Cheap Eats

Ten great ways to save money on meals without sacrificing on quality

By: By Marty Wentzel

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Hawaii Fall Values (2009.09.01) CoverClick here to download the complete PDF of the September 2009 Hawaii Fall Values supplement.

Click here to read about Associate Editor Deanna Ting's favorite Oahu eateries.

There’s no doubt that dining in Hawaii can run up a big bill. However, just because clients are traveling to the islands on a budget, doesn’t mean they need to settle for unappetizing fast food. With some strategic planning and the right tools at their fingertips, they can dine well without breaking the bank. Here are 10 tips for saving money on meals around the islands.

1.Book accommodations that come with a kitchen. Even if clients eat just one meal a day in their guestroom, they’ll save themselves a bundle of money. It’s perfect for travelers who don’t mind doing their own cooking now and then. Better yet, having a refrigerator means they can stock up on snacks and drinks in the room.

2.Shop at the local farm


Some Hawaii hotels offer a kids-eat-free program.// © 2009 Starwood Hawaii

ers’ markets. Not only are the prices reasonable, but the fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and other local products are unrivaled in their freshness. It’s also a great opportunity to meet the growers and chat with island residents.

3.Choose lodgings that offer free breakfasts and afternoon receptions. Whether it’s free pupus (appetizers) and drinks with the hotel manager or a gratis morning meal, these rate-inclusive perks allow clients to spend less of their hard-earned vacation cash on food and more on activities and adventures.

4.For families, look around for restaurants with kids’ menus, where portions are smaller and so are the prices. Better yet, select a hotel or condo with a kids-eat-free program, allowing young guests to dine for a song when accompanied by an adult who orders off the regular menu.

5.Make the most of coupons, good for everything from a free appetizer or dessert to a percentage off the total bill. Some hotels and resorts hand out coupon booklets to arriving guests. Clients can also find them in free visitor publications distributed at the airports.

6.Split a meal. Restaurants will usually allow guests to divide an entree, either for free or a nominal fee. Adding individual salads and desserts to the order results in an inexpensive three-course dinner.

7.Scout out the early-bird specials and happy hours. Many restaurants encourage clients to pull up a chair before the evening rush by lowering prices on full meals before 6 p.m. Some restaurants, such as Eggs ‘N’ Things in Waikiki, time their early-bird promotions with the breakfast crowd instead.

8.Carry out a meal from one of Hawaii’s unique food wagons. Many of them serve the traditional plate lunch — an entree, two scoops of rice and macaroni salad — or tasty variations of the theme, for under $10. Oahu’s North Shore shrimp trucks, flanking the area’s aquaculture ponds, feature fabulous seafood at low prices.

9.Try a hole-in-the-wall eatery instead of a tourist-oriented restaurant or mainland chain. Not only are these eateries reasonably-priced, but the portions are large and the food is unique to the islands. A good example is Ono Hawaiian Foods in Waikiki, which offers all the same dishes that are served at a luau for a fraction of the bill.

10.Find an all-you-can-eat buffet. Weekday lunch prices are usually the best you can get, ranging from about $8 to $15. Elaborate spreads of seafood and Japanese cuisine are the norm in Hawaii, and Honolulu’s Hanaki and Makino Chaya restaurants are top-notch choices.