• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

How to vacation in Maui for less than $2,000

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Oct 20, 2022

Dotted with luxury resorts, championship golf courses and pristine beaches, Maui attracts nearly three million visitors each year, despite being the most expensive of all the Hawaiian islands. Average daily rates for hotels in Maui are over $500, while in the upscale resort town of Wailea, rooms are even more expensive. In addition to accommodation, transportation costs can also add up since you’ll need to rent a car to navigate the 728-square-mile island, which was not easy or cheap since the pandemic. Add food and activities, and an esteemed travel site a week in Hawaii costs around $5,000 on average. Luckily, access to Maui’s most treasured gems, from its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters to its waterfalls and rainforests, is free. So it’s entirely possible to go on a budget vacation to Maui if you know where to look and if you’re willing to do a little bit of getting by. Here’s our guide to spending a week (including travel days) in Maui for under $2,000.

Plane ticket: book your trip during the winter

How much you spend on plane tickets obviously depends on what time of year you book your flights for, where you’re departing 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 always in the 70s (and lows rarely dropping below 60s). Right now, a round-trip flight from O’Hare International Airport to Kahului Airport in Maui in December or January costs about $500, according to Google Flights.

Estimated budget for the plane ticket: $500

Transport: rent a motorhome

The best way to save on accommodation and transportation is to combine the two by renting a campervan. Camper Zazu rents Jeeps equipped with Tepui tents for four people, pillows, sheets, comforters, a five-gallon solar shower, a few towels and beach chairs, dishes, a propane stove for two burners, coolers and toiletries for $179 per day. Maui Camp Car also offers a selection of two-person RVs and rooftop tent setups, stocked with camping items like coolers, sheets, pillows and lanterns, starting at $139.

Estimated budget for a 6-day motorhome rental: $900

Accommodation: Find a campsite

In Hawaii, it is illegal to sleep in cars in public areas that are not permitted for camping, so you will need to do your due diligence before travelling. To the west of the island, Waiʻānapanapa State Park in Hana allows RVs with a $30 per night permit. Non-resident visitors will first need to make entry ($5 per person) and parking ($10) reservation, which can be done 30 days in advance. On the east side of the island, Camp Olowalu is a 700 acre private campground in Lahaina with four options: tent camping, car camping, tentalows and cabins. RV facilities include bathrooms, hot showers, Wi-Fi, charging stations, fire pits and barbecue grills. RV rates are $26 plus tax per night. In 2022, guests who volunteer with the conservation group Kipuka Olowalu for planting native plants, removing invasive species, or helping restore a taro patch, you can get a 10% discount at Camp Olowalu.

The caldera at the top of Haleakala National Park (: Ed Freeman/Getty)

If you prefer something a little more adventurous, check out the Hosmer Grove Campground on the slopes of the famous Haleakala volcano. There’s a communal picnic table and grill, plus a water station and vaulted toilets, but no showers or electrical outlets. The campground is at just under 7,000 feet, so it’s cold, between 32 degrees and 65 degrees. Campers with reservations also get a slot to watch the spectacular sunrise from the summit. Admission to Haleakala National Park is $30 (and is good for three days), and it costs $5 per night to camp.

Estimated budget for five nights camping: $180

Activities: Exploring the ocean and the forest

Maui has dozens of breathtaking waterfalls, lush forests full of challenging hiking trails, and the most miles of swimmable beaches in Hawaii. The must-visit surfing and windsurfing spot is Hookipa Beach, near the historic town of Paia. The beach is also a resting place for sea turtles and endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Another popular surf spot is Lahaina Breakwall, south of Lahaina Harbor. The gentle waves are perfect for beginners and longboarders, while the larger southern swells in summer and northern swells in winter attract more advanced surfers. Surfboard rentals range from $20 to $35 per day, while stand-up paddle boards cost 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 stay and how many days you want to surf, it may be cheaper to rent on the island.

It’s tempting to want to spend all your time in Maui near the beach, but you’ll miss out on some of Hawaii’s most amazing hiking trails. Haleakala National Park features over 30 miles of trails that wind through native shrubs, mystical bamboo forests, cloud-shrouded peaks and stark volcanic landscapes. The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle or $15 per pedestrian and is valid for three days.

Mountain valley in Maui
View from Maui’s Waihee Ridge Trail (Photo: 7Michael/Getty)

West Maui Forest Preserve Waihee Ridge Trail is one of Maui’s most popular hikes—the four-mile round-trip trek gains over 1,500 feet in elevation. Hikers are rewarded with ocean views, verdant valleys, and a 270-foot drop in Makamakaole Falls. Admission and parking are free.

Estimated budget for the activity: $100

Food: eating out cheaply

There are plenty of affordable ono grindz (delicious food) on Maui. If you’re in South Maui, try the refreshing salads, hearty cereal 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 special lunch plate of the day for just $12.95, while its flatbread filled with toppings, ranging from kalua pork with garlic and mushrooms, is priced at $11.95-$14.95 . Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a small menu of sandwiches with fresh bread, farm-fresh salads and sweet and savory pies. Pick up a chicken pot pie for $10 from the restaurant and fresh fruit from the nearby farm stand, then head to nearby Olowalu Beach for a picnic. In historic Lahaina, cash payment only sunrise cafe is a hole-in-the-wall breakfast and lunch spot with one of the best loco moco in town ($13.95), a homemade beef patty topped with a mushroom and onion sauce and two eggs fried on rice. Some of the outdoor patio tables have ocean views. And in Kaanapali, Joey’s Kitchen specializes in Hawaiian-inspired Filipino dishes such as adobo pork fried rice ($11) and garlic chicken ($16) with sweet soy glaze, Sriracha aioli, served with macaroni salad and rice.

Eating three meals a day at restaurants can quickly get expensive, so stock up on groceries at a local supermarket chain called mother earth, with locations in Lahaina, Kihei and Kehalani. The stores offer a great selection of fresh poke, Spam musubi, ready-to-eat bento boxes and roast 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 restaurant meal per day): $300

Total: $1,980