If you are planning a trip to Oahu and trying to save money, this blog post is for you.
Located just off the coast of the United States in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Oahu has something for everyone, starting with its warm and sunny beaches.
But there is more to Oahu than just its beaches. With its rich cultural history and vigorous outdoor activities, Oahu is an ideal destination for those who want to explore without spending a fortune.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of 15 things to do in Oahu for free.
From hiking to cultural activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy. So, if you’re looking for some free activities to do in Oahu, this blog post is for you.
1. Spend the Day at Waikiki Beach
If you’re looking for a beach day, Waikiki Beach is the place to be! It’s one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii and one of the top things to do in Honolulu for free.
You’ll enjoy all these free or cheap things to do in Oahu, from outdoor activities, free attractions, and places to visit and entertainment around the island.
At Waikiki Beach, you can take in the stunning views (from Duke Kahanamoku Beach to Kaimana Beach) and spend the day exploring the water.
Although Waikiki Beach can get crowded, it’s a series of smaller beaches, so even when the whole area is packed, you’re likely to find spots where you’re alone.
2. Go Snorkeling for Free in Oahu
There are plenty of places to go snorkeling in Oahu, and you don’t have to pay a dime.
One of the best spots is Sans Souci Beach Park, whose calm waters are perfect for beginners. You can also try Electric Beach for snorkeling if you want something more challenging.
The best time to go snorkeling in Oahu is when the tide is low. There are many places where you can rent snorkel gear, but if you have your own, there’s no need to spend any money on this activity.
3. Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial
If you want a unique and memorable experience, a visit to Pearl Harbor is a must.
You can take a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, where the remains of the sunken battleship lay, and explore the historic museums and memorials, including the USS Missouri.
Climb aboard the USS Bowfin for an up-close look at WWII-era submarines and explore the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
4. Watch a Show at the Royal Hawaiian Center
You and your ʻohana can be whisked away on a “Hawaiian Journey” from the 1920s to today at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
Here, you can enjoy powerful performances by our performing artists, hula, Tahitian, fire knife dancing, and luaus and lei making, just a short 15-minute walk away from Waikiki Beach.
Purchase tickets in advance to see the world’s greatest tribute artists and make a night of it with many shopping and dining destinations nearby.
5. Take a Hike to Manoa Falls
This stunning waterfall is located in Oahu, Hawaii, and it’s a great way to experience the island’s beauty. The hike to the Falls is relatively easy, and it takes around two hours to complete.
Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by lush rainforest and see some of the island’s fantastic wildlife.
You’ll also enjoy the refreshing mist from the waterfall as you make your way up.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the cascading falls, and you can even take a dip in the pool at the bottom.
Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you hydrated and energized during your hike.
6. Explore the Honolulu Zoo
Exploring the Honolulu Zoo is an exciting and educational experience for the whole family!
You can explore nine areas, including the African Savanna, where you can get up close and personal with more than 40 African creatures.
With the Waikiki Trolley, you can conveniently get to the zoo from many popular Honolulu attractions.
You can explore the zoo after the gates close with Twilight Tours and enjoy other night activities like movie nights and zoo camping.
Before entering, be sure to check out the admission fees.
Once inside, you’ll learn about Hawaii’s indigenous species, see pink flamingos and African giraffes, and marvel at over 900 mammals, birds, and reptiles.
7. Go on a Shopping Spree at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is excellent for bargain hunting and finding unique souvenirs.
You can find handmade goods, art, and food items all made or grown in Hawaii. This spot is a favorite of locals, and visitors also enjoy the Honolulu Shopping experience.
Bring your bargaining skills, and be prepared to haggle for the best deal!
8. Stroll Through the Liliuokalani Botanical Garden
Located in historic downtown Hilo, this beautiful garden is perfect for a nature walk.
As you stroll along the Waihonu Pond, you can cross over picturesque red bridges and admire the koi ponds below.
The garden is open from 7 am – 5 pm and is closed for Christmas and New Year’s Day.
You can also stay close to the park by finding a hotel nearby.
Enjoy the abundant trees and peaceful walking path, as well as the bathrooms and park benches.
Take your time to explore and relax in this oasis of peace, rising from the city life around you.
9. Take in the Views from Diamond Head State Monument
This iconic 300,000-year-old volcano is home to an incredible hiking trail that takes you to the crater’s edge.
You can take in the stunning views of Waikiki and Honolulu from the viewing platform.
Locals like to say that on a clear day, you can even spot the islands of Molokai and Maui in the distance.
While fairly steep, this easy hike is worth it for the spectacular views you get to experience.
Bring water, wear comfy shoes, and don’t forget your camera to capture all the beauty that Diamond Head offers!
10. Visit the Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace
The Bishop Museum, located in Honolulu, is the largest and most comprehensive museum in Hawaii and is considered one of the best attractions in Oahu.
Admission to the museum costs $10 for adults and is free for children 12 and under.
With numerous permanent and rotating exhibits, planetarium children love, and a vast collection of artifacts and specimens, the Bishop Museum is a must-see.
Head to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on US soil, to get a glimpse of Hawaiian history. This majestic structure was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua as his official residence.
You can take a guided tour of the palace to learn more about its rich history.
11. Experience the Vibrant Nightlife
Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening out or a night of wild partying, Oahu has something for everyone.
With its numerous bars, clubs, and lounges, you can enjoy drinks and music with friends or dance the night away!
On the first Friday of every month, Chinatown Honolulu throws a block party with music, free drinks, and appetizers.
Or, for a more traditional experience, why not try a luau at Ka Moana Luau, where you can enjoy a tropical-themed buffet dinner and Polynesian entertainment?
12. Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Honolulu
Why not take a walking tour of downtown Honolulu?
A tour of downtown Honolulu will take you to the city’s historical sites and architectural highlights.
You’ll learn about the city’s past, culture, and people. Several self-guided walking tours are also available for download from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau website.
If you’re looking for something more in-depth, AIA Honolulu offers architectural walking tours of the historic downtown Honolulu area on Saturdays.
Alternatively, take a free guided walking tour with a local guide to learn about the history of Hawaii and explore three well-known Honolulu craft beer places in Kaka’ako (the art district).
If you’re feeling brave, a guided walking tour takes you to some of the city’s most haunted locations.
13. Explore the Koko Head Crater Trail
This challenging 2.04 km long hike on the side of a dormant volcano crater on the island of Oahu will test your endurance and strength as you stride over 1,000 steps to reach the top.
Make sure to arrive to bring a backpack and two bottles of water, and aim to go in the evening or early morning to avoid the hot sun.
The trailhead can be found near the northern end of the Koko district park area and is free to access 24 hours a day.
The reward for your hard work will be a stunning view atop the extinct cinder cone volcano!
14. Attend the Polynesian Cultural Center
You should attend the Polynesian Cultural Center! This is Hawaii’s top attraction and is voted #1 on Oahu.
Here you can explore 42 acres of tropical splendor featuring six authentic villages representing Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand) island cultures, Samoa, Tahiti, and more!
Plus, you can experience interactive activities and fun educational opportunities.
There’s also an all-inclusive full-day package that includes a dinner buffet.
15. Experience Oahu’s Culture and Food
From seafood to hibachi, there’s something for everyone in Oahu. Start your food journey with The Hibachi, a contemporary American seafood experience featuring the day’s freshest catches.
Then, move on to the Alii Luau at the cultural center for an authentic experience, complete with live entertainment.
For something unique, visit The Sunrise Shack for some of Oahu’s most memorable food experiences.
Explore the island’s variety of cuisines, like Hawaiian-style plate lunches at Helena’s Hawaiian Food, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a Beer Lover’s Tour.
How many days in Oahu is enough?
The answer to this depends on what you want to do and see.
If you’re looking for a short getaway, a minimum of five days is enough to explore the south and north of the island.
However, seven days would be perfect if you’d like to take your time and explore more.
With ten days, you’ll have plenty of time to hit up the top Oahu attractions, see the sights, hang out at a few beaches, make a scenic road trip, and enjoy all that Oahu has to offer.
The best time to visit Oahu is between April and June or September through December when crowds are smaller.
So plan your trip accordingly to make the most of your time on Oahu!
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