North Shore, Oahu on a Budget

The unspoiled charm of the North Shore is just the opposite of urban Waikiki, but this is not to say that the beaches here are less spectacular or not teeming with activities. The North Shore is home to the Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach, which is famous for its extraordinary sunsets and the mysterious green flash that appears in the split second when the sun disappears across the horizon. It is also on this side of Oahu where you can find one of the world’s largest mazes and rainbows that you can eat. The quaint Hale’iwa Town is the North Shore’s arts and social hub, where you’ll find rustic shops selling art pieces and surf accessories. It is also the perfect place to get a hearty meal.

With so many things to see and do in the North Shore, it is a dream for many people to go there on a tropical island getaway. Even for those who have been there before, a return trip is something they start saving up for the day they arrive at home. If you fall under any of these categories, there is one thing that you should consider about the North Shore.

Because of its prominence as the surfing mecca of the world, there are more people heading to the North Shore of Oahu in the winter season, which is from November to February. That is when the finest surfers from all across the globe come to the northern tip of Oahu to catch the perfect, big wave that they have been pining for. In the summer months, from May through September, both locals and tourists flock to the North Shore beaches, as they become ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, among other activities. Hence, there is no such thing as an “off season” in this area. This sometimes makes people think twice about their capacity to go on a holiday there.

The best time to go

When traveling on a budget, timing is crucial. Fortunately for you, the Hawaii Visitor & Conventions Bureau (HVCB) came up with a program under the tell-all theme, “Discover more of Hawaii for less than you imagined.” Launched late in 2008 following a staggering reduction in Hawaii’s tourism statistics, the program aims to encourage reluctant travelers to go on vacation in Hawaii. The drop in tourism activity was mainly an upshot of recession, but if you have been dreaming of a Hawaiian adventure for long, the best time for you to go is now. Why? The HVCB program partners include major airlines and lodging establishments, and as any traveler knows, airfare and accommodations always get the biggest shares in travel expenses. Now, winter holiday packages in most hotels and airlines can give you as much as 30% to0 40% savings, way less than what you would’ve spent for a trip to Hawaii in previous years.

Booking your flight

A vacation in Hawaii has always been symbolic of a luxurious lifestyle. It doesn’t mean, however, that only the rich and famous can afford to go. If you are planning a trip to the North Shore or to any point in Oahu, you are already at an advantage. Why? Oahu’s Honolulu International Airport is the gateway to Hawaii, so it is one of the busiest airports in the US. As such, it is served by more than 16 international carriers and 23 domestic airlines, each with more than one flight to and from Honolulu daily. This gives you so many options and opportunities to get the cheapest flight available.

As always, plane tickets are cheapest when booked way in advance. When flying to Honolulu, book your flight at least six months in advance. Doing so will get approximately $100 off your airfare. If you book and buy your ticket online, you may even get 10% to 35% discount from the regular airfare. The largest Hawaii-based carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, has the most number of flights to the US Mainland. If you’re coming from another country, Hawaiian Airlines, as well as major international carriers, such as Qantas Airways, Korean Airlines, Air Canada, Japan Air Charter, American Trans Air, Air Pacific Airways, Delta Airlines, Air New Zealand, JTB Aloha Service, and Philippine Airlines have regular flights to Honolulu International Airport.

To get the cheapest rates, surf the Internet for websites that allow you to compare the airfare of up to three or more airlines in just a few clicks. You may also visit the airline websites individually, but that would take more time, which you should use instead in locating affordable accommodations.

Finding a comfy place that won’t hurt your wallet

If you are headed for the North Shore, its undisturbed beauty can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to budget concerns. It is far from the urban-chic characteristics of the Waikiki area, so you can still find establishments that you afford without having to wince. But then, when it comes to accommodations, it can be tricky finding a place that’s really cheap, because the North Shore doesn't have as many lodging establishments as found in Waikiki. Definitely, you can find pricey hotels in the area, such as the Turtle Bay Resort. Since the North Shore’s tourist market is predominantly the younger crowd who come to the island for water sports, you have plenty of competition for budget-friendly accommodations. Again, timing is everything. So the best thing for you to do is to steer clear of the winter months (November–February), as there are more visitors coming to the North Shore at this time than in the summer (May–September). Also, keep in mind that accommodations are most expensive from Christmas through New Year.

Tip No. 1: Travel in a group, and rent a vacation home.

The best thing about traveling with friends is that you can always split the bill. Even if you’re planning a holiday for the family, you’ll get more value for your money by renting a vacation home instead of booking a hotel room. Vacation rentals come with fully equipped kitchens, so you can just pick up some items at the grocery and prepare your own meals. Not having to dine out all the time will save you enough pocket money for more activities or souvenirs.

Tip No. 2: Go dormitory-style.

A popular lodging option for the budget-conscious traveler is the hostel. On the North Shore, the Backpackers Vacation Inn & Plantation Village located at 59-788 Kamehameha Highway in Hale’iwa consists of three houses (The Beach House, The Main House, Plantation Village) where a bed costs $27 to $30 per night. They also have private rooms at $62 to $85 per night and private studios (with kitchenette) at $120 per night. The Backpackers offers 10% off for weekly rates.

More travel tips

To get around the neighborhood or to any part of Oahu, your best option would be to rent a car or moped. To save more on rental fees, make online arrangements before coming to Hawaii instead of getting one from the Honolulu International Airport. Some vacation homes may include a car package, so if you’re going for home rental, ask your host if a car rental is included. Compare the cost of a separate car rental and lodging expenses, and if it seems more cost-efficient to take a vacation home with a car package, then go for it. Oahu also has a public transport system called TheBus, for wherein a single ride costs $2. If you would rather take the bus than rent a vehicle, then better opt for the adult visitor’s pass, which is valid for four days, for only $20.

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