Free Things to Do on Oahu

With prices in Hawaii often 30 percent higher than the mainland, the Aloha State tops the nation in cost of living, which means traveling to the most remote landmass in the world often doesn't come without breaking a few piggy banks. The good news is with 112 miles of coastline to swim and sunbathe and two sprawling mountain ranges to hike, Oahu supplies endless hours of free outdoor adventures, so you can keep your hard-earned cash in your pockets.

In addition to frequenting the island's best beaches or exploring the great outdoors, there's plenty of budget-friendly options in Oahu to consider. After shopping at Ward Village, spend the afternoon working up a sweat at a free yoga class every Thursday, or reserve free tickets to their Courtyard Cinema, where Hawaii International Film Festival-curated films are shown every third Thursday of the month. Or, tour the island's largest general arts museum, free every third Sunday and every first Wednesday of the month. During the rest of the year, pay admission at the Honolulu Museum of Art or the Spalding House (formerly the Contemporary Museum) and visit the other for free. From complimentary garden tours to historical landmarks to cultural lessons, discover the fun, free activities the island has offer without breaking your vacation budget.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens

Endangered and rare plants, divided according to geographic regions, are pampered in this 400-acre botanic garden in the folds of the Ko‘olau Mountains. Visitors meander through a network of trails leading to a 32-acre lake. Free guided tours Saturday 10 a.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail

Allow at least two hours to complete the hike. Wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water, the trail is exposed to the sun and heat. Located on Kalanianaole Hwy. (Hwy. 72), just past Sandy Beach. Parking area is adjacent to the highway.

USS Arizona Memorial (Pearl Harbor)

The largest visitor destination in Hawaii, the USS Arizona Memorial is the final resting place for 1,117 of the ships’ crew who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. A diminishing number of World War II veterans gather yearly at the memorial, a reminder of the day when the U.S. entered World War II. Open daily from 7 a.m.

Nuuanu Pali State Wayside

Perched nearly 1,000 feet high in the Koolau Mountain Range, this lookout from the pali (cliffs) offers astonishing views of the valleys, coastline and blue waters of Oahu’s windward side. A haunting twist frames this popular attraction: a gruesome battle that determined the fate of the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM)

HiSAM features collections that promotes Hawaii’s history and culture; open Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. On the first Friday of each month, HiSAM opens for First Friday Downtown Gallery Walk. Guests can view exhibits and enjoy live performances from 6 - 9 p.m.

Cultural Programs at Royal Hawaiian Center

As part of Royal Hawaiian Center's mission to perpetuate Hawaiian performing and visual arts, the mall provides daily complimentary cultural programming. Free classes are held Mondays through Fridays and live entertainment Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Punchbowl Cemetery (National Cemetery of the Pacific)

This is one of the most visited sites in Hawaii, the final resting place for more than 33,000 U.S. veterans. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle, astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who died aboard the Challenger space shuttle and Stanley Dunham, President Barack Obama’s grandfather, are interred here. Free admission. Open daily.

Fireworks Show at Waikiki

On Friday nights, the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on their weekly Rockin' Hawaii Rainbow Review, with hula dancers, music and a torch lighting ceremony.

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai’s turquoise waters, powdered-sugar sands and swaying palms rank this Windward beach among some of the best in the world.  Sheltered by a wide, protective offshore reef, this half-mile strand of beach provides ideal swimming conditions, as well as kayaking, outrigger canoeing, sailing, surfing and windsurfing.