Trying to save money on your Big Island vacation? Don’t miss these Free Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with kids. Keep scrolling down for all the info!

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How many times have you been having fun on vacation and realized that you’ve gone over your budget?

This seems to happen to us more often than not, even when we are using the latest app for money management AND keeping an eye on our expenses.

There just always seems to be some hidden costs we weren’t aware of or planning on.

Unplanned budget-busting expenses occur all over the world, but seems to be most prevalent in the more tourist-y areas.

People on vacation tend to spend money, and businesses know that! Hawaii is no exception, but with a little research, you can fill your days with free experiences and memories.

There are certainly some things that cost money or have an entrance fee that are worth doing (Hawaiian Palace, anyone?) but there are also so many things you can do and experience that you don’t need to pay for.

Check out my guide to 12 Things to do for FREE on the Big Island of Hawaii!

Note: Even though the attractions may be free, getting to them is always a difficult endeavor. I suggest renting a car if you plan to do a lot of sight-seeing, and factoring that cost into your budget.

Just remember that not all hotels offer free parking, so that is something to keep in the back of your mind as you book lodgings.12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Heading to the Big Island? Find out 12 amazing FREE things to do on the Big Island for your whole family.

12 Free Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii

1. `AKAKA FALLS STATE PARK

This Hawaiian State Park is named from the 442 foot waterfall that is the visual centerpiece of the park.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park

With views of the waterfall from the hiking loops that surround it, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for a selfie, a groupie, or just a few pictures of the gorgeous falls itself!

This park is on the eastern side of the island, about a 20-minute drive north of Hilo.

Note: While this is free for Hawaii residents, it’s $5/car or $1/pedestrian for non-residents.

2. MOKUPAPAPA DISCOVERY CENTER

This Educational Discovery Center is part of the larger Papahanaumokuakeo Marine National Monument in the atolls and archipelagos near Hawaii.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Papahanaumokuakea, Big Island
Mokupapapa Discovery Center. Photo credit: James Watt

The monument is “one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world,” and the discovery center provides an educational experience for visitors on the island.

The coral reefs, islands, and structures are constantly being monitored so that they can be protected for generations to come.

The Educational Discovery Center is just one of the ways that visitors can learn about the work being done to preserve Hawaiian fish, coral, and other endangered organisms.

3. PANA `EWA RAINFOREST ZOO AND GARDENS

If you have a little one who loves the zoo, this would be a wonderful place to check out!

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens, Hilo, Big Island
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens

Pana ‘Ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is a 12-acre natural tropical rainforest zoo located in Hilo.

They have native Hawaiian animals and birds, and there is a feeding schedule they follow so that guests can see the animals being fed.

With a beautiful, lush garden and a playground on-site, there is something for everyone!

4. HAMAKUA MACADAMIA NUT COMPANY

If you are interested in how things grow or are made, or you have a little farm-lover in your family, you will want to check out Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company in Kawaihea.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Macadamia nut growing on branch, Hilo, Big Island
Macadamia nut growing on a branch. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Besides a visitor center, there are also tours of the factory, and free samples in the gift shop.

Check out how one of America’s favorite snacks is grown, harvested and processed – all for free!

5. KEALAKEKUA BAY STATE HISTORICAL PARK

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is an area of Hawaii that was used as a government/royal capital for many decades.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Snorkelers exploring Kealakekua Bay, Big Island
Snorkelers exploring Kealakekua Bay. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

It is also the place where westerners first landed, with the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1779.

The bay itself is protected, and you must have a permit to kayak in it, but the area around the bay has many opportunities to hike, explore and adventure.

6. WAIPI`O VALLEY

The Waipi’o Valley is for more adventurous families, and not for the faint of heart.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Waipio Valley, Big Island, Hawaii--Waipio Valley is a Big Island hike that is a fun free thing to do on the Big Island
Waipio Valley

The 6.5-mile hike from the lookout to the black sand beach at the mouth and back would be do-able for us as a family, but not until my boys are a bit older.

One of the perks of going deeper into the valley would be getting a view of 1400 foot tall Hi’ilawe Falls, but this hike is only for experienced hikers, and goes over some private lands.

Do not attempt to drive into the valley in your rental car – only the most expeditious of 4×4 vehicles can make it out.

7. RAINBOW FALLS

If you are looking for a less strenuous scenic view, the Rainbow Falls in Wailuku River State Park can be seen from the viewing platform, no hiking required!

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Big Island--Visiting Rainbow Falls is one of the best Big Island waterfalls
Rainbow Falls

The falls derives its name from the rainbows that are formed when the sun hits the water from just the correct angle.

What little one wouldn’t love to go on a rainbow-finding adventure?

8. PAPAKOLEA BEACH OR “GREEN SAND BEACH”

The sand on Papakolea Beach is quite unique, and quite green!

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, Naalehu, Hawaii--Papakolea Beach is a popular Big Island Beach
Papakolea Beach

The color comes from the erosion of volcanic stone nearby, and is one of only four beaches in the world to have such a hue.

Located in the southern part of the island, this would certainly be worth the trip!

9. KALAE

The southernmost part of the US is at Kalae on the Big Island.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Kalae Cafe, Kalae, Big Island
Kalae Cafe on the Big Island.

This is a not-to-be-missed site, and was where the first Polynesians landed on Hawaii.

Enjoy the scenic cliffs and rocky shores, but don’t plan on getting in the water. The current here is just too strong.

Do plan to enjoy a meal or snack at Hana Hou Restaurant. If nothing else, you can say that you ate at “The Southernmost Restaurant in the USA!”

10. LILIUOKALANI PARK AND GARDENS

If you are looking for a relaxing, quiet afternoon, look no further than Liliuokalani Park and Gardens in Hilo.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Liliuokalani Park and Gardens, Hilo, Big Island--Visit the Liliuokalani Park and Gardens for a free thing to do on the Big Island
Liliuokalani Park and Gardens

This 24-acre park is supposedly the largest Japanese Garden outside of Japan.

Ponds, bridges, walking paths, statues, and pagodas are all available and open to the public.

Go enjoy a stroll through the garden as you take in the beauty around you!

11. LAVA VIEWING

The Big Island is one of the only places in the world you can safely observe an active lava flow.

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Lava, Big Island--Another free thing to do on the Big Island is watch the lava flow from a safe distance
Lava flow on the Big Island.

If you have a volcano-obsessed little one, this will be the experience of a lifetime!

Make sure you check the website to know where to go, and you stay on the correct side of the divider.

There is a trail to follow that runs alongside the lava flow, but know that it is about 8.5 miles, which might be a bit much for little legs!

12. PUNALU`U BEACH

This is the traditional, Hawaiian Black-Sand beach you have been looking for!

12 FREE Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii with Kids featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: Punaluu Beach, Black Sand Beach, Big Island--Punaluu Beach is one of the best Big Island beaches
Punaluu Beach

Punalu’u Beach is not only exciting because of the color of the sand, but there are also often sea turtles basking in the sun on the beach!

Located on the east side of the southern tip of Hawaii, the picnic area, restrooms, and parking make this a wonderful day-trip destination!

There are so many times that doing my research ahead of time has saved our budget!

Once, we were all set to book a room at a hotel, and we realized by reading the fine print on the booking page that there was an extra $50 resort fee per night added in before taxes!

That would have completely wiped out our budget for anything else.

Ever since then I read the fine print, and find ways to help us save money unless we want to splurge on something really fun or exciting for us or the boys.

Which of these 12 Things to do for FREE on the Big Island of Hawaii are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments below!

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