7 Free Things to Do in Oahu (Besides Going to the Beach!)

free things to do in Oahu
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > 7 Free Things to Do in Oahu (Besides Going to the Beach!)

The best things in life – and in Hawaii – are free. Watching the changing colors as the sun dips below the ocean, swimming in the crystal-clear waters, and having a lazy day on the beach are among my favorite things to do here. And they are all free things to do in Oahu.

Unfortunately, getting here, staying here, and eating here comes at a price. But here at Hawaii Aloha Travel, we aim to help you get the best bang for your buck while also offering you the best experience possible.

The Best Things in Life are Free!

Sure, some things do cost money, but you can offset these things with several free activities to keep your budget in check. Because all of us here at Hawaii Aloha Travel live in Hawaii, we know what the best things to do are. 

And because we also like to save money, we’re always looking for the best free things to do. That’s why we created our Oahu Super Saver All Inclusive Vacation Package. Now you can experience all of the best things that Oahu has to offer at a reasonable price that can’t be beat.

So, when you want to go beyond the beach and the waves, check out some of these free things to do on Oahu. They truly are the best things in life!

1. Pay Your Respect at Pearl Harbor 

Did you know that The USS Arizona Memorial hands out 1,300 free tickets daily? Well, they’re almost free. Now that the park has switched to an online reservation system, you do need to pay $1 for each pass. 

For your best chance of getting one of the nearly-free passes, get online For your best chance of getting one, log in 8 weeks before your planned visit. Or, try your hand the afternoon before your visit, as they release a few more tickets for last-minute visitors. 

Here is where you can get full details on reserving your Pearl Harbor tickets in advance

Each ticket is assigned a time, and the program runs every 15 minutes. And plenty of things to do while you wait – all for free. You can visit the Exhibit Galleries, “Road to War” and “Attack, view the Interpretive Wayside Exhibits around the park, and walk through the Remembrance Circle, which pays tribute to the men, women, and children, both military and civilian, who were killed on December 7, 1941. 

To get into the park right away, do not bring any bags or purses. You will not be allowed into the park with one, so you will waste time getting to a locker or putting it back into your car.

2. Picnic at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden

The Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe is one of Oahu’s best-kept secrets. This garden has everything from a small art gallery to fishing programs. 

The word Hoʻomaluhia means “to make a place of peace and tranquility,” and Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens truly is a place of peace and tranquility. 

When you arrive, go to the visitor’s center to get a map and talk to the volunteers about the different trails. Because the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is a bit off the beaten path, it’s usually quiet. The botanical garden has a variety of plants, including cacao, allspice, lipstick plants, heliconias, and more. 

A lovely picnic area with a dam and mountains in the background makes for a peaceful afternoon.

3. Wander Around Capitol Modern (Formerly the Hawaii State Art Museum)

Capitol Modern is the new name for the Hawaii State Art Museum, and it is always free for everyone. The mission of the museum is to promote, perpetuate, preserve, and encourage culture and the arts as central to the quality of life of the people of Hawaii. 

The museum itself is pretty small, so you could probably see all of it in an hour or two. But, the Capitol Modern also has several free events that are open to the public. 

For a calendar of all of the museum’s events, click here. This is a great free thing to do in Oahu that’s right in downtown Honolulu!

4. Watch Hula For Free in Oahu

Several venues in Waikiki offer live performances that showcase Hawaiian culture, including traditional hula dancing and music. These hula and music presentations are available to the public at no cost, thanks to the hosts’ kindness. 

As these events tend to be quite popular, arriving early for prime seating is advisable. 

Here are the best places to watch hula for free on Oahu:

  • Ala Moana Center: Daily at 5 PM on Centerstage
  • International MarketPlace: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:30 PM in the Queen’s Court (level 1)
  • Kapiolani Park: Sundays – Thursdays at 9:30 AM at the Waikiki Shell. 
  • Royal Hawaiian Center: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 5:30 PM at the Royal Grove.

5. See Fireworks (Free Thing to Do in Waikiki!)

Fourth of July Celebrations in Hawaii include food, festivals, parades, and fireworks. Ala Moana Center's fireworks show has been named among the best in the country.

Every Friday at 7:45 pm, the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on its fireworks show. Although the fireworks is a finale for one of their resort shows, anyone can see the fireworks! Since all beaches in Hawaii are free and open to the public, you can bring a towel, sit on the beach, and watch for free.

Pro Tip: Walking along Waikiki beach at night is a favorite thing to do in Waikiki – and it’s free! The lights from the city keep the beach illuminated, but it’s quieter, cooler, and less crowded than during the day. Going on a walk on the beach after a nice dinner in Waikiki.

6. Hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail (Hiking is a Great Free Thing to Do in Oahu!)

Some hiking trails on Oahu cost money to park at or enter. But the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is always free. This trail is completely paved, with a number of lookout points along the way.
Parking can be tricky because this hike has gotten so popular. I highly recommend going early in the morning to beat the crowds and the sun. The trail is short but steep in parts, so take your time and enjoy the beautiful views!

There is absolutely no shade on this trail, no bathrooms, and no water fountains. Come prepared by wearing sneakers, a hat,  sunglasses, and sunscreen. Carry water with you during your hike. 

Pro Tip: In the winter, the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is a great – and free – place to look for whales!

7. Visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific 

Although not as popular as some other historical sights, this is a solemn, breathtaking experience. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all armed forces members who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. 

The cemetery is in a beautiful location by Punchbowl Crater. 

Punchbowl Crater was created between 75,000 and 100,000 years ago when hot lava ejected through cracks in the coral reefs. Its Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” translates to “Hill of Sacrifice.”

Although it took many years to get the funding for the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, it was important to many to have a permanent burial site in Hawaii. 

The cemetery opened to the public on July 19, 1949, with services for four servicemen and war correspondent Ernie Pyle. The cemetery is open daily with special hours on Memorial Day. 

Finding Free Things to Do in Oahu

Though lots of magic comes at a price, there are lots of free things to do in Oahu. And if you don’t mind spending a few bucks, check out this guide for seeing Oahu on a budget. It’s packed with ideas that cost $10 or less. 

And don’t forget to work with a travel agent like Hawaii Aloha Travel. We’re always eager to help you have a great vacation without any unnecessary spending!