It’s no secret that Hawaiʻi is one of the most expensive U.S. destinations to visit when it comes to airline fares and accommodation rates. Food, rental cars, and organized tours are also not cheap. So, in that sense, you’ll never hear Hawaiʻi described as a cheap destination.
But, the upside of Hawaiʻi is that, once there and settled, the islands offer an abundance of spectacular free things to do. Maui is no exception. The natural world presents obvious abundance, but there are many other free (or extremely low-cost) ways to not just explore Maui, but to experience it.
Below, we break down and organize some of our favorite free (or very cheap) activities to enjoy on Maui.
Here are free or cheap things to check out as it relates to the natural world:
Maui is loaded excellent hikes for the adventurer, and all are free or cheap to explore (hikes within Haleakalā National Park, such as the Sliding Sands Trail in the video below, require the park entry fee).
Check out our guide to hiking on Maui to help you choose a trail!
Coastal Walks/Beach Walks
Not into mountain climbing, mud, or elevated heart rates? No worries. Many parts of Maui offer mild coastal walks that give you the scenic beauty you crave without the intensity of a interior hike, from the paved beach path at Kaʻanapali to the lava rock fields of La Perouse Bay. Of course, any nearby beach can serve as a wonderful place to walk. Set out on a stroll in the morning when conditions are calm and peaceful and take in the views of the ocean and mountains.
This one needs no explanation. All beach access in Hawaiʻi is free. Grab a chair, towel, and a book, and beach bum your way around the island. Check out our guide to Maui Beaches if you are looking for inspiration.
So long as you are comfortable in the water, you don’t need to spend upwards of a $100 for a half-day, one-time snorkeling tour. Instead, bring or buy a snorkel set (about $40 or so for mask, snorkel, and fins) and go snorkeling multiple times during your trip. There are plenty of easily-accessible areas to explore without a boat, including several marine sanctuaries, such as ʻĀhihi Kīnaʻu, Kapalua Bay, and Olowalu, among many other awesome spots. Go with a buddy, or stick to lifeguarded beaches if solo.
Find more in our list of 10 favorite Maui snorkeling spots.
Surf lessons can cost more than a hundred dollars per session, but if you already know the basics, renting a board is much more affordable. Spend a few hours in the water and understand why so many locals are addicted to this timeless sport.
You don’t have to go to an expensive waterfront bar or restaurant to enjoy the sunset. Instead, pack a small cooler (you can find cheap cooler bags at any grocery store) with drinks and snacks and settle down into the sand for a sunset picnic. This is how the locals do it, and it will save you serious coin over the length of your stay. The views from the beach usually beat the views from the waterfront establishments anyway.
Do you like sunsets? Check out our 16 favorite spots to watch the sun set on Hawaiʻi (including 4 on Maui).
Heading up to the summit of Haleakalā is a real treat, and it will only cost you the national park entry fee (plus gas and car rental). Once at the summit, you can explore the barren volcanic crater via hiking/walking paths, and take in the many views of the island.
Road to Hāna
Cruising the infamous Road to Hāna will cost you a rental car and some gas, but that’s about it. There are myriad natural attractions to check out along this route, including waterfalls, hikes, and overlooks. For more, see our guide to the Road to Hāna.
History & Culture
If you’re into history and/or learning more about the culture of the islands, there are plenty of cheap and easy ways to check it out:
Maui has a variety of museums spread throughout the island, all offering a different look into its past, present, and future for a small entry fee. For example, the Baldwin Home Museum takes a look back at missionary life on Maui, while the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is focused on the sugar cane era.
The Lāhainā Restoration Foundations offers a special deal of four museums for $12, including the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, Hale Ho’ike’ike, the Baldwin Home Museum, and the Wo Hing Museum.
Self-Guided Historical Walking Tour (Lāhainā)
In Lāhainā, everything is already arranged for you, including a dedicated app to help you navigate the historical sights of the town. Download it, then find your way through this former capital of Hawaiʻi, visiting royal sites and historical buildings. You can read more details about the free self-guided walking tour here.
ʻĪao Valley State Park
This small but beautiful state park is set up around the ʻĪao Needle, which rises 1,200 feet from the valley floor. Historical interpretive signs tell the story of a 1790 battle between the armies of Maui and the Big Island that took place here. With walking paths and lots of scenery, the entry fee is a reasonable $5.
More History and Culture on Maui
If history and culture are you thing you should have a look at our overview (+ map) of historical places on Maui, where we list the most worth-while sights and attractions showcasing Hawaiian history before, during, and immediately following western contact in 1778. This includes highlights of notable archeological and religious sites, as well as museums other cultural and historical points of interest on Maui.
Many of Maui’s communities are based around agriculture. Here are some affordable ways to explore it:
With entry fees of about $20 or less, botanical gardens are a great way to spend a couple of hours, immersed in the beauty and variety of Hawaiʻi’s tropical and indigenous plants. Check out Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kula Botanical Garden, Garden of Eden, and others around the island.
Maui also has a variety of farm tours that will give you a glimpse into local life. Some are a bigger commitment than others (1.5 hour pineapple tours at Haliʻimaile farm will cost you $75, for example), but many are more affordable.
We have written a whole section on Maui Farm Tours, but an example is visiting the Surfing Goat Dairy and take its $12 tour to learn more about how they produce local goat cheese. Other tour options include lavender farm tours at Aliʻi Kula ($3 per person), tasting at Maui Ocean Vodka ($17 per person), Maui Dragon Fruit Farm tour ($35 per person), Maui Chocolate Tasting ($35), and more!
Food, Drink, and Shopping
Eating and drinking in Hawaiʻi can be expensive. Here are some tricks to save money:
Head out to a restaurant for poke and a few drinks, and don’t be surprised if your tab reaches triple digits. Avoid the big bill by doing as the locals do and have a poke picnic.
When ordered at a restaurant, costs are inflated. But a pound of poke from the grocery store deli (we recommend Foodland) or a specialty poke store (Tamura’s) will cost you between $10 and $15. Poke bowls (poke over rice) is even cheaper, often less than $10. Find a scenic spot to sit, either on the beach or in a park, and enjoy your meal in a natural setting. Often, you can enjoy your poke overlooking the same view as folks get in the nearby restaurant at just a fraction of the cost.
Local Grocery Stores
This is not unique to Hawaiʻi, but it deserves to be said for its potential impact. Buying food from the local grocery store is overall a more financially-friendly decision than eating out every night. In this way, it pays to have a kitchen, or some way to cook, at your accommodation.
We don’t love that ABC Stores have taken over every hub in Hawaiʻi, and we always encourage folks to shop at locally-owned, independent stores whenever possible. That said, if you’re looking to grab a couple to-go drinks, snacks, or souvenirs, the ABC Store’s prices are easy to love. T-shirts can be had for just a couple dollars, and there are a variety of other trinkets that won’t break the bank. If your budget is hurting but you need to bring a few things home for people, the ABC Store is a great option.