If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, then you know that I’m all about taking advantage of Hawaii’s natural beauty and free outdoorsy things to do, like swimming, hiking, and chasing waterfalls. Not only are they incredible experiences, but they are usually free or very cheap.
Now, some of the best attractions and parks in Hawaii will cost you a small entry fee to help maintain the parks. There are also a number of museums, breweries, and other attractions that offer admission and/or tours for a small fee. Read on to find out some of the best things to do for under $20 throughout the Hawaiian islands.
Hike to a waterfall
Although admission to Waimea Valley seems a little pricey at $15 per person, it’s totally worth it. You get a lot for your money. To get to the waterfall, walk down a short paved path that also serves as a botanical garden. There are also shuttles that will take you to the waterfall for an additional fee.
Along the way, you will learn about the historical and cultural significance of Waimea Valley. Cultural and educational activities for keiki (children) are a plus.
Then, as long as weather conditions permit, you can go swimming in the waterfall. Lifeguards are on watch, and they make everyone wear lifejackets.
Try the food trucks on the North Shore
The north shore of Oahu is lined with food trucks selling garlic shrimp, Hawaiian BBQ, and more. Drive along Kamehameha Highway and stop at my personal favorites: Kahuku Farms or Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Or, park at Shark’s Cove and walk around to have your pick from many different trucks.
While you’re at it, get yourself some shave ice from Angel’s Shave Ice in Laie and stop at a fruit stand to try some Hawaiian fruit.
Learn about Hawaii’s culture and history
Iolani Palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua and was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs.
Registered as a National Historic Landmark, Iolani Palace is the only official royal residence in the United States. How cool is that? It’s also one of the most recognizable buildings in Hawaii. Meticulously restored, a visit to Iolani Palace is worth the trip. Admission with a self-led audio tour will cost you $14.75.
Another favorite museum of mine is the Honolulu Museum of Art. Their mission is “to bring together great art and people to create a more harmonious, adaptable, and enjoyable society in Hawaii.” Their galleries span much of the globe, with art from Hawaii, China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and more. Admission is $20, but it’s free for everyone under 18.
Admission to the art museum also includes access to Spaulding House, where you can see more art galleries and picnic on the lawn with a gorgeous view of Diamond Head in the background.
Take a tour of a chocolate factory
Manoa Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory on Oahu. They source single origin cacao from across the Hawaiian Islands and around the globe.
Here, you can take a bean-to-bar chocolate factory tour. Learn about cacao farming and how chocolate is made. Chat with the chocolate makers, try delicious samples, cacao nibs, and chocolate tea, and browse their gift shop with many locally-made products and gifts.
Tours are $9.95. Reservations are required. You can make them here.
Take a Farm Tour
Drive our to the west side of Oahu for a unique experience at Kahumana Farms. As part of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, everything they do goes to further their social mission of working with the community and the most vulnerable members of our society.
On their farm tour, you can learn what it takes to be a fully-functioning, organic, production-based, regenerative farm. We will share with you our knowledge on how to sustainably raise sheep and free-range chickens, how we care for the many different vegetables and fruits we are growing here on the farm, as well as receiving an introduction to aquaponics, permaculture and more!
Price is $15 per person. Book online here. https://www.kahumana.org/book-a-tour-online
For more cheap things to do on Oahu, check out my other post, 10 things to do for under $10 on Oahu.
See the sunrise at Haleakala National Park
Because of its popularity, reservations are now required to drive up Haleakala for the sunrise. It will cost you $1.50 to book your tickets in advance. You will also have to pay the park entrance fee of $25, but that evens out depending on how many people you have in your car.
You may book a reservation up to two months in advance. Book your tickets as far in advance as possible because they tend to sell out. Make your reservation here.
While you’re there, spend some time exploring the park!
Visit the Ali`i Kula Lavender farm
Located in the upcountry region of Maui on the slopes of Haleakala is the famous Ali`i Kula Lavender farm. Admission is $3 per person.
People come to the farm for its breathtaking views and beautiful walking paths. Wander around on your own or take a guided walking tour. During these tours, you will learn about the farm’s history, inspiration, and plans for the future. Guided Walking Tours take place daily and typically last 30-40 minutes. They cost $12 per person.
Tour Maui Brewing Company
Maui Brewing Company just opened up a pub in Waikiki, and I’ve become a huge fan of their beer since going there. If you love beer, take a tour at Maui Brewing Company in Maui.
A 45-minute guided tour providing an up-close glimpse of their brewhouse, cellar and packaging line. The tour ends with a tasting of their flagship beers, a token for a full beer (or Island Root Beer), and a souvenir glass for you to keep. Tours are $15 per person and take place at their Brewery Tasting Room in Kihei. Book your tour here.
Hike to ‘Iao Valley State Monument
A paved 0.6-mile walk will bring you to a gorgeous viewpoint of ʻIao Needle, an erosional feature which abruptly rises 1200 feet from the valley floor. Learn about the plants brought by the Hawaiians who settled in ʻIao Valley by taking a short walk through a botanical garden.This valley is rich in cultural and spiritual values and is the site of the battle of Kepaniwai where the forces of Kamehameha I conquered the Maui army in 1790. Parking fee is $5.00 per car.
Drive the Road to Hana
You’ll have a hard time deciding where to pull over on Maui’s famous 64.4-mile scenic drive. You’ll pass waterfalls, gorgeous lookout points, beaches, trails, coffee houses, and farm stands. Some attractions cost money to enter, but most are free.
The roads on this trail are notoriously narrow and windy, so some people do prefer to pay for a guided tour. Hawaii Aloha Travel offers a guided tour of the Road to Hana.
Cell phone service is spotty at best, so be sure to download a map with descriptions of the attractions before you go.
Learn about Hawaii’s natural history at Lyman Museum
The mission of the Lyman Museum and Mission House is “to tell the story of Hawaii, its islands, and its people.”
The Lyman Museum began as the Lyman Mission House, originally built for New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman in 1839. In 1931, the Museum was established by their descendants.
It is home to a beautiful collection of artifacts and natural history exhibits as well as special exhibitions, archives, and a gift shop. Visitors touring the two facilities can see the old Mission House and life as it was 150 years ago, as well as immersive exhibits on many aspects of Hawaiian natural history and culture.
Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about Hawaii’s natural history. Cost is $10 adults, $8 seniors, $3 children, $21 per family.
Spend the day at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
It will cost you $25 to bring a car full of people here. For a family of four, that averages out to $6.25 per person. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the top attractions on the Big Island, and it’s affordable, too.
Once you are inside, you can visit any of the park’s attractions. They are all included in the admission price, including entry to the Jagger Museum, the Sulphur Banks, Steam Vents, Thurston Lava Tube, Holei Sea Arch, and the park’s biggest attraction, Halema’uma’u Crater. Make sure you stay past sunset so that you can see red lava glow coming out from the crater. Click here for my guide to spending one day at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Tour a Kona Coffee Farm
The weather in Kona makes for a perfect place to grow coffee. Kona Coffee only grows on the slopes of Kona, which stretches only 20 miles long.
So, I think it’s essential to visit coffee farms when you are on the Big Island. Many farms offer free tours or tours for a small fee.
To learn even more about the history of the Kona coffee region, visit The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum. Admission is $5.
Learn how beer is made at Kona Brewing Company
Kona Brewing Company was started by a father and son team who dreamed of making fresh, local island brews. Their love of Hawaii and a desire to protect its pristine environment brought them to the Big Island to fulfill their vision. Kona Brewing continues to be headquartered right where it began, in Kailua-Kona.
At their Kailua-Kona Brewery, you can take a tour. For $10, it lasts approximately one hour and includes a complimentary Kona Brewing Company gift, four 4oz beer samples, and a fun and informative tour. Book your tour here.
Visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
One of my favorite things to do on the Big Island is to wander around the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden costs $18 for adults, children ages 6 – 16 are $5. Children under 6 are free.
This garden is in a tropical rainforest. You will see tropical flora, cross over small streams, walk to beautiful waterfalls, and end up looking at stunning views of the Pacific coast. There are over 2,000 species of tropical plants from all over the world. The garden’s 40 acres are the perfect place for plants to grow because they contain fertile volcanic soil.
I don’t say this often, but I think that the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a Big Island Must Do.
Koloa Rum Company
The Koloa Rum Company offers free rum tasting in its tasting room!
Their award-winning rums are made using local ingredients, including Hawaiian cane sugar. Koloa Rum Company is the first and only licensed distillery on Kauai.
Koloa Rum Tasting Room located at the historic Kilohana Plantation in Lihue. Tastings are offered daily every half-hour beginning at 10 a.m. No reservations are accepted, but a sign-up sheet is available in the retail store. Tastings are limited to 16 people, so come early to make sure you get a spot.
Sample local beer
Located in downtown Port Allen, Kauai Island Brewery and Grill is the world’s westernmost brewery. Come visit before your boat cruise of the Na Pali Coast and make sure to try some chocolate across the street.
Kauai Island Brewing is a microbrewery and pub located in Port Allen. They offer Kauai 5 oz sampler sets. Each 5 oz. sample of their house beer is $2.25. If you order food, you will probably end up spending more than $20, but the atmosphere and good, local beer make this a great spot. Make sure to save room for dessert across the street at Kauai Chocolate Company (their products make great souvenirs and gifts!)
Take a ride on a train through a plantation
This tour draws its inspiration from Kauai’s sugar era when trains carried sugarcane to the mills. Today, the Kauai Plantation Railway will take you on a 2.5 mile narrated tour around the plantation.
The train ride takes you back through history to the plantation days of Kauai and shows you how the farm works today. Much of the produce that you see along your way is used in nearby Gaylord’ restaurant.
Well out into the heart of the plantation you will get off of the train so that you can see the farm’s animals – pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, and horses.
Adults cost $19 ($16.15 if you book online) and children are $14 ($11.90 if you book online).
Visit The Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge
The Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It was established in 1985 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The ocean cliffs and tall grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds.
The coastal front also provides a haven for the endangered ‘Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua (Hawaiian monk seal), Honu (Green sea turtle), and Koholā (Humpback whale).
Admission is $5.00 per person. Children 15 and under are free.
Wanter around the Hanapepe Friday Night Festival and Art Walk
Every Friday evening, Hanapepe comes alive. During their Friday Night Festival and Awr Walk, there is a huge variety of shopping. Local crafters, several excellent restaurants, and a dozen art galleries all come out. There is also live music and entertainment.
There really is something for everyone here. Admission is free. You could end up spending more than $20 here, but you could also spend less, depending on what you want to eat and buy!