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Top 10 Hawaii Water Activities
Top 10 Hawaii Water Activities

Top Ways to Save Money on a Hawaii Cruise

Debbi Karpowicz-Kickham
William Kickham
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Who says a cruise to Hawaii has to break the bank? We've got some great suggestions for activities in port that are free, discounted or very affordable, so that you can say


to expensive shore excursions. With these tips, you can do it yourself and experience Hawaii on a budget that won't wreck your wallet.

We've listed our top money-saving tips, island by island, but first, here are some islandwide pointers for touring on the cheap:

All of the beaches in Hawaii are free and open to the public.

You don't need an expensive oceanfront suite to sunbathe on the special sands fronting the luxury resorts; everyone is welcome. You can quite easily enjoy the calm waters of Kaanapali Beach on Maui or Hapuna Beach on The Big Island without flashing a hotel room key.

Related: Best Hawaii Beaches

Which beach should you hit? We list our favorite sandy spots






Chances are, you're

staying in Honolulu for a couple of days before you embark on your cruise

or after disembarkation. If that's the case, you'll need a hotel; one of the best bargains is the $81 "show us your slippers (flip-flops)" room rate at the Maile Sky Court, a high-rise hotel located just minutes from Waikiki Beach. It's known for friendly service and comfortable rooms.

If you're

headed to Waikiki

, it's smart to simply take a cab from the pier at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. It will cost you about $27, and you won't have to worry about renting a car and then paying for expensive parking. In Waikiki, you can easily take a shuttle, walk to your destination or take a public bus. For example, you can take a public bus, Route #22, from Waikiki to Diamond Head, for just $2.50 per fare. Climbing Diamond Head costs pedestrians just $1. You can also take the public bus to other great locations, such as Hanauma Bay (great for snorkeling), downtown/Chinatown and the famous North Shore, where you can watch the surfers.

In Waikiki, there's no shortage of inexpensive things to do. One of our favorite is to

take the free historical tour at the Moana Surfrider

, one of the original hotels on Oahu, offering great info about the hotel and Waikiki. The Moana was built in 1901 and is dubbed "The First Lady of Waikiki." The hotel holds free one-hour historical tours Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m., which include a video, memorabilia display and room tour, as well as a look at the history and development of Waikiki itself. During World War II, the hotel closed its doors to tourists in order to offer rest and relaxation to American servicemen. (You can


hear the Glenn Miller music by the huge banyan tree.)

Set yourself up on the sands fronting the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel

. The surfers there provide free entertainment, and it's also great fun to have a cocktail at Duke's famous Barefoot Bar. From there, you can take an outrigger canoe ride; you need at least three people, and it's $25 per person. You'll experience the island's Polynesian heritage and the ancient art of outrigger canoe racing during this quintessential Hawaiian activity. Plus, it's great fun to ride the big waves back to shore.

Take a free hula lesson at Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Center

from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays, on Level 2 in Building C.

During your time in Honolulu, definitely spend

$18 to take the roundtrip Reliable shuttle to the USS Arizona Memorial

, the number-one visitor destination in Hawaii. It's the resting place of the 1,102 crewmen who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. After viewing a short film, you'll travel to the actual memorial; what's amazing is that the USS Arizona is still visible in the water, and oil still leaks from it every day. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

It wouldn't be Friday night without the

fireworks display held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

at roughly 7:45 p.m. The best spot for viewing is on the sands fronting the hotel or on the grassy area near the hotel's lagoon. Look up and enjoy.

Talk Hawaii

with other cruisers


Hilo, the Big Island


When in Hawaii, nothing beats spending time in the sun and the surf. Here's how to do just that: when your ship pulls into port, you can simply

walk to Kamakahonu Beach

(fronting the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel), located right next to the pier on Alii Drive, and park yourself in the Pacific waters. This is a superb slice of sand that's ideal for kids of all ages, with gentle waves for paddleboarding and snorkeling. You can rent kayak equipment nearby.

There are also two "must-sees" in Kona that are ideal for aficionados of Hawaiian history, and you can walk right to them.

Hulihee Palace

is a quick one-minute walk from the pier. It was built in 1838 and contains Victorian artifacts and koa-wood furniture from the time of King David Kalakaua, who used the property as his summer home. Then there's

Mokuaikaua Church

, a four-minute walk from the pier. It was established in 1820 and is the first Christian church in the state of Hawaii.

About an eight-minute walk from the pier, the

Kona Farmers' Market

is held Wednesdays through Sundays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. There, you can find authentic and handmade arts and crafts, as well as local produce, flowers, Kona coffee and much more.


visit Huggo's

, the restaurant known for its outdoor ambience and fine dining. Get there for Happy Hour between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., when cocktails and pupus (appetizers -- including the famous guava-braised barbecue ribs) are half price. Or visit its adjacent sister restaurant -- the casual, less expensive On The Rocks (www.huggosontherocks.com). It also has a great vibe, but it's located right on the water, where you can sit at your table and stick your toes in the sand. At On The Rocks, Happy Hour runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and a selection of cocktails and pupus, such as ahi poke (raw salad featuring marinated raw fish), are offered at half price.

Get schooled in the

basics of cruising to Hawaii


Updated August 29, 2018

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