If you’re searching for things to do with your family on Maui, there’s approximately two bajillion glorious options to choose from, like this list of the 50 Best Things to Do.
But what about backpacking on Maui? What’s the deal with hostels, free stuff to do, transportation, etc.? We believe that Maui doesn’t have to be an expensive destination with the right information, so we have compiled a list of budget and free options to make your trip a little less painful on your bank account.
Okay, so flights to Hawaii aren’t cheap, but neither are flights to Europe or Southeast Asia or South America, so pick your battles. If you’re budget backpacking, this will definitely be the most expensive part of your journey.
If you want to travel without renting a car, there are a couple of options to consider. This is an island, after all, so there’s only so many places you could possibly need or want to go.
- Public Bus – Single rides are $2, daily passes are $4 and monthly passes are $45. Be aware that the busses don’t run late at night or very often (once every hour to an hour and a half), but they do go to the most popular spots around the island, including to/from the airport. Luggage limits; no surfboards allowed. See bus routes and schedules here.
- Taxis – There are several cab companies around the island, and while rides aren’t particularly cheap, they might be your best option for short distance or late-night transportation.
- Hitchhiking – While hitchhiking is illegal on Maui, you’ll still see plenty of people doing it. Read our Guideline to Hitchhiking in Maui and remember to use proper caution.
Where to Stay
There are a few hostels and budget hotels to choose from on the island, including:
- Banana Bungalow Maui (4 stars on TripAdvisor) – Boasting “more free amenities than any other hostel in Hawaii,” the Banana Bungalow, located in Wailuku, offers free daily tours around the island, free internet and computer use, free pancake breakfasts every morning, free keg parties every Friday, a hot tub, a garden with hammocks and picnic tables, pool tables, grills, and a large shared kitchen. Shared dorms, private rooms, monthly dorm rates and special monthly rates for surfers are offered, starting at $35.25/night. Foreign passport or departing ticket from Maui required. Complimentary tours on their passenger vans include trips to Iao Valley, the Road to Hana, West Maui & Lahaina, snorkeling at Turtle Town, whale watching (seasonal), Paia Town, Haleakala Volcano and Makena “Big” Beach. Visit them online.
- The Northshore Hostel (4.5 stars on TripAdvisor) – Also located in Wailuku, the Northshore Hostel offers free transportation from the airport (depending on availability), free morning shuttles to Kanaha Beach, free internet, free breakfast, free local and international calls, locker rentals, on-site laundry, activity bookings, a large shared kitchen, friendly staff and semi-private, standard private, economy private and deluxe private rooms options starting at $35/night. Visit them online.
- Peace of Maui (4 stars on TripAdvisor) – This charming bed and breakfast is located in upcountry Makawao, the Hawaiian cowboy town with lots of great art galleries and bakeries, offers light breakfast options, a peaceful atmosphere, full kitchen, free internet, free phone calls, cable, and a jacuzzi. Rates at their Lodge start at $75 for single occupancy and $85 for double occupancy. Visit them online.
- Noble Travel Hotel (4 stars on Yelp) – Located in Wailuku, the Noble Travel Hotel caters to economical business travelers with in-room desks, daily maid service, and private bathrooms. Private single rooms start at $59/day, $68 for private doubles and $82 for private triple rooms. Walking distance to many restaurants and shops. Visit them online.
- Couchsurfing – Great way to meet locals, discover places off the beaten path and save your wallet by staying somewhere for FREE. Visit them online.
Free Things to Do
Despite what the internet may suggest, there are quite a few activities on the island that don’t require a deposit of an arm and leg.
- Friday Town Parties – Each Friday of the month, the Maui County Office of Economic Development hosts a free party in different Maui towns. Expect lots of yummy food trucks, live music, local goods, crafts and people watching. First Friday – Wailuku; Second Friday – Lahaina; Third Friday – Makawao; Fourth Friday – Kihei
- Nakalele Blowhole – Take a drive past Kapalua for picturesque, winding roads and stunning views of the rugged North shore of Maui. Stop at Nakalele Blowhole and take the hike down for an awesome display of mother nature. Warning: this can be a dangerous spot if you’re not careful. Stay on the dry ground and don’t get too close to the blowhole!
- Relax under the Banyan Tree – Grab a book, some shave ice and head down to Lahaina’s famous banyan tree for a nice, relaxing time in the shade.
- Whale Watch – You don’t have to take a boat tour to see the whales during whale season. Grab yourself a spot on the beach, keep your eyes open, and check out our guide for the best whale watching spots from shore.
- Ulupalakua Vineyards – What’s better than wine tasting in paradise? Wine tasting for free! Ulupalakua offers complimentary tasting with a view from 10am to 5:30pm daily. Visit them online.
- Hula Show – Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Lahaina Cannery Mall hosts a free hula show at 7pm. Stop by for a free, fun show before heading down to Front Street.
- Starry Night Cinema – If you’re staying in Wailuku, a convenient and fun option is the monthly free outdoor movie under the stars hosted by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC). Check their schedule online.
- Watch the Surfers – Surfers of all kinds on Maui mean serious business. Watch some of the best in the world take on the waves (and wind) at Jaws, Ho’okipa, North Kihei and Honolua Bay.
- Wailea on Wednesdays – Every Wednesday, the Shops at Wailea host a free live music event from 6:30 to 8pm. Enjoy shopping, restaurant specials and gallery receptions with artists. Visit them online.
- Take a Hike – Enjoy the outdoors in Maui! From Iao Valley to Hana to Kapalua, there’s always something to be discovered.
- Visit the Beaches – What’s a trip to Maui without a little beach hopping? Check out our Beach Guide for suggestions on all parts of the island.
- Go Camping – Spend some time enjoying Maui life by camping at some of the most beautiful places on the island. Read our Camping Guide for the best spots and location specifics.
- Lahaina Historic Trail – Take a free walking tour of Lahaina Town, where you’ll learn more about the rich history of the former capital of Hawaii. See the online guide.
- Watch the Sunset – Pack a blanket and a beverage and head out for a truly spectacular Maui pastime. Best in South and West Maui areas, but great from anywhere!
There’s no doubt that Maui can be done on a budget with proper planning and research and without sacrificing your experience. Hopefully we have given you some useful tips to make your trip to Maui successful and we hope you enjoy backpacking on one of the best islands in the world!
All photos provided by local photographer Natalie Brown.