous growers will give you free farm tours displaying the growing and production process of Kona coffee.

UCC Coffee Tree  UCC coffee estate

While not quite as interesting for younger kids as Volcano National Park, there’s good educational content for slightly older kids.  They may even like some of the free samples.

kona coffee sample
My son enjoying a free iced coffee sample at Ueshima Coffee Company. He likes it straight and black.  They also gave us chocolate covered coffee beans.  Thanks to Ueshima Coffee for the fine treatment!
Natural Beauty

One of the best ways to enjoy Hawaii isn’t an activity at all, but rather the lack of activity.  We spend so much of our lives being productive and filling our lives with stress; it’s important to remember to just stop and smell the flowers.  Slow things down.  Don’t plan your day down to the last minute.  Stop and look around.  Breath in that wonderful fresh air.  After all, Hawaiians have the highest healthy life expectancy in the United States.  They must be doing something right.

Waipi'o valley  Hawaii Flower

Hawaii Flower  Hawaiian Sunset


3 thoughts on “Visiting Hawaii On The Cheap: Part 3 (Activities)

  • April 9, 2016 at 1:01 AM

    Wow, experiencing our honeymoon once more, very cool pictures! And very recognizable. Been to various of these places as well. Would love to go back on day.

    We actually hiked to the other side of the valley you show in the first photo (forgot the name….), very pretty area.


  • April 22, 2016 at 7:26 AM

    Thank you for this series on your Hawaii trip! I am so guilty of taking expensive vacations. Our trip to Hawaii this summer is an unexpected trip (boo!) and much more expensive than I would like. Plus we are taking this trip with type-A friends who will likely drive us like cattle. Probably not as good as yours, but we are spending $150/night on lodging and $230 for a rental car for 8 days. Our RT flights came to $885 each. Before leaving we have already spent over $4200. Thanks for the tips on keeping food and activity costs low. I will try to drive these ideas so we aren’t forking out an extra $300/day. In the future, I hope to utilize travel points for this kind of thing.

  • October 22, 2016 at 10:57 AM

    We used my Uncle’s park pass to get our van full into Volcano National Park for free. Senior citizens can get a lifetime pass for about $20. We got to the visitor center just in time for the tour. We stopped to eat our picnic lunch before heading to the observation station.
    We also enjoyed a free Kona coffee tour, and free coffee samples.
    Some of the paid tours and excursions were worth the experience. Our trip was pretty jam packed and I would love to go back with a more relaxed ‘schedule ‘.


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