How To Keep Costs Low on a Maui Vacation

Vacationing on Maui (or any of the Hawaiian islands) can be expensive, especially if you travel during peak times such as the December holidays, spring break, and summer.

But there are ways to keep your costs low. In this article I am going to go through some ideas in detail.

{Cost Saving Idea 1: Rent a Car}

Rent a car vs. taxis and Ubers. If you’re planning to be out checking out the island, you’ll save a lot by renting a car vs. taking Ubers or taxis everywhere. The easiest thing is to pick up a car at the airport, when you land on the island. And when they ask, tell them you’ll fill up the gas tank. Don’t pay the premium for them to do it. There’s a Costco right near Kahului airport (and Costco is strategically located near the main airports on the Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai as well). Don’t forget to pack your Costco card!

If you’re traveling during peak times such as the December holidays, spring break, summer, or when there are big events such as surf competitions or conferences on the island, then book ahead.

Costco often has really good deals on car rentals. And you don’t have to go through them for accommodation packages also. You can just rent a car through them. FYI, only members of Costco can buy their travel and car packages.

Plus having a car is much more convenient for all your gear – snorkels, towels, beach chairs, clothes etc.

{Cost Saving Idea 2: Plan Picnics}

One of my favorite things to do on Maui or any of the Hawaiian islands is to stop at a beach and enjoy a picnic. One of the best lunches I had last week was when I was driving from Kaanapali to Kihei and stopped at a non-touristy beach for picnic.

We loved watching whales, enjoyed the mesmerizing views ad gorgeous weather.

We bought a couple of packaged salads from the grocery store – $8 for two salads and a few dollars each for a beverage. That comes to about $8 per person whereas lunch at a restaurant would have been at least 1.5-2x per person…and likely without the amazing views.

We knew we’d be picnicking, and planned ahead, so we brought utensils and travel plates, with us from home. Otherwise pick a few up these items at the grocery store.

Tip for picnicking:

Pack hand sanitizer, hand towels, a little bottle of hand soap, travel utensils and plates. The public restrooms at the beaches throughout Maui and the Hawaiian islands vary in that some – not all – have soap, paper towel etc. I like to be prepared and have my own little kit of these items.

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We picked up a few items at the grocery store and made sandwiches for lunch. By the way, our view during all of this is below. Pretty amazing…

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{Cost Saving Idea 3: Buy Snorkel and Beach Gear}

If you’re planning to go snorkeling or body boarding everyday or almost everyday, during your holiday, you might want to buy your own snorkel gear vs. renting it every time.

{Cost Saving Idea 4: Stay in a Condo vs. a Hotel}

I realize this isn’t for everyone. Staying in a condo means preparing your own meals, doing your own dishes and no housekeeping. For some people that isn’t holiday. That’s why I saved this idea for last.

Personally I prefer to stay in a condo because the dining out food options for vegetarians and vegans are very limited. And in a condo we could make whatever we wanted.

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Almost all of the condos in the building has an ocean view. 

{How Much Can You Save by Staying in a Condo?}

You can save a lot. 1 vegetarian meal with 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 2 non-alcoholic drinks came out to an average of $45 on Maui. If you do the math, $45×3 meals per day = $135 per day and that doesn’t include snacks nor alcohol.

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{Save Money on Spices, Toiletries and Consumables}

Everything costs a few dollars more on Maui since everything is imported. Spices and toiletries are things you probably already have at home. Of course it’s convenient to buy them once you get there but you’ll end up dropping an average of $3 more per item and that can easily amount to $100+ by the time you’re done shopping.

You can save a lot of money if you can bring spices and coffee with you:

  • salt
  • black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • turmeric powder
  • lemon, garlic salt
  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • coffee (your condo may or may not provide coffee; most likely will have a coffee maker)
  • cooking and seasoning oils

You can save money if you bring your toiletries with you too, such as:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • shower gel or soap
  • razors
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • lotions, moisturizer, face cream
  • q tips, cotton balls
  • deodorant
  • anti-humidity hair serum

Plus it’s nice to have your brands and the things you like vs. whatever is available at the store.

{Consumables and Other Items to Consider}

Every condo rental is different. Get detailed info on what is and is not included in your condo rental. These items increase costs really fast:

  • trash bags included? How many?
  • bathroom tissue include? how many rolls?
  • napkins included? how many?
  • paper towel included? how many rolls?
  • laundry detergent included? how much?
  • dryer sheets/fabric softener included? how many sheets?
  • dishwashing hand soap included? how much?
  • dishwashing detergent included? how much?
  • freeze packs? (my last condo provided a cooler but no freeze packs)
  • water bottle (you can drink tap water on Maui)

On my most recent trip to Maui, the condo rental company termed these items as providing a starter pack i.e. 3 trash bags, 3 pods of laundry detergent,  2 rolls of bathroom tissue, 1 roll of paper towel etc. The rest was up to us.

Knowing what to to expect, I packed accordingly which saved time and money. It might seem strange to pack trash bags, for example, but really how difficult was it for me to pack a few trash bags, which I already had at home? Compared to spending $5-$8 for a pack purchased on the island when I only needed a few?

On its own $5-$8 is nil in terms of amount of money but multiply that by all the items in the lists above and suddenly I’m spending $100-$160.

{Decision: Pack it With Me and Check in a Bag vs. Buying on the Island}

Some of you that like to travel light, might be thinking that if you bring all this stuff with you, then you’ll have to check in a bag. You’re right, you will have to check in a bag. Most airlines charge anywhere from $30-$50 to check in a bag, so do the math based on your airline’s fees + the amenities provided by your condo rental. The $30 I paid each way was still worth it compared to the amount I would have spent if I hadn’t packed all of those things.

Plus all the time you’ll save on either end by not checking in a bag, you’ll lose in shopping once you get to the island.

{Sometimes Guests Leave Stuff Behind}

Most condo rentals’ check in is at 3pm. You could wait to check in, do an inventory check in the condo, and then go shopping, as guests often leave things behind such as spices, laundry detergent, sandwich bags, ziploc bags, aluminum foil etc. I didn’t do that because my condo was in the southern part of the island, not near the Costco and Whole Foods.

Note, on Maui there’s one Costco and one Whole Foods and they’re both close to Kahului airport (airport code: OGG). But there are a bunch of Safeway’s and other grocery stores all around the island. Since I was there for 8 days it was worth it for me to shop at Costco.

I arrived on Maui at noon which gave me the perfect amount of time to get lunch, go grocery shopping and then head to the condo.

{Food I Brought With Me}

On my most recent trip, I brought some food (besides spices) with me:

  • noodles
  • rice
  • cereal
  • chocolate bars

I made a meal plan for the trip (I’m a Type A personality) and planned that we’d probably only have rice and noodles 1-2 times on the trip. It wasn’t worth it, to buy them on Maui when I had both at home and there was no way we’d finish a package of either. I packed each in ziploc bags.

I went a little overboard with taking cereal with me but I had the space, so I removed the package from the cardboard box and put it in my suitcase. As for chocolate, I am particular about the chocolate I like so that explains that.

{Other Things Worthwhile
to Pack With You to Save Money}

  • sandwich bags
  • gallon ziploc bags
  • aluminum foil
  • trash bags

Most condo rentals don’t provide any of the above items.

{Why Staying in a Condo Makes Sense
for Vegans and Vegetarians}

For vegetarians and vegans I think staying in a condo is the better choice. Who wants to pay $10-$15 for cereal and almond milk or toast and fruit? Hotels and resorts offer very limited choices for vegetarians and vegans and the majority of restaurants on the island are non-vegetarian and seafood oriented.

That’s not to say there aren’t dining out options for vegans and vegetarians but there are far fewer. And if you’re out-and-about it is stifling to plan your activities based on where you can find food.

In your own condo there are no limitations.

{Don’t Forget to Pack These Too}

  • 2 pronged USB phone chargers
  • Wiz Gear or other phone holder for navigation
  • water bottle (you can drink tap water on the island).
  • camera and underwater camera

I love to take photos and try to improve my skills on every trip I go on. For my trip to Maui I rented a wide angle lens for my Canon DSLR, so I could capture the breathtaking views on something other than my iPhone. I rented the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM for about $320 for 2 weeks, and in my opinion it was worth it. I own a zoom lens so having the two during my trip was perfect. I captured sweeping landscapes but also had the incredible opportunity to take close up photos of a large sea turtle resting on the beach. I shared some of my photos below.

{Conclusion}

If you’re planning a trip to Maui there are simple ways to keep your costs down. It just requires a little bit of planning.

Here are the tips summarized. Read the detailed info and tips around each of these above:

  1. rent a car
  2. plan picnics
  3. buy snorkel and beach gear
  4. stay in a condo

I hope this article helps you get the most value out of your trip to Maui! Below are some of my favorite photos from my most recent trip to Maui, December 2018. Aloha and Mahalo for stopping by PassportPages!

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Samta, Founder, PassportPages
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Photo taken on the balcony of our condo, the day we arrived on Maui. Photo shot with an iPhone 6.
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Sunset in December on Maui was around 5:45pm. Shot with Canon T6S 16-35mm f/2.8
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The end of December is the precursor to the beginning of whale season on Maui, which is from January to March. One of my absolute favorite things to do was relaxing on our lanai and then the sudden surprise of a humpback whale’s blow. Photo shot with Canon T6S 55-250mm zoom lens.
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This rock formation was on the beach in front of our condo and every morning after sunrise I’d climb across to have my own personal sea turtle safari. Thank goodness I wore my hiking gloves and put my camera and camera gear inside my dry bag while climbing. The turtles fed on the algae on the rocks all day long, but especially in the morning and whenever the tide was low. 
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Wherever there’s ocean and rocks there will be crabs. Every morning during my sea turtle safaris I’d see these guys scuttling around. Photo shot on Canon T6S 55-250mm zoom lens.
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Black Sand Beach at Wainapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana. The waves are so powerful there that’s why you don’t see anyone in the water. 
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Stopped on the Road to Hana to enjoy this view. That day it was overcast and drizzled off and on, so this clear view was a rare site that day. I’ve done the road to Hana a few times – previously in May or summer. This was my first time doing it in December and there’s a big difference. In December you’re ore likely to get overcast days and rain like I did. The surrounding forests are much more lush and there’s a lot more growth. So the amazing views that you typically see at Mile Markers 14-16? They weren’t that visible in December, so much so that we didn’t even stop.

Below is a photo from my Road to Hana visit in May, showing the view somewhere between Mile Marker 14-16 in May 2012. This view wasn’t visible during my visit in December 2018 due to the growth of the brush and it was foggy and overcast.

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Mile Markers 14-16 on the Road to Hana offer breathtaking views of the coastline and the road itself. Photo shot on Canon T3i 18-135mm May 2012.
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The advantage of going on the Road to Hana in December is that the waterfalls are likely to be flowing with more water compared to the drier summer season. Above is a photo of the Three Bears on December 28, 2018. Below is a photo of the Three Bears on May 29, 2012. There’s much more water flowing in December compared to May. Notice the light too. The December photo above is darker because it was overcast whereas it was bright and sunny in May.
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The Three Bears waterfalls on the Road to Hana, Maui. Photo shot on Canon T3i 18-135mm May 2012.
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I saved my favorite photos for last. I love shooting photos of wildlife in the wild. Part of the thrill for me is the adventure of coming across wildlife in its natural state, by chance. And the other part of the thrill is that no two days are alike. Everyday is something unique and different. Prior to taking this photo, I had seen sea turtles before but smaller ones. This was my first time coming across a huge turtle and for me it was thrilling that it was resting on the beach where you can see its entire body vs. normally only partially seeing them as they’re in the water. I saw this beautiful turtle one evening while going for a walk on the beach in front of our condo in South Maui. Luckily I had brought my camera and zoom lens with me and I could take these shots without harming or disrespecting the turtle. This turtle was about 4 feet long and I got to see it open and close its eyes as well as scoot itself further onto the beach too. This encounter was one of the highlights for me. 
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I must’ve stayed near the turtle for at least an hour. And so glad I did, as the sun changed I was able to get more and better photos and some without shadows. In this photo you can see the turtle is closing its eyes.

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Here the turtle lifted its head up a little.

 

 

 

 

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