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Hawaii on a Budget: Top 23 Free Things to Do on Oahu

Save money on your Hawaiian vacation by finding out the best free things to do on Oahu, keep scrolling for all the info!!
This free things to do on Oahu post was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

How many of us have Hawaii on our bucket list? I know I do – even though I’ve been there, I want to go back! There have to be more islands to explore, right?

As much as I love Hawaii, I will be the first to admit that getting there isn’t cheap. I know families that save for years to be able to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

When planning a first-time Hawaii trip, most of us look to Oahu.

Honolulu International Airport is right there, and so many airlines offer direct flights now that it would be silly not to fly in there.

It is also right near Waikiki Beach, access to the North Shore, and more tourist attractions than you can shake a (moderately overpriced) stick at.

I have a hard time spending the money it takes to get to Hawaii but to then throw in the cost of everything once you’re there, it’s enough to ruin a wonderful vacation.

Now, there are certainly some events that are so worth paying for.

Toa Luau would rank right up there in the “Totally worth paying for” category.

Then there are other things that are NOT worth paying for because you can do them for FREE!

Free activities on Oahu do get a little trickier when kiddos are involved.

For example, even though it’s free, I would never let my boys swim to Goat Island as preschoolers. The ocean current is way too strong, and the waves get up to 5 feet. Not worth it!

There ARE, however, quite a few things I would LOVE to do with my boys that don’t cost a penny.

The only consideration we had to think about was whether or not we needed a car.

We thought about compromising and getting a rental for half of our stay and using public transit for the other half.

The idea is we could do the North Shore and everything on H-3 when we had our rental and then focus on Waikiki and Honolulu getting around on TheBus.

This is something that has worked well for friends of mine.

Feel free to take advantage of my frugality and enjoy the best free things for families to do on Oahu!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Oahu on a budget.

Best Budget-Friendly Oahu Tours/Activities

Best Budget-Friendly Oahu Hotels

Want to Rent a Car in Hawaii?
One of the best places to rent a car in Hawaii is Discount Hawaii Car Rental because they get the best rates from top national companies like Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and Payless.

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids | Check out these top 6 free things to do on Oahu for families with kids #oahu #hawaii

23 Free Things to Do on Oahu

Here are the top free things to do in Oahu, Hawaii! These free Oahu activities are perfect for families with kids of all ages!

1. VISIT THE PEARL HARBOR NATIONAL MEMORIAL

1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA

+1 808-422-3399

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: You can visit Pearl Harbor for free

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial tops this list for its historical ties and importance.

And, because even though you can pay to visit Pearl Harbor on a tour, it’s actually free to visit on your own!

You can get to the Memorial by car or TheBus, and there are detailed directions available on the website.

Please pack light – bags are not allowed in the memorial. But, there are places to stow them in the visitor’s center.

You can visit the USS Arizona Memorial program, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and a few more places around the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. It is quite fun to learn more about World War II.

Pearl Harbor is one of the top free places to visit in Oahu and Honolulu attractions for free!

2. HULA SHOW AT KUHIO BEACH PARK

453 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 +1 808-768-3003

There is a free Kuhio Beach Hula Show that happens every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at sundown – weather permitting.

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Catch a free hula show in Waikiki at Kuhio Beach on Oahu
Photo credit: Waikiki Improvement Association

Since sundown changes throughout the year, plan on the show starting a little earlier in the winter months and a little later in the summer months.

If you are staying in Waikiki, Kuhio Beach is within walking distance and is known for its calm waters, making it a great place to let kiddos play!

My boys loved the sandy bottom, and I loved that there were no giant waves crashing into us!

This might be the perfect opportunity to make an afternoon of it.

Go early, let the kids swim, and then bring out the picnic dinner and watch the wonderful hula dancing.

What better way to take in an authentic Hawaiian Hula Show than on a beach with the waves as the backdrop?

These free hula shows are so much fun, and one of the top free things to do Waikiki has to offer!

3. HIKING ON OAHU

No, I am not suggesting you take on Diamond Head with your little ones, but there are a lot of wonderful hiking opportunities that don’t cost you a thing!

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Mokapuu Lighthouse Trail is a kid-friendly Oahu hike.

There are also some that will require the use of a car or TheBus, but by stacking activities together, you will more than make-up for any bus fare or gas you may have to spend on the experiences you get to have!

Check out some of these hiking trails to enjoy going on with your family as more free things to do in Oahu!

Mokapu`u Point Lighthouse Trail

Mokapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is the second most popular trail, behind Diamond Head.

The trail is completely paved and rises by 500 ft from beginning to end. It’s one of the best kid-friendly hikes on Oahu.

Plan on arriving early to tackle this trail. There is no tree shade, no restrooms, and the trail can get very crowded. The views along the way and at the top make the trek more than worth it!

You can get here in about 45 minutes from Waikiki by car or by riding TheBus.

It’s another one of the top things to do in Oahu, Hawaii, for free!

Waikiki Hiking

Waikiki Historic Trail is a wonderful way to learn more about Waikiki Beach and maybe even scout out a new swimming spot!

This two-mile walk along Waikiki Beach can be self-guided or part of a group tour.

Look for the bronze surfboards along the way to learn interesting facts about the history of Waikiki.

Some walking trail markers are larger attractions – like the Kapaemahu (Wizard) Stones or the statue of Duke Kahanamoku.

With the water right there to help you cool off and relax, you and your kiddos will love this journey into the history of one of the most famous beaches in the world!

It is another one of the free things to do in Waikiki everyone will love!

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu

Koko Head Crater Hike is better known to locals as “Koko Head Stairs.” No need for a workout before you go; the over 1000 steps up the hillside staircase will do that for you!

This hike is not for the faint of heart – or those afraid of heights!

Take as many breaks as you need, and realize that the panoramic views from the top will make all the effort worth it.

One note of caution – there is a bridge with a 40 ft drop under it and wide planks that you can see between. My boys would have been done right then and there.

Carefully consider whether or not it’s the best hike for your family if you have littles! But it is one of the free things in Oahu that your teens will love!

Plan on at least 90 minutes to get to the top and back down – more if you are bringing your kiddos. You will need to have a car or hire a service to get you out there.

Uber may be a good plan; I know I don’t want to have to drive after a hard leg workout!

It’s another one of the cheap things to do in Waikiki!

4. HO`OMALUHIA BOTANICAL GARDEN

45-680 Luluku Road Kaneohe, HI 96744
+1-808-233-7323

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is a free thing to do on Oahu and a popular Oahu photography spot.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a 400-acre protected area that was originally built for flood protection.

It offers events like camping, drawing or painting classes, and specific catch-and-release fishing days on the weekends!

The garden is about 35 minutes from Waikiki (by car or service only) on the eastern side of the island.

Make a day of it by packing a lunch and trying to guess which part of the world the plants you are marveling at are from!

You can go on a self-guided walking tour and enjoy the peace that comes from this relaxing Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.

It is another one of the cheap things to do in Hawaii because it is completely free!

5. ROYAL HAWAIIAN CENTER

2201 Kalakaua Avenue Honolulu, HI 96815 +1-808-922-2299

The Royal Hawaiian Center is right in the middle of Waikiki, on the northern edge of the beach area. It offers tons of free things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii, that you will love!

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: The Royal Hawaiian Center is a fun place to window shop and they have free cultural activities in Waikiki
Photo credit: Royal Hawaiian Center

This shopping and dining center also provides opportunities for free classes in Ukulele, Weaving, Lei-making, and more!

Check out the Events page to see what’s going on while you’re there!

These free activities are tons of fun for all ages.

It also offers free events and shows as well. You can enjoy some hula dancing, listen to some authentic Hawaiian music with the Royal Hawaiian Band, and so much more.

Visit the Royal Hawaiian Center for tons of free family things to do on Oahu.

6. FRIDAY NIGHT FIREWORKS

The Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a Free Friday Fireworks show on Friday nights at 7:45 or 8:00, depending on the time of year.

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: The Hilton Hawaiian Village has a free fireworks in Waikiki show every Friday
Photo credit: Hilton Hawaiian Village

If your kiddos love fireworks as much as mine do (as long as they’re far enough away!), this is a can’t-miss opportunity!

Make sure you take a look at the information so that you find a good viewing spot, pack a picnic dinner, and enjoy!

These fireworks are some of the best things to do in Waikiki for free!

7. SNORKELING

One of the best free things to do in North Shore Oahu is to go snorkeling at Shark’s Cove!

Hanauma Bay is one of the top places to snorkel in Oahu, but it does cost money. But there are plenty of great beaches around the island that offer good snorkeling, too, with plenty of tropical fish and other marine life to enjoy.

Check out the top places to snorkel on Oahu

8. HAWAII STATE ART MUSEUM

Admission to the Hawaii State Art Museum will always be free! Here you can enjoy art from local artists in all types of genres.

The Hawaii State Art Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM daily.

Exhibits are always changing, so you can always find something new to enjoy at the Hawaii State Art Museum!

Seeing some art here is another one of the Honolulu things to do for free.

9. SEE SOME TURTLES

If you are visiting Oahu, you have to see some Hawaiian green sea turtles!

Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Turtle Beach, also known as Laniakea Beach, on the North Shore, is one of the best places to see these magnificent sea turtles. They are often out lying on the sand. Most often, there are volunteers out to talk about these creatures, teach you their names, and much more.

While there is free street parking, it does get very busy.

It’s another one of the Oahu free things to do!

10. SURFING COMPETITION

Enjoy some modern surfing competitions at Ehukai Beach Park. You will often find surf competitions at Banzai Pipeline during the winter months.

These competitions are fun things to see in Oahu for free!

11. RELAX AT THE BEACH

Of course, you will want to just relax on a sandy beach. In Oahu, you will find tons of beautiful beaches to enjoy, all for free.

Grab your beach towel and head to Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach Park, or Ala Moan Beach.

Don’t forget the famous Waikiki Beach, either!

Many beaches have picnic tables, showers, and other great amenities.

No matter what beach you visit, you will find peace, relaxation, and plenty of fun water activities.

The beaches are the free things to do Oahu has to offer that you won’t want to miss out on.

12. VISIT KO OLINA LAGOONS

The Ko Olina Lagoons are more fun, free attractions in Oahu, Hawaii.

Ko Olina Lagoon

These lagoons are perfect for families with young kids, as you will find calm waters and soft sand to enjoy all day long.

13. DOLE PLANTATION

While some things do cost money at the Dole Plantation, there is some free stuff to do as well! You can go inside and explore the plantation and get some free samples too.

The Dole Plantation is one of the best cheap things to do on Oahu! The things that do cost are not expensive at all.

Read our Dole Plantation review

14. SEE A WATERFALL

Another one of the free activities Oahu has to offer is stunning waterfalls. All over the island, you can see and sometimes even go swimming under the waterfall!

Manoa falls in Oahu

Manoa Falls is one of the free waterfalls in Oahu the entire family will enjoy!

Check out the best waterfall hikes on Oahu

15. FREE SAMPLES AT HONOLULU COOKIE COMPANY

Who wouldn’t love free cookie samples?

My kids love trying new flavors of these cookies in order to come up with the perfect gift box to bring home for friends and family.

Plus, it’s usually the perfect treat to keep their energy up as we walk around Waikiki!

It is one of the best free things to do in Honolulu!

Read my full post about the Honolulu Cookie Company

16. EXPLORE TIDEPOOLS

If you have young kids on your trip, you might opt to check out some of the tidepools on Oahu.

Many beaches have shallow water, so kids can wade in and look for Hawaiian sea life (like crabs or small fish) or collect shells.

Baby Makapu’u is a popular Oahu tide pool for families. Plus, you can see Makapu’u Lighthouse and a few little islands.

There’s also a little spot near Shark’s Cove on the North Shore with lava rock that creates cool tide pools for kids. It’s especially fun when the North Shore waves are calm in the summer.

Get my top beach essentials for babies!

17. CHECK OUT STREET ART IN KAKA’AKO

A lot of people don’t realize that Kaka’ako is a trendy neighborhood known for its epic street art in Hawaii.

Here, you’ll find incredible murals and some of the most Insta-worthy spots on Oahu.

This street art is another one of the Honolulu free things to do art lovers will enjoy.

18. ALOHA TOWER

Aloha Tower was once used to watch ships sail in and out of the island. Now you can go to Aloha Tower’s observation deck and enjoy the stunning views of Honolulu Harbor and the mountains.

Aloha Tower

It’s another one of the cheap things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii.

19. ROYAL HAWAIIAN BAND

Listening to the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace is another one of the free things in Honolulu you might want to do.

Concerts take place on Fridays at noon. They also are at Kapiolani Beach Park on Sundays at 2 PM.

20. NU’UANU PALI LOOKOUT

Another one of the free things to do in Oahu is to head to Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. Here you will find stunning views of the mountain and island.

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout

It’s not too far from Downtown Honolulu and is a fun stop for sightseeing.

21. CHINATOWN

Also in Downtown Honolulu, you might want to walk through Chinatown.

It is fun to see all the cultural things in this town on the island. Plus, it is another one of the free stuff to do in Honolulu!

You might end up buying some things, but it will still be one of the inexpensive things to do in Oahu.

22. WATCH A SUNSET

Oahu has incredible sunsets, and you can watch them each night of your trip for free!

Sunset at Waikiki Beach

Sunset Beach on the North Shore has some of the best Oahu sunsets you will see, but Waikiki Beach also provides a gorgeous background for them too.

Watching a sunset with your family is one of the best things to do in Oahu at night for free!

23. EXPLORE HALEIWA

Finally, one of the cheap things to do in Oahu, Hawaii, is to explore Haleiwa. You will find plenty of free parking so you can walk around and window shop.

Plus, there are so many fun things to do in Haleiwa too!

Free Things to do in Oahu Hawaii FAQs

What do locals do in Oahu?

Many locals avoid the tourist attractions and instead find a quiet beach to spend the day, hit up one of the many local Oahu farmer’s markets, or go on a local hike.

What can you do for free in Waikiki?

If you are planning on staying in Waikiki, there are tons of Waikiki free things to do, like enjoying the beach, seeing the Duke Kahanamoku statue, sampling Honolulu Cookie Company treats, listening to Hawaiian music, and watching hula shows.

What can you do on Oahu for cheap?

You’ll definitely want to try authentic Hawaiian poke (it’s pretty cheap at Foodland), check out a botanical garden, or hop on TheBus for a cheap tour of Oahu.

What part of Oahu is the cheapest?

Waikiki or Honolulu are usually the cheapest places to stay in Oahu. Plus, there are tons of fun things to do in Honolulu for free that you can enjoy too!

Are beaches free in Oahu?

Yes, all beaches, including Waikiki Beach, are free to enjoy.

Is Oahu or Maui cheaper?

Oahu is usually cheaper than Maui when it comes to cheap things to do, places to stay, and food to eat.

What are some free things to do in Honolulu at night?

You can watch a sunset at night, walk through Waikiki, and so much more for free!

What are some free things to do for military in Oahu?

Military members can enjoy some free things to do in Oahu, Hawaii! From visiting Pearl Harbor National Memorial to seeing the King’s Band, you will find plenty of things on Oahu for free. Military gets discounted things as well, such as visiting Jurassic Park, Polynesian Cultural Center, free parking at places, and more.

Free Things To Do in Oahu Wrap-Up

These are just some of the things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii, for free. But there is so much you can do on Oahu without spending a dime!

Head to any of these best free things to do in Oahu, Hawaii, and enjoy your Hawaii vacation with all the natural beauty around you.

From swimming to hiking to snorkeling, there are plenty of things that you can do with your family without breaking the bank.

Whatever free things to do In Oahu you choose to take advantage of, you will not be sorry you took the leap and booked the trip!

Cross Hawaii off that bucket list, but don’t be surprised if it pops back on there after you get back from your first trip!