Travel Maui on a Cheap Budget
If you’re a backpacker or a hitchhiker you can travel Maui on a cheap budget and live large…large enough to see the whole island and the little nooks and crannies in between away from the main stream tourism.
You should come well equipped with camping gear to sleep in all types of inclement weather. Important items to bring to Hawaii – Hitchhiking 101 are:
- Rope for tying down your tarp shelter
- Stakes for making lean-tos
- A big enough tarp to cover both you and your stuff
- Waterproof jacket, pants, and boots…it rains a lot…you will get caught in it eventually
- A 50 liter garbage bag to act as a dry bag liner for your clothes and other gear in your backpack
- Ziploc bags to cover smaller items from getting wet
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Two empty 1.5 liter bottles for water
- Flip flops
- Smartwool socks or anything that isn’t made of cotton of takes too long to dry
- Preferably a synthetic 0 or 20 degree sleeping bag
- A bivy sack or mosquito netting if the bugs like your blood
- A pot and a pan to cook
- A lighter or flint and steel to start a fire
In order to travel Maui on a cheap budget you should set a total budget of what you want to spend and separate budgets on the following, transportation (possible bus fare), food, camping gear, and laundry. Whatever categories you spend less in you can splurge a bit in other areas as your trip comes to an end.
Transportation on Maui
Your transportation budget should be near 0 dollars since hitchhiking and walking are FREE. However, from time-to-time there are extenuating circumstances when the bus is necessary and with daily passes at $4.00/day you can get to most of the tourist areas on Maui, but you cannot go to the more desolate and beautiful sides of the island, which is why you should hitchhike and stick to walkin’, rental cars during Christmas are outrageously priced at $100+/day…it’s not worth it. The Public Bus system for Maui is here.
Hitchhiking and walking are FREE modes of transportation. We made it around the the whole island of Maui on a cheap budget of just $10.00 a person. It’s possible. The less you spend the more time you have to visit other islands with inter island flights or lengthen your stay in Maui. Also sign up to become a mileage member for whatever airline you choose to reduce costs for checked baggage.
Food/Drink and Staying Clean on Maui
Set your food budget to an amount you can afford for the time you want to travel Maui and adjust it from there. We lived off a $10.00 a day food budget per person for the whole month we traveled, which is unreasonable for some, but if you cook and prepare your own meals it’s very possible, even with no permanent residence. How did we do this you ask? Eat cheap, filling food, manager’s specials and fast food and do not eat out at restaurants and blow all your money on booze and cigarettes (though we indulged a little). For our food list we stuck to tortillas, re-fried beans, peanut butter sandwiches, tortilla chips and cheese, spam, rice, ramen noodles, pasta, hot-dogs and other items on sale. We also signed up for any free supermarket cards to save money. Avoid buying fruit from grocery stores. It is overpriced. Local stands are better, but keep in mind you’re on a tropical island with plentiful fruit….FORAGE IT. It’s FREE!
You can make private fires on the beach (might be illegal?) to cook your food in a secluded area or use one of the grills at the public park. No one ever bothered us. We made fires practically everywhere to cook our food. Just be safe with where you camp out at in Hawaii as meth is a huge problem even on Maui. Read my prose short story on our encounter with Johnny Jitters in Kanaha Beach Park in Maui.
For kindle you can use toilet paper from the rest room, paper towels or the free brochures and local newspapers they give out. The newspapers also make for good insulation to absorb damp boots or clothing if caught in the rain.
Water is FREE, fill up your empty 1.5 liter bottles at water fountains.
Showers are FREE. Just use the public beach showers to bathe. It is a bit chilly but free.
Electricity on Maui
All the while you can charge your electronic devices at said park depending if they have the electricity on or off.
The best/most inconspicuous place to charge your electronics is at Kahului Airport. Go to baggage claim and just act like you’re traveling, about to board a flight. Kanaha Beach Park sometimes has an outlet under the Canoe Hale among other parks throughout Maui like Kalama Park in Kihei, etc. You will find the parks with less home bums tenting up near the beach, the more readily available outlets that work. Just test them out or get a small solar panel and an external battery charger for cheap on eBay.
Camping on Maui
Figure that out on your own. Camping is only expensive if you choose to camp legally and pay for permits. There are plenty of safe places to camp off of private land that are away from the tourists, and home bums alike. Some involve walking, some involve bending the rules, some involve sleeping in the rain. It’s all a matter of how extreme you want to travel. Travel Maui on a Cheap budget and you can travel anywhere cheaply using these same principles. You just need patience for hitchhiking, stamina, determination and perseverance for walking long distances and enough food and water to get you through the rough times. After all, it is worth it for the beauty. You see the world for practically no money while others are spending my yearly salary to stay there for a few weeks in a luxurious hotel.
Points of Interest in Maui
1. Haleakala Crater
Watching the sunrise or sunset in the crater is the most memorable experience I shared with my wife while hitchhiking around the island of Maui. We hitched to the top of the crater with a family from Seattle, who paid for the entrance fee. Technically, you need permits to camp in the crater and you’re supposed to camp at designated campground, but it was not enforced.
We traversed through diverse scenery over 10,000 feet of elevation change. At the top, the 30 degree temperatures left our packs feeling empty as we hiked down the sliding sands trail in all of our cold attire. The top of the crater reminded me of a sci-fi film, gazing at a pit of sandy loans of vibrant reds and oranges. The trail meandered about through different types of volcanic ash and rock formations, making it one of the most interesting hikes through a dormant volcano, ever. As we progressed further onward, it began to change from a barren wasteland of volcanic underbelly to a dense vegetation with mountainous peaks of the most luscious greens. It felt like I walked about through Ireland. At points in the hike we gazed, eye-level with the clouds, feeling her cold precipitates tickle the hairs on our bodies.
Then we reached the last signage putting us out of the park on private land to hike the un-maintained Kaupo Gap. This led us through a non-existent trail based on instinct through the lush countryside of head-high grasses and overgrowth, tramping through dense, wet jungle. We walked away completely soaked, our boots squished with every step and every hour that passed by, we felt lost, the only souls around except the subtle moo’s from cows. They climbed the steep cliffs of the crater like wild mountain goats as they grazed about, curious about us as the gray clouds loomed above.
The deep blue ocean poked through the darkness and we knew only a few miles remained on the treacherous 19-mile hike. We kept pushing along, eager to make it to the bottom, on the south side of Maui, an oasis of sandy private beaches free of tourism. Our feet shriveled a pruney white, blisters began to inflame our toes and heels, but we kept hiking the steep, windy paths of the crater. Tall brush covered our view as the ground plateaued to a flat level and the bottom felt like a maze as we raced against the sunlight. When we finally broke free we ended up on someone’s driveway, hearing soft bellows from the open lawns….baaaaaahhhhh….bahhhaahhh. Baby goats curled up in groups, some grazing or sleeping as we hopped the last fence, completing the trail.
But, the unpaved private road still lay ahead for another dubious mile of walking. We plucked fruit from overhanging trees indulging in guava and passion fruit. When we reached the end of the road we saw zero industry. Small stores, gas stations, food, lay miles away, leaving us with little to do but thumb it towards a private black sand beach. We spent the night there in a cave, by a roaring fire, sleeping beneath the twinkling stars as the waves lulled us to sleep.
Daily passes are non-transferable and are valid for 3 days including the date of purchase.
Private Vehicle: $25. Valid for 3 days. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (14 pax capacity or less) and all occupants to Haleakalā National Park including both the Summit and Kīpahulu Areas.
Motorcycle: $20. Valid for 3 days. Admits a private, non-commercial motorcycle to Haleakalā National Park including both the Summit and Kīpahulu Areas.
Per Person: $12. Valid for 3 days. Admits one individual with no car to Haleakalā National Park including both the Summit and Kīpahulu Areas – typically used for bicyclists, hikers and pedestrians. Youth 15 and under are admitted free.
Like I said already, we hitched into the Crater so it was free for us, but even if we hiked in or rode a bicycle, $24 total is totally worth it as it was my favorite memory on the island of Maui and one of my favorite hikes worldwide so far.
2. Venus Pool
Alright, now this easily was my second favorite spot in Maui aside from the experience of just walking and hitchhiking around the island, which most people will not do. But for a point of interest, it was well worth every bit of walking and randomly stumbling upon it while hitchhiking, and it was Free. Now, this is also on private property, so be courteous, time and time again I see tourists leave their trash and shit everywhere like they own the place. Treat it with respect or continue to travel and be hated by the rest of the world for being over-privileged Americans. Anyway, Venus Pool is one of the most beautiful swimming holes I have ever set my eyes on in my lifetime. I’m sure others exist, but it’s turquoise-blue pool of brackish water, with 20-30 ft. cliffs to cliff jump off of, or you can just dip in for a cool swim. Being a hitchhiker, I stayed there the whole day and found a cave towards where the waves break and crash into the rocks. I set-up a little camp fire, set-up a laundry line to wash my clothes, and called it a night out of the rain and under the luminous starry sky on my own private beach in Maui. Because of the location there was not too many tourists in this area during the month of December near the Christmas holiday, so you don’t have to worry about too much congestion. If you stay for sunset you will weed out most people too and have the place all to yourself. Definitely check this out and if it’s not monsoon season check out the Seven Pools also, which is a little further of a hike down the highway on the Road to Hana.
Venus Pool Address: 7035 Hana Hwy, Haiku, HI 96708
3. Private Beaches on South Side of Maui
Now, this is not really a specific location, but the south side of Maui in general offers extremely breathtaking views of the sunset, ocean and a certain tranquility of relaxation being away from all the tourism and industry on the west side of the island. If you follow the highway down to the south side of Maui you will find many pull-offs where you can park and enjoy a luxurious day on a private black sand beach, or any beach for that matter. The one we found we hitched a ride in a jeep at sunset right after hiking down Haleakala Crater and got dropped off at a black sand beach where we slept in a cave. I do not have the exact location, but you’ll see an abandoned pick-up truck blown to shit, flipped upside down from a cliff hanging by the ocean-side towards where the waves break, if that helps at all. Needless to say, the south side of Maui is where it’s at if you like the solitude of Mother Nature without interruption from kids and other vacationers.
4. The Road to Hana and Honoapi’ilani Highway past Honolua Bay
Although, this is not really a point of interest per say, as it’s a lengthy road, if you have not already driven down it, or hitchhiked down it, you must do so. Just be safe, as when I hitchhiked down the Road to Hana, I got caught in a storm coming back and nearly washed away between the bits of falling rock and flooded roadways. The drive down this road is like none other. With 56 bridges, winding and curving around the bend of the mountainside you will be in for a thrilling ride of your lifetime and the only other road comparable is on the north-western most side of Maui, which is also a chilling ride along the coast. Be prepared for falling rock, sudden flooding, and other falling debris if you drive down this at any time during monsoon season or during a rain storm. That’s why there are 56 bridges along the roadway because the parts that eroded away were replaced with bridges. Check out my chilling story of hitchhiking down The Road to Hana on my last days in Maui, Hawaii right after my wife flew back to Alabama to start her seasonal job.
Now, with respect to rental car companies, please be advised I do not know their rules and regulations. However, I can assume that insurance on your rental does not cover driving on the Road to Hana much less Honoapi’ilani Highway past Honolua Bay, which is the scenic route on the north shore of Maui along the coast. This is a one-lane road with dangerous turns and bends and an eroding cliff, which at some point in the near future will eventually erode away completely. Please look into this. My wife and I walked and hitchhiked down this road, so this did not come into play for us, but the people who picked us up definitely drove rental cars as they were also tourists. Both roads are worth checking out, but if you have lead in your foot, be advised to slow down or you will plummet to your death off the side of the island. We walked a lot of those roadways and I will tell you first-hand they are extremely slick. The roadways are covered in a mossy slime, that is extremely slippery. I almost slipped several times, which means I can only imagine losing traction in a car traveling at a much faster speed than my hiking pace.
5. Red Sand Beach
If you are already in Hana then this is worth checking out over the Black Sand Beach that everyone raves about. Why? Well for one, it was much less crowded with tourists. It’s also on private land, but it was not under construction. Seeing a red sand beach is not something you see everyday, so there’s that, but it’s also cut out like Venus Pool, where much of the break crashes against rocks further out in the ocean making it a bit safer to go swimming in and I found more shady spots from the relentless sun compared to the Black Sand Beach. A few people set up hammocks to camp, which I thought gave it a friendly, and safe vibe, despite camping on the a cliff overlooking the beach. But, I would never in my life camp at the Black Sand Beach in Hana. Why? It’s permit camping, which costs money, when you can stealth camp on the beach for free (illegally). Plus, the camping site is by the septic tank, which during constant rainfall, means ponding of the sewage system. So essentially you are sleeping in all that shit-water in the grass by the septic system, which is utterly disgusting. You’d think they would find a better camping site to put people.
6. Kihei Whale Watching
With the exception of my last days on Oahu at Ka’ena Point, I never before saw a blue whale until we lounged around the beaches in Kihei. I must admit, camping around these parts at night is not advised, not just because of the immense population of home-bums, but because of the infestation of rats. However, the sunset and the amount of whales that jump up out of the water and give the tourists a show is pretty incredible. This was the only spot in Maui where we saw whales. I’m sure their are many others, and we probably got really lucky, but we faintly saw one or two jump up out of the water far off the shoreline and if there was one item I wished I had brought on my hitchhiking adventures around the Hawaiian Islands it would have been binoculars. As there were a few more whales at vehicle pull-offs along the side of the road towards Lahaina, Maui.
There are many more random adventures on the island of Maui, which we did not have time to complete, but over the course of our month long hitchhiking excursion we saw much that the island has to offer without dipping to far into the tourist pits and supporting local businesses. I won’t list all of the points of interest that the island has to offer. Some of the fun of traveling is finding out the best places on your own whether you choose the luxurious route of traveling by rental car and sleeping in a hotel or bummin’ it by the beach in a bivy sack under the stars, hitchhiking and walking. I’ll leave that up to you, but this list should get you started if you choose to backpack Maui or any of the other islands. Have fun and be safe!