Maui nō ka ʻoi, or Maui is the best. And that’s no joke. I don’t like to play favorites, but Maui is pretty great. It can also be painfully expensive, making it impossible for many families to visit. But don’t get discouraged. There are a lot of ways to reduce the cost of a Maui vacation to make it a possibility for your family. With these tips and tricks, you can save a ton of money on your trip to Maui without giving up on what makes Maui magnificent!
A case against mega-resorts
Mega resorts are awesome. They often have easy access to the beach, beautiful pools, tons of dining options, and SO MANY other really great amenities. And when you are traveling with babies and toddlers, or you really just want to chill out and completely relax for a week, they are a really amazing vacation opportunity.
But if you and your family are more adventurous, and you WANT to get out and see everything that makes Maui (or really any destination) fantastic, the mega-resort can just be a distraction. Perhaps you had planned a wonderful day of waterfall exploration, and eating fresh fruit stand-fruit. But the kids just want to play at the pool (for which you paid a LOT of hard-earned money for). Do you fight them on it? Or just give in and skip the waterfalls (which maybe was something YOU, the person who paid for the trip, really wanted to do)?
A simple hotel can be GREAT for families, especially in Hawaii. Instead of a great hotel pool, you’ve got gorgeous world-class snorkeling, beautiful freshwater pools under a waterfall, tons of trails, and fantastic dining all over the place. Plus, skipping the huge resort in favor of a simpler resort can save you thousands.
And if you are looking for something that is sort of the best of both worlds, we LOVE the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. The location, right on Ka’anapali Beach, and 5-minute walk from black rock (which is the best snorkeling in Maui, in my humble opinion), cannot be beat. It is considered ‘Hawaii’s most Hawaiian hotel’ and has been recently renovated. It has a simple, cute Whale shaped pool, multiple restaurants, and some great onsite activities. We really appreciated that housekeeping somehow kept the sand at bay in our room, and how great the staff all around the hotel was. Plus, the price tag was MUCH lower than the bigger resorts.
Another option, if you really love those beautiful big resort pools, is to pick a lower-cost condo or hotel for part of your trip. Then switch to the resort. It’ll save you money without having to miss out on the convenience of resort life. I’d recommend picking the lower-cost lodging for the first part of your trip, when you are full of energy and ready to explore. Then switch to the resort, where you can relax a little bit more. Plus, it’s nice to upgrade halfway through rather than downgrade :). For a splurge, we love the Hyatt Regency, or a bigger splurge, the Grand Wailea.
There are some really great deals out there on Maui trips, if you take the time to browse. Check out Costco Vacations, Delta Vacations, and any other travel package program. We’ve consistently found the best deals on Costco Vacations, so that is a great place to start. But it never hurts to shop around. Make sure you at least group car and hotel. Usually you can essentially get a rental car for free (if they are available- which might be an issue this year).
These deals come and go pretty quickly, so start early, and be ready to book if you find a deal on a hotel you like. Some of the deals only last a week or so, and some deals just disappear without warning. Earlier this year, we were on the fence about going to Hawaii. Looked at prices, were indecisive, etc. There were some AMAZING deals, but we waited too long, so by the time we were ready to book, prices were going up like crazy (like every time I looked, the price was higher). But by that point, I was pretty invested in going. So we were filled with regret, and paid more for our vacation. Don’t be like us. Book when the deals are there!
Also, be sure to check out cancellation policies when booking a package deal. They often aren’t as generous as when booking directly, so you’ll definitely want to keep that in mind when booking.
I’m DEFINITELY no expert at using points to travel. But there are TONS of great Instagram accounts, blogs, and other websites that can guide you through using points like a pro. But, even if you don’t want to go pro with points, it’s easy enough to accrue enough points to at least book SOMETHING using points. Maybe you can get your whole vacation covered. OR maybe you can get your airline tickets for points. Or at least pay for one night at a hotel with points. Using points and miles is a great way to save money for any kind of travel.
Check Hotel Directly for deals
If you have a specific hotel, or a FEW specific hotels or resorts that you are interested in, check their website directly for deals. Many hotel chains offer the best deals when you book direct. And sometimes the deals are really great, like 20-25% off the total, or low cost meal plans, or room upgrades.
I also love booking with the hotel directly because we’ve had better hotel experiences when booking directly. On the hotel’s website, you can more easily see all the room types that are available. Plus, we’ve had reservation mistakes and confusion when using a booking site, rather than booking directly.
Check Rates Calendars
Google will often show you a rates calendar for hotels and flights. And sometimes the low and high-cost dates are unexpected. For example, Golden Week, a Japanese holiday can cause big increases in Hawaiian hotel prices because of the huge number of Japanese travelers visiting the islands. But many American’s aren’t even aware that it’s happening.
If you can be flexible with your dates, you may be able to reduce the price of your stay considerably. Since my family doesn’t have school schedule limitations, we can travel any time of the year. So we live by rates calendars and monthly weather predictions to pick our vacation schedule.
All Hawaiian beaches are public (FREEEEEE!)
In Hawaii, every wonderful, beautiful beach is free. And Hawaiians work hard to ensure that there is public access, and parking, near all the great ones. And honestly, going to beaches is probably the main reason you are visiting Hawaii, so take advantage of this great free activity. In fact, just going to the beach every day, and paying for no other activity, can be a really great family vacation.
Maui, in particular, has epic beaches. And there are so many really great beaches to explore. Each one has something really special. Some are great for snorkeling. Some have calm water great for young kids to swim in. Others are full of sea turtles. And others for surfing or bodyboarding.
We love Black Rock and Ka’anapali Beach for snorkeling. For protected, easier swimming for kids, we love Nepili beach (and next door Kapalua Bay). Check a few out for yourself! Everyone has a different favorite Maui beach!
Consider staying OFF the beach
Because Maui beaches are so plentiful, and so amazing, you won’t necessarily want to be tied down to just ONE beach. Especially if this is one of your first visits to Maui, you might just want to explore and figure out which beach is your favorite. But even if you have been to Maui lots of times, conditions might be GREAT at one beach and not so great at another.
So if you are going to spend your vacation exploring all the great beaches Maui has to offer, there really is no reason to spend the money to book a place right ON the beach. You’ll wind up be driving most days anyway, you may as well save some money and stay close, but not right ON the beach. Some condos and off-the-beach hotels even offer a shuttle to the nearest beach for added convenience.
Try a Condo
Booking a condo can be a great option for several reasons. First, you can often find a pretty good price on a nice condo with amenities like a swimming pool and a gym. For families with kids, a condo gives you SO much more space to spread out. Hotel rooms can quickly get cramped with a family of 4 and all of our beach gear. And condos often have a washing machine, which means you can cut down on the amount of luggage you need to bring. The washing machine is actually a huge help for families.
For tips on picking a great vacation rental, check out our guide here.
But perhaps the biggest pro of renting a condo is the kitchen. Not having to go out for every single meal is a HUGE cost savings. And it saves a lot of hassle. Trying to figure out where to eat 3 times a day gets kind of old, especially when there are so many fun things to do. And honestly, when you are traveling with kids, going out to eat isn’t super fun. It’s tough to find a menu that everyone in your family likes, kids get bored waiting for food. And half the time, my kids won’t even eat the food they order.
I do enjoy being able to skip cooking on vacation, BUT having a space to put together quick meals or snacks can end up being way easier than going out to eat every time, and can save SO much money. And honestly, with kids, snacks are not optional. It’s really nice to have a full sized refrigerator to store healthy snacks rather than relying on a mini fridge and nonperishables.
Skip Tours- explore on your own
Maui has tons of easily to access snorkeling spots, beautiful, easily-to-follow trails. Do some research ahead of time to make sure you are exploring safely. But you can easily explore without a tour group and not feel like you are missing out on anything.
If snorkeling is on your agenda, sign up for the Snorkel Report for some really great advice on the best snorkeling spots for the deal. I’d also recommend signing up a little bit early so you can get a feel for the typical conditions on each part of the island. Use common sense, and keep your eyes out for hazards, but you’ll find that there is plenty of safe snorkeling on Maui.
If your agenda includes the Road to Hana, check out one of the many great blog posts out there with some great information. We like this one and this one for a condensed, kid-friendly waterfall version.
Instead of a farm tour, stop by the farmers market instead. You can some great local fruit, and many of the vendors are happy to talk to you about whatever they are selling. The farmers market is full of people passionate about fresh, local food.
When visiting Maui, renting a car is almost mandatory. It’s a big island and there are so many great things to explore, so you’ll want to have some flexibility to get around.
Right now, rental cars are insanely expensive, if you can even get one. But even on the best days, rental cars can be pricey. Lines at the check-out counter can be HOURS long. If we are being honest, it’s not hard to beat the experience of renting a car. Turo is basically the Airbnb of cars. Individuals rent you their car for a price. Just like Airbnb, experiences will vary, but we had a great experience with it. We were able to rent a Jeep that my kids were THRILLED with, and for a lower price than the car rental companies. Instead of waiting at the car rental line, the owner just left the rental in the parking lot for us. Then, we parked the car when we headed back to the airport.
Turo has TONS of options for cars, pricing, etc. So you’ll be sure to find something that works for you.
Stop by Costco or the grocery store
It’s no secret, dining, and food, in general, are expensive in Maui. As you are leaving the airport in Maui, you’ll find a Costco, Target, Whole Foods, and just a ton of grocery stores. Stop by to pick up some fresh local fruit and some snacks or easy meal options. Especially when traveling with kids, it’s nice to have some easy, low-cost meal options rather than going to a restaurant every time your kids are hungry. It can save a ton of money, and also a ton of hassle.
If you are planning on packing lunches every day, you’ll also want to either pack a cooler bag, or pick up a low-cost cooler at the store. If you purchase one, you can also pass it on to another family before you head home rather than toss it. It’ll save them money, and reduce waste.
Bring your own gear
Bringing your own gear can save you money, plus you can save time you would spend going to the rental shop, and getting properly fitted for your gear. Also, you can bring the snorkel you prefer (vs getting whatever the rental shop has to offer), and reduce the ick factor with using snorkels that a thousand people have already put in their mouths (yes, we know they are clean.. but.. it’s still a LITTLE icky, right?). We LOVE these kid-sized full-face snorkels to make snorkeling totally easy for even younger kids. And you don’t find these at the snorkel rental shops.
Even though a lot the rental gear isn’t terribly expensive, it can definitely add up if you have a family full of snorkelers and kids needing life jackets, etc.
However, bringing your gear can also take up some serious space in your luggage. So bringing gear might not ALWAYS make sense. On our last visit, we flew Delta, and we have this great credit card that gives everyone in our party a free checked bag. It made sense to bring along our snorkels, for no additional cost, to avoid paying rental fees. We also brought lifejackets for the kids. They are bulky, but we could spare the luggage space, and we didn’t want the hassle of looking for something that would work for our kids.
If you are going to pay an extra $50 for a checked bag, you won’t save as much. But it might still be worthwhile to bring your own gear, depending on your exact situation.
Dine away outside of the resorts
Dining in Maui is expensive. And it’s especially expensive within the resorts. You can save a little bit by just leaving your hotel or resort. But you’ll save even more if you leave the resort strip altogether.
Maui has some really REALLY great food trucks. They are budget-friendly, and food truck parks are a great option for families because there is something for everyone. There are big food truck parks near Lahaina, Kihei, and close to the airport. Plus, there are tons of other food trucks all over the island.
Plus, check out some of the other great restaurants that might just be a few minute’s drive from your hotel (or a great place to stop on your way back from a day out), like Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop (don’t skip the pie!), 808 on Main, and even check out many of the local grocery stores. The ABC and Foodland grocery stores often have some pretty good prepared food. I pretty much live on poke while in Hawaii and ABC has a surprisingly good poke bowl.
Many of the beach parks in Maui have public grills. So even if you don’t have access to a kitchen, you can pick up groceries and grill up a nice meal there! It’s a super fun Maui activity, plus it can save you money on dining. It’s tough to beat a beach bbq in Maui watching the sun set.
Keep it Simple
When you start looking at a Maui vacation, it’s easy to start looking at the top Maui resort ($$$$$$), some of the really amazing, but super pricey activities, and assume that it’s not worth going if you can’t afford all of that. But the truth is what makes Maui amazing isn’t the 5-star resorts (or at least not JUST the 5-star resorts) or the amazing tourist attractions, but just the place. The beaches, the flowers, the fruit, the waterfalls, and the mountains- once you arrive, you have access to all of that regardless of your hotel or which rental car you book. And you certainly won’t feel like you’ve missed out on Maui if you don’t get to a snorkeling tour, submarine, or a lu’au. Keep it simple, and enjoy what Maui really has to offer. You certainly won’t regret it.
Semi-budget Maui Trip specifics
My family just recently decided to squeeze in a trip to Maui into our annual travel budget for the year, and we definitely had to do some squeezing to make it fit.
I thought it might be helpful to give you some specifics on pricing, for our specific situation. But there are a number of things to keep in mind as you look at these numbers.
- We are a family of 4, and we are traveling from Seattle
- We booked this trip about 6 weeks out. For Maui, I’d recommend booking earlier. We actually saw much lower prices a few weeks earlier, but we hadn’t made up our mind on booking and missed out on the BEST prices.
- Prices are all over the place right now due to the middle/end of the pandemic. Things seem to be leveling off, but we have seen some weird pricing- some prices are a bit low, some things (like car rental) are really high.
- This trip was lower cost, but it’s definitely not the lowest you can go.
- This does not include our costs at home, like dog sitting, parking fees, etc. For more tips on making sure you include EVERYTHING when you budget for your trip, check out our post here.
Costco vacations package deal: $3,597 for Delta Flight, 5 nights at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel (with a $250 dining credit), and mid-sized car rental.
We actually wound up booking this trip separately, for a few reasons (Costco Vacations doesn’t have a great cancellation or change policy, and we ended up using points for our flights). But booking separately actually cost a bit more.
For flights, we travel economy main cabin, and chose nonstop flights. We chose an evening flight on the way to Maui, and the overnight flight on the way back. This wasn’t the lowest cost flight, but it certainly wasn’t the BEST times/flights either.
Dining: We spend an additional $600 on dining, not including the $250 dining credit at the resort. So if we had not had the credit, it would have about $850 on dining. This includes snacks purchased at the grocery store, bottled water (yeah pretty silly and wasteful expense) and other drinks, fruit at the farmers market, treats like shaved ice and pie, and restaurant meals.
We didn’t go crazy on dining, but we also didn’t really watch the budget very closely. We basically ate what we wanted. You can easily beat this price if you watched the budget more closely, even staying in a hotel with no kitchen.
Total cost: ~$4200 for 5 full days, and 5 nights
Let us know in the comments what you did to save on your Maui vacation, and how you did on booking a budget trip to Maui!