Here are some free things to do in Honolulu because vacationing in Oahu doesn't have to break the bank. Some cost a little bit of money but most are under $5. Hang out at the beach, explore the north shore or do cultural activities.
Do the classics: Waikiki Beach in town, Sunset Beach, Pipeline and Waimea Bay on the north shore. Also consider Kailua Beach and Lanikai on the east side where the President and celebrities rent vacation houses. Consider Waimanalo and Bellows beach to escape the crowds.
While technically free it's the #1 attraction on the island which can and usually does mean a wait. Go early when they open to try to get a ticket and beat the tour buses pulling up. Online reservations http://www.nps.gov/valr/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm) can be had for $1.50 which I highly recommend to be efficient with your time but I think it's best to do a tour that includes roundtrip transportation. These can cost as little as $25. Learn more about Pearl Harbor here.
Diamond Head is our one of most famous "monuments" sitting as a backdrop to all that is known as Honolulu and Waikiki. At 0.8 of a mile and taking most folks a leisurely 1.5 hours to do it costs $1 per individual to enter or $5 per car. Located on the edge of Waikiki it's an easy 20-30 minute bus ride or 15 minute cab ride.
Friday nights in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village at 7:45 pm for 5 minutes. They can be viewed anywhere on the beach. To escape crowds go to Ala Moana Beach park and grab a bench facing the water toward Diamond Head or take a blanket and bottle of wine to enjoy.
Many hotels in Waikiki have nightly entertainment on their property by the pool or other locale. Buy a drink or pupu (appetizer) sit back and enjoy. There's the Tapa Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Rum Fire at The Sheraton Waikiki and the Manager's Reception at The Embassy Suites. All are open to public and if you show up at sunset or pre-dinner time that's perfect. Also consider live entertainment at Tiki's restaurant at The Aston Waikiki Beach resort and Tropic's restaurant at The Hilton Hawaiian Village. Sit at the bar to save money and have a drink. Learn more here
Used to be completely free but now it's $3 to park while checking out one of the best views on the island. Spanning high in the mountains overlooking the valley and ocean below with 180 degrees it's also where King Kamehameha conquered the island of Oahu in 1795. Located off the Pali Highway.
$7.50 to get in it's one of the best known snorkeling santuaries on the island. The #22 bus will get you there in 45 minutes from Waikiki or you can drive. Parking is $1 but I suggest going early such as 7:30 to get a spot and to avoid crowds. Learn more here
Used to be free but now they charge $5 to park but you can take the bus there as well for $2.50 but it'll take about 45 minutes from Waikiki. Gorgeous 30 minute 1.5 mile hike through the rainforest to a 150 ft waterfall. Learn more about waterfalls on the island here.
Halona Blowhole-There's a blowhole between Hanauma Bay & Sandy Beach
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Tropical Farms-get lots of free samples at this macadamia nut farm
Byodo-In Temple-about $5
Turtle Beach on the north shore-turtles sleeping on the beach
Kuhio Beach Park by the Duke Kahanamoku statue on Waikiki Beach on Thursdays & Saturdays from 6:30-7:30 pm. See the schedule here
The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center has free hula lessons, lei making, lomilomi massage instruction, ukelele lessons and entertainment. Located centrally in Waikiki where The Cheesecake Factory is across the street from The International Marketplace it's easy to find. See the schedule here
First Fridays in Chinatown, 3rd Fridays in Kaimuki and ArtAFTERDark at The Honolulu Academy of Arts on the last Friday of the month. There's also the Art On The Zoo Fence weekly weekend event on the wall of the Honolulu Zoo.
Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum and the US Army museum are some of the most well known museums on the island with information about the monarchy, history and culture of Hawaii. Also worth considering are The Battleship Missouri, Queen Emma Summa Palace and the Hawaii State Art Museum. Some are free requesting a small donation and others request a nominal entrance fee.
Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Children's Discovery Museum and viewing the penguins at The Hilton Hawaiian Village. There's also Sea Life Park with multiple shows throughout the day but now we're talking about $30 for adults to get in (less for kids).
For $2 you can ride an open air trolley around Waikiki. It takes about an hour if you don't get off and spans from the Honolulu Zoo to Ala Moana Shopping Center. Running every 10-15 minutes it makes stops throughout Waikiki allowing you to get off and explore. Other routes are available for extra charge but the most it'll cost you is $30 with unlimited hopping on and off. Learn more here.
Depending on when you're in town there may be a festival or parade going on. The King Kamehameha floral parade in June and The Honolulu City Lights at Christmas time are examples. Learn more about events on this page and see the specific parade & street activities schedule here.
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