March, 2004 -- There's no place on earth quite like this handful of sun-drenched mid-Pacific islands. Here you'll find palm-fringed blue lagoons, lush rainforests, hidden gardens, cascading waterfalls, wild rivers running through rugged canyons, and volcanoes soaring 2 miles into the sky. And oh, those beaches -- gold, red, black, and even green sands caressed by an endless surf. The possibilities for adventure -- and relaxation -- are endless.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to go into serious debt to vacation in Hawaii. Believe it or not, it's possible to stay in clean, comfortable, well-located accommodations -- some within minutes of the beach -- for as low as $57 a day for two. A family of four can even stay in a one-bedroom luxury condominium for as little as $24 each!
The challenge, of course, is finding the bargains. That's where we come in: We've done all the legwork for you. We've scoured the island, inspecting thousands of possibilities to fit all kinds of budgets and tastes. Below, you'll find the results of that work: a list of the best affordable accommodations Hawaii has to offer. If a hotel, condominium, or bed-and-breakfast wasn't clean and comfortable enough that we'd be willing to stay there ourselves, or if the accommodations were priced way out of proportion for what you get, you won't find on our list. If a lodging was in an area whose safety was questionable after dark, it, too, was scratched. Those places where we found the aloha spirit lacking were also excised from our recommendations.
The Best Affordable Accommodations
Aston Coconut Plaza (Oahu; tel. 800/92-ASTON or 808/923-8828; www.aston-hotels.com): This boutique hotel in the heart of Waikiki has a tropical plantation feel, and offers perks rarely found in affordable Waikiki accommodations: rates starting at $90 double, continental breakfast included, and the kind of personalized service that only a small hotel can offer.
Backpackers Vacation Inn (Oahu; tel. 808/638-7838; www.backpackers-hawaii.com): If your dream of Hawaii is staying on the North Shore of Oahu where monstrous waves roll in during the winter, this multi-accommodation property is for you. It's not just for backpackers (although they do have dorm beds starting at $15 and private rooms for $45). This North Shore property has oceanfront studios, which sleep four, starting at $80, and other oceanview homes at budget prices.
Areca Palms Estate Bed-and-Breakfast (the Big Island; tel. 800/545-4390 or 808/323-2276; www.konabedandbreakfast.com): Everything about this upcountry B&B is done impeccably, from the fresh flowers in every room to the memorable breakfasts. This charming cedar home sits in a park-like setting above the South Kona Coast; you'll enjoy watching the sun sink into the ocean from the large lanai or gazing at the star-studded sky as you soak in the hot tub. Rooms for two start at $85.
Kona Tiki Hotel (the Big Island; tel. 808/329-1425; www.konatiki.com): Right on the ocean, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Kailua-Kona, is one of the hottest budget deals in Hawaii. Although it's called a hotel, this small, family-run operation is more like a large bed-and-breakfast, with a continental breakfast buffet served by the pool every morning. The price? Just $59 to $72 double, or $79 for a room with kitchenette.
Napili Bay (Maui; tel. 888/661-7200; www.mauibeachfront.com): One of Maui's best-kept secrets (until now, that is) is this intimate two-story condo complex, located right on half-mile-long, white-sand Napili Beach. The beach here is so beautiful that people staying at the much more expensive resort down the street frequently haul all of their stuff here to set up for the day. The compact studio apartments, which have everything you need, start at just $89!
Hale Ho'okipa Inn Makawao (Maui; tel. 808/572-6698; www.maui.net/~mauibnb): Step back in time at this 1924 plantation-style home, which has been fully restored to its original condition, complete with shining wooden floors and period furnishings from the 1920s. The result is a charming, relaxing place to stay upcountry, just a 5-minute walk to the shops and restaurants of Makawao town. For $95 to $110 double (including continental breakfast), you can't do better than this.
Kamalo Plantation Bed-and-Breakfast (Molokai; tel. 808/558-8236; www.molokai.com): This lush 5-acre spread includes an ancient heiau ruin in the front yard, plus leafy tropical gardens and a working fruit orchard. The plantation-style cottage is tucked under flowering trees and surrounded by swaying palms and tropical foliage. It has its own lanai, a big living room with a queen sofa bed, and a separate bedroom with a king bed, so it can sleep four comfortably. The kitchen is fully equipped (it even has spices), and there's a barbecue outside. A breakfast of fruit and freshly baked bread is served every morning, all for just $85 double.
South Shore Vista (Kauai; tel. 808/332-9339; www.planet-hawaii.com/vista): For just $64 -- including breakfast -- you can't go wrong staying at this one-bedroom apartment in the sunny Poipu area. It has a private entrance, a separate bedroom with a queen bed and full bathroom, a big lanai with ocean view, a living area with a sleeper sofa, a TV with VCR, and a kitchenette.
Victoria Place (Kauai; tel. 808/332-9300; www.hshawaii.com/kvp/victoria): Hostess Edee Seymour lavishes her guests with attention and aloha in her spacious, skylit, U-shaped house that wraps around the swimming pool and garden of bougainvillea, hibiscus, gardenia, and ginger. There's also a secluded studio apartment ("Victoria's Other Secret") down a private path. Edee's breakfasts are truly a big deal: at least five different tropical fruits, followed by something from the oven, such as homemade bread, scones, or muffins. All for just $90.
The Best Affordable Family Accommodations
Royal Kuhio (Oahu; tel. 800/367-5205; firstname.lastname@example.org): Families, this is one of the best deals in Waikiki. Just 2 blocks from world-famous Waikiki Beach, this high-rise condo features apartments with full kitchens, separate bedrooms, living areas with TVs, and private lanais--all for as little as $110 for four people. Lots of on-site extras -- ranging from a pool to volleyball and basketball courts and a putting green--round out the family friendly appeal. Hot tip: Ask for a corner unit, as they're the nicest.
Sheffield House (Oahu; tel. 808/262-0721): The Sheffields, who have three kids of their own, welcome children with open arms to their one-bedroom vacation rental, on Oahu's lush Windward Coast. The price is right at $65 double, plus $10 per child (including continental breakfast). The yard is set up for children, and the Sheffield kids aren't shy about making new friends and including them in their games.
Guest House at Volcano (Big Island; tel. 808/967-7775; www.volcanoguesthouse.com): If you're planning to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, here's the place to bring the family. A mother herself, Bonnie Gooddell has completely childproofed her house and installed a basketball hoop in the driveway; her truckload of toys will keep the kids happy for hours. You can make yourself right at home in Bonnie's freestanding two-story guest cottage, which comes outfitted with everything down to extra wool socks for cold nights. And at $75 for two plus $10 for each of the kids, it's easy on the family budget.
Hale Maui Apartment Hotel (Maui; tel. 888/621-1736 or 808/669-6312; www.maui.net/~halemaui): For $85 to $95, you and your family can stay in this tiny hotel (only 12 units) right on the beach in Honokowai. The one-bedroom units, each with private lanai, complete kitchen, and combination living/dining room, can sleep as many as five. There's no pool, but a private path leads to a great swimming beach.
Koa Resort (Maui; tel. 800/541-3060; www.bellomaui.com): These spacious, privately owned one-, two-, and three-bedroom units across the street from the ocean start at just $85. They come fully equipped with everything you'll need, including plenty of room for your family to stretch out and get comfortable. Extras like a swimming pool, a hot tub, two tennis courts, and an 18-hole putting green make this an extra-good value.
Dunbar Beachfront Cottages (Molokai; tel. 800/673-0520; www.molokai-beachfront-cottages.com): Each of these green-and-white plantation-style cottages sits on its own secluded beach -- you'll feel like you're on your own private island. Impeccable decor, a magical setting, and reasonable rates ($140 for two) make these cottages a must-stay.
Nihi Kai Villas and Waikomo Stream Villas (Kauai; tel. 800/325-5701 or 808/742-7220; www.poipuaccommodations.com): Here's a deal for you: These two wonderful Poipu properties with large, perfectly wonderful one- and two-bedroom condos a stone's throw from the beach -- from just $89 a night! What you're not getting is new carpet, new furniture, new drapes, and a prime location on the sands; what you are getting is a clean, well-located, well-cared-for unit at a bargain price. The sofa-bed in the living room allows even the one-bedroom condos to sleep four comfortably. Such on-site amenities as swimming pools, tennis and paddle courts, and barbecue and picnic areas make these value properties an even better bargain.