I am going to tell you how to eat cheap in Hawaii – but it is hard! The higher cost of living and remote location increases prices for everything from groceries to sit down restaurants. But it is possible with some forethought and planning.
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Where to Eat Cheap in Hawaii
Local markets – Hawaii is big on local markets for food, crafts, and artisans. Check out hfbf.org for a list of farmers markets. You’ll find fresh food, hot foot, snacks, treats and live music. And its a better place to find local hand made souviners that aren’t made in China!
Happy Hour – Take advantage of happy hour specials when they’re available! Drinks and appetizers (pupus; pronounced poo-poos) are discounted – but outside the Waikiki resort area.
Plate Lunches – Plate lunches are super similar to a meat and three in the South. Its a local specialty that includes a meat, rice, macaroni salad and some kind of vegetable. Rainbow Drive In is a Hawaiian chain that specializes in plate lunches.
Local Fast Food – L&L Hawaiian BBQ and Zippy’s are local chains that give you Hawaii vibe with a smaller price tag. But with places like Wendy’s – expect a $5 Biggie Bag to cost $8. (Ask me how I know!)
Travel outside Waikiki – everything in Waikiki is more expensive. Even kid menus are $18 a pop. If you have a rental car, plan to eat while you’re out.
Bring your own – Hotel amenities are varied. We had a tiny fridge and a microwave which made it easy to heat water and eat things like oatmeal. You can pack simple packets of oats, or even easy mac and cup o noodles for a cheap. But that relies on access to hot water.
Strategies: How to Eat Cheap in Hawaii
In addition to finding inexpensive food on island, there’s also some ways to reorganize your meals to save money.
Bring Your Own Breakfast
If you have access to heating water in your hotel, you can make oatmeal. Bring packets from home that are small and lightweight… which will leave room for buying goodies on the return trip!
If you don’t have a microwave or fridge, you can easily bring non perishable foods from home like granola, breakfast bars, or even canned fruit if you’re not worried about your luggage weight.
Splurge on one meal a day
Splurge on one meal a day. That could mean taking the whole family out, or a fancy date night while the kids eat Little Caesars (also… ask me how I know!). But only if your crew is old enough, of course!
Stock up at the grocery store
Even the local grocery stores are expensive here, and even more so in Waikiki. Foodland started in Hawaii so I like shopping there when I can. But still, its cheaper than a sit down restaurant at every meal.
Alternate Eating Fast Food and Sit Down Restaurants
Hi! I’m Alison, your chaos coordinator, toddler briber, and parent commiserator. Oh! And Oahu family photographer!
As the ringleader of my own 4-boy circus, I know how hard getting family photos can be.
I run my photo session like a party. I give you something TO DO so you don’t feel awkward wondering, “Where do I put my HANDS?!”
Dad is playing with the kids, everyone forgets what’s ACTUALLY happening, and you look amazing bc you’re actually enjoying yourself. #whoknewphotoscouldbefun
Fast. Fun. Done.
My best tips for How to Eat Cheap in Hawaii
Yes, the convenience store! Much more like Japan’s Family Mart stores, 7/11 food has a decent reputation. You can get a Hawaiian speciality – a musubi for just $1.85. Just one will fill your kids up, two for your husband.
What is a musubi? Its a block of rice toped with a soy glaze, slice of ham held together with a nori – seaweed. Two of my boys love them and they’re cheap! Two will fill up my 11 year old for $4. Yes please.
Most people live by Costco in Hawaii. If you have a membership and a rental car, just stop on the way to the hotel! Costco has sushi, chicken, street tacos, annnnnd my best tip – ready to drink Mai Tai mix.
Costco Kapolei (Koolina)
Hawaii Magazine’s Best Cheap Eats List
Hawaii Magazine has some reliable resources when it comes to things to do and places to eat. Their cheap eats list is no different.
Have you thought about family photos while you’re in Hawai’i?
Its photo season year-round here in Hawaii and I want you to take advantage of it!
Take home the bright skies, warm air and blue water to relive it over and over because you’ll never experience this place with the kids these ages ever again.
This is your one shot. Take it!
As the ringleader of my own 4 boy circus, I know how hard getting family photos can be. I’m here to change that.
If I could dress your kids and literally hang your family photos on your walls, I would …but I can’t, so I do just about everything else in between. That’s why I take the time to hold your hand from start to finish.
Because what good are family photos if your kids never see them?
I only accept two families a week, so if you have dates, reach out to Alison Bell, Photographer now.
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I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus. They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!