Even though the Hawaiian islands aren’t the cheapest in December, Hawaii is a great place to spend the winter. One particular Hawaiian island is known for being less expensive during the winter.
Oahu combines the charm of small beach communities with the energy of big cities. It is both modern and old. The island offers a variety of affordable accommodations, free vacation activities, and family-friendly Hawaiian winter getaways.
Oahu offers a little Christmas magic and a lot of tropical weather this winter, making it the ideal place to admire the Christmas lights on the palm trees, have a vacation meal on a gorgeous Hawaiian beach, and maybe even watch Santa surf.
What to do in Oahu
With free sandy shores all around the island, spending the afternoon at the beach is the perfect budget-friendly activity. But in winter, there’s also a ton of unique and free holiday events, like Honolulu City Lights.
The first Saturday in December is designated as Christmas opening night. The 50-foot Christmas tree for the city will be lit after a march down King Street on Dec. 2, 2023, to kick off the festivities. Little ones will enjoy free photos with Santa and there will be plenty of Christmas food and entertainment. Through December 29, 2023, guests can enjoy the nighttime glitter and festive Aloha atmosphere.
The Royal Hawaiian Center, located in Waikiki on Kalākaua Avenue, is the best place for Christmas shopping. The mall has a variety of upscale stores such as Hermès and Valentino, but there is also an ABC store that is ideal for finding locally produced goods at affordable prices, such as Hawaiian snacks, souvenirs and clothing.
The Royal Hawaiian Center honors true Hawaiian culture by offering many seminars focused on the arts and history of the islands, in addition to providing free live entertainment. These special events include one-hour lessons in lei making, ukulele, hula and lauhala weaving and are open year-round to all ages at no charge. The Mele Kalikimake Marketplace at the Neal Blaisdell Expo Hall (Dec. 16–17, 2023) is also worth a visit. It serves as a one-stop shop for all your local Hawaii Christmas needs.
Where to stay in Oahu during the holidays
In Oahu, it’s easy to find budget accommodation. Hotel La Croix offers accommodations with an infinity pool, air conditioning, a mini-fridge to store food and drinks, and proximity to the beach are all features of this boutique hotel, where rates start at $135 per night.
If you’re looking for quieter accommodations, Paradise Bay Resort in nearby Kaneohe (rates start at $152 per night) offers views of Kaneohe Bay, a pool, a hot tub, free kayaks and snorkeling gear, floating docks, barbecue facilities, and a full kitchen or kitchenette, so guests can save money by forgoing expensive restaurants.
An hour’s drive from Waikiki, on the other side of the island, tourists will find a laid-back atmosphere, inexpensive hidden culinary treasures like Tita’s Grill & Catering, and stunning beaches. Any time of year, the coasts are stunning, but from November to February, the North Shore is the best place to surf on the island.
The Backpackers Vacation Inn & Hostel is the ideal accommodation for water sports enthusiasts and surfers on a budget. A private room for two costs $85 per night. Accommodations range from shared rooms to private cabins right on the beach.
You’ll also have the opportunity to get locals-only discounts on a range of activities, including horseback riding, golfing and snorkeling. And of course, there are other great ways to spend a cheap Christmas season in Oahu, including using Airbnb, VRBO and camping in tropical nature.