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Here’s part 2 of my “Hawaii On The Cheap” series. I’m detailing how we’re traveling affordably around the big island of Hawaii with a toddler for 3 weeks.
It’s a really great travel destination for free activities. Food is expensive, but we’re keeping costs (relatively) low by cooking most of our meals in our rental.
Before I go any further- they had this guide book in my first rental and i went out and bought it in my second week, I found it so helpful! Not going to the Big Island? No problem, the authors are locals and have a book for each major island in the chain. Click the link and look at the authors other books.
Touring, dining and spending on the Big Island with a child:
When I left off, we we’re in Oceanview (or HOVE), near South Point on the Big Island. That’s where I’ll pickup! So far, spending had totaled $3655.53.
If you want to read the posts with our pre-trip spending and first three days of travel spending, check out:
I go over planning our AirBnb’s and rental cars. We also have some extra expenses involving getting to the airport because we live rurally, so there’s that too. I just realized I forgot to add our flights, so, I’ll do that in another post during trip wrap up!
You’ll also see our big early grocery spending and details of our first 3 days in Oceanview and surrounding areas (Kona and South Point).
Now the new stuff!
Touring and Spending day 4:
We decided to get up early and head to a toddler friendly beach in Kona. We got tipped off to this by a local Sears repairman at the Kae Lae Coffee property in South Point we stopped at the day before.
Remember the value of taking time to talk to people, especially the locals! Taking time to “talk story” (loosely translated as “shooting the breeze” but more in depth and culturally significant than that) can give you some great insights and enrich your trip and experience. We mentioned having exhausted the nearby beaches (Punalu’u Black Sands Beach and Ho’okena Beach Park) that seemed toddler friendly, and he let us know where he liked to take his kids.
In this case, we got the name of a beach (which we had a hard time remembering, because of accent and everything starting to sound the same) that you could only access through the gates of a swanky private community in Kona and by asking for a beach pass at the security gate.
When we got home the previous night, I put on my detective hat and googled “baby beaches Kona.” I got this website “Safe Keiki Beaches Near Kona.” I was able to tease out the beach the Sear’s guy was talking about from reading through that (and got correct spelling of the name).
Kukio Beach – Free Parking
So, he had been referring to Kukio Beach, a bit north of the city of Kona.
The Sears guy had mentioned that you ask for a beach pass from security.
We had a bit of confusion, because there are actually TWO places to go for Kukio beach- the larger beach and the smaller Kikaua Point Park. When we first went, we went where the GPS told us, which was a guard gate at the Four Seasons Property. They gave us a parking pass and and it was a really nice parking lot and facility- but it didn’t look like what I’d seen on Youtube.
We walked a bit, past the beach, hoping to find the cove that I was looking for. Eventually we figured out that we went to the wrong place and turned around and went back.
We went back to the security gate and said we were looking for the “kids beach.” They explained that it was at the at the next guard station. We drove over there, through an unmarked wall to another guard station.
So the beach we wanted was at the security gate one road SOUTH off the highway from the well marked entrance at the Four Seasons property.
This time, they told us there were no parking passes available, as there were only 20 public parking spots. We had to wait for someone to leave to get another pass. Our misadventure in going to the wrong beach had cost us nearly an hour in total, and the beach had filled up.
Luckily we didn’t have to wait very long for a pass. And when we got to the beach, it was very much worth it.
Now, let me make myself clear, this is not the largest, most beautiful beach on the island. But, it is great for little ones. It’s a protected cove, there is no surf. There were some older people there snorkeling (though I’m not sure how great the snorkeling is).
I also liked that, due to the restricted parking on heavily patrolled, private property, we felt pretty safe and had no worries about our belongings. Parking was also FREE.
Facilities at the beach were good too- with a nice clean bathroom and shower.
Shopping and Spending after the Beach
With the little guy fast asleep in the car I took the opportunity to do some shopping. Our rental was about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Kona, so I wanted to hit Costco again.
On the way to Costco we passed a Goodwill Store. If we weren’t restricted by luggage I would have been more into looking at thrift stores, but decided to stop and look anyway.
I didn’t want to get a sunburn and was able to find myself a rash guard beach shirt thing (on sale), a cool new tie dye, and some water shoes for little guy (he wasn’t liking wearing his Teva-esque sandals in the water). Ended up spending $8.52 at Goodwill.
At Costco I bought some Koloa Dark Hawaiian Rum and some Volcano Winery Macadamia Nut Honey Wine and some cheap riesling. The rest were groceries.. though I can’t remember what. Remember, we cook almost all meals at home/picnic cooler lunches. I got out of a Costco spending less than $100, so that’s a win for me. Total there, $97.51
Total Spending Day 4: $106.03
Touring and Spending Day 5
Weekends are big for families in Hawaii, so we made a point to not plan to go to any beaches on the weekend. The beaches are often crowded and many families are using the facilities for events. Indeed, the park we had lunched at a few times previous, Waiohinu Park, appeared to be hosting a giant wedding!
The weekends are big for farmers markets, so that’s what we did. We hit the “Flea Market” in Oceanview which had a variety of things – used junk, produce, cooked food, art. I bought 3 papayas there for $5.00.
Next we hit the market in Waiohinu, on the way to Na’alehu. I can’t find a page for this. But, it was on church property I think. The vendors there were all selling used products or art- no produce. The church band was active and they were selling plates lunches out of the church kitchen.
My son played with some really friendly local kids for a while and I bought a li hing mui flavored local made ice-pop for $2.00. Basically a popsicle. It was way to sweet and melted quickly.
Next we went to the “Farmer’s Market in Na’alehu, which was just two vendors in front of the Ace Hardware store. One selling produce and one selling jewelry and other stuff.. I bought 3 starfruit and a bunch more apple bananas for $5.00.
I did this while my family played at the park in town and then went to join them. One thing I was amazed by throughout the trip was the quality and quantity of parks.
Little guy feel asleep as we headed home, so we decided to drive down to South Point, the southernmost point in the USA, and check it out.
We’d been on a previous trip, so, didn’t feel much need to do anything and it was a way to kill the time. We sat in the car and watched the cliff jumpers/divers for a while and then started to drive back. My son woke up just then, so we got out and looked around a little bit at some of the cliffs.
Papakolea Green Sands Beach
South Point is also where you go to park for the Papakolea Green Sands Beach. We drove out to see how much it would cost to be driven to the beach.
Things have changed a lot since we were there in 2011! Last time, we parked and hiked in. There were guys in junky looking pickups and Jeeps offering to drive people in/out for maybe $5-10 and save you the 1 hr (hot, long, dusty) walk each way. Previously there were maybe 10 cars in the “lot.”
Now, there were at least 100 cars (it’s not a very big beach). There were portable toilets. There were even some enterprising locals who may have been trying to get people to pay for parking. One of these people saw us looking around and we asked about the rides to the beach…
It’s now $20 per person for rides, and they’ve upgraded from junky old pickups to Polaris 4-seat off road vehicles. Quite the little venture they’ve built for themselves!
Finally Some Coffee!
We still weren’t ready to head home just yet, so we stopped at Kae La Coffee on the way home and actually bought two cups of Ka’u Coffee grown somewhere nearby and used their great little free kids play area again (checkout Part one for more info). We spent $9.00 on the coffees here.
On the way home we drove way way way up the hill in Oceanview. We wanted to checkout what it was like up top as we had heard that it was really cheap to purchase land. I think I used half a tank of guess driving up, and it dropped about 20 degrees too!
It was a bit otherworldly up there. There’s not much growing and most everything is built on old lava flows. The homes range from really nice, to third world shacks. They’re all on catchment systems, and many looked totally off grid. I wouldn’t want to break down up there. And I can see why it’s so cheap.
We headed home after this to dinner in our rental.
Total Spending Day 5: $21.00
Touring and Spending Day 6
I felt we’d pretty much exhausted things to do in the area of Oceanview and South Point by Day 6, so we headed to the Puna area to check out the big Sunday Farmers market. I had to drive an hour and 45 minute each way, but, I figured we wouldn’t need to hit this area when we went to Hilo.
The Maku’u Farmers Market in Puna is the biggest I went to on the Big Island. Puna has a lot of local growers and you can get some good deals there. There are also a bunch of produce vendors who are selling the same things, prepacked and basically the same prices. They’re not growers, just resellers, but much of the produce is local.
They also have a ton of vendors selling food and live music, plus the people watching is great. It’s a regular Sunday event for people who live in the area and there’s a big hippie vibe to the scene here.
We had to pay $2.00 for parking here. I bought some red potatoes for $4.00 and we bought two used matchbox type cars at the ridiculous price of $1.00 to appease a whiny toddler.
More sandwiches and fruit were in the cooler for lunch, but I couldn’t pass up the variety of food vendors. We got one plate of some kind of asian variety food and noodles to supplement our packed lunch and enjoyed the live music.
We stopped at the the school park in Pahoa as we left before we headed down to Kalapana.
Life after the newest lava flow in Puna…
Last trip we stayed in the Puna area and had a rental on the Kapoho Tide Pools. I knew that much of that had been destroyed due to the recent flows.
My husband wanted to drive around a bit and “see what we could see.” Quickly we discovered that any of the affected areas had security of sorts. They made sure only residents entered the areas.
Kalapana was the next stop and we decided to take route 137 back north as far as we could before getting cut off by lava. Didn’t make it that far as my little one reminded me that I forgot to “drink a coconut” with him. I’d promised it earlier at the farmers market, and toddlers don’t forget!
Luckily I was able to find some hippies selling coconuts and whacking the tops off with their machetes. They hung out at their pickup at the top of the cliff and parking areas down to Kehana Black Sands Beach.
I had traverse a cloud of pot smoke (kid in hand) and some sketchy looking people hanging in their cars and wandering around talking to others in cars, but I got my coconuts.
In typical hippie fashion, they were selling the coconuts “by donation.” I gave them $3.00, the same amount I had seen them sold for at the farmers market. They told me that coconuts were free for kids and asked if I wanted a big one or little one for my guy. We got a suitably small one for him to drink (which, I didn’t realize, was young enough to not even have any coconut meat to eat, dang).
We headed home after that, another 2 hour drive, to cleanup and pack to leave this rental and head to Hilo the next day.
Total Spending Day 6: $19.00
How’s the spending so far? Are we staying cheap and frugal with a toddler in tow?
I think we’re doing good so far. Keep in mind, we did most of our “big” shopping right off the bat in Kona. It’s easy enough with a cooler to haul groceries around from rental to rental. The AirBnB and car have been paid for, so it’s just our day to day spending that is going to add up. Oh, and the flights we “travel hacked” which I’ll detail later.
Total Daily Spending Days 4-6: $146.03
Total Trip Spending So Far: $3801.56
Stay Tuned For the Next Update!
It’s a three week trip!
Regina is That Frugal Pharmacist. She’s a PharmD, mother to a son with cancer, breadwinning wife, personal finance enthusiast, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. Regina’s single-income household has been debt-free, including her home, since she was 28 years old.
Her money approach is “holistic financial health.” She encourages mindful spending, awareness of the non-monetary costs of choices, and aligning personal values with money habits. Regina sees a frugal lifestyle and mindset as an important part of environmental stewardship. As such she’s interested in ongoing efforts towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.