101 Free Things to Do on Oahu

101 Free Things to Do on Oahu

101 Free Things to Do on Oahu


There are eight islands that make up the great state of Hawaii. Each island has it’s own unique identity. Oahu is known by locals as the mini New York or the “city” island. Simply put, there is a rich cultural island experience with an infused city life vibe. Visiting Oahu can be expensive, but I uncovered many inexpensive gems. You can discover the sights, sounds, tastes, art, culture, history, nature and adventure of the island of Oahu for under $15.00 per person.


Activities on Oahu:

  • Explore Hawaiian Culture Then and Now(several items are free)
  • Listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace on Fridays 12:00-1:00 p.m.
  • Relax harbor-side at Aloha Tower Marketplace and listen to the island’s most popular entertainers from the marketplace’s waterfront stage as boats, barges and cruise ships float past.
  • Listen to Hawaii’s best local entertainers performing in the hotels and on the streets of Waikiki.
  • Enjoy “Sunset on the Beach” as Queen’s surf in beautiful Waikiki Beach is transformed into and outdoor movie theater, with live entertainment, food booths, and free Hollywood movies.
  • Close your eyes and relax to the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra during its fall pre-season concerts around the island.
  • Take ukulele or hula lessons at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
  • Enjoy food, entertainment, a parade of decorated beds and a race down Kalakaua Avenue for the fastest bed at the annual International Bed Race Festival in April.
  • Enjoy the colorful parades that float down the streets of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki during the Aloha Festivals, King Kamehameha Celebration,Honolulu Festival and Chinese New Year celebrations.
  • Marvel at the Honolulu City Lights which illuminate the sky from the financial district to downtown celebrating the holidays in December and then stop in Honolulu Hale to enjoy the display of decorated Christmas trees.
  • Fly a kite or eat a plate lunch at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Then stroll through the park and see all of the activities from soccer games to craft fairs to exercisers and music.
  • Take a self-guided tour through Manoa, Kapahulu and Kaimuki, some of Honolulu’s oldest and charming neighborhoods.
  • Pick a team to root for at a polo match at Waimanalo Polo Grounds.
  • Meet Hawaii’s local fishermen at the early morning Honolulu Fish Auction at Kewalo Basin, where the fresh catch is displayed and auctioned off to the island’s chefs and merchants daily at 5:00 a.m.
  • Enjoy one of over 100 festivals and events throughout the year that celebrate culture, community, music and art, such as the AT&T Hawaii Dragon Boat festival, Chinese new year lion dances, Hawaiian rodeo, ukulele, slack key guitar and hula festivals to name just a few.
  • Cheer on the runners competing in the annual Honolulu Marathon.
  • Watch top local, national and international athletes compete in any of the dozens of sporting events such as the Hawaiian Mountain Tour, Tin Man Biathlon, Waikiki Roughwater Swim and Tour O’ Hawaii Cycle Classic.
  • Spend half a day at the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center in the Kakaako Waterfront Park in Honolulu.*
  • Learn more about Hawaii’s melting pot of cultures at any of the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and Korean festivals held throughout the year.
  • View the work of local artisans at the Art at the Zoo Fence along the fence of the Honolulu Zoo on Monsarrat Avenue, every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Experience the fun and excitement of the Aloha Festivals’ Downtown and Waikiki Hoolaulea Celebrations in September.
  • Sit in on a Sunday service conducted in the Hawaiian language at Kawaiahao Church.
  • Wonder at the architecture and say a prayer at any of Honolulu’s many spectacular churches: St. Andrews Cathedral, Central Union, St. Clements, Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
  • Cheer as the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa hosted fireworks explode into beautiful colors on Friday evenings in remembrance and celebration of King Kalakaua’s Jubilee.
  • Enjoy the Honolulu Zoo’s Wildest Show in Town summer concert series held weekly from June through August.
  • Visit the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM), one of the few state sponsored art museums in the country, and view the finest collection of works from Hawaii’s best artists.
  • Learn about the history of Waikiki on the Waikiki Historic Trail walking tour.
  • Visit “Hyatt’s Hawaii” at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa to see displays of Hawaiian arts and crafts and memorabilia.
  • Discover the history of surfing through photos and memorabilia on the walls of Duke’s Canoe Club at Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach.
  • Witness the culture and beauty of the islands as you watch a traditional torch lighting and hula performance on the beach of Waikiki near the Duke Kahanamoku statue at sunset.
  • Explore the history of Waikiki through old pictures and collectibles that line the grand staircase in the lobby of the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa.
  • Learn about Princess Kaiulani, Hawaii’s last and most beloved princess, on the Princess Kaiulani Historical tour at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel.
  • Experience the tranquility of the Valley of the Temples, home to the Byodo-In Temple and watch the peacocks showoff their colors.
  • Take a scenic drive over the Pali Highway stopping at the historic site with panoramic views at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.
  • Visit the ancient fishponds in Heeia and Kahaluu on the Windward side.
  • Visit the Honolulu Museum of Art for ARTafterDARK on the last Friday of most months.*
  • Walk through the Mission Homes Museum to see how the first missionaries lives when they came to Hawaii.*
  • Visit Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, a monument built to honor the men who died on the USS Arizona the day World War II began.
  • Learn about Hawaii’s plantation era at the Hawaii Plantation Villages and Museum.*
  • Experience a bit of Polynesia at one of the free performances by the Polynesian Cultural Center at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
  • Visit The Contemporary Museum on the first Wednesday of each month for free admission.
  • Honor veterans from the Spanish American War to Vietnam at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
  • Step back in time to the Waikiki of yesteryear on the historical tour at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa.
  • Visit the Father Damien Museum in Waikiki and discover the history of Kalaupapa, Molokai.
  • Learn about the history of pineapple in Hawaii through the multimedia “James Dole Story” at Dole Cannery Square.
  • Ascend to the top of Aloha Tower, Honolulu Harbor’s famous clock tower, which at one time was the tallest building in Honolulu.
  • Take a self-guided tour of Oahu’s historic heiau (places of worship).
  • Visit Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil and Queen Emma’s summer palace.*
  • Enjoy one of the many great hikes on Oahu including these three favorite hikes of our former Honolulu Guide, Tara Zirker.
  • Tour the Waikiki Aquarium and discover the marine life of the Hawaiian waters and the South Pacific.*
  • Snorkel among the bright colored reef fish of Hanauma Bay and look for Hawaii’s state fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaa.*
  • Meet the komoda dragon and other inhabitants of the Honolulu Zoo.*
  • Race through the “World’s Largest Maze” at Dole Plantation on the way to the North Shore and afterward enjoy their signature Dole Whip.*
  • Keep your eyes open for humpback whales off Makapu’u on Oahu’s South Shore or Kaena Point on the northwest side of the island from November through April.
  • Boogie boardat the local favorite spot in Waikiki called “The Wall” or at Waimanalo Beach on the Windward side of the island.Hike to Manoa Falls beneath the canopy of the tropical rainforest.
  • Count the waterfalls along Highway 3 after a beautiful refreshing rain.
  • Take a driving tour of Oahu’s Leeward Coast, the undiscovered (by most tourists) coast of Oahu.
  • Hike to the top of Diamond Head, Hawaii’s most famous landmark.*
  • Sit under a tree at Kakaako Waterfront Park and watch the ships and surfers go by or roll down the hill with childlike abandon.
  • Nap under towering trees at Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu.*
  • Hike up to the Makapuu lighthouse passing Madame Pele’s chair and following the dramatic cliff-lined coast.
  • Drive to the Windward side of the island to the charming towns of Kailua and Lanikai to discover why soft white sand of these beaches makes them two of the world’s best beaches over and over again according to Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach.
  • Visit the Oceanarium Restaurant at Pacific Beach Hotel, where an incredible three-story, 280,000-gallon saltwater fish tank holds hundreds of Hawaii’s tropical fish.
  • Swim alongside Hawaiian green sea turtles (honu) in front of the Sheraton Waikiki, at Turtle Bay Resort or at many of Oahu’s 139 beaches.
  • Wear reef shoes and in low tide walk to Goat Island to explore the tide pools teeming with life.
  • Hike the Maunawili Trail on the Pali trail.
  • Pick wild ginger, hibiscus and plumeria along the side of the road and wear them in your hair.
  • Watch the Friday night sail boat races from Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park.
  • Feel the awesome power of Waimea Bay in the winter months as you watch the magnificent winter waves, and in the summer as you swim in the calm turquoise waters.
  • Explore the knee-deep tide pools and the wonders of the snorkeling of Shark’s Cove, named for its shape not its inhabitants.
  • Build sand castles for fun family competition or watch as the University of Manoa’s School of Architecture hold their sand castle building contest in February.
  • View world-class surfing competitions at Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach or Waimea Bay on the North Shore.
  • Watch the sunset from high atop Tantalus as Honolulu city lights begin to twinkle in the dusk.
  • Watch the windsurfers at Kailua Beach or Diamond Head look out.
  • Enjoy views from Magic Island of boats and outrigger canoes with Diamond Headand Waikiki as the backdrop.
  • Feel the sea spray from the blast of the Halona Blow Hole, just around the bend from Sandy Beach.
  • Watch the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa wildlife specialists feed the animals, including the hotel’s very own penguins and flamingos.
  • Take a walk along the beach at sunrise and see the ocean come to life with early morning surfers and swimmers.
  • Hike or picnic at St. Louis Heights (Waahila State) Park.
  • See the daredevil hang gliders make their way off Makapu’u Point.
  • Hike along the many trails through the bright green scalloped cliffs of the Pali.
  • Trek up to the summit of Koko Headat sunset for sweeping views of the South Shore.
  • Keep your eyes and ears out for Hawaii’s colorful birds in Kapiolani Park, Moanalua Gardens and other parks throughout the island of Oahu.
  • Drive into the heart of Manoa Valley and hike along the trails of the Lyon Arboretum.
  • Catch a ride on an outrigger canoe with the Waikiki beach boys.*
  • See Oahu from the ocean aboard a catamaran sunset cruise off the beach of Waikiki.*
  • Hike above the leeward side along the Aiea Heights Loop Trail overlooking Pearl Harbor.
  • Learn about the different varieties of pineapple at the Dole Varietal Garden located outside of Wahiawa.
  • Find the four Wizard Stones on Waikiki Beach and learn about the legend behind them.
  • Pick plumeria or gardenia flowers for your hair off the side of the road.


Eats on Oahu:

  • Enjoy a quick snack in Haleiwa, on Oahu’s North Shore.*
  • Enjoy a few malasadas, Portuguese-style doughnuts without the holes.*





Shopping on Oahu:

  • Take a stroll through the newInternational Marketplace, with all new merchants and stores but still set under the shade of a large banyan tree.
  • Visit Ala Moana shopping center and be sure to stop by center stage, the hub for more than 500 performances annually, from keiki (children) hula to rock, from chorale music to street dancing.
  • Visit Hilo Hattie, The Store of Hawaii, and enjoy free juice, entertainment, food samples and craft demonstrations.
  • Walk through Chinatown for a fascinating look at noodle factories, herbal shops, markets and gift shops or take a guided walking tour hosted by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
  • Attend one of the many arts and craft fairs held at Thomas Square, Kapiolani Park and Ala Moana Beach Park.
  • Stop in at the lei stands that line Maunakea Street and see firsthand how the intricate lei are created.
  • Learn more about taro and enjoy storytelling, music, dancing, arts and crafts and a farmer’s market at the Pacific Island Taro Festival at Windward Community College in August.

*under $15 per person


Book Your Stay

Check prices for your stay on Oahu with TripAdvisor.

Please note that while we try to keep this list updated, items included in this list may change or close without warning.

Things on Oahu are constantly changing which is why the island is a wonderful place for repeat visitors.


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