Looking for the Best Things to Do in Oahu for Free?
You are in the right place! We currently live in Oahu and know all the ins and outs of the island. Oahu constantly invites travelers with its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and an abundance of experiences to discover.
If you’re visiting Oahu for the first time, you may think of luxury resorts and high-end adventures. However, there’s an entirely different side that embraces the budget-conscious traveler with so many things to do on Oahu for free.
In this comprehensive guide, go off the beaten path to discover Oahu’s hidden gems with insider tips that only a local can provide. Let’s look beyond the glossy brochures to discover the real beauty of Hawaii at no cost to you!
Best Things to Do in Oahu for Free
1. Watch the Fireworks Shows at the Hilton Hawaiian Village
Almost every Friday night, expect dazzling displays of fireworks that will light up the Hawaiian night sky. The show happens at Duke Kahanamoku Beach and is truly a magical experience to do in Oahu for free!
The fireworks can be perfectly viewed from Waikiki Beach or at Magic Island. For a more memorable experience, you can book a sunset cruise to watch the fireworks show off the Waikiki shoreline. How incredible would that be to end or start your vacation?
Note: The fireworks show times are seasonal. It will start at 7:45 pm from June 2nd to September 29th or at 8:00 pm from October 6th to the next summer season.
2. Watch a Hula Show at the Royal Hawaiian Center
Immerse yourself in the graceful rhythms and storytelling of Hawaiian traditions at the Royal Grove in the Royal Hawaiian Center. Here, you will find talented hula dancers who share tales of the islands through their movements. All you have to do is walk over to the center stage for a free show!
At the Royal Hawaiian Center, there are four different cultural shows performed on different days of the week:
- Hula Kahiko Performance (Saturday 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM)
- Malu Nui Productions (Friday 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM)
- Pu’uhonnua Performance (Wednesday 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM)
- The Kawika Trask Trio (Tuesday 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM)
3. Immerse Yourself into Hawaiian Culture at the Royal Hawaiian Center
If you are looking for a more hands-on experience, the Royal Hawaiian Center also offers free cultural classes. Classes include lei-making lessons, ukulele lessons, hula lessons, and lauhala (dry palm leaf) weaving lessons.
These cultural classes at the Royal Hawaiian Center are only offered once a week. The amount of participants is limited, so be sure to get there early to secure your spot!
4. Walk Down the Main Strip of Waikiki – Kalakaua Avenue
Strolling down the main strip of Waikiki is a cost-free thing to do that will capture Oahu’s vibrant energy. On one side of the strip, you have the salty breeze from Waikiki Beach. On the other side, you have tons of retail shops and unique restaurants to experience.
The best part of Waikiki is when the sun goes down. You can still walk along the beach at night and experience Hawaii’s nightlife. Street performers, cultural displays, rooftop bars, and high-end lounges can all be found in Waikiki during the night.
Waikiki is filled with both locals and visitors from all around the world.
5. Relax at Waikiki Beach for the Day
Relaxing at Waikiki Beach is a convenient and cost-free way to savor the natural beauty that Oahu has to offer. Here, you can relax with the golden sands, gentle waves, and iconic view of Diamond Head in the backdrop. Spend your day at this world-famous beach for free!
The top things to do while at Waikiki Beach include sunbathing on shore, taking a leisurely swim, or watching surfers catch waves.
Note: Expect Waikiki to be extremely crowded from early to late noon. The early morning is the best time to come to secure a spot.
6. Visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial
Visiting the historically significant Pearl Harbor Memorial is an iconic thing to do on Oahu that is free! Their visitor center offers informative exhibits for a powerful experience to pay your respects to the past. Take this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of a pivotal moment in history, all without any cost.
Extend your experience and visit the USS Arizona Memorial since it only costs $1 for a short boat ride over. The sunken ship is still visible from above the water, and you can learn about its history.
7. Learn About History at the US Army Museum of Hawaii
This historic museum is located right next to Fort DeRussy Beach Park. It showcases a remarkable collection of artifacts, exhibits, and memorabilia of American military involvement in the Pacific Region.
The US Army Museum offers a unique opportunity to explore the history of the Hawaiian islands and the Pacific. You do not have to spend a dime here either, as admission is free!
8. Explore the Famous Dole Pineapple Plantation
One of Oahu’s staples is the fresh and sweet pineapple, which seems to taste so much better in Hawaii! Admissions to the plantation grounds at Dole are free. Other free activities include pineapple cutting, a fish feeding pond, and a chocolate-making exhibit.
If you don’t mind spending a small fee, you can experience the more iconic activities at Dole Plantations. We think this is definitely worth it for a sweet and memorable experience. It also won’t heavily dent your wallet!
The Dole Plantation Maze is the largest in Hawaii and includes over 2.5 miles to explore for only $9.25 for adults. There is also the pineapple express train tour for a 20-minute narrated tour that takes you through the pineapple plantations. Tickets are $13.75 for adults.
9. Go on Oahu’s Easy Yet Scenic Hikes
What makes Oahu so special is its beautiful and lush landscapes that can be found on Oahu’s easy hiking trails. Experience a memorable outdoor hike since it’s one of the best things to fo in Oahu for free!
We are not extremely advanced hikers ourselves, so we know where all the beginner-friendly hikes are. The Makapu’u lighthouse Trail, Lanikai Pillboxes, and the Diamond Head Trail are all easy hikes to do while visiting Oahu. These are some hikes that have well-leveled trails and some are even paved!
10. Journey to the Diamond Head Lookout
Not to confuse you with the Diamond Head Trail, the Diamond Head Lookout offers unforgettable views of the Pacific Ocean. Here, you will get a bird’s eye view of the surfers and the long stretch of waves off the coast. It is also within walking distance from Waikiki for those staying in the area.
You can also walk down the winding path to the beach for the perfect place to sunbathe. It may not be the best for swimming as it’s very rocky near the shore, but it’s not crowded at all. So you can have a lot of the beach to yourself!
You can also take a short drive over if you don’t want to walk over to the lookout.
11. Challenge Yourself Up the Koko Head Crater
If you are looking for more of a challenge then take on one of Oahu’s more advanced hikes up Koko Head Crater. This trail consists of an abandoned rail track that goes all the way up to the top of the crater!
Fun Fact: This track is a relic from World War II and was used to deliver food and soldiers at the top during the war.
This hike is over 1000 steps and there isn’t much shade to rest under. We always wear as much protective clothing as possible when hiking up Koko Head as the sun is always strong. Though once you make it to the top, the view of the eastern coast of Oahu is one you will remember!
12. Visit the Byodo-In Temple
The Byodo-In Temple in Kaneohe is a serene and budget-friendly destination that allows visitors to experience a slice of ancient Japan right in the heart of Oahu. Here you can encounter impressive structures, lush Japanese gardens, and koi ponds for a peaceful experience.
As one of Oahu’s hidden gems, the Byodo-In Temple offers a unique and culturally enriching experience that won’t strain your wallet. This is also a great place to take pictures since you’re amongst the beautiful Ko’olau Mountains as the perfect background. Entrance to the temple grounds is only $5 for adults!
Note: You should buy tickets when you get there since there are limited parking spots available.
13. Hike a Waterfall Trail at Manoa Falls
This popular trail, located in the enchanting Manoa Valley will take you on a journey through Oahu’s dense rainforest. You’ll be rewarded with a waterfall standing 150 feet high into a refreshing pool at the trail’s end. It’s a free adventure for a truly unforgettable experience on Oahu!
It’s important to note that Manoa Falls is usually muddy from the heavy rainfall and it’s not maintained very regularly. You can be vulnerable to slips, falls, and scrapes. So make sure you have the right hiking gear and dress code for the journey!
14. Discover Chinaman’s Hat at Kualoa Regional Park
Kualoa Regional Park is an excellent place to be if you’re looking for a relaxing day. Enjoy the tranquil beaches and plenty of picnic tables. You will also be able to see Mokoli’i Island off the shore, iconically known as Chinaman’s Hat.
While the only safe way to get to Chinaman’s hat is by kayaking, the island makes the perfect backdrop to enjoy the view. We recommend picking up lunch from Waiahole Poi Factory on your way to Chinaman’s Hat. This is one of our favorite Hawaiian restaurants on the Oahu!
Fun Fact: Its name actually comes from an old legend of a giant Chinese man resting on the ocean floor, and the island is his hat sticking out of the water!
15. Visit the Botanical Garden at Ho’omaluhia
This is one of the most iconic spots for a photo shoot in all of Oahu. Here you will find long winding roads surrounded by lush landscapes and the insanely beautiful backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountains.
Encounter the diverse collection of native plants and vibrant flowers through the beautiful gardens and winding trails. Ho’omaluhia also features a tranquil lake where you can feed the fish or have a romantic picnic.
After spending time at Ho’omaluhia, you will leave relaxed and in awe of Oahu’s natural beauty- all for free!
16. Explore the Lave Tubes at the Halona Blowhole Lookout
The Halona Blowhole Lookout is filled will a bunch of free attractions, perfect for those seeking adventure! The lookout itself is a popular spot to watch the sunrise with unobstructed views of the sun rising above the water.
Directly below the lookout is a small beach called Cockroach Cove, but don’t worry! There aren’t any cockroaches present. Here you will find lava tubes, the blow hole, and potentially even turtle sightings!
The lava tubes are similar to tiny caved tunnels that will take you towards the mountainside. Have a fun adventure through these amazing tunnels made by nature!
17. Take in the View of Oahu’s East Side at the Pali Lookout
The Pali Lookout offers incredible panoramic views of the lush Ko’olau mountain range and the eastern shores of Oahu. The lookout is over 1200 feet in elevation and overlooks landmarks such as the Ko’olau Golf Course, the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, and the Kaneohe Sand Bar!
The Lookout is open daily from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. But you should know that it can get insanely windy up there so hold onto your hat!
Note: The lookout is free for local residents. However, visitors will have to pay a flat rate fee of $7 per vehicle.
18. Take in the view of Honolulu at Tantalus Lookout
Tantalus Lookout is a great spot if you prefer a birdseye view of the modern cityscape of Honolulu over the lush mountains at the Pali Lookout.
It overlooks some iconic spots on Oahu such as Pearl Harbor, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Diamond Head Crater. This lookout is also one of the top places to view the sunset on Oahu.
Tantalus Lookout is open daily from 7:00 am to 7:45 pm. The journey to Tantalus is through narrow windy roads, and many car break-ins occur especially when the sun goes down. So make sure to also consider possible safety concerns when traveling.
19 See Turtles at Laniakea Beach
Laniakea Beach is located on the North Shore of Oahu and is one of THE BEST beaches to see turtles. “Turtle Beach” is coined here since turtle sightings are so frequent here that it has been nicknamed “Turtle Beach”.
This is the perfect resting place for turtles to come up to the shoreline with algae growing on the rocky cove of the beachfront.
The best time to see turtles at Laniakea Beach is when the sun is the hottest from 11:00am to 3:00pm. You will also have a higher chance of seeing turtles during the summer months rather than the winter since the waters are warm and encourage turtles to come to the shores!
20. Snorkel With the Hawaiian Marine Life at Three Tables
Three Tables is a hidden gem beach that’s located a little further down from the more well-known Shark’s Cove. This small beach gets its name from the three flat coral surfaces that peak out of the wears. Marine life will often eat algae off the coral surfaces, making it the perfect place to snorkel!
This beach is a part of a conservation district where fishing is not permitted. This allows you to witness the thriving marine life! Three Tables is always a trusty pick for snorkeling since we always see fish every time we’ve gone.
The ocean conditions at Three Tables on the North Shore are best during the calm summer compared to the rougher winter months. Be aware of strong currents even though the water may look flat.
21. Watch the Sun Go Down at Sunset Beach
This 2-mile stretch is one of the best beaches on Oahu to see the sunset. As the sun descends below the horizon, the sky erupts in a palette of vibrant colors and warm glow.
This beach is also known for its big wave surfing where many competitions are held. While the waves are massive in the winter, the shorebreak is very calm during the summer months. This is our favorite beach on the North Shore for swimming and snorkeling!
Sunset Beach is the perfect backdrop for a memorable sunset that doesn’t cost a dime!
22. Watch the Big Wave Surfing at Banzai Pipeline
Surfing is undeniably iconic on Oahu since they have some of the biggest and challenging surfbreaks in the world. The waves crash so forcefully that sea mist will travel all the way to the shoreline, and it’s such a captivating experience.
Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach is one of the most iconic spots to watch surfing on Oahu. This beach is home to the Billabong Pipeline Masters Surf Contest and one of the three locations for the Vans Tripple Crown.
Note: Make sure to check the surf conditions online. At 5 feet there are normal waves, but at 10 feet and above they are very large waves and will be great to witness from the shoreline!
23. Walk among the tidepools at Shark’s Cove
You can’t miss the large span of porous reefs on the North Shore that will resemble the shape of a shark, hence the name Sharks Cove. Don’t worry though, as there aren’t any Sharks. Explore Oahu’s marine life through the tiny caves, crevices, and reefs within the cove.
You can walk around the cove to search for marine life in the tide pools formed during low tide. On the other hand, Sharks Cove becomes a great place to snorkel during high tide.
24. Jump Off the Rocks at Waimea Bay
This is one of the most thrilling activities you can do for free on Oahu in our opinion. Waimea’s rock jump can be easily found from the beach and is roughly 25 feet high!
If it’s your first time jumping off the rock, the jump will look A LOT higher from the top of the rock than from the beach. You should imagine someone is chasing you, and jumping off is the only way out!
Note: Waimea Bay is notorious for its small parking lot. Come early before 8:00 am to find parking or be prepared to walk over from the parking at Three Tables.
25. Walk Along the Shores of Kailua Beach
Walking along the shores of Kailua Beach is a refreshing and free activity to experience Oahu’s natural beauty on the windward side. Kailua Beach is a long stretch of coastline renowned for its powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters.
Take in breathtaking views of the Ko’olau Mountains as you take a leisurely stroll along the beach. We love how spacious Kailua Beach is so you can find a quiet spot to enjoy the scenery or partake in the beach activities!
26. Catch Sand Crabs at Bellow Beach at Night
Catching sand crabs at Bellows Beach when the sun goes down is a fun and cost-free activity. This adds adventure to your Oahu itinerary and just lets you be a kid again! Under the moonlight, you’ll discover tiny dimples in the sand and occasional scuttling movement. With quick reflexes, you can catch these miniature creatures right in the palm of your hand!
This is an exciting and educational experience we did as kids and still never get tired of it! The thrill of catching these agile creatures while hearing the sounds of the ocean under the starry night sky is truly unforgettable.
27. Feed the Horses in Laie
The heartwarming activity of feeding horses at Laie allows you to connect with nature and experience the island’s rural charm. This side of the island is home to a friendly community of horses that often graze near the fence line by the roads. Local residents and visitors alike often stop by with carrots and apples to share with these gentle giants.
We always have some snacks packed just in case the horses are lined up near the roads. It’s a delightful way to interact with the island’s wildlife. It’s also the perfect stop for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of more touristy spots on Oahu.
28. Visit the Sunflower Fields in Wailua
Seeing the sunflower fields brings a burst of vibrant color to the landscapes of Oahu. You’ll find yourself surrounded by acres of golden sunflowers stretching as far as the eye can see.
The fields are usually open from October to December, though it depends on the bloom. Make sure to check out the sunflower fields online website to ensure they’ll be open.
You also can buy freshly squeezed lemonade, corn on the cob, honey, and cornbread for a local treat at their country market stand!
29. Visit the Art Galleries in Haleiwa
Right within the historic town of Haleiwa are a handful of art galleries that are all within walking distance. These galleries often feature exhibits that reflect the island’s unique blend of traditions, cultures, and contemporary perspectives.
One of the more famous art shops is the Clark Little Gallery which showcases award-winning Hawaii wave photography. There’s also the Wyland Art Gallery that’s filled with large public murals of whales and other marine life. From ancient Hawaiian artifacts to modern interpretations of island life, these galleries offer a window to Oahu’s artistic soul.
30. Picnic at Magic Island
In our opinion, this is one of our favorite free things to do in all of Oahu! You can find Magic Island nestled at the end of Ala Moana Beach Park. Take in the picturesque peninsula that offers stunning views of the ocean, Diamond Head, and the city skyline.
Here you can spread out a picnic blanket, unpack your favorite island snacks, and enjoy a leisurely meal. With so much open area, picnic tables, and a relaxing vibe, Magic Island is the perfect backdrop for some quality time, while keeping your budget intact.
Additionally, you should be prepared with sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and also search for shade under the trees at Magic Island. If you stay till the sun goes down, then you might even get to catch the Hilton Hawaiian Village Fireworks Show!
31. Enjoy a Walk Along the Ocean at the Waterfront Park in Kaka’ako
This is a great cost-free thing to do if you are looking for a scenic walk along the shore to escape from the bustling city life of Honolulu. Once you step into the park, a beautiful bike path leads directly to a panoramic view of the ocean.
Exploring the Waterfront Park is a delightful and cost-free way to enjoy the outdoors while soaking in the urban beauty of Oahu.
There are also many photoshoot opportunities as there’s a large rock wall and a lot of open space with fewer crowds!
32. Check Out the Street Art in Kaka’ako
Find local and diverse murals around every turn in the streets of Kaka’ako. This dynamic neighborhood in Honolulu has become a renowned hub for street art and graffiti. Kaka’ako perfectly showcases the vibrant urban culture of Oahu.
As you wander through the streets, you’ll be greeted by colorful murals created by local and global artists from around the world. Hawaii festivals and local non-profits created street art to bring the city of Honolulu to life! This is a great way to explore the urban city life of Oahu and the perfect place for a photoshoot.
33. Take a Self-guided Tour Through the Historic Side of Honolulu
Honolulu is the state capital of Hawaii and is home to many historic relics of the islands. There are many historic tours that you can pay to explore Hawaii’s history in depth, but you can still enjoy these historic sites on a budget.
All within a walkable distance are some of the most iconic historic sites on Oahu.
Here is our suggested route for a self-guided tour:
- Hawaii State Capitol and the Queen Liliuokalani Statue
- Iolani Palace and the Barracks and Coronation Pavilion
- The Ali’i Iolani Hale and The King Kamehameha Statue
- Kawaihao Church
- Hawaii Missions Houses
34. Stroll Through the Cultural Chinatown
Here you will have the opportunity to see how Hawaii became a melting pot of different cultures. Strolling through Honolulu’s Chinatown is a fascinating yet budget-friendly journey.
You can experience bustling marketplaces filled with meats and tropical fruits such as mangos, dragon fruits, and papayas. Also, head over to the Maunakea Marketplace for an open market and food court filled with Asian cuisine from all around the globe.
Whether you’re sampling exotic foods, or admiring the historic architecture, a stroll through Chinatown on Oahu provides a multicultural experience that won’t cost you a cent. You also can get a glimpse into the island’s diverse heritage.
35. Visit Night Markets for Local Food Vendors
Visiting Night Markets on Oahu is a great way to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Oahu. As the sun sets and the markets come to life, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an array of food stalls. They offer everything from traditional Hawaiian dishes to plate lunches, all infused with local flavors and ingredients.
As you get a taste of the island’s fusion of cultures, there are also a lot of local vendors who sell products that are the perfect local gifts to bring home. Relax under the Hawaiian night sky with amazing food, live music, and a lively community spirit.
Note: A lot of night markets are seasonal, so you will have to check online to see when they’ll be. But we always recommend the Pearl Country Club night market that’s consistently held every Wednesday!
36. Visit the Ala Moana Shopping Center
While Ala Moana is a shopping destination, it offers more than just retail therapy. This open-air mall, located near the beach in Honolulu, has lush landscaping and relaxing walking paths to explore. Also take notice of the beautiful koi ponds, and Hawaiian art displays to see Oahu’s diverse culture.
This gathering place is where locals and tourists alike will often visit the shopping center for the performances at the Centerstage on the first floor. Here you can view and daily hula show, and many other performances from the locals of Oahu!
Getting Around Oahu
Since Oahu is the urban oasis of Hawaii, there are many ways to get around the island. While keeping cost in mind, it is entirely possible to get around Oahu with a variety of budget-friendly transportation options.
Here Are Some Cost-effective Ways to Explore Oahu:
- The Bus: Oahu’s public bus system is an affordable and convenient way to navigate the island. They have an extensive network of routes covering most of Oahu’s attractions, with daily and multi-day passes to help you save
- Biking: Oahu has a growing network of bike lanes and bike-sharing programs, like biki, in Honolulu. This is a low-cost and eco-friendly way to explore the urban areas of Oahu.
- Walking: If you’re staying in an area with close proximity to attractions, walking is a great option to save money and see the scenery up close!
- Shuttle Services: Make sure to check with your hotels on Oahu. They often offer shuttle services to popular attractions and shopping areas.
- Group Tours: Sometimes, these group tours can be a cost-effective way to visit multiple attractions in a single day!
Visiting Oahu FAQs
Is it Free to Go to the Beach in Hawaii?
Generally, Yes – Access to beaches in Hawaii is generally free and open to the public. Hawaii’s beaches are considered public property, and there are no entrance fees or charges for visiting most of them.
However, it’s important to note that there are a few exceptions to this rule. Some beaches on private property or within certain resorts may have restricted access or require you to be a guest at the resort.
Note: Even though access to most beaches is free, there could be parking fees at some beachfront parking lots – especially in popular tourist areas.
Can You Enjoy Oahu Without a Car?
Yes – There are many forms of public transportation that can be an alternative to renting a car. However, utilizing public transportation could take up a lot more time during your travels. Therefore, you may not be able to do as many activities if they are far from each other.
We suggest renting a car for just a couple fo days if you’re on a budget or may be concerned over extra fees depending on your age.
Renting a car is highly recommended since many of Oahu’s popular attractions are spread out over the entire island. Rather than renting a car for your entire time here, you can just rent for the days to explore outside of Honolulu.
Is Food Expensive in Honolulu?
Food in Honolulu, can vary widely in price depending on where and what you choose to eat. While there are high-end restaurants that can be quite expensive, there are also plenty of affordable options available.
You can find reasonably priced local eateries, food trucks, and casual dining spots for authentic Hawaiian cuisine without breaking the bank. Overall, it is very possible to enjoy the local cuisine without excessive spending to suit a range of budgets.
Pro tip: Grocery stores and local farmers markets are excellent places to purchase fresh produce like pineapples and other Hawaii snacks at a more reasonable price!
Is Oahu the Cheapest Island?
Oahu is not typically considered the cheapest island in Hawaii. While it does offer budget-friendly options for travelers, it also has some of the most developed and high-demand areas like Waikiki. With this comes higher prices for accommodations, dining, and activities compared to some of the other Hawaiian islands.
That said, you can still visit Oahu on a budget by being strategic in your planning. Additionally, each Hawaii destination has its unique charm and attractions. So the “cheapest” island may vary depending on your priorities and interests.
Closing Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Oahu for FREE
Oahu has a treasure trove of free experiences waiting to be explored. From stunning beaches to vibrant city life, the island offers many budget-friendly activities to enjoy without emptying your wallet.
Oahu’s free activities ensure that this enchanting island remains accessible to all. We invite you to create unforgettable memories while keeping your budget in check. So pack your bags for an Oahu adventure that proves that the best things in life are truly free!