March 02, 2012

Best Budget Vacation: Hawaii for Fitness Freaks

Yep, it's pretty there!

So sure, the title of this post is just the usual pathetic scrambling around for googleable catch-phrases, as this is really just a recap of a recent Hawaii trip with beloved spouse and mother-in-law.

But please don't wander away just yet!  Because there are indeed 5 handy tips for health and fitness enthusiasts looking for a cheap Hawaii vacation. Plus, bonus: view an unflattering picture of Crabby lounging stark naked in a hot tub! And gosh, with that inducement, how can you resist accompanying us on our Affordable Hawaiian Holiday?

Top Five Budget Hawaii Fitness Vacation Tips

1. Sponge Off The Rich People

While we stayed in an extremely affordable condo, we happened to be within reasonable walking and driving distance from a number of Big-Ass Fancy Resorts. The resorts were sitting right on lovely beaches, many of which were accessible to low lives like us the general public if you knew where to park.

If there's anything better than whiling away a few hours at a tropical beach practicing your surfing, swimming, snorkeling, barefoot running, or napping skills--it's knowing that most of the other folks nearby were willing to fork over huge buckets of money in order to plop their affluent asses on the very same stretch of sand.  

Not Ejected Yet!

There were no riff-raff detectors in the resort's restrooms, bars, lobby, lounges, landscaped grounds, or hiking paths. So by forgoing the 10,000 threadcount Egyptian cotton sheets or whatever the hell the resorts are luring people in with these days, we got the same awesome pampered feeling. For free!

And not only that, the resort we were closest to had a great fitness center that cost only $15 bucks a day if you bought a shareable package of 10 visits. (And yes, I am neurotic and somewhat exercise-addicted. But $75 for 5 visits was way cheaper than the expensive therapy I'd need to treat my problem. Plus, I figure it's a public service!  A good workout in the morning makes me far less of a pain in the ass for the world to deal with).

But here's the very best part: besides a good selection of cardio and strength equipment and fitness classes, the fitness center day pass included FREE ACCESS TO THE LOVELY SPA!!

It was the kind of upscale place where everything smells good and they give you robes and slippers and big fluffy towels, and you can help yourself to free fruit and tea, enjoy the outdoor lava hot tub or the sauna or the steam room and scare other people away by giggling inappropriately. Even just taking a leisurely shower with pleasantly scented shampoos and soaps was heavenly.  And again, you can luxuriate in the fact that other people are booking hundreds of dollars in spa services to support the whole enterprise while you rub your own darn feet!

Rectangular red swimsuit tops will be all the rage soon, I swear.

Note: if you're curious enough to inquire in the comments, and plan to vacation on the Big Island, I'll pop down and let you know which particular fancy resort spa deal I'm talking about.

2. Create Your Own Excursions

Hiking down to Waipio Valley with the adventurous Lobster: Free!
(And no extra charge for the blisters. That's one steep-ass hike.)

There are great swimming and sightseeing and hiking opportunities on all the islands, and if you've already rented a vehicle (or in some cases, a bike) there's almost too much to enjoy for free.

Try some new fitness activity, or at least try something familiar in a totally new environment. Hiking up a steep mountain, swimming in an ocean, or biking through a lava field are very different experiences than the treadmill, lap pool, or spin class.   And sure, if you're coming for the 19th time, then go ahead and spring for tours and rides and various expensive excursions, some of which are probably wonderful.  But if you want to pare down costs, investing in a guide book (or checking one out at the library, or using the web) will help you discover all kinds of options to keep you and your family active and entertained without having to sell one of the kids into slavery.  (Well, unless it's a particularly obnoxious kid, in which case a cool helicopter ride to peek at rivers of molten lava might be kinda tempting.)

3. Hit the Grocery Store and Eat Out Strategically


Yes, many areas in Hawaii actually have real live grocery stores, and even natural food specialty places selling all kinds of healthy consumables at a small fraction the price you'd pay at a restaurant or snack bar for junky guilt-inducing meals. Setting is everything, and if you can bring some of your own healthy meals to a scenic location, you can have the twice the relaxing atmosphere of a swanky restaurant for a lot less money. If you don't have a place with a kitchen, a big cheap styrofoam cooler might be a very worthwhile investment.

But, hell, you're on vacation! Who wants to spend the whole time shopping and cooking and doing dishes or obsessing over whether the bell peppers in your salad are organic?

So don't be a total tightwad/healthfreak/martyr and prepare every meal yourself with only the purest ingredients.  Have fun too!

Mai Tai's have fruit in 'em... gotta be full of antioxidants!

4. Screw the Souvenirs

So what's up with the idea that you need more than a few photos, a sunburn, and a slightly used cocktail umbrella to remember your awesome vacation?  Do you really need matching Muu-Muus and Aloha shirts for the whole family? And will you come to regret the anatomically correct tiki wood carving of the naked male deity once he's back from his native island and sitting in your living room strutting his stuff?

You may want to skip the shopping, or, if you find something  truly unique and special, make sure it's fairly priced and something you could still appreciate without having swilled a few exotic libations first.

5. Marry Someone With a Crapload of Frequent Flyer Miles.

If this seems impractical for whatever odd reason (perhaps your current spouse is not 100% on board with the plan?) then I believe there are ways to secure good deals on flights.  This probably involves either clever advance planning or the ability to drop everything and wing off on a moment's notice. But what the heck do I know? If you googled into a blog called Cranky Fitness expecting to get the latest hot tip on airline deals I am terribly, terribly sorry to disappoint you. But just think how how those people googling "big bouncy breasts" feel when they get to an old post on sports bras?  It could be way worse.

So How Did Crabby Do On Her Plan Not to F--- Up Her Vacation By Excessive Worrying?

Pretty darn awesome!  Well, aside from a minor tantrum or two over not having internet access.  The inspiring scenery and warm breezes, plus the foresight to pack some meditation tapes and a whole new slew of self-improvement books, seemed to have had a salutary effect.

Next self-development task for Crabby: to deal with an overflowing inbox, laundry basket, and other daunting re-entry tasks without letting real life totally harsh the Hawaiian mellow.

How about you folks, any tips on saving money on vacations? Or staying fit while traveling? Or handling vacation re-entry? Or heck, just let me know what I missed while I was gone!


  1. YES tell me about this resort! We went to Hawaii in June, and LOVED the Big Island - definitely hoping to go back eventually.

  2. Hey Emily,

    It was the Hilton at Waikoloa Village, We stayed in a condo in Puako (which we mispronounced the entire time) that was walking distance to the Fairmont and a short drive to a bunch of other resorts. Sounds like you had a blast too! Like you, we're definitely planning to return.

  3. Hi Crabby-
    Yay! Your back, I have been checking every day to hear about the trip. So glad you had a wonderful time on the Big Island.
    My husband and I went to Honolulu for the first time a few years ago and spent a fraction of what many people spend by doing exactly what you said. I researched all the fun, free activities Hawaii has to offer. That is is entire reason I wanted to vacation there - free beauty. We rented a car and explored the entire island. Hanauma Bay, North Shore, we climbed to the top of Diamondhead (way more fun then the stairmaster)
    I am planning a trip to the Big Island for later this year and my plan is the same. Free fun, volcano's, waterfalls. As far as eating goes, when we were there we only ate when we were hungry, smaller meals we could take with us. It was the greatest vacation ever. I can't wait to go back. Thaks for the update.
    ps - love your blog

  4. hey thanks mrs mars! Sounds like you found all the most awesome things to do last time and didn't spend your whole time crammed towel to towel with other toursists on the beach but really went out and explored. You'll have a blast on the Big Island!

  5. Welcome back Crabby! I have always wanted to go to Hawaii, and now that Hawaii 5-0 is back on, I want to go even more. Sadly, I don't see that happening any time in the near future :(

  6. Welcome back Crabby. I've never been to Hawaii, but now I REALLY want to go. You make it sound wonderful and (somewhat) affordable - except for the airfare. Next time you go, bring a really big suitcase so I can go too. (I can so fit in a really big suitcase.)

  7. Oh Cranky you make me want to go back. We did Hawaii pretty "cheap" well of course for Hawaii ans it's very expensive. My friend is a Disney Vacation Club member so I didn't have to pay for the room, then she has Marriott points for all the traveling she does, so we got to stay in Maui for free as well. We ate maybe 1 1/2 meals a day, for some reason, we were never hungry, must have been all the excursions we took. I loved Hawaii, I would love to go back! The flight from MA is a tough one, but soooo worth getting the Fred Flinstone feet for a day.

  8. Here is another tip for your readers, I got my flight from Boston to Honololu for a total of 600 bucks. If you go to and put in a package deal of hotel and flight, but then choose only 1 day in a hotel, you usually get a great deal on a flight. I chose the cheapest hotel. Then never showed up, they still got their money and I got a 300 savings on my flight.

  9. Glad to have you back.

    For reentry laundry, i do the "today plus" method. That means i wash all the laundry from today, plus a few items from the backlog. Doing this each day means in a few days, there is no backlog.

    One family i knew would buy one souvenir on each vacation. It was something they all agreed about and that would hang on a Christmas tree. That way, each year as they decorated for the holidays, they also relived the memories of all those vacations.

  10. Hey, great suggestions on airfare Starving Bitch, and Messymimi, "baby steps" on laundry sounds like very sensible advice.

    And I'd totally love to pack ALL you guys in my suitcase next time. Cranky Fitness Luau meetup, whaddya say?!?

  11. Welcome back, Crabby, you (and your jet-lagged laundry) seem to have had a great time.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  12. The Big Island is my fave but with the $$ probs of the past few years, we have not been unfortunately.. I so miss it & recognize some of the photos! :-) AND yes, we would hit those beaches by the resorts as well!

    We bought a timeshare way back in the early 80's when they were cheaper & we had some money so we have a place like that with kitchen & all so it works. I use the fitness center & run early outside & bring bands too. Like you, I need to get my workouts in BUT I do less days & not as crazy cause we are out being so active there.

    One thing we did do when we had some extra $4 & so worth it - a trip to the observatories on the island - OMG - amazing!!!!! WE actually sat thru a timeshare presentation to get a half off on this but just being up there was well worth it!

    I can't wait till we can go back again. As for re-entry - I go for NOT! ;-)

  13. Good to see you back! Sounds like you had a fabulous time.
    Love the idea of a Cranky Fitness Luau meetup!

  14. Welcome home! Yes...reenter slowly. Nothing you HAVE to do is that urgent. Someday I hope to see Hawaii...someday. :)

    Edit: OK, your "urgent" task is to turn off this character word verification thing. Wow. And I don't even wear glasses...

    (maybe third try...)

    (PSS...I know you didn't turn it on. I am just bugging you)

  15. Yay, love to see bestest blog friends stopping by, I went through withdrawal while away.

    And I hate this new word verification thing so much, I am finally thinking of switching to wordpress. Given the nightmare transistion that's probably going to be at this point, plus adding hosting costs, that's some SERIOUS frustration. Why is blogspot being so stupid about this???

  16. You three are the poster women for how to do a great vacation in a great location!

    Jealous "R" us!

  17. I love the Big Island. *sigh*

  18. I'm planning a trip to Hawaii in the near future, now you've really made me want to go!

  19. Wow! Looks like a fantastic vacation! I hope I get to Hawaii one of these days, the scenery looks amazing. :)

  20. Welcome back.
    Thanks for sharing about staying fit there "on the cheap". I remember years ago when I was in Hawaii, just being able to hike for free through the mountains, all the while getting great exercise....Top it off with some calisthenics, and makes for a great exercise program. (Although, however, I really like your thoughts about renting the fitness center for a couple bucks a day).
    Glad you had a good time, Crabby.

  21. Now that looks like a really great place for a vacation!

  22. Great pictures! I've never been to Hawaii, and I've never heard it mentioned as a "budget" vacation possibility, but I enjoyed reading the article, and maybe a budget trip to Hawaii would be possible. It's certainly a great place to fitness-conscious people. It seems like Hawaii always has something going on- the iron man triathlon, surfing competitions, etc.

  23. Lucky you. I guess it's also a great way to go to beaches where a lot pf people, both male and female, have great bodies to somehow motivate ourselves or inspire others to stay with their diet and achieve the same goal.

  24. I have been there. I love Hawaii

    Benjamin Raucher


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