10 Things to do in Hawaii for Free
Updated: Mar 19, 2021
Whether this is your first time to Hawai’i or your tenth time, we wanted to help take some stress out of planning so you can enjoy your vacation. Trips can add up quickly so we included the top 10 free things to do in the Aloha State!
1. Waikiki Beach
The most famous beach of Hawai’i is located on Oahu and it stretches 2 miles long. It begins at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and ends by the Honolulu Zoo. Every Friday night, the Hilton Hawaiian Village offers a free fireworks show to everyone. You can also admire the iconic mosaic on Rainbow Tower there. Fun fact is that this is the world's tallest mosaic. The background of Waikiki beach is the Diamond Head State Monument. As you walk down the beach, you will notice surf shacks where you can rent surfboards or take surfing lessons. This was the go to spot for nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty for surfing and relaxing. In the middle of Waikiki Beach, you will notice the bronze Duke Kahanamoku Statue covered with leis. He is the Hawaiian Olympic champion and father of international surfing. Whether you’re relaxing, surfing or enjoying a Mai Tai on Waikiki Beach, you can’t miss this free go to spot!
2. Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona
This humbling site offers guests a look into the events that led up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Please be mindful of how you dress before entering as you want to enter dressed respectfully. Parking is also free here but please be patient because this is a very popular site. It is always recommended to arrive early to secure tickets to get on the Arizona Memorial. Prior to taking the free ferry ride to the Arizona Memorial, guests watch a documentary that is about 30 minutes long. Guests are welcome to walk around the premises freely or you can take a self guided tour with the narrated audio guide (there is a fee for the narrated audio guide). This informative and education site is one that you cannot miss!
Image Credit: BestofOahu.com
3. Lanikai Beach
One of the most beautiful beaches in the world! This half mile strip consistently ranks among the best beaches in the world. The soft white sand and crystal clear water on good days are unmatched. When you visit, you’ll know why it’s so highly ranked. Once a hidden gem to locals, now is shared to all who visit Oahu. With the growing popularity of this beach, parking is becoming scarce. Just make sure to read all the signs as parking violations are strictly enforced in the area. The two famous islands in the horizon are called the Mokulua Islands. You can admire it while relaxing from the beach or if you’re adventurous, you can kayak to the islands. This popular spot is ideal for stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling and photoshoots.
4. Mauna Kea
This dormant volcano is located on the island of Hawai’i. Volcanoes are mostly underwater as they rise from the ocean floor. When measured from the volcano underwater base, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world! It is highly recommended that you stop at the Visitor Information Station located at 9,200 ft. This will help you adjust to the altitude, get safety information, take a restroom break and check the weather before heading to the top. Mauna Kea is one of the few places in the world that you can go from sea level to 14,000 ft in about 2 hours which makes altitude sickness a high possibility. At the top, there is 40% less oxygen so this stop is encouraged. It’s breathtaking at the top so make sure you have a 4x4!
image credit : Hawaii.com
5. Road to Hana
Most people think road trips aren’t possible in Hawaii because the islands are so small but the Road to Hana in Maui is one of the best road trips you can take in the state. This drive is 64.4 miles from Kahalui to Hana. It is filled with 59 bridges, beaches, waterfalls, several lookout points and local farm stands. You’ll get to marvel at the beauty of nature and get to escape to old Hawai’i seeing what ancient Hawaiians got to appreciate before much contact with Westerners. It is difficult to stop and do everything on the Road to Hana. We recommend planning ahead to pick and choose where you want to stop. This will make the journey less stressful and the pit stops make this winding road more enjoyable. If you feel that this drive is too much, there are tours that you can take for a fee.
6. Punalu’u Beach
Located on the island of Hawai’i, this beach is between Pahala and Na’alehu. Most people have been to yellow or white sand beaches but few have been to a black sand beach. Black sand is created by lava flowing into the ocean which then explodes and cools. As tempting as it is to take home some black sand as a souvenir, please don’t because it’s illegal and believed to bring bad luck. Punalu’u Beach is famous for its black sand, endangered sea turtles (green and hawksbill) and the fresh water that springs from the black sand in the ocean. Please stay at least 10 feet away from any sea turtle as recommended by NOAA and DLNR. Swimming here is rocky and can be dangerous so please be careful if you choose to swim here. The texture of black sand is coarse and it does get hot under the sun so don’t forget your slippers!
7. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
This brisk walk or “hike” is perfect for the novice hiker and is family friendly. The paved road is about 2 miles round trip and is the second most popular hike on Oahu behind Diamond Head. It takes about 30-40 minutes to the top at a casual pace with no stops. Along the way are breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Makapu’u Tide Pools, Koko Head, Rabbit Island, Diamond Head and the lighthouse. On clear days, you can see Moloka’i, Lana’i and Maui. If you want to relax in the tide pools, you can hike there as well but it can be dangerous. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views and amazing photos in the tide pools. Either route, you’ll be glad to have stopped by.
Image credit: staradvertiser.com
8. Visit a lei shop
Most people automatically envision themselves on Waikiki Beach wearing a lei when they think of Hawai’i. The Hawaiian lei is the universally recognized icon for Hawai’i. This is why you should carve out time to check out a local lei shop to see how leis and haku’s are made. The craftsmanship of stringing a lei is amazing and each lei is filled with so much aloha. This is why they are worn proudly by the recipients as they are given with the aloha spirit. There are various types of leis made with many types of fresh flowers, nuts, leaves, vines and ferns. Some are fragrant and others are vibrant. You’ll be sure to make all your friends jealous when you send them a photo of you sporting a fresh lei. If you want to take free lei making workshop you can check this website https://www.honolulu.gov. If you miss Hawai’i and want to bring a little bit of aloha to you or loved ones, please check out www.buyhawaiianlei.com for lei deals shipped fresh to your door.
9. Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
Hawaiian Sea Turtles, Honu, are all over Hawai’i. The most famous beach that you will most likely see in the wild is at Laniakea Beach on Oahu. This beach is located between Waimea and Haleiwa. You’ll see sea turtles laying on the sand, swimming close to shore or just floating around and hanging out. They are an endangered species so people are recommended to stay a minimum of 10 feet away by NOAA and DLNR. You can swim and snorkel here but please keep your distance when you’re in the water. If you love sea turtles or just want to bump into one, this is a must check out spot when you go around Oahu.
10. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Known to locals as “Punchbowl Cemetery” or just “Punchbowl", this national cemetery is located on Oahu. This memorial is dedicated to all those who served in the United States Armed Forces and especially to those who gave their lives in doing so. Words cannot describe the magnitude of honor, valor and sacrifice of these brave men and women. They paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting our freedom and for love of country. Please be respectful when visiting the grounds. Hawai’i is proud to be the final resting place for all these heroes.
Honorable Mention (not entirely free but close!)
Waimea Canyon - The Grand Canyon of the Pacific is located on the island of Kauai. This geological wonder is 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 feet deep. There are spectacular scenic lookouts and the last two before the top has views of the Pacific Ocean. Some of the lookouts have vendors selling local fruits, baked goods and drinks. On the drive up, you’ll notice multiple campsites and hiking trails. The road can get narrow and curvy so be cautious. If you get car sick, consider taking medication before the journey up. The waterfalls, orange faced rocks and greenery make the views majestic. You may not think that you’ll need a jacket but bring one just in case (the wettest place on earth is at the top). If you don’t care for the drive, you can visit via helicopter for a fee.
We hope that our take on the top 10 free things to do in Hawai’i will help you hang loose when you arrive. No matter what your itinerary or lack of itinerary holds, we wish you an unforgettable trip full of aloha!