Waikiki Honolulu, Oahu on a Budget

A playground for ancient Hawaiian royalty, Waikiki has preserved its heritage and maintained its place as a top tourist destination since the 19th century. Foreign visitors began coming to Waikiki since the 1830s, leading to the construction of tramways and hotels that began its early urbanization. This also prompted the wealthy Honolulu landowner Walter Chamberlain Peacock to build a luxury hotel. The historic Moana Hotel, nicknamed the First Lady of Waikiki, was opened to visitors in 1901.

Many of the rich and famous, as well as the world’s most powerful, come to Waikiki, making Oahu a symbol for a lifestyle of opulence. For this reason, not just a few people dream of a holiday in Waikiki or at least use the idea to motivate themselves to save up. Fortunately, you don’t need to have royal blood coursing through your veins to play in this tropical playground. The Hawaii Visitor & Conventions Bureau (HVCB) had recently launched a marketing campaign to encourage tourists to keep coming to the Hawaiian Islands despite recession.

Waikiki, if not the entire Hawaiian archipelago, relies heavily on tourism, and the islands’ tourism statistics dipped significantly as a result of the global financial crisis. In response, the HVCB launched a budget travel program under the theme “Discover more of Hawaii for less than you imagined.” From major international and domestic carriers to airlines serving only inter-island routes, as well as brand-name resorts and local vacation homes, practically every establishment in the industry are program partners.

Take it as a good news now that your Waikiki dreams are now much closer to reality. The best time to travel to Waikiki, specially for the budget-conscious, is today.

Finding inexpensive flights to Honolulu

The best thing about Waikiki is that it’s very accessible, because it is located in the Hawaiian state capital, Honolulu, the gateway to Hawaii. Oahu’s major airport, the Honolulu International Airport, is the point of entry of the majority of international flights as well as those flying in from the US Mainland. The airport is at 300 Rodgers Boulevard, only 9 miles away from the Waikiki neighborhood, so more or less, it would be a 30-minute drive.

With about 23 domestic airlines and 16 international carriers in service, there are so many flights to choose from. By simple law of supply and demand, hundreds of daily flights and fewer travelers during these hard times should lead to less expensive plane tickets.

If you would be coming in from the US Mainland, half of the domestic flights to Honolulu come from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Among the major international and domestic carriers are Qantas Airways, Korean Airlines, Air Canada, Japan Air Charter, American Trans Air, Air Pacific Airways, Delta Airlines, Air New Zealand, and JTB Aloha Service. Add to this long list Rich International, Continental Air Micronesia, United Airlines, Philippine Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, China Airlines, American Airlines, NorthWest Airlines, and of course, Hawaiian Airlines, the largest Hawaii-based carrier.

To get to Waikiki on a budget, make sure that you compare rates before booking your ticket. If you have plenty of time, you can check which of these airlines serve your area, and then go to each website to get a quote. Or, you can simply type “compare airfare Honolulu,” and within a few clicks, you’ll be connected to websites that compare rates of up to three airlines. As mentioned earlier, airlines have partnered with the HVCB program, so you are bound to get cheaper airfare than what it would have cost you in previous years.

Traveling for less is basically about proper timing, so flying to Honolulu in the off-peak season would be less expensive (hint: Rates are highest in summer and before New Year’s Eve). Airlines also provide incentives if you book online and months before your preferred flight schedule, so you can get as much as $100 off if you do so. For instance, a round-trip airfare from the East Coast to Honolulu booked three months in advance would cost around $950, but the same ticket booked another five months ahead would cost only from $800 to $880.

Choosing less pricey but nice accommodations

Basically, you would be going to Waikiki to go sightseeing, try your hand at water sports, or simply laze around on white sand--activities that do not really require a cozy but pricey hotel room. If your trip to Waikiki is a family holiday, then the best option for you is to rent a vacation home. These rental cottages or condo units usually have fully furnished kitchens, so you can cook your own meals instead of dining out. That alone is going to save you a lot of money, specially if you’re traveling with children.

To get more value for your money, go for weekly rentals if you’re planning to stay for five days at most. A week’s stay at the Polynesian Plaza at 2131 Kalakaua Avenue costs from $425 to $525, with a maximum occupancy of four. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the beach, so the only transportation that you would need is a pair of flip-flops. Cheaper units are usually the first to go, so to get the best offer, call and make a reservation through 808-923-4818 or book online at www.polynesianplaza.com.

Or, you can stay in a hostel, which is a popular choice among the younger crowds, specially students traveling with a group of friends. The Waikiki Beachside Hostel on 2556 Lemon Road is a top-rated hostel by most hostel bookers, earning recognition as the "No. 1 hostel" according to Hawaii guidebooks.

Each room has AC, cable TV, local calling, and a kitchen, which you can use at no additional charges. Just recently, WiFi access has been made available for Waikiki Beachside Hostel guests. A semi-private room, which can house two guests, may cost from $66 to $88 per night, so if you split the bill, each would pay $44 at most. The rates are highest around New Year’s Eve and lowest from February to July. If you’re traveling with your friends, why don’t you do it dormitory-style instead? You can choose whether to go co-ed or exclusive, and it would cost only from $25 (off-peak) to $43 (peak season) per person a night.

The hostel is also noted for its great customer service and friendly atmosphere. It also has a promotional Summer Price Matching Special, in which guests can get a cheaper quote. The Waikiki Beachside Hostel would match the rate of other Honolulu hostels they have booked. For reservations and inquiries, you may call the Waikiki Beachside Hostel toll-free at 866-478-3888, or you can visit their website at www.waikikibeachsidehostel.com.

More budget savers

If you plan to see other Oahu neighborhoods during your stay, the best thing for you to do is to rent a car. Some of the vacation home rentals include car packages, so before your trip, inquire about the costs of these home-plus-car deals. If it’s going to cost less than separate charges for accommodations and car rental, then go for it. However, if you plan to spend most of your time in Waikiki, then you can do without car rentals. Oahu has a public transit system, TheBus, for which a single ride would cost only $2. You may also get a 4-day visitor pass for The Bus at $20 only, so you can go from Waikiki to other points of interest in Oahu. Just make sure that you check www.thebus.org for any changes in routes or schedule.

Also, it is not standard practice in Hawaii to hail cabs in the street. Cabs and limo service are available only at the airport and hotels. They’re only cheaper when you travel in a group, so try to connect with other guests. You never know just when you might need to split cab fare with them. If you wish to treat the foodie in you once in a while, Perry’s Smorgy Restaurant at 2380 Kuhio Avenue has all-you-can-eat buffets at around $7 for breakfast, $8 for lunch, and $11 for dinner.

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