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- The Best Free Things to Do in Oahu Hawaii
- 1. Day at the Beach
- 2. Aloha Tower
- 3. Sunset on the Beach
- 4. Take a Hike
- 5. Ala Moana Centerstage
- 6. Hawaii Symphony Orchestra
- 7. Royal Hawaiian Center
- 8. Chinese New Year Celebration
- 9. Honolulu City Lights
- 10. Honolulu Marathon
- 11. Art on the Zoo Fence
- 12. Spend the Day at Kapiʻolani Park
- 13. Catch a Band
- 15. Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa
- 16. Floral Parade
- 17. Honolulu Fish Auction
- 18. Sunday Service
- 19. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
- 20. Honolulu Museum of Art
- 21. Hawaii State Art Museum
- 22. Duke Kahanamoku Statue
- 23. Drive to Haleiwa
- 24. HISAM Sculpture Garden
- 25. Manoa Falls
- 26. Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
- 27. Sharks Cove
Oahu is high on honeymooner’s lists but is also an affordable, family friendly tropical destination. Best of all for any traveler, it has tons of things to do for free. Once you buy those round-trip airline tickets, or redeem all the frequent flyer miles you’ve been hoarding, you can save by exploring the natural beauty of the island and enjoying its free activities.
The Best Free Things to Do in Oahu Hawaii
Hawaii’s natural beauty and climate mean that you will want to spend most of your time outdoors. This is great news for those looking for free activities. And it is also excellent for those who want to travel during the pandemic, but want to avoid gathering inside with others (apart from that plane trip). So pack your bags and sunscreen and explore all the free things to do in Oahu.
1. Day at the Beach
You may need several days since Oahu has some of the best beaches in the world. There are beaches where you can lay on the soft sand and swim in the gentle waves, beaches where you go for surfing, others where you might see sea turtles or other marine life. Bring your snorkeling gear if you have it. Lanikai Beach is great for families. There is no parking lot, but there is free street parking. Kailua Beach, another family friendly spot, is about a half hour from Honolulu and has free parking lots.
2. Aloha Tower
Aloha Tower, completed in 1926, was where islanders could watch ships sail in and out of Oahu. Now the centerpiece of Aloha Tower Marketplace, the area has a waterfront stage with free live performances. The 10th floor observation deck is open daily from 9 am – 5pm (weather-permitting). You get views of the harbor on one side and city on the other.
3. Sunset on the Beach
Sunset on the Beach at Kapahulu Pier includes an outdoor movie theater, with live entertainment, food stands and free movies in the evening.
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t confuse this with Sunset Beach. The North Shore Sunset Beach not only has great sunsets but also big wave surfing in winter months.
4. Take a Hike
Family friendly hiking trails abound near downtown Honolulu. The paved Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is perfect for families with strollers or young children. The two mile hike to the lighthouse also rewards you with views of Molokai, Lanai and Maui.
5. Ala Moana Centerstage
Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest open-air shopping center has over 800 free Hawaiian culture performances a year. Best of all, catch the daily hula show at 1 pm.
6. Hawaii Symphony Orchestra
The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, previously known as the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, has a free outdoor summer concert series at Waikiki Shell.
7. Royal Hawaiian Center
The Royal Hawaiian Center offers a bevy of free classes throughout the week, including hula dancing, with lessons for adults or children, ukulele lessons and lei making. Some of the classes require advance sign up; reserve here. There are also hula dancing performances on Saturdays at 5:30.
8. Chinese New Year Celebration
The annual Chinese New Year Celebration event at Chinatown Cultural Plaza will be Friday, January 28, 2022, from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday, January 29, from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. The festivities include live entertainment, special cultural performances, lion and dragon dances and lion dancing on poles.
9. Honolulu City Lights
The month long Honolulu City Lights returns for its 37th year. Following the tree lighting ceremony on December 4 at 6:30 p.m, enjoy outdoor holiday lights displays in downtown Honolulu.
10. Honolulu Marathon
Join the cheering spectators who gather along the course of the annual Honolulu Marathon. This year, the marathon is in December. The races starts in downtown Honolulu, going past Iolani Palace and the holiday lights, through Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head and the residential neighborhoods of Kahala and Hawaii Kai.
11. Art on the Zoo Fence
See the outdoor gallery set up along a fence outside the Honolulu Zoo. Every weekend, local artists display two-dimensional (2D) artwork work, from painting in oils, acrylics or watercolor to photography. The art is for sale, but it is free to look.
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t mention to your kids that you are outside the Honolulu Zoo. Admission is expensive, though the zoo is free for kids two and under.
12. Spend the Day at Kapiʻolani Park
Kapiʻolani Regional Park, one of the largest and the second oldest public park on Oahu. It began as a polo field for King Kalākaua. The park, on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places, is enjoyed by locals and tourists. Stroll through the park or ride a bicycle.
13. Catch a Band
Listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace on Fridays noon-1 p.m. and at Kapiolani Park on Sundays from 2-3 p.m. The “King’s Band,” created by King Kamehameha III in 1836, is the only full-time municipal band in the United States.
15. Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa
This festival, Hawaii’s largest annual block party, was canceled due to Covid-19. But Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa plans to return in 2022, with Hawaiian music, crafts, food and entertainment.
16. Floral Parade
The annual Floral Parade, cancelled for 2021, is unlike any parade you’ve ever seen. It features colorful floats of fresh Hawaiian flowers, horseback riders, hula dancers and marching bands.
17. Honolulu Fish Auction
The early bird catches the worm – er, tuna – at the unique Honolulu Fish Auction, which starts at 5:30 am, 6 days a week. The auction, at the Commercial Fishing Village on Pier 38. is the only fish auction between Tokyo and Maine, and the only fresh tuna auction in the United States.
18. Sunday Service
Anyone can attend the Hawaiian language Sunday service at Kawaiahao Church. For pandemic protocol, you have to register in advance for the 8:30am service.
19. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
There is no entry fee for the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and no ticket is required to see the museums. Free tickets are required for the USS Arizona Memorial program; you can reserve these online.
TravelingMom Tip: Same-day, free tickets are no longer available at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
20. Honolulu Museum of Art
Adults have to pay admission to the Honolulu Museum of Art, but kids up to age 18 can visit for free. Teens can go by themselves to see Asian art, American and European painting and decorative arts, along with works by local Hawaiian artists.
21. Hawaii State Art Museum
The Hawaii State Art Museum is free to all, and open every day except Sundays. The museum, known as HISAM, features contemporary art from the state of Hawaii.
22. Duke Kahanamoku Statue
Head to Kuhio Beach, a bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku. The Olympic gold medal swimmer is also known as the father of modern surfing. The Duke Kahanamoku statue ironically is at a beach that doesn’t allow surfing. You won’t see a surfer, but you can bodysurf.
23. Drive to Haleiwa
Explore the North Shore of Oahu, known for its surfing beaches and hiking trails. This is about an hour from downtown Honolulu
TravelingMom Tip: The Dole Plantation and the Polynesian Cultural Center, both paid attractions, are nearby.
24. HISAM Sculpture Garden
The HISAM Sculpture Garden, downstairs from the Hawaii State Art Museum, is also free to the public.
25. Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls was closed for two years, not due to Covid-19, but for safety concerns on the hiking trails. You can now hike safely to the 150 foot waterfall. Note that the parking lot at the trailhead charges a fee, but you can park on the street nearby and walk in for free.
26. Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
The 400 acre botanical garden in windward Oahu is a highlight of Hawaii travel. The free gardens are open daily, 9 am – 4 pm, but closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
27. Sharks Cove
If you have preteen or teen children, you can take them snorkeling in the tide pools at Sharks Cove. This is a rocky beach, and not great for little children. But it is free, unlike the fee based Hanauma Bay State Park.
Sadly, one of the more popular free things to do on Oahu, the Waikiki Fireworks Show on Friday nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, is still on pause due to Covid-19. When it resumes, we’ll return it to our list of free things to do.