I’ve been offline a while because I just got back from a great vacation to Hawaii with Bob and my 70+-year-old parents. My dad is the original Bohemian (frugal) traveler (and at home, too) so we found a variety of cheap options for getting to Hawaii and having some fun on the Big Island.
Bob and I used AA miles to fly for free from LAX to Kona. However, after we booked the tickets, I applied for a British Airways credit card with 75k bonus miles, which would have been a better option to fly to Hawaii for less miles.
We paid for our rooms at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa for $109 per night, which was for a mountain-view room and full buffet breakfast for two each morning. I was planning to use Points & Cash (4000 points + $60 per night) but the rate was so cheap I preferred to earn the points for future travel where the rates are higher. Several months before the trip I routinely went to the SPG website and the Sheraton website to compare rates. You can usually book, cancel and rebook when the rate drops, which is what I did to get $109 per night. Also, we opted to get 250 points per day by not having our sheets and towels cleaned daily.
My parents used AAVacations to get a good deal on their airfare from Nashville and an ocean view room for 5 nights at the Sheraton. By using an AAVacation package they saved money so it was like getting two nights free rather than buying airfare and hotel separate, plus they earned miles on the flights.
Rented a car with Hertz for $16.95 per day on Hotwire using Bob’s Chase Sapphire Preferred (through the Chase Sapphire shopping portal) to get 2 bonus points per dollar spent.
Cheap Hawaii Vacation Highlights
$25 per person for 4 hours of unlimited use of water sport equipment (paddleboards, waterbikes, kayaks, etc.) and glass-bottom boat & outrigger rides at Ocean Sports in Waikoloa. Because it included the boat trips, it was an ideal cheap Hawaii vacation activity for all ages.
Free coffee tour and tastings at Hula Daddy Coffee Plantation. I was incredibly impressed with the amount of time the guide spent with us and her knowledge of the process. Yes, I bought coffee a little because I felt guilty for going on the tour and not buying but also because it was great coffee and it’s going to make great Christmas gifts. Afterwards I checked coffee prices at various stores and Hula Daddy was similar in price for 100% Kona coffee.
$10 entrance into the Volcano National Park. My parents bought a $10 lifetime senior pass which enabled us all to get into the park in Hawaii and anywhere else we may travel together at no additional cost. Free ranger talks and videos are great for all ages.
We bought two masks & snorkel kits for $19 each online from Walmart before we went so that gave us free snorkeling all over the island. (They are really easy to squeeze into luggage.) The cost of renting a kit is $25 per week so by buying gear we can use them on future vacations.
Right off the plane we stopped at a local grocery store and stocked up on wine, beer and snacks for our own Happy Hours on mom & dad’s ocean view balcony–you can’t get better than that!
Restaurants–We only found a few good cheap options that offered more for the money:
Splasher’s Grill in downtown Kona had gigantic tasty food with huge portions big enough for two people. Casual dining with a water view near the pier.
Thai Thai Restaurant in Volcano had excellent Thai and Chinese food with portions big enough for several people to share.
Cafe Ohia in Volcano for a fast, cheap breakfast under $5 and a huge sandwich for 2 to take to the National Park for a picnic lunch.
Cheap Hawaii Vacation MISTAKE
We booked a vacation home on VRBO.com in Volcano for two nights so we could spend some quality time at the national park. This is the one time I’ve rented on VRBO and been completely disappointed. It was very difficult to find the property from the information provided, the code on the door was different than the one they emailed us (thank goodness they answered the phone when we called), and the property hadn’t been cleaned before our arrival. There was tons of dog hair in the sheets so we had to wash them ourselves. Mind you, we were also paying a $50 cleaning fee. I complained and the owner apologized but didn’t offer a credit. A few days before we arrived, the homeowner removed their property from the VRBO website so there’s really no recourse of even posting a bad review on the site. It’s too bad because the 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house was very nice (minus the crumbs and dog hair) and only cost $79 per night–it would be a nice vacation home if it were managed properly.