As price wars erupt over flights, there's never been a better time to go, writes Alexia Santamaria.

Hawaii has long appealed to New Zealanders as it has all the mind-blowing natural beauty we Kiwis love (and then some), but also all the vibrancy and excitement of international cities much bigger than ours — including shopping, eating and a million ways to have fun in the sun. It's the best of all worlds; you can be in a huge mall one minute, and snorkelling or lying on the beach not long after. So is it somewhere to go if budget is an issue? Absolutely. So much of what makes Hawaii beautiful is contained in the incredible landscapes of its six major islands, most of which you can see for free once you're there. Here are some tips on how to navigate the rest.

Be transport-savvy
Don't book a car for your whole stay if you're only actually going to need it for a couple of days. For example if you're spending time in Honolulu, use The Bus (that's actually what it's called) — a day pass is US$5.50. Biki Bikes are great for making long walks shorter — much like our Lime scooters or Onzo Bikes. No point in having a car sitting around while you're lying on beaches and exploring the city; save it for when you want to get out of the centre or on to other islands to immerse yourself in wild views of volcanoes, waterfalls, lush green vegetation and the beautiful Pacific ocean.

Self-cater
Apartments are definitely the way to go if you're watching your dollars as you can self-cater and won't spend all your budget on eating out. This is a particularly popular option on the neighbouring islands, but you can find them on Oahu too.

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Eat smart
Farmers Markets and supermarkets will be your friend in Hawaii (there are ABCs everywhere and Foodland is great for stocking up too). Since you'll often be on the beach during the day, picnicking from the supplies you buy will be a very natural way to eat, and boxes of cereal and milk are a cheap breakfast option. In the evening keep an eye out for happy hours, early bird deals and always keep American portion size in mind. Sometimes a normal sized main will be enough for two, or a starter will be the size of a main back home (remember "entrees" means "mains" in Kiwi terms, it can be confusing when reading menus). Eating like a local will be much more cost-effective, and let's face it — way more authentic. You'll see plenty of hole in the wall eateries, especially when you get out of the city a bit, selling "plate lunches" with rice, meat and veges, and if you're a fan of the poke trend that's sweeping New Zealand right now, you'll be in heaven as it's everywhere — and very affordable. If you're heading to the North Shore don't miss the famous Shrimp Trucks. They are legendary.

Hit the outlets
Hawaii's shopping is famed but can end up costing you a lot when you get into gigantic malls with all those shiny, enticing shops calling your name. Fortunately there are a couple of outlet malls where you can pick up items at reasonable prices. Waikele Premium Outlets (30 minutes from Waikiki) has 50 stores with everything from Crocs to Armani, and Ward Village Shops is also definitely worth a look.

Put some time into planning
Hawaii has plenty of incredible and unique natural sights which cost nothing at all but if there's something you particularly want to do, it's good to investigate entry fees before you leave home as these (and the cost for inter-island flights) can mount up if you're doing it all on the fly while there. If you research all the interesting free activities (like fireworks displays from the Hilton, Pearl Harbor and cultural displays) and spend your time snorkelling, swimming and hiking, a holiday to Hawaii needn't cost you the earth at all.

FACT FILE

GETTING THERE

Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines fly direct from Auckland to Honolulu. Qantas flies there via a stop in Sydney

DETAILS

gohawaii.com