27 Free Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

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Home to Honolulu, Hawaii’s state capital, Oahu is known as the Gathering Place. And it certainly is an ideal place to travel with friends and family – and without breaking the bank. From hiking and swimming to visiting historical and cultural sites, there are many free things to do on Oahu, Hawaii. Whether you prefer bustling Honolulu or the laid-back surf towns on the North Shore, you’re sure to feel the warm aloha of Oahu.

Check out our list of 27 free things to do on Oahu, Hawaii.

Read More: Fun Things to Do on Oahu With Teens

Free things to do in Oahu Hawaii - go to the beach.
Free things to do on Oahu Hawaii – go to the beach. Photo credit: Pixabay

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 – 5 pm (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.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Don’t confuse this with Sunset Beach. The North Shore Sunset Beach not only has great sunsets but also big wave surfing in the winter months.

see the lighthouse on oahu as one of the free things to do on Oahu
Makapu’u Lighthouse at the end of a hike. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

4. Oahu’s Hiking Trails

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. And be sure to hike Diamond Head. Although it has some steep steps, it’s a short trail with panoramic ocean and city views worth seeing.

5. Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest open-air shopping center, has over 800 free Hawaiian cultural 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 Cultural Plaza

Take a walk through the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, which has restaurants, shops and various events, some of which are free.

9. Honolulu City Lights

The month-long Honolulu City Lights returns for its 40th year. Following the tree lighting ceremony at 6:30 pm December 2, 2023, enjoy outdoor holiday light displays in downtown Honolulu. Festivities conclude on New Year’s Day 2024.

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 start 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, from painting in oils, acrylics or watercolor to photography. The art is for sale, but it is free to look.

SheBuysTravel 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.

scenic view of Kapi'olani Regional Park, Oahu is among free things to do on Oahu
Kapiʻolani Regional Park. Photo credit: City and County of Honolulu

12. Spend the Day at Kapiʻolani Park

Kapiʻolani Regional Park is the second oldest public park on Oahu. It’s also the largest park on the island. 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. Live Music

Listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace on Fridays from noon-1 pm and at Kapiolani Park on Sundays from 2-3 pm. Once known as the “King’s Band,” created by King Kamehameha III in 1836, it’s the only full-time municipal band in the United States.

15. Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa Street Festival

The annual Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa takes place in September and features Hawaiian music, crafts, food and entertainment.

Float in Floral Parade in Waikiki
The annual Floral Parade through Waikīkī. Photo credit: Aloha Festivals

16. Floral Parade

Each year, the Floral Parade is the closing act for the popular Aloha Festivals. If you’re in Honolulu in September, be sure to catch this colorful parade. The beautiful floats are made with fresh Hawaiian flowers and feature 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 a.m., 6 days a week. The auction, at the Commercial Fishing Village on Pier 38, is the only fish auction between Tokyo and Maine It’s also the only fresh tuna auction in the United States.

18. Sunday Service

Anyone can attend the Hawaiian language Sunday service at Kawaiahao Church.

visiting Pearl Harbor is among free things to do on oahu
Pearl Harbor is the site of WWII’s 1941 bombing attack and home to the USS Arizona Memorial. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

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. A $1 service charge is collected by recreation.gov to reserve tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial program – definitely worth seeing.

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 is open every day except Sundays. The museum features contemporary art from the State of Hawaii.

22. Sculpture Garden at Honolulu Museum of Art

Located in a small outdoor courtyard at the Hawaii State Art Museum, the Sculpture Garden is free to the public. In addition, free public tours are available.

23. Oahu’s North Shore

Explore the North Shore of Oahu, known for its surfing beaches and hiking trails. Haleiwa is a classic surf town with small eateries and art galleries. This is about an hour from downtown Honolulu

SheBuysTravel Tip: The Dole Plantation and the  Polynesian Cultural Center, both paid attractions, are nearby.

24.Duke Kahanamoku Statue

Head to Kuhio Beach in Waikiki to see the bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku. The Olympic gold medal swimmer is known as the father of modern surfing. The beach is popular for body surfing, snorkeling and swimming.

25. Manoa Falls

Take a hike to the 150-foot waterfall. But for safety reasons, avoid swimming in the pool below the falls. Note that the parking lot at the trailhead charges a fee, but you can park on the street nearby and walk in for free.

Free things to do in Oahu - smell the flowers
Free things to do in Oahu – smell the flowers. Photo: Pixabay

26. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

The 400-acre botanical garden on the windward side of 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 (but amazing) Hanauma Bay State Park.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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2 responses

  1. Just stumbled upon your website and this article… I’d LOVE a compilation of free or relatively inexpensive things to do on Maui. Maybe I should take notes when we go at the end of the month!

  2. I have printed out this list to put in my Hawaii file! We are going to Oahu in October and I can’t wait to check some of this stuff out!

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