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7 things to do in Maui Hawaii for $5 or less

It's not every day that one would find it perfectly acceptable to pay $20.95 to ride a train even if it does include a $2-off ad. But how often is it that you can ride a real steamboat train from Lahaina and scope out the view in Molokai, Lanai and the West Maui Mountains in Hawaii?

Palm trees in Maui
Palm trees in Maui
(Shamontiel L. Vaughn)

Still sound excessive? Probably. But there are economical things to do in Hawaii that cost far less money.

Purchase $2 day pass for bus

Renting a car means travelers can go wherever they want whenever they want, but that also includes hundreds of dollars for daily rental fees, car rental insurance and gas prices. However, at the Wharf Cinema Center, travelers can pay $2 and ride the bus all day long traveling from Maui to Lahaina. But don't compare the bus service to cities like Chicago with buses and trains that are scheduled to arrive every 7 to 15 minutes. In Maui, the buses arrive at 30 minutes after the hour between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. If you miss that 1:30 bus, you're out of luck until 2:30 p.m., but you may find yourself enjoying tourist stands during the wait. For travelers who plan on staying in Maui longer, monthly passes are also available.

Grocery store shopping for a meal

Skip the restaurant menu prices, tips and travel time. Check out healthy food options at grocery stores, such as Whole Foods Market. One trip to that organic store for $19.95: salt and black pepper chips, quinoa salad, sesame tofu, spinach artichoke dip, 365 sandwich cookies. That's four meal items plus a dessert for about $4 each and lasted three days. It's generally a good idea to have a hotel with a refrigerator should travelers choose to purchase any grocery items or have leftover meals. With the four-hour time difference (from the Midwest), it's a good idea to have some kind of meal in your hotel anyway because chances are high you'll be awake long before restaurants open for breakfast and tired by the time it's dinner.

Tour University of Hawaii Maui College

No, you won't be tested after the tour but the campus is pretty open and easy to walk around if you're near Kaahumanu Avenue. Walking around the campus area is also a fun way to burn off calories from heavy meals you may have consumed. Of course the shoppers will include strolling around Queen Ka'ahumanu Center and Maui Mall as "exercise," but admiring the buildings, palm trees and "Aloha" symbol around the campus is free exercise. Or, walk around the beach area by Kahului Harbor and admire the West Maui Mountains. Fisherman and dog walkers randomly show up around the harbor so it may not be long before you make a new friend.

Luau Mondays at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center

The price to attend a luau can easily cost a traveler anywhere from $75 to over $150. This does include food, traditional Hawaiian music, hula dancing and history about Hawaiian culture. But if your focus is entertainment only and you just want to enjoy the hula girls and guys, and hear live music, Queen Ka'ahumanu Center offers a luau performance every Monday. Audience members sit in chairs positioned near the front of center stage and enjoy the show.

Visit outlet stores in Lahaina

The beauty of cities and islands that are tourist attractions are that there's always a sale or clearance going on. Of course the store sales may change in the blink of an eye, but check sites like for coupons. With Hawaiian clothing company sites like this, if there's not a deal at one place there's always one at another. For example, there's currently a 10-percent off coupon with no minimum purchase. Promos of multiple T-shirts for $20 are pretty common in Lahaina's outlet clothing stores and gift stores. Buy four or more and that's $5 or less a piece. Collect the brochures at Kahului Airport and in your hotel lobbies because those always have coupons inside. But if you have Internet access, check the rates to make sure those coupons are really a deal.

Check out artwork in Lahaina

Chances are slim that travelers will want to lug around huge paintings from Maui back home, but that doesn't stop them from browsing in stores like Images, which is an art gallery that includes custom framing. The bonus is that for those who don't want to just window shop, there is an option to have the paintings shipped to your home address. But the place is so big that it may take some time to narrow the final choice to just one piece. However, the artwork is quality so don't expect cheap pricing. No one can charge you for window shopping though.

Enjoy the free hotel coffee

Hawaii is known for its homegrown coffee, and with the massive amount of coffee sold at Kahului Airport the island is not subtle about it either. Depending on the traveler, most will ignore the hotel coffee they're already paying for in room fees and purchase coffee at restaurants. Who wants to sit in a hotel room and drink coffee when you can be out on the town? Ignore that thought pattern with Hawaiian coffee. Soak it up. None of their coffee should be ignored. There's Kona Hawaiian Blend micro-roasted coffee that could possibly make you want to throw away your entire collection at home.

Hanging out on Kahului Harbor

Behind Maui Seaside Hotel there are lawn chairs that look out over the island water. The water was too enchanting to not want to touch it. Starting out at Lono Ave., to Ka'ahumanu Ave., this video was filmed at the Kahului Harbor near the West Maui Mountains.

Maui quick facts (Source: Census)


Median household income: $64,058

Median value of owner-occupied housing units (2008-2012): $563,500

Retail sales (2007): 2,474,819

Retail sales per capita (2007): $17,437


Median household income: $67,492

Median value of owner-occupied housing units (2008-2012): $517,000

Retail sales (2007): 17,611,851

Retail sales per capita (2007): $13,793

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all her latest Chicago finance, employment and savings tips, or subscribe to her Chicago Personal Finance channel at the top of this page.

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