The best things in life are free, right? Especially when your vacation destination is a tropical group of islands where the sun shines year round and the air is laced with floral scents. Beaches, hikes, swimming, sightseeing- these are just a few of the free things you can enjoy during your vacation to Hawaii.
But everyone knows this already! These free activities are an obvious enticement for visitors and they account for a large part of a vacationer’s day. But what about when you’re ready for a switch up from lounging on the beach or doing backstrokes in the blue waters?
Rest assured there are plenty of tours on Oahu to keep you busy. And below you’ll find a list of the fun FREE ones! What could be better than free tours in Hawaii?
Dole Plantation- The second most visited tourist attraction in the state, Dole Plantation is a free place to explore and even offers free activities like a pineapple-cutting demo and a fish-feeding pond. They also offer guided tours, like the Pineapple Garden Maze, the Pineapple Express Train Tour and the Plantation Garden Tour for a price.
Botanical Gardens- Take a stroll through one of Oahu’s rainforests and enjoy a relaxing and quiet afternoon. The gardens listed are either free or donation-based, making the properties a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic or an easy family outing. Check out Lyon Arboretum, a 200-acre garden in Manoa Valley; Wahiawa Botanical Garden, a smaller 27-acre rainforest tucked away in the center of the island; Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden, a beautiful rainforest garden in Kaneohe with a lake to walk around; Koko Crater Botanical Garden, located within the Koko Crater on the eastern side of Honolulu; and Lili‘uokalani Botanical Garden, a city park and garden located in the heart of Honolulu.
Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail- If you want a little exercise in your day, take the 2-mile roundtrip walk to see the iconic Makapu‘u Lighthouse. There are fantastic panoramic views along this trail with a free (but small) parking lot. Get there early to avoid the heat and crowds.
USS Arizona Memorial Tour at Pearl Harbor- The number one tourist destination in Hawaii – Pearl Harbor – is actually a FREE tour! The only catch is you have to arrive early for reservations, and the wait can be anywhere from one hour to all day. But if you have the time and want to explore this historical site, I highly recommend it.
Ala Moana- The world’s largest open-air shopping mall, Ala Moana provides levels upon levels of shops, boutiques, bars, eateries, entertainment and more. Window-shopping is free, as are the performances that take place at Centerstage, but all the store goodies will tempt you, and those are definitely not free!
Fireworks at Hilton Hawaiian Village- The Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free 10-minute fireworks show every Friday at 7:45pm, year round. You can watch the display from almost anywhere in Waikiki, but I recommend walking into the Hilton Hawaiian Village for a tour and then sitting on the beach for the show. The best viewing is hands down from the sandy shores of Waikiki.
Puu o Mahuka- Oahu’s largest heiau (ancient Hawaiian religious site/cemetery) is located on the North Shore above Waimea Valley and covers almost 2 acres of land. You’re free to roam the property, and there is informational signage to describe the history, plus short trails that lead you to glorious lookouts of Waimea Bay.
Honolulu Museum of Art- If you visit on the right days, you can enter for free! The Honolulu Museum of Art is home to over 34,000 objects and artifacts, and has rotating collections that feature contemporary, traditional and historical themes. The free days are every third Sunday of the Month from 11am – 5pm (known as Bank of Hawaii Family Sundays) and every first Wednesday of the month.
Waimea Valley– Entrance to this beautiful valley is free, which includes a garden, visitor shop, information booth and pavilions. But if you want to take a stroll through the larger botanical gardens or witness the waterfall, there is a price attached. However, every Thursday from 4pm – 7pm you can check out the Farmer’s Market, where Jack Johnson and other local celebrities are known to frequent.
Island X Hawaii- Located in the quiet town of Waialua on Oahu’s northern stretch, Island X Hawaii offers free coffee and cacao tours and tastings. The large industrial building is within the old Waialua Sugar Mill; so don’t just make Island X Hawaii your only stop while you’re here. There are plenty of other retail shops to explore, like North Shore Soap Factory, which offers free soap demonstrations and history on the Waialua Sugar Mill.
Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve- Accessible via the west side or north shore, this nature reserve is a free place to explore and offers incredible vistas and wildlife viewing. There isn’t much shade here though, so plan to go early or after high noon and enjoy sights of albatross, shearwater birds, monk seals, turtles and more.
Posted by: Bruce Fisher