How to Go on a Vacation to Maui for Less than $2,000
It’s possible to visit the stunning Hawaiian island even if you’re on a budget, especially if you’re willing to get adventurous
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Dotted with luxury resorts, championship golf courses, and pristine beaches, Maui draws nearly three million visitors each year—despite being the most expensive of all the Hawaiian islands. The average daily rates of hotels in Maui are more than $500, while in the upscale resort town of Wailea, rooms are even pricier. In addition to accommodations, transportation costs can also add up since you’ll need to rent a car to navigate the 728-square-mile island—that has not been easy or cheap since the pandemic. Throw in food and activities, and one travel website estimated a week in Hawaii costs around $5,000 on average. Thankfully, access to Maui’s most treasured gems—from its white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters to its cascading waterfalls and rainforests—are free. So it’s entirely possible to go on a budget vacation to Maui if you know where to look and are willing to rough it a little. Here is our guide to spending a week (including travel days) in Maui for under $2,000.
Airfare: Book Your Trip During the Winter
The amount you spend on airfare obviously depends on what time of year you book your flights for, where you are flying from, and how far in advance you buy them. Winter is one of the most affordable and least crowded times to visit, with average temperatures still in the 70s (and lows rarely dipping below the 60s). Right now, a round trip flight from O’Hare International Airport to Kahului Airport on Maui in December or January is somewhere around $500, according to Google Flights.
Estimated budget for airfare: $500
Transportation: Rent a Camper Van
The best way to save on lodging and transportation is to combine both by renting a campervan. Zazu Camper rents out Jeeps equipped with four-person Tepui tents, pillows, sheets, comforters, a five-gallon solar shower, a couple of beach towels and chairs, dinnerware, a propane two-burner stove, coolers, and toiletries for $179 per day. Maui CampCar also offers a selection of two-person campervans and roof-top tent setups, stocked with camping items like coolers, linens, pillows, and lanterns, starting at $139.
Estimated budget for six-day camper van rental: $900
Lodging: Find a Campsite
In Hawaii, it’s illegal to sleep in cars in public areas that are not permitted for camping, so you’ll need to do your due diligence before the trip. On the west side of the island, Waiʻānapanapa State Park in Hana allows campervans with a $30-per-night permit. Non-resident visitors will have to first make an entrance ($5 per person) and parking ($10) reservation, which can be done 30 days in advance. Over on the east side of the island, Camp Olowalu is a 700-acre private campsite in Lahaina with four options: tent camping, car camping, “tentalows” (tent bungalows), and cabins. Car camping amenities include bathrooms, hot water showers, WiFi, charging stations, fire pits, and barbecue grills. Rates for campervans are $26 plus tax per night. In 2022, guests who volunteer with the conservation group Kipuka Olowalu to plant native plants, remove invasive species, or help restore a taro patch, can receive 10 percent off at Camp Olowalu.
If you prefer something a bit more adventurous, check out the Hosmer Grove Campground on the slopes of the famed Haleakala volcano. There’s a communal picnic table and grill, as well as a water station and vault toilets, but no showers or electrical outlets. The campground sits at just below 7,000 feet, so it gets chilly—between 32 degrees and 65 degrees. Campers with reservations also get a slot to view the spectacular sunrise from the summit. The entrance fee for Haleakala National Park is $30 (and is valid for three days), and it costs $5 per night to camp.
Estimated budget for five nights at a campsite: $180
Activities: Explore the Ocean and the Forest
Maui has dozens of jaw-dropping waterfalls, lush forests full of challenging hiking trails, and the most miles of swimmable beaches in Hawaii. The go-to surfing and windsurfing spot is Hookipa Beach, near the historic town on Paia. The beach is also a resting spot for sea turtles and the endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Another popular surf break is Lahaina Breakwall, on the southside of Lahaina Harbor. The gentle waves are perfect for beginners and longboarders, while larger summer south swells and winter north swells appeal to more advanced surfers. Rentals for surfboards range from $20 to $35 per day, while stand-up paddle boards are around $30 to $40. Note: Hawaiian Airlines charges $100 each way to check in a surfboard, while United Airlines charges between $100 and $200, depending on the weight of your board. So, depending on how long you’re staying and how many days you want to surf, it might be cheaper to rent on the island.
It’s tempting to want to spend your entire time in Maui by the beach, but you’ll be missing out on some of the most amazing hiking trails in Hawaii. Haleakala National Park features more than 30 miles of trails that meander through native shrubland, mystical bamboo forests, cloud-shrouded summits, and stark volcanic landscapes. The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle or $15 per pedestrian and is valid for three days.
West Maui Forest Reserve’s Waihee Ridge Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Maui—the four-mile round trip trek gains more than 1,500 feet of elevation. Hikers are rewarded with views of the ocean, the deep green valleys, and a 270-foot in the Makamakaole Falls. Entrance and parking are free.
Estimated activity budget: $100
Food: Eat Out for Cheap
There is plenty of affordable ono grindz (delicious food) in Maui. If you’re in south Maui, try the refreshing salads, hearty grain bowls, and sandwiches at Fork & Salad in Kihei and Kahului (near the airport), where prices range from $10.25 to $15.25. Also in Kihei, the family owned Cafe O’Lei offers a daily plate lunch special for only $12.95, while its filling flatbread with toppings, ranging from kalua pork to garlic and mushroom, are priced at $11.95 to $14.95. Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a small menu of sandwiches with fresh-baked bread, farm-fresh salads, and sweet and savory pies. Pick up a chicken pot pie for $10 from the restaurant and some fresh fruit from the farm stand next door, then head to the nearby Olowalu Beach for a picnic. In the historic town of Lahaina, the cash-only Sunrise Cafe is a hole-in-the-wall breakfast and lunch spot with one of the town’s best loco moco ($13.95), a house-made beef patty topped with mushroom-onion gravy and two fried eggs over rice. Some of the tables at the outdoor patio have views of the ocean. And in Kaanapali, Joey’s Kitchen specializes in Hawaiian-inspired Filipino dishes such as the pork adobo fried rice ($11) and garlic chicken ($16) with sweet soy glaze, Sriracha aioli, served with a side of macaroni salad and rice.
Dining out for three meals a day can get expensive quickly, so stock up on groceries at a local supermarket chain called Foodland, with locations in Lahaina, Kihei, and Kehalani. The stores have a great selection of fresh poke, Spam musubi, ready-to-eat bento boxes, and rotisserie chicken. Or head to the 7-Eleven in Kahului, where you’ll find hot chicken or pork buns and dim sum for less than $2, as well as a range of sushi rolls, sandwiches, and bento boxes.
Estimated food budget (eating one meal out per day): $300