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How to Travel Affordably on Hawaii Island: 5 Campervan Hacks

Updated: Jan 29

For a long time I thought traveling to Hawaii meant I would either have to pay a butt ton of money to stay in a resort, or to travel in my budget, I would be really uncomfortable staying in hostels or camping.

So I just generally avoided planning a trip to Hawaii.

I reasoned that what I would spend in Hawaii for a week I could spend in a similar location in latin America for twice the amount of time.

Hawaii was a “someday” far off dream. 

While the is a high cost of living and goods is real Hawaii, since moving here I’ve been surprised to learn some of the ways a person can travel Hawaii with a reasonable budget.

We’ll start big and work our way down to smaller local hacks.

Hack #1: Combine your stay and vehicle cost with a Campervan

As a Campervan rental company here on Hawaii island, this is a no-brainer for our guests. Unlike the other islands (which could all fit inside of big island), the island of Hawaii has a LOT to see and do the whole way around without many options for public transport.

This makes getting a rental car imperative.

But how do you plan your trip if you want to see things all the way around the island?

You have a few options:

1️⃣ Pick one place to stay for the length of your trip and take day trips to all the spots around the island. This can be up to 5 hours of driving in a day, most days. Be ready to spend a lot on gas and a lot of precious time in the car.

2️⃣ Pick a few different places to stay all the way around the island. Even if you like packing and unpacking your stuff every couple of days, the problem here is your cleaning fees compound. Even if you find relatively cheaper stays, you’re paying the cleaning fee multiple extra times for multiple different stays. Let alone the stress of communication and coordination with hosts.

3️⃣ Rent a campervan (or as we like to call them - glampervans). This way you can make your way around the island, see and stay in all different parts, but keep everything with you. No back and forth and no packing and unpacking.

woman lying in a campervan from Sun + Salt Campervans with a white interior at sunset looking out at a beach and tree

When the average cost of a three-star hotel in Hawaii is $350 a night and the average cost of a rental car in Hawaii is $157 per day (a total of $507 a day), paying $200 a night for a campervan is the single biggest thing you can do to save money without compromising on quality and coziness. 

A woman cooking food on an outdoor table of a pink campervan from Sun + Salt Campervans with a man chopping vegetables on the inside.

Hack #2: Cook your own meals when possible

Especially if you're staying a week or longer, cooking your own food is a game changer. Of course, we love to support local restaurants, so pick a few that you really want to try, but by and large, plan to make your own food. 

When you’re day-tripping all over the island in a car, this can be difficult to do and requires a lot of prep and coolers. But when you’re road-tripping the island in a Glampervan, your fully-equipped kitchen comes with you. Pull over and make lunch any time you like. 

Two women and a dog paddle-boarding Kailua bay near the Kona pier at sunset.

Hack #3: Bring your own gear

Everyone can at least bring their own fins and snorkel (we have world-famous snorkeling on big island!). Especially if you are a scuba diver (you're in for a real treat, we have some of the best dives in the world), you’ll save a ton by packing your own gear.

If you do forget something or it doesn’t fit in the suitcase, we have very affordable add-ons available for our campervan guests ranging from a surfboard or SUP to a portable BBQ grill. 

Kilauea Volcano erupting at early dawn.

Hack #4: Visit Kilauea Park after it closes

Let me explain. After Volcanos national park closes, the gates remain open, they just don’t collect payment for entrance. If you’re lucky enough to have the Volcano erupting when you visit, enter the park after dark to avoid a fee (and the lava is way better to see at night anyways!).

Hack #5: Get poke from Sac n Save or Foodland

All of the poke is gonna be great, but the Foodland and Sac n Save grocery stores have the best poke for the best price. 

Hack #6 Hike in to Kealakekua Bay

While our top recommendation is to kayak into Kealakekua Bay, if you don’t have it in the budget to rent kayaks, you can also hike down and snorkel once you’re there. Just be SUPER RIDICULOUSLY careful to not touch any reef getting into and out of the water.

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