Traveling in Maui on a Low Budget
This has been a long time coming, right? To be completely honest, I’ve been putting it off, as I really feel that this won’t do the beautiful island any justice. So, with that said…read this, enjoy the photos, and most importantly, book a ticket—because Maui is MUCH better in-person.
Duration: October 18-27
Airfare: $1,483 from Alaska Airlines. Two tickets, round trip.
PHIL —> LAX —> OGG
OGG —> SFO —> PHIL
This was such a pleasant surprise for our stay! We were only there for one night, but the location was perfect both for exploring and traveling back-and-forth from the airport. The tiny home was very intimate and comfortable. There are outlets for electronics and drawers for clothes. The bathroom is extremely clean as well. The tiny home was about 20 minutes away from LAX, and a quick scooter ride away from the beach.
We could not have asked for a better place to stay during our vacation in Hawaii. Located in Kihei, Debbie’s condo is right across the street from the Kamaole Beach, and is clean and comfortable! There are also a ton of restaurants within walking distance, not to mention the fact that it is about 15 minutes away from our favorite beach on Makena. Debbie also stocked it with pretty much everything, and anything, you would need. Literally. The medicine cabinets were filled with aloe vera, sunscreen and Q-Tips. And when my time of the month came early, there were even feminine products available. While the kitchen is small, there is a microwave. There is no oven, so don’t buy anything too fancy at the local Costco. With this in mind, there are outdoor grills to use. When we were there, we grilled up the most delicious pesto salmon and pineapple slices!
TIPS AND TRICKS
Everyone in Maui is incredibly nice and friendly. So enjoy it! Say hi, make friends and be nice. It was such a shock to us after coming from the city, where you hardly talk to any strangers in the grocery store or on the streets. Hawaii is magical in that way.
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Sign up for a Costco membership, even if it’s just for the vacation. You’ll save a ton of money, and you’ll have access to some of the cheapest pineapples on the island.
Rent a car. While you can definitely walk around on Maui, some of the most gorgeous spots are a drive away. It’s pretty cheap, and if you sign up for a Costco membership, you’ll have access to the cheapest gas on the island.
Book an entire day (or two) to do Road to Hana. One day was not enough for us, and we definitely could have made a separate trip there during the vacation.
MUST-DO’S AND SEE’S IN LA
Although we only spent 24 hours in LA, we managed to make the best of it by hitting up some local spots. We spent all of our time in the Venice Beach/Marina Del Rey area, and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it! Aside from taking a pit stop on the beach, we explored the boardwalk, and had a blast on the Lime scooters. Seriously, don’t even take a cab once you get to your AirBnB. Just rent a scooter! It’s cheaper, and so much more fun.
For lunch, we didn’t stray too far from the tourist side of things, and ordered at In-and-Out for the first time. I must say, it is just as good as they say, so be sure to stop! Fair warning: it’s a gut bomb, no matter what you order.
When it came to dinner, I really wanted to go to a Mexican restaurant. My friend from college lives in LA, and said that whenever I came, I had to eat Mexican food. We traveled by scooter for awhile until we found Paco’s Tacos Cantina—one of the best places I have ever eaten in my entire life. And trust me, I’ve dined out a lot. Don’t be fooled by the wait inside. You get seated pretty quickly, and if you’re lucky like we were, you’ll be right next to the woman making homemade tortillas. We ordered the cactus salad. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact name of the dish on the menu, but don’t miss out. It’s under the appetizers section, and it goes perfectly in between those homemade tortillas.
And now, for the good stuff (sorry, LA, but let’s face it—the main purpose of this trip was to see Maui!). I’ve wanted to go to Hawaii since I was a little girl. I grew up going to traditional luaus planned by my grandparents, and of course, religiously watched Lilo and Stitch. In other words, this was a long time coming. Because we were there for at least a week, I’m going to break this down in categories.
If you are traveling on a budget like we were, I would highly recommend renting a car, and also getting a Costco membership. We only ate out once or twice while in Hawaii, and cooked the rest of the time. It saved a ton of money, and even gave us a chance to relax at the condo before walking around the town.
In terms of transportation, don’t even think about not renting a car while there. Unless you plan on solely staying in Kihei (which I don’t recommend, because most of the amazing places are outside of it), I suggest going to Kihei Rent A Car. We only had to rent a car for one day, as I was able to borrow my cousin’s car who lives locally, but the pricing is pretty cheap.
Renting a car will also help you with airport transportation, as most renting businesses provide an shuttle to-and-from. We didn’t plan so well on this part, and ended up taking a cab. It was really pricey, and we had to tell the driver where to go by looking at our GPS. Word to the wise: Uber and Lyft do not exist in Maui.
PLACES AND THINGS TO SEE…
Iao Valley: While we wanted to spend time on the beach while in Hawaii, we also wanted to explore the flora of Hawaii. Aside from Road to Hana, Iao Valley is the next best thing. The valley is a state monument, and has a lot of historical relevance as the site of battle of Kepaniwai. Because of this, Iao Valley is a spiritual place. In fact, the entire island is.
Please: Go off the beaten path. Bring a raincoat and hiking boots (Iao Valley rains almost every single day. So be prepared for a dropping temperature and wet conditions). Make friends. Take fruit to snack on later.
Don’t: Take any souvenirs that you plan on bringing off of the island. Respect the island, and it will respect you.
Cost: $5 per vehicle. See link for commercial vehicle prices.
Makena Beach: Perhaps one of the most beautiful beach we saw, Makena is separated into two beaches: Big and little. Little beach is, in fact, a nude beach, and can be reached by walking to the end of Big Beach and over the rocks. It’s a bit more private, but if you’re not comfortable being surrounded by completely naked people, then stick with Big Beach. Regardless, be sure to visit Makena. The water is crystal clear blue, and is great for snorkeling. During our visit, there were rough waves and strong riptides, but on calmer days, you may even be able to see some turtles.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm: For a break from the beach, and access to some pretty insane views, schedule a day to travel to Kula. The Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm was one of my favorite parts of this trip. We scheduled a walking tour, during which a guide took us all over the farm. He explained the different types of lavender grown, cut some of the sprigs off to smell, and even showed us a lizard hiding in the lavender bushes! Aside from this, the farm is actually a botanical garden, and grows a variety of tropical flowers. The coolest thing, perhaps, is the bonsai avocado tree. It doesn’t produce much fruit due to the tree being stressed, but it’s really cool to see.
Please: Ask questions. Buy the lavender scones and coffee. Invest in their skincare products.
Don’t: Pick the fruit in the botanical garden.
Cost: $12 per person. Cart tours and gourmet lunch baskets are also available.
Haleakala National Park: After visiting the farm, take the trek to Haleakala—Maui’s shielded volcano. Not for the weak, the drive is pretty intense with tight turns, small roads and no guard rails. This, however, should not discourage you. The volcano forms about 75 percent of the island, yet looks like Mars when you arrive to the top. For planners, you can even book a sunrise tour, where you’ll be able to see what Mark Twain described as “the most sublime spectacle [he] has ever witnessed.” I didn’t book this far ahead enough, and another couple that we met said that the trip was completely sold out even three weeks in advance, so make this a priority in your planning!
Please: Bring hiking gear, water and shoes. Pack a lunch and snacks. Bring a camera.
Don’t: Litter, wear flip flops, or push friends off of the hills/slopes.
Road to Hana: You will need to rent a small car for this! Honestly, we wish that we reserved a couple of days solely for the trip, as there is just so much to do and see. You’ll want to start your day early, and pinpoint specific stopping points in advance to not get overwhelmed. While there are many restaurants and barbecues along the way, try and bring a picnic lunch and snacks. You’re more than likely to stop and indulge in the banana bread or smoothies, but this way, you won’t go crazy.
Places we stopped: Twin Falls, Black Sand Beach, Smoothie Shop outside of the Botanical Gardens, any waterfall along the way. Keep an eye out for Oprah’s farm!
Do: Drive all the way around. Don’t just stop at Hana, and turn around. It will take longer, and the roads will get smaller, but there are some really great waterfalls and fruit picking along the way. We also saw a rainbow over the ocean, which was really beautiful!
Cost: Depending on what you decide to buy. Definitely bring cash.
Lani Kai / Friendly Charters: They aren’t lying when you say that you can go snorkeling anywhere. If you don’t have the budget to spend, then you could happily spend your time at Makena. But if you do have the budget, I highly recommend Lani Kai / Friendly Charters. Depending on which trip you choose (there’s a morning and afternoon one), you’ll be able to snorkel in Molokini, Turtle Town and Coral Gardens. When we went, the tide was too rough to go to Turtle Town, so we spent our time at Molokini. No complaints here, as the water is beautiful and you can see all of the fish! The boat is pretty clean, as well, and there’s even an upper deck to snag for optimal views. Snorkeling gear is included, but body suits are extra. Breakfast and lunch are also included in your ticket price. Expect pastries, mini donuts, coffee, sandwiches and pasta salads. The captain and crew are also very knowledgeable, and can help you to navigate the best snorkeling experience.
Don’t: Pay for this trip if you won’t snorkel the entire time. This is worth the money if you plan on snorkeling, but not if you’re going to watch others from the boat!
Cost: See website for pricing.