Oahu on a Budget: Top 10 Cheap Things to do on Oahu for $10 or Under!

Planning a trip to Oahu on a budget and want to know some cheap things to do on Oahu HI? Keep scrolling to find out how to have a cheap vacation in Oahu that rocks!
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Did you know that Oahu is the most-visited island in Hawaii? Almost twice as many tourists come to Oahu every year over Maui, the second most-visited island.

This is great news for anyone who likes to plan a vacation full of activities!

There is enough to do on Oahu that you can keep everyone in the family – grandparents, parents, moody teens, kids, literally anyone – entertained!

If you are traveling with little ones, be sure to check out my complete Family Guide to Oahu!

Now, if you are looking for the luxurious, high-end, no-budget vacation, you certainly can find activities to fit your needs on Oahu!

Unfortunately though, due to the availability of these higher-priced activities, Oahu has gotten the reputation of being an expensive place to visit and enjoy.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

There are so many places to go, things to do, and experiences to enjoy that will not bust your budget. The trick is to know where to look!

Whether you are actively planning a trip, checking out the possibilities, or just experiencing a bad case of Wanderlust – you will find something that excites you in this list of Top Cheap 10 Things to do on Oahu Hawaii for $10 or Under!

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 skip all the planning and just access my detailed Oahu Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Oahu on a Budget FAQs

What are some ways to save money on Oahu?

The easiest way to save money on your Oahu vacation is to travel in off-season. Hotels, rental cars, and even some activities will be much cheaper. Do some research and take advantage of all the free things to do on Oahu, like free hula shows, live music, and parks.

How can I save money on food on Oahu?

The best way to save money on food is to hit up the local grocery stores, Costco, and farmers markets. This way, you can make your own meals at a fraction of the cost. But, part of the fun of visiting Hawaii is eating all the yummy food. Lunch tends to be cheaper than dinner, so have that be your splurge meal. You can also take advantage of Oahu food trucks and happy hour deals.

What’s the cheapest time to visit Oahu?

Your best bet for saving money on airfare and hotels is to travel to Oahu during the shoulder season, which runs mid-April to June and September to mid-December. Avoid any school break or holidays.

10 Cheap Things to do on Oahu for $10 or Less

If you’d like to explore Oahu without sacrificing your entire travel budget, you’ll definitely want to check out these spots!

1. Find a Comfy Spot in the Sand!

One of the biggest reasons for visiting Hawaii is the beach, right?

Well, you’ll be happy to know that sitting on the sand, swimming, snorkeling, and all sorts of other beachy activities are completely free!

Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii--Waikiki is one of the best places to stay on Oahu
Waikiki Beach on Oahu.

The most popular (and populated!) beach is definitely Waikiki. Whatever you are looking for, you will probably find it somewhere along this two-mile stretch of sand.

Be sure to check out the Waikiki Beach section of this guide before you go to find the section of beach that best fits what you are looking for.

The best part about visiting any part of Waikiki is that it is totally FREE! Plus, there are lots of things to do in Waikiki on a budget.

Find out my 25 favorite things to do in Waikiki!

2. Take in the History at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Besides taking in the beach, another must-do on Oahu is to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

This experience is honestly so intense it could be separated out into several days. There is so much to see that I’m not sure we even got to everything last time we were there.

You can visit Pearl Harbor for free
USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is open seven days a week, from 7am to 5pm, and is free to visit. And it’s easy to explore Pearl Harbor with kids.

I would suggest, however, paying the nominal $1 per ticket price to reserve tickets in advance online, especially if you are planning a visit during tourist season.

And if you can swing it, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is one of the coolest airplane museums we’ve been to. Get discounted tickets here.

Once you arrive, you’ll understand why Pearl Harbor is one of the top things to do on Oahu for families. And it’s so easy to get to Pearl Harbor from Waikiki.

3. Try Island Food!

Now, I know everyone says this, but you really can’t beat Hawaiian food!

The best part is that since the food is just everyday meals to Hawaiian, visitors can snag a deal if they know where to look!

Poke is fresh, sushi-grade fish, usually cut and served in a bento box or over rice in a Poke bowl. Foodland has consistently been hailed as the best poke in Hawaii, and would be on my must-visit list!

One of the best places to get shave ice on Oahu is Matsumoto's. Image of a woman holding a paper bowl with green and pink shave ice.
Traditional Shave Ice. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas

Shave Ice is another Hawaiian classic. Bigger, tastier, and more colorful than its predecessor the snow cone, Hawaiian Shave Ice is the perfect thing to cool you off after an afternoon on the beach.

Look for Waiola Shave Ice near Waikiki, or Matsumoto Shave Ice if you’re up on the North Shore. Just be prepared for a bit of a wait!

Malasadas are Portuguese-inspired, hole-less doughnuts. There is only one place locals will send you when you ask where to find one: Leonard’s Bakery. You can choose to fill a puff, get an original, or whatever else you feel like at the time.

And no, you can’t get doughnuts like this anywhere else! But, I have a recipe for coconut-filled malasadas that comes pretty close!

4. Let Someone Else Worry about Transportation!

If you are staying in or near Waikiki, you can totally get away with not renting a car. That can save you a TON of money.

Something unique to Oahu is their public transportation system TheBus. A one-day pass for adults is currently $5.50, and for youth is $2.50.

TheBus is the best public transportation on Oahu. Image of TheBus driving on Bishop Street in Honolulu.
TheBus in Honolulu, Hawaii.

TheBus goes all over the island and stops at a lot of tourist attractions or Oahu points of interest.

In fact, they have 518 buses with 110 daily routes!

Grab a map, hop on TheBus, and enjoy the scenery as you travel the island of Oahu!

5. Hike Historic Diamond Head!

Diamond Head State Monument has been a symbol of Hawaii since before extensive oceanic travel was possible. You’ll see it on all kinds of vintage travel posters.

The 300,000 year old volcanic crater offers epic views of the beaches and coastlines of Oahu that simply can’t be rivaled.

Top 6 Free Things to Do on Oahu featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Diamond Head is a kid-friendly Oahu hike
Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Plan to get there early on any day except Wednesday (the monument is closed) to get a jump start before crowding becomes an issue.

The entrance fee is $5 per person, which makes it one of the best cheap things to do in Oahu.

The last people are let in at 4pm, so don’t wait too late in the day to hit up this Oahu attraction.

This hike is doable for even the littlest walkers, and would be a shame to miss during your time on Oahu! Check out our top tips for hiking Diamond Head with kids!

As of May 12th, 2022 all out-of-state visitors must have an advanced reservation to enter Diamond Head State Monument. Make your reservations HERE.

6. Visit the Dole Plantation!

For the uninitiated, Dole is a company that grows tropical fruit, namely pineapples. A LOT of pineapples!

You’ll pass it on your way up to the North Shore and it’s actually one of the biggest tourist attractions in Hawaii. And it’s one of the top-rated family things to do in Oahu.

The Dole Pineapple Plantation is a wonderful experience if for nothing else than to get some Dole Whip!

Wahiawa, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. - January 09, 2020: Welcome building, entrance to Dole pineapple plantation, museum and shop. Yellow wall, red roof, green, red and yellow vegetation under light blue sky.
Dole Plantation on Oahu

It’s actually free to walk around Dole Plantation and take advantage of their cute photo ops. But once you’re there, you’ll probably want to upgrade to do an activity.

There are several tours available, but if you’re looking to stay in budget, either the Garden Tour or the Garden Maze are for you!

Take a look at the different activities being offered and see what looks fun for you!

7. Nurture Your Green Thumb at the Botanical Gardens!

There are several botanical gardens around Oahu, with a variety of entry fees. The two in Honolulu are Foster Botanical Garden and Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden.

Foster Botanical Garden is the older of the two, with some trees dating back to the 1850s. Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden is newer, and focuses on the native plant species of Hawaii.

Tips for Hawaii on a Budget featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: HO'OMALUHIA BOTANICAL GARDEN is a popular photo spot on Oahu
This is definitely one of the most Instagrammable spots on Oahu.

But, one of the most famous ones (at least on Instagram) is the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. It’s known for its gorgeous entrance, but there are actually tons of things to do there.

Either way, you will be entranced by the beauty of the Hawaiian landscape! Visiting a botanical garden is one of the prettiest things to see on Oahu.

8. Visit a Coffee Farm!

Being from the Seattle area, you would think we know everything there is to know about coffee. However, something we don’t have in the Pacific Northwest is the right climate to grow coffee!

A cheap thing to do on Oahu is check out a coffee farm. Image of a cup of coffee with a heart in the foam surrounded by coffee beans.
Try Hawaiian coffee on your trip to Oahu!

This is something Hawaii does have, so we take advantage of it whenever we get a chance to visit!

The Waialua Estate up on the North Shore is about as perfect of a growing condition that coffee (and chocolate!) beans could ask for.

Stop by for a sample, and maybe even a guided tour if someone is available!

9. Take in a Free Hula Show!

As a former hula dancer, there is no way I wouldn’t include this as an option! This is one of the best things to do on Oahu with kids!

One of the best things to do on Oahu with kids is check out a free hula show. Image of a hula dancer using feather gourd rattles as she dances at sunset.
Check out a free hula show on Oahu.

If you are looking for a scheduled hula dance for free, the Kuhio Beach Torchlighting and Hula Show has scheduled occurrences three times a week.

There are also awesome free hula shows at the Royal Hawaiian Center and Ala Moana Center.

Otherwise, keep your ears open as you stroll along Waikiki Beach each evening, there is bound to be a free show at one of the many hotels along the beachfront!

10. Learn How to Dance Hula Yourself!

This one is a bit dependent on where you are staying. Some of the hotels in Honolulu offer free hula lessons – you just have to ask!

Another place to check out would be the Royal Hawaiian Center. During tourist season, they have been known to have regular (free!) hula dancing lessons that anyone and everyone can participate in.

Go a step past watching the hula, learn about its history and the Hawaiian culture by learning how to dance yourself! I mean, this definitely one of the best free Oahu activities.

BONUS: Go shopping at the world’s largest shopping center!

While staying to under $10 here might require more discipline than I have, I’m sure it can be done!

The Ala Moana Center is the world's largest outdoor shopping center and it's one of the best things to do on Oahu. Image of a 3 story outdoor shopping mall.
Ala Moana Center on Oahu.

The Ala Moana Center in Honolulu is the largest outdoor shopping center in the world, and the perfect spot to people-watch, take a stroll, or even help your family look for souvenirs!

With over 300 stores to choose from, you’re bound to find something to test that discipline you have!

Plus, their food court is pretty incredible. It’s a great place to find cheap eats on Oahu.

Wrap Up

Those of us traveling to Oahu are lucky. With all the tourists that visit each year, companies that cater to visitors have sprung up and flourished, allowing them to offer activities at a much more discounted rate than other islands.

Whether your goal is to sit beach-side and relax, or to ride TheBus until you see somewhere interesting to shop, you can rest easy knowing that you will be able to find something to do that fits both your interests and your budget!

Sometimes the cheap activities are also the coolest things to do on Oahu.

Which of the Top 10 Things to do on Oahu for $10 or Under are you most excited to try?

Looking for more Oahu Travel Resources? Find out the best kid-friendly Oahu beaches, best places to stay on Oahu for any budget, how to plan a military vacation to Oahu, guide to Oahu on a budget, best cheap restaurants in Waikiki, and the best North Shore food trucks!