22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (2024)

In my experience, vacationing in Hawaii can indeedbe pricey. Nonetheless, I’ve found that the easiest way to make your trip more affordable is to look for attractions that won’t cost you anything! So, let me share the 22 best free activities on Oahu, Hawaii.

To further help you with your planning, I’ve categorized attractions by island location, including Honolulu, the North Shore, and Oahu’s Windward Coast. Whether you enjoy beach activities, hiking, or photography, read on for exciting things to do in Oahu for free.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you book an activity or reservation through these links at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

Free things to do in Honolulu

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (1)

Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii and one of the top things to do in Honolulu for free.

1. Spend the day at Waikiki Beach.

When visiting Oahu, most people end up staying in Waikiki for at least part of their trip. So, while there, you can’t miss spending some time at the famous Waikiki Beach! This sandy beach is one of the most famous places in Hawaii thanks to its history within the surfing world and its accessible location.

So, grab your beach towel and gear and relax while you watch the surfers and fellow beach-goers pass by. Or, choose to swim, paddleboard, or take a catamaran ride here! With its incredible view of the Diamond Head State Monument, Waikiki Beach is also a great place to snap a few photos with the family.

If you have extra time and want to explore more beaches in the area, we recommend the nearby Ala Moana Beach Park. This 100-acre park features a half-mile golden sand beach and is right across the street from Ala Moana Center.

2. Participate in cultural activities and experiences at the Royal Hawaiian Center.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (2)

A green space inside the Royal Hawaiian Center in Honolulu.

The Royal Hawaiian Center, located in the heart of Waikiki, is much more than just a shopping center! In fact, it hosts weekly cultural activities and experiences, which are some of my favorite free things to do in Waikiki.

These exciting events include lessons in playing the ukulele, hula dancing, lei making, and lauhala weaving. Plus, you also can attend free hula shows and live music performances from local groups!

Check out the complete list of events at the Royal Hawaiian Center here. Then, after you visit the Center, grab a delicious shave ice from Island Vintage. You also won’t want to miss seeing the beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel, known as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

3. Explore the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (3)

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Visiting Pearl Harbor is one of the best things to do in Hawaii. So, it may come as a surprise that it’s free to enter this historic site! Nonetheless, note that you do need to make a reservation for Pearl Harbor National Memorial’s USS Arizona Memorial Program via the Recreation.gov website.

While you don’t technically have to pay for your ticket, the website does charge a $1 per person service fee to complete your reservation (non-refundable). After receiving your confirmation email, make sure to print out your QR code or take a screenshot of it on your phone.

Read more: Tips for Visiting Oahu

4. Listen to a Royal Hawaiian Band performance.

Don’t miss the Royal Hawaiian Band‘s live performances in Honolulu. Established by King Kamehameha III in 1836 as the “King’s Band,” they initially performed at state events and parades. Today, they’re the only full-time municipal band in the U.S., participating in over 300 events annually.

The Royal Hawaiian Band normally puts on free performances on Fridays at Iolani Palace and Sundays at the Kapi‘olani Park Bandstand. However, we recommend checking their official calendar for exact times and locations.

5. Stop for a photo at the Duke Kahanamoku Statue.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Oahu for free, check out the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. This bronze statue is locatedon Kuhio Beach and commemorates “the father of modern surfing.”

Besides his incredible surfing skills, Duke was also a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming and a military police officer during World War II. As a way to honor his impressive legacy, visitors often leave leis on the statue.

However, please note that the Hawai’i Tourism Authority currently discourages this practice as the acidity from the flowers chips away at the bronze. So, if you’d like to leave a lei here, please place it at the statue’s feet.

6. Hike Honolulu’s free trails.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (5)

Manoa Falls is one of the most popular free hiking trails in Oahu, Hawaii.

The Honolulu area is home to all sorts of incredible options for hiking! Two of the most popular free things to do in Oahu are the Manoa Falls Trail (moderate) and the Koko Crater Tramway to Koko Head Lookout (hard).

Regarding Manoa Falls, entry is free; however, you’ll need to pay $5 to park in the designated trail lot. For the Koko Head Stairs, you can find free parking at the Koko Head District Park parking lot.

Note that the most famous hike in Honolulu is Diamond Head (moderate), which currently has an entrance fee of $5 for non-Hawaii residents, along with a $10 parking fee. However, this price still lands Diamond Head in the category of the best cheap things to do in Honolulu.

Always verify trail conditions online before starting your trek, regardless of which hike you choose. Trails in Hawaii will sometimes close due to inclement weather! Additionally, ensure you have solid hiking shoes with good traction.

Read more: Instagram Spots in Oahu

7. Peruse the Hawaii State Art Museum.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (6)

View of the outside of the Hawaii State Art Museum in Honolulu.

You can find the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum (HISAM) in downtown Honolulu, located on the second floor of the No. 1 Capitol District Building. This public museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is always free.

It should only take about 30 minutes to an hour to check out the exhibits, but it’s a beautiful way to experience Hawaiian art! Take a video tour of the museum here.

8. Take a walking tour of the Waikiki Historic Trail.

You’ll find the two-mile Waikiki Historic trail marked with bronze-cast surfboards, beginning in Kapiolani Beach Park and ending at Kalakaua Park. Along the way, you’ll learn about the history and culture of Waikiki, especially before it was the bustling area that it is today.

There are 21 markers on this self-guided walking tour, featuring locations like the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the International Marketplace, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and more. The surfboard markers are over six feet tall, so they should be easy to spot!

There are only two stops without markers: the Duke Kahanamoku Statue and the Healing Stones of Kapaemahu. Click here to learn more about the Waikiki Historic Trail and print out a map.

9. Friday Fireworks show at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (7)

The Hilton Hawaiian Village fireworks show is on Friday nights.

Are you looking for the best free things to do in Honolulu at night? The free fireworks show at the Hilton Hawaiian Village each Friday has been a tradition since 1988! The spectaclebegins at 7:45 p.m. from September to May and 8 p.m. from June through August.

The fireworks only last about four minutes after starting. So, you’ll want to arrive early to snag a prime viewing spot! We suggest bringing a beach towel and sitting along the beach near the Hilton Lagoon.

10. Watch the sunset at Tantalus Lookout.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (8)Tantalus Lookout, also known as Puʻu ʻUalakaʻa State Wayside, offers one of Oahu’s finest free experiences. Just a 15-minute drive from Waikiki, it provides a stunning view of the sunset, casting warm hues over the ocean, the Waikiki skyline, and Diamond Head Crater.

Unlike Diamond Head, Tantalus Lookout remains open at sunset and is easily accessible via a scenic drive through Manoa. I recommend arriving about an hour before sunset to secure a parking spot.

The lookout features a grassy area for picnics, encouraging visitors to bring a blanket and snacks. Check the park hours, which currently extend until 6:45 p.m. in winter and 7:45 p.m. in summer.

11. Watch the Kuhio Beach Torchlighting and Hula Show.

The Kuhio Beach Torchlighting and Hula Show is a free event across the street from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. It takes place on the only authentic hula mound in Waikiki, near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue.

Catch the show on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and the last Sunday of the month (weather permitting) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Enjoy traditional conch shell blowing, authentic Hawaiian music, and hula. Seating is available on the grass, or bring your beach chair! Visit the official website for details.

2024 Update: This show is on pause thanks to a lack of funding. I’ll update here if anything changes!

12. Visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (9)

The National Memorial of the Pacific is an important attraction in Honolulu, honoring past veterans.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located in Punchbowl Crater and honors the many men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Construction on this impressive cemetery was first completed in 1949.

Since then, around 53,000 World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans and their dependents have been laid to rest here. Notably, famous World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle was among the first individuals to be interred here.

The cemetery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is free to visit. The well-maintained grounds offer a sobering experience as you pay respects to those who gave their lives in service. While you’re there, you won’t want to miss the beautiful view from the Punchbowl Scenic Lookout.

Free things to do on the North Shore

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (10)

The Haleiwa surfer sign is one of the best places to take pictures on the North Shore.

13. Take a photo at the Haleiwa sign.

If you’re looking for the best things to do on the North Shore during your Oahu vacation, don’t miss the highly Instagrammable Haleiwa surfer signs. Carole Beller, an artist from California, created these installations in 1996 to draw attention to Haleiwa Town.

Since then, these signs have become popular spots to stop and take pictures while passing through. There are two versions: the surfer girl Haleiwa sign is located at 62-330 Kamehameha Hwy, while the surfer boy is at 62-400 Joseph P. Leong Hwy.

Since both of these signs are placed along the side of the highway, it’s important to remember to be cautious when taking your photos here.

Read More: Places to Watch the Sunset on Oahu

14. Relax in the sun at Sunset Beach.

Sunset Beach, located about an hour’s drive from Honolulu, stretches for two miles and features soft beige sand. It’s a great spot to relax, sunbathe, and watch surfers catch the waves. In fact, Sunset Beach is mainly famous as a big wave surfing destination– especially during the winter.

However, you can also swim here during the summer if the conditions are right. As you might have guessed from its name, one of the best free activities at Sunset Beach is watching the sunset!

15. Observe the sea turtles at Laniakea Beach.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (11)

Observing the Green Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach is one of the best free things in Oahu.

Laniakea Beach is also known as “Turtle Beach” because it’s a great location to observe Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. After parking in a free spot across the street, walk to the far right end of the beach.

The best time of day to try to see the sea turtles is during lunchtime–between 11 a.m.-1 p.m.–especially during the summer months. Another possible time to observe the turtles is around sunset. Please remember that it is illegal to touch or harass these animals.

Hawaiʻi’s Division of Aquatic Resources recommends keeping a distance of at least 10 feet (3 meters) from all turtles. Honu Guardian also stations volunteers along the beach to keep the sea turtles safe and to remind visitors of the laws. Feel free to ask the volunteers questions about the turtles!

16. Watch the waves and surfers at Banzai Pipeline.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (12)Visiting the Banzai Pipeline is one of the best free things to do on Oahu if you enjoy watching surfing and big swells. This North Shore beach is famous for its perfect barreling waves, attracting high-level surfers from all over the world to its waters.

As a safety precaution, it’s best to leave the actual surfing at this spot to the professionals. If you have the chance to visit, December is the best month to catch pro surfers at Pipeline.

Look Here: Best Quotes About Hawaii

17. Go snorkeling at Shark’s Cove.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (13)

Shark’s Cove is a perfect place to go snorkeling on the North Shore.

Shark’s Cove, one of the most famous snorkeling spots on Oahu (alongside Hanauma Bay on the southeast coast), teems with diverse marine life like butterflyfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, tang, sea turtles, eels, and more. Despite its name, you can rest assured that there are no actual sharks here!

In fact, the name of this cove actually stems from the shape of the reef surrounding it, which looks like a shark from above. The best time to visit Shark’s Cove for snorkeling or swimming is during the summer months due to the large waves during the winter.

If you already have snorkeling gear, this experience is entirely free! Just make sure to arrive early enough to snag a parking spot. Even if you need to rent or buy snorkeling equipment at a small cost, this budget-friendly activity still ranks as one of the best cheap things to do in Oahu.

Free things to do on the Windward Coast

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (14)18. Visit Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of the best free Oahu activities and one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii. “Ho’omaluhia” means “to make a place of peace and tranquillity,” so why not pack a picnic and relax here among the palm trees and plants?

While visiting this botanical garden is free of charge, we still recommend arriving as soon as it opens at 9 a.m. This attraction is super popular, so sometimes, finding a good parking spot can be challenging!

Plus, the sun isn’t as intense in the morning, so walking around during this time of day feels better. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.

19. Sunbathe and swim at Kailua Beach Park or Lanikai Beach.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (15)

Lanikai Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.

Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach are the two top-rated beaches on Oahu’s Windward Coast. Plus, they’re located directly next to each other, so you could easily visit both in one trip! Both beaches have warmer water and are ideal for swimming.

While Lanikai Beach is often considered the most beautiful beach in Oahu, Kailua Beach has its advantages too. For example, the latter has a designated parking lot and public bathrooms.

When visiting Lanikai, you’ll have to park along the street in a residential area, where parking violations are strictly enforced and there are no public restrooms. Be mindful of parking signs, ensuring you do not block residents going about their daily lives.

Look Here: Packing List for Hawaii

20. Take the Lanikai Pillbox Hike.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (16)

The Lanikai Pillbox hike offers an incredible view of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands.

The Lanikai Pillbox hike is one of Oahu’s best hiking trails, with picturesque views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. Spanning approximately 1.8 miles, this moderate-to-hard hike should take anywhere between 60-90 minutes roundtrip.

Before beginning this hike, remember to check trail conditions online. Also, wear hiking shoes since this area can be slippery. We also recommend packing an insulated water bottle to stay cool and hydrated in the heat!

21. Hike Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (17)

View of the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse and the trail leading up to it.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is one of the best things to do in Oahu for free for families (pet-friendly, too!). Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Honolulu, this easy 2.5-mile hike offers stunning views, with the possibility of glimpsing Molokai on clear days.

Moreover, if you happen to be visiting from December to April, there’s a chance you’ll even be able to spot a humpback whale! If you’re traveling with kids, you may also want to check out Sea Life Park Hawaii while you’re in the area.

22. Check out the view from Nu’uanu Pali Lookout.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (18)

Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout is a historical landmark with amazing views of Oahu’s windward side.

Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout offers one of the prettiest views of Oahu’s Windward Coast. You can spot Kaneohe, Kaneohe Bay, and Kailua from all the way up here! This lookout is located a short five-mile drive from Honolulu, making it a convenient spot to visit.

Additionally, entry to the lookout is free, but parking costs $7. Be prepared for strong winds, and bring a jacket. Due to the prevailing trade winds in the area, Nu‘uanu Pali functions as a natural wind tunnel.

Read More: Best Places to Eat in Oahu

Did you enjoy this post? Pin it for later!

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (19)

This article was first published in August 2021 and has since been updated.

22 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii (2024)


Can you go to Secret Beach in Oahu? ›

If you're looking for a secluded paradise on your next Hawaiian vacation, the Secret Beach in Oahu is a must-visit destination. While getting there may be a challenge, the journey is worth it once you set foot on the secluded beach.

What is the minimum days on Oahu? ›

Five days is how many days you need to visit Oahu. With a minimum of five days on Oahu, you will have time to visit the south and north shores, see the best beaches, go to a luau, and do worthwhile activities and sights around Oahu.

Is Waikiki Beach free? ›

Waikiki Beach stands as a quintessential symbol of paradise, drawing visitors from around the globe with its golden sands, crystal-clear waters, and the backdrop of Diamond Head. This iconic beach is a haven for those seeking relaxation and adventure alike, offering a wealth of activities without any cost.

Is Oahu Hawaii cheap? ›

Oahu is a rather pricey destination in Hawaii, but it isn't impossible to enjoy this fascinating island on a tight budget. With a bit of planning, a vacation in Oahu doesn't have to cost a fortune.

Is Secret Beach clothing optional? ›

DETAILS: Paia's “Secret Beach” is a clothing optional beach between Paia Bay and Baldwin Cove.

Where not to swim in Oahu? ›

Sandy Beach

Near Oahu's southeastern tip is Sandy's, as the locals like to call it, a beach with year-round crushing shore break. It's a favorite spot for surfers, but many tourists and wanna-be bodysurfers have walked away with sprains, neck compressions, and broken bones.

What time is the free hula show in Waikiki? ›

Hawaiian music and hula Tuesdays and Saturdays, weather-permitting 6:30-7:30 pm at Kuhio Beach Hula Mound in Waikiki. Located beachside on Kalakaua, near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. Free, outdoors, seating on the grass.

What is not allowed on Waikiki Beach? ›

No person shall throw, cast, catch, kick, or strike any type of ball, frisbee, or other similar object while on or at Waikiki Beach. No person shall fly a kite of any kind while on or at Waikiki Beach.

Can you drink beer on the beach in Waikiki? ›

Can you drink alcohol on Waikiki Beach? No, you cannot drink alcohol on the beach. However, there are several bars and restaurants in the area that have outdoor seating with a view of the beach.

How much is a meal in Oahu? ›

Budgeting for food in Oahu can vary drastically, depending on your preferences. A meal at a mid-range restaurant could cost between $10 to $30 per person, while a fine dining experience can easily go over $50 per person.

What is the cheapest month to go to Oahu? ›

What is the cheapest month to fly to Hawaii? When planning your trip, it's good to keep your travel dates flexible. Traveling to Hawaii during the Islands' “shoulder” months of April, May, September and October means you may find more affordable deals and less crowded beaches and roads.

How much is a gallon of milk in Oahu? ›

ProductPricePrice Per Unit
1 Gallon of Milk$7.65$7.65 Per Gal
12 Count Eggs$6.46$6.46 Per Dozen
1 Lb White Bread$6.06$0.38 Per Oz
1 Lb Bananas$1.79$0.11 Per Oz
5 more rows
Jun 5, 2024

How do you access Secret Beach? ›

To get to this massive secluded beach, you will have to walk an unmarked trail from the roadside. To find Secret Beach, drive on HI-56 N, and then turn right onto Kalihiwai Rd. Next turn right onto Secret Beach Rd. It will be on your left side.

How do I go to Secret Island, Oahu? ›

Once you've arrived at the Kualoa Point Park shaded area, proceed along the coastal edge until you come across a forested area on the other side of the canoes that launch from the beach. There is a rough (but safe) path that will take you directly to Secret Island.

How do you get to the beach at Secret Cove? ›

To embark on your Secret Cove adventure from Carson City, Nevada:
  1. Head south on Highway 28.
  2. Park at either of the designated lots.
  3. Access the beach via a 3/4-mile walk down a fire access road.
  4. Alternatively, you can choose the more adventurous route south of Hwy 28, following signs marking the trails downhill.

Are all beaches on Oahu open to the public? ›

That's right—there are NO private beaches in Hawaii! According to the Hawai'i Supreme Court, any land below the highest wave line is considered state property and open to the public. In general, the highest wave line is where wet sand changes to dry sand, found only during the peak hours of high tides.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated:

Views: 6238

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.