Waikiki has long been the epicenter of Hawaii’s tourism and one of the most sought out destinations in the islands, thanks to pictures, postcards and Hollywood. But it’s also one of the most expensive places here that purposefully bumps up its prices in the hopes that beautiful beaches and baby blue skies might offer some distraction.

A dreamy Waikiki, with tons of free fun to be had.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this unique part of Oahu. In fact, you well should. There’s no place like it in the world. Just do it in a more creative way, especially if you find yourself pinching pennies. In addition to enjoying a cost-free day at the world famous Waikiki Beach, be sure to check out a few other freebies while you’re there:


Hula is one of the most beautiful ways to carry on the Native Hawaiian culture. The graceful movements tell stories of their own, inspired by Hawaiian chant or song. Most hotels, shopping malls or restaurants offer free shows for visitors and locals to enjoy. There’s one in particular that happens every Tuesday to Saturday (weather permitting) at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound, near the Duke statue. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., the Waikiki Hula Show features Hawaii’s best hula halau (dance group) and musicians.


There’s always some kind of live melodious music to be had in Waikiki. The Royal Hawaiian Center went through some major renovations, which included a new-and-improved outdoor stage that always has company. Local musicians, singers and dancers perform near the grove of royal palms for everyone to enjoy on almost any given night. Check out the center’s site (www.royalhawaiiancenter.com) for scheduled performances as well as free hula, ukulele, lomi massage lessons (Hey! Here’s another freebie).


Silver Men, Basketball Man, Balloon Girl, Beat-Boxing Guy. These are just a few of the many unique acts that bring even more life to those warm Waikiki nights. Along Kalakaua Avenue, street performers draw huge crowds to their sidewalk stage and have been doing so for years.


Almost everyday at sunset, dozens of people line Waikiki Beach with cameras in hand, snapping away at the pink and golden hues that illuminate the skies (Hey! This is another free thing to do in Waikiki). But once or twice a month, another kind of show takes place on those same sandy shores and during the same time. This one’s on a 30-foot screen, where free, family-friendly movies are shown. Sunset on the Beach, as the name suggests, starts at sunset. It’s hosted by the city, and there’s usually free entertainment and tons of food booths. Families lounge on beach chairs and towels as they enjoy the show and relax under the stars. It happens at Queen’s Beach, across from the Honolulu Zoo. Check the event’s site (www.sunsetonthebeach.net) for updated movie schedules.


Every Friday night at about 7:15 p.m., the Waikiki skies light up with fireworks. The show happens for about five to seven minutes, on the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV) side of the beach. Get the best seats anywhere on Magic Island, near the HHV’s manmade lagoon or at the Ilikai. It’s always fun to enjoy an evening picnic before or during the show, with beach mats and chairs ready to go!


The 76-acre park has lots of room to roam. Grassy patches and sandy, white shores make for comfy resting spots. There are also picnic tables and benches set up throughout the park, including a few at a beachfront pavilion. Designated grilling areas make it easy when it comes to frying up burgers and hot dogs. And once you’ve digested all that ono (delicious) food, work off those calories by taking a stroll around the paved bike/walking path or hitting some balls on the tennis and volleyball courts.


Located on the grounds of Hale Koa Hotel and the Fort DeRussy Recreation Center in Waikiki, the museum houses the history of Hawaii’s military. Photograph collages and sound effects re-create parts of history and allow visitors to feel as if they’re actually in the Gulf War or in the War in Iraq, for instance. Admission is free, but the museum happily accepts donations.


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