Central Oahu on a Budget

Central Oahu is known as the bedroom community of Oahu and contains one of the most expensive communities in the island. However, this doesn’t mean that a visit to this part of Oahu will cost you much. Central Oahu enjoys a prime location that makes it easily accessible to any part of the island, which is why anyone looking for budget meals, accommodations, and activities can easily look for more options in and around Central Oahu without having to go far.


Looking for food on a budget is not hard in Central Oahu. One can find various food places in Oahu, from simple surf shacks to upscale grill houses. You can also pack up lunch and have a fun picnic, free of charge, at the beach. Eating outside of Waikiki will be considerably cheaper, considering that there is a 25% to 75% premium placed on food in establishments inside Waikiki and other tourist hubs. One can eat on $20 or less in any one of the restaurants and eateries in Central Oahu or the Windward Coast.


For those who are looking for cheap accommodations in Central Oahu and are not afraid to get dirty, camping is often the best option. The area has few cottages or rentals for rent unlike Waikiki and other beachfront areas. However, camping is still a good option. You can book a maximum of 5 days stay for $5 per campsite a night at the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, a camping area located at the Southern end of Oahu. This is a 385-acre wooded park surrounded by ironwood, Norfolk pines, and eucalyptus trees. The camping park also contains the remnants of an ancient healing temple or heiau ho'ola. Here you can also look at examples of the most common herbal plants used by ancient Hawaiian healers to heal their sick. Hikers will love this campground because it stands adjacent to a 5-mile hiking trail called the Aiea loop where they can enjoy a magnificent view of Pearl Harbor and the mountains. The site only has space for tent camping but it comes complete with restrooms with cold showers, barbeque grills, and picnic areas. You can choose among the flat, grassy surface or the slopy portions of the campgrounds. You can also choose to pitch your tent under one of the many tall and shady trees that are scattered all over the park.

If you cannot book a campsite at the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area on time, other campsites are also open, among them the Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens and the Kahana Bay Beach Park at the Windward Coast. Camping sites in the North Shore include Malaekahana Bay State Recreation Area and Camp Mokuleia.

If you are looking to avoid booking a hotel and paying for services that you won’t be using, you can choose to rent one of a number of rental cottages and rooms in Central Oahu. You can choose to stay at Rainbow Inn, Pearl on the Ridge, or any of the condominiums on the harbor.

The Rainbow Inn is a small garden apartment in a private residence that comes with its own private bathroom and kitchen. Guests also get to enjoy their own swimming pool apart from the spectacular sunsets and sunrises. The best views of Waikiki, Diamond Head, and Ala Wai Boat Harbor are all yours to take in from here.

Another cheap option is Pearl on the Ridge, which is known to tourists for its breathtaking view of Pearl Harbor. It has a pool, a garden, and a barbeque space. The place also comes with one of the best-looking kitchens in all of Hawaii. It also comes complete with furniture and kitchen amenities, with a private walk-in shower and a Jacuzzi. It is also conveniently located just a few minutes from Pearl Harbor and other memorials such as the USS Arizona and the USS Blowfin Memorials. It is also just a few minutes from the shops, food places, and other points of interest in the island. Despite the accessibility, the place is located conveniently away from the noise and traffic of the more populated areas in the island.


There are a lot of activities to do in Central Oahu and around the island that you can do without breaking the bank. Taking nature hikes on public parks will cost you virtually nothing. Tours around Pearl Harbor, the Dole plantation, and other sights in Central Oahu will only cost you a few dollars. For example, you can get into the Arizona memorial for free. There are also brochures handed out by travel agencies or hotels that will give you discounts on the various places you may want to visit. Other tourist haunts in Honolulu such as Diamond Head, Manoa Falls, Koko Crater, and Aiea Loop will give you breathtaking vistas and will cost you virtually nothing except for money for gas or minimal entrance fees. Entrance into the Diamond Head Summit, for example, go for a dollar and about $5 per carload. If you want to visit Byodo-in temple, the entrance fee goes for about $2.


Snorkeling is another cheap way to enjoy a stay in Oahu. You can rent snorkeling equipment or bring your own. If you go in a group, a cheaper option would be to coordinate with travel companies that provide snorkeling activities, from providing the transportation to planning out the entire day’s itinerary.

There are a lot of free beaches in and around Central Oahu, among them Ala Moana Beach Park, which has the best free beaches in the island. This is where you can expect to watch the island’s most beautiful sunsets especially in the water.


One can also join in on the local weekly attractions, such as shopping at the local swap meets, farmer’s market every Sunday or the First Friday in Chinatown. Fruits and other produce are way cheaper and fresher when bought at the farmer’s market.

Swap meets are also a popular activity in the island that brings most locals and tourists together. Swap meets are the best places to look for authentic Hawaiian souvenirs, especially if you are looking for cheaper souvenirs than what you would commonly find at souvenir shops. The Swap meet is held at the Aloha Stadium near the Arizona War memorial at certain days of the week.

Another good place to look for souvenirs is Hilo Hatties. Although not located in Central Oahu, this is a good place to go to on days when swap meets are not held and when looking for cheap souvenirs. Souvenirs are a tad more expensive than in swap meets but if you are looking for authentic Hawaiian shirts, candies, and other souvenirs to take back home, this is the place to go.


One can take a taxi from the airport to the hotel or the vacation rental, but for getting around the island, you can either rent a car, a moped, or a motorcycle. Bike rentals are also a good and way cheaper option for getting around the island. For large groups, limousine services are also a good option, especially if you want to go around as a group. There are vans and shuttle services that are pretty cheap as well. For those who would rather visit the most popular sites before anything else, taking a bus around town is the best idea. The Bus is the official public transport in the island and is pretty cheap, especially if you get a bus pass. However, when deciding to visit crowded areas like downtown Waikiki, walking is the cheapest and the most convenient way to go around.

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