There is no doubt you’ve heard that Hawaii can be expensive. And you’re right, it can be, but it can also be reasonable if you know where to look. With that being said, we spent our time on Oahu doing as many free things as possible. In all honesty, the free things that we did on Oahu were generally more enjoyable than the things we paid to do. The following is a list of free things to do on Oahu. This list offers a variety of different activities, while allowing you to see a good portion of the island.
Hit the Beach
When you think Hawaii, you most likely think beaches, how could you not? Oahu is lined with amazing beaches around its entire coast line. With so many incredible beaches, it’s sometimes hard to choose which ones to visit. While in Oahu, spend your time beach hopping or find that perfect one for you. Regardless, get yourself to the beach and enjoy paradise.
Beaches on Oahu are free to access and a majority have free parking as well. Parking at many of the beaches gets very busy, so either get there early, or be prepared to wait for a parking spot.
Take a Hike
Oahu is an island full of incredible coastlines and unreal ridge lines, making it a perfect destination for hiking. While on Oahu, you should definitely consider doing some hiking. It’s hard to beat a little exercise and epic views. Trails and hiking conditions on the island vary greatly, offering visitors a variety of options. While exploring, we stuck to some of the more easy hikes on Oahu and were very happy with the results. Hiking on the island is very rewarding and the views will leave you in awe.
Explore the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
We were completely shocked to find that the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens are free to explore. These gardens are very well maintained and absolutely stunning. If you’re looking to find that Jurassic Park feel while in Oahu, this is the place to come. The garden is quite large and takes a few hours to explore if you’re interested in seeing everything. On arrival, stop by the visitor centre to get a map to help direct you around the gardens. We visited the gardens on a gloom, overcast day and they were still stunning. A stop by the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens is a must while on Oahu.
Walk around Waikiki
Waikiki is the hub of all things touristy and where most visitors stay on Oahu. It is very busy in this area and the crowds can become a little overwhelming. Even so, I still recommend a visit to Waikiki if you’re on Oahu. Waikiki offers a beautiful stretch of beach, plenty of dining options and shopping. Take a walk around Waikiki and enjoy the buzz of island life.
Watch the Friday Night Fireworks
Every Friday night there is a free display of fireworks put on by the Hilton. To view the firework show, head to Waikiki Beach around sunset. Times vary depending on the season and last about 10 minutes.
Watch the Sea Turtles
Watching the sea turtles in Hawaii is an iconic thing to do. Sea turtles are plentiful around the Hawaiian islands and often like to make appearances on the shore. On Oahu, many turtles can be spotted along the North Shore. While watching the turtles can be exciting and great fun, please remember they are wild animals and this is their home. Give the turtles space and only watch from a distance.
Snorkel the Crystal Clear Waters
With so many incredible beaches around Oahu, snorkelling is a very popular activity to do on the island. Depending on the time of year you visit Oahu, waters can be very clear and calm making for the perfect snorkelling conditions. The crystal waters offer a variety of colourful fish and coral. If you’re lucky, you’ll likely even come across a few sea turtles on your adventures. While most snorkelling on Oahu is free, it does require you to have your own snorkel gear. I suggest bringing your own gear from home, or you can rent some equipment on the island.
Watch the Sunset
Watching the sunset on Oahu is a nightly ritual around this island. People flock to the nearest beach and socialize as they wait for the sun to put on a show over the ocean. The setting sun can be seen from many places on the island making it fairly easy to watch in the evenings. The contrast between the palm trees, ocean and setting sun are spectacular.
Stop by the Makapu’u Lookout Point & Lighthouse Trail
Makapu’u Lookout Point is a stunning place to stop and take in the coastline. Depending on what you’re up for, you can either just have a look near the parking lot, or you can hike along ridge line. Either way, the view from here is beautiful. Close by, you’ll also find a paved, uphill trail that leads to the Makapu’u Lighthouse if you’re interested.
Drive Around Oahu
Arguably, driving around Oahu isn’t exactly free, you have to pay for your rental vehicle and gas after all. But, if you have the chance to drive around Oahu, do it. The coastlines are stunning and there are many pull off points that allow you to stop and take in the views. Going for a drive allows you to see plenty of the island and get away from the crowds if you choose to. Some of our favourite days were just driving around Oahu and taking in the views.
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