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Hawaii can be super expensive! We share things to do in Hawaii Oahu that are FREE or nearly free.
Is Hawaii on your bucket list? The Hawaiian islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One of the most popular islands in Hawaii is Oahu.
There are so many things to do on this island and Hawaii is usually very expensive. However, a lot of a Hawaii vacation is about enjoying nature. There are a lot of things that are free or inexpensive on the island of Oahu. We wanted to share our favorite Oahu attractions that are free or nearly free.
Table of Contents
Free or Nearly Free Things to Do in Hawaii Oahu
Take the Bus
Oahu public transportation system has stops throughout the island. The Bus (yes, it is actually called TheBus) is a great way to get around Oahu. From Waikiki, it is very convenient to take The Bus to places like the AlaMoana shopping plaza, Hanauma Bay for snorkeling, Pearl Harbor, and even up to the North Shore.
Taste Hawaiian Cuisine
No trip to Oahu is complete, without some native Hawaiian fare like kualoa pork, lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice, and poi. There are lots of food trucks and local spots that you can try Hawaiian cuisine for less than $10. Plus, it is such a treat to try local foods.
You cannot leave Hawaii, without trying one of our favorite sweet treats called malasadas. These are pastries with sugar, fillings, and more. They are similar to donuts, but so much better. A fan once called them “pillows of happiness!” LOL! They are delish!
You can get malasadas at Disney’s Aulani, but we prefer to get the less expensive version at one of the local stores like Leonard’s Bakery (who have been making these since 1952) or even food trucks. There are food trucks less than 3 minutes from Aulani that sell only malasadas. YUM!
Climb Diamond Head
Work off that lunch by climbing Diamond Head crater. This is one of Tim’s favorite activities in Oahu. Diamond Head is also one of the most iconic sites on Oahu. It was formed about 300,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption.
The trail to the summit was built in 1908 and used by the military to defend Oahu from invaders. Today, guests can climb it to see some of the most spectacular views of the island.
Pick up Souvenirs at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
Take the #20 or #42 bus from downtown Honolulu to the Aloha Stadium where a huge swap meet, kind of like a tropical flea market takes place Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. You can find all kinds of foods, crafts, and souvenirs. This is a fun way to hang out with the Hawaiian locals.
Visit Pearl Harbor
Take a few hours during your vacation to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. This is part of our history, so it is a great learning experience. This is one of the most popular day trips in Oahu.
If you take a tour, this attraction can get super expensive. There are a few things you can do that are free. The parking, entry into the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, Road to War Museum, Attack Gallery, and exhibits along the harbor are all free. Tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial are free, too.
You must get shaved ice in Hawaii. You can even try a local version with ice cream. The shaved ice is just such a great treat, while you are visiting Hawaii. It is a must do and on our under $10 list!
Even better than a shaved ice, how about a shaved ice from the original? We headed to the original shaved ice in the North Shore. The original shaved ice location is Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleʻiwa. This family owned store was established in 1951. Who knew shaved ice has been around since the 50’s!
You can pick up a shaved ice at Matsumoto and sit outside the shop to enjoy the North Shore breeze. Don’t forget to pick up a souvenir t-shirt.
Unless you surf a lot, you will not want to go surfing in Hawaii. However, you can certainly go cheer on a surfer. Oahu is a surfer’s paradise in the winter months. If you are visiting in the summer months, you will have to skip this activity, because the water is flat over those summer months. The best time to watch the surfers is before 11 AM near the Mokule’ia Beach Park.
While enjoying the beautiful beaches, look for marine life. You may be able to see sea turtles. You also may be able to do some whale watching (if it is the right season). On our last visit, we saw several whales in the distance.
Hanging Out in Waikiki Beach
Waikiki reminds me a lot of South Beach in Florida. Lots of interesting characters! This beach is also a free activity. As I mentioned, Waikiki Beach does attract a lot of interesting characters. One of our favorites at Waikiki beach is people watching. You can also just shop and people watch along the street or hang out at the beach in Waikiki Beach.
You may even want to walk down to the Royal Hawaiian resort. This beautiful pink hotel is a historic treasure in Oahu. This is a perfect spot for a selfie in front of the pink hotel.
While at Waikiki Beach, you may want to dine at Duke’s Waikiki. This beachside restaurant is themed after the famous surfer, Duke Kahanamoku. He grew up surfing, swimming, and body surfing at Waikiki Beach. This is a delicious restaurant with a lot of history. This restaurant is not free or nearly free, but it is a great restaurant.
Tour the Dole Plantation
It opened as a fruit stand in 1950, but today, the Dole Plantation is a popular tourist attraction. Access to many parts of the Plantation is free. If the weather’s hot, be sure to indulge in the world famous pineapple frozen treat known as the Dole Whip. Oh yes, they sell Dole Whips outside of Disney World! LOL!
We hope you are enjoying this list of free or nearly free things to do in Hawaii Oahu. We have several more to go . . .
Shop in an ABC Store
The ultimate touristy store in Hawaii is called the ABC Store. Most of these stores are huge with everything you can think of from food to Hawaiian shirts. This is a fun store to just wander around. Plus, they have tons of souvenirs that are inexpensive like super inexpensive!
We also like to grab a plate or Hawaiian food at the ABC Stores. It is an inexpensive way to eat in Oahu.
One of the clearest beaches in Oahu is Lanikai Beach. It is about a mile long beach on the windward side with palm trees swaying in the breeze. It is also an amazing spot to snorkel, due to the clear blue water.
There are not facilities at this beach and there is limited parking. Just something to keep in mind.
Right next to Lanikai Beach and only about 10 miles from Honolulu is Kailua Beach. This is the 2nd most popular beach in Oahu. Kailua Beach also has beautiful turquoise waters, just like Lanikai. This beach is more popular for families with bathroom facilities, beach showers, and picnic tables.
Learn the Hula
Almost every hotel in Oahu offers hula lessons. Once you arrive to your hotel, check the activities guide. Your hotel may provide free hula lessons. Learning the hula is an important part of Hawaiian culture.
Drive by Kualoa Ranch
If you have a Jurassic Park fan in the family, you may want to drive by Kualoa Ranch. You do have to pay a fee to visit inside the ranch. It is privately owned and a touristy spot. You can make a reservation for movie site tours, e-bike tours, horseback riding, ATV ride, or ziplining. This gives you an up close look at the locations that filmed Jurassic Park, Lost, and other popular Hollywood tv and film. Prices start around $48.
This is more than we like to spend, so we drive by and stop and shop at the gift shop. These are free and was still fun for our Jurassic Park fan.
We love visiting Hawaii since it is located in the United States. A passport is not required to visit these tropical islands. We love snorkeling, shopping, hiking, and eating in Hawaii. We also love the culture and history. We hope these free or nearly free things to do in Hawaii Oahu help you plan your next vacation. Mahalo!