Top 12 Free Things to do on Beautiful Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu 2My sister and brother-in-law were getting ready to head off to Oahu, Hawaii to celebrate their 25th anniversary (you can read about their 8 Glorious Days on Oahu), so I thought I would do some research and find a few free things for them to do.  Gene and I have been to Maui but had never been to Oahu.  We have since been to Hawaii and found some of these free attractions amazing. Here is the list of my top 12 free things to do while spending time on  Oahu. (in no particular order).  Hope you enjoy it..

1. Waikiki Beach

Oahu - WaikikiThis famous streak of beach dotting the island’s southwest coastline of Hawaii is near many of the best hotels on Oahu. Did you know that the first hotel, the Moana Surfrider, was built on its shores in 1901? Today the beach hosts many events a year, including surf competitions, outdoor performances, hula dancing, and outrigger canoe races. Along this stretch of white sand beach are some popular areas as Fort DeRussy Beach, Kuhio Beach, and San Souci Beach. These are all great for swimming, snorkeling, and learning to surf. This is also a great place to just relax and maybe gaze at majestic Diamond Head peak in the distance.

2. Nuuanu Pali

Oahu - Nuuanu-PaliThis section of the windward cliff (aka Pali) of the Koʻolau Mountain, located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley, has a panoramic view of the windward (northeast) coast of Oahu. According to some articles I had read, people say that as you are driving up the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests to get to the lookout, you’ll see that the city disappears and the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape emerges. I have to say our drive up to Nuuanu Pali was beautiful but it was a little cloudy, and very windy when to got to the top. Hopefully, we will get to go back on a future trip.

3. Hawaii State Capitol

Hawaii State Capitol - Governors-OfficeAs I have stated in several other posts, Gene and I are on a quest to hit all 50 state capitol buildings in the U.S. Thus, this is a must-see for us. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s free, lol. The architecture of the Hawaii State Capitol looks really cool. There is a rotunda area, which is open to the public and allows a view into the Legislative chambers where you can see the tall, sloped walls. There is also a statue of Hawaii’s beloved Saint Damien who administered to the sick people of Kalaupapa on Molokai. Our tour guide was so wonderful, but they were all very nice.

4. Take a Hike

Oahu - Manoa-FallsThe two that sound the most intriguing to me are the Ehukai Bunker Hike and Manoa Falls. The Ehukai Bunker Hike is about 1.5 miles round trip and small children can do it too. A much easier hike is Manoa Falls. This is more of a walk through the forest, ending at the falls. I love waterfalls and will have to remember this for a future trip to Oahu.

5. Hula and Torch Lighting Show

Oahu - Kuhio Beach ShowEvery Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night Kuhio Beach Park offers free hula performances as well as a torch lighting ceremony accompanied with authentic Hawaiian music. The show lasts about an hour. They suggest if you’re going, you may want to bring a towel or a beach mat as there is only lawn seating.  This is definitely something for the whole family will enjoy. The entertainers even stayed afterward to say Aloha and take some pictures. Great show and worth the price of admission, lol.

6. Ala Moana Center

Ala-Moana-pondAfter a day or days, at the beach, you may be ready for a break. If that’s the case, a lot of people head to the Ala Moana Center.  After all, you have to go shop for souvenirs, right? This open-air oasis is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii and is consistently ranked among the top ten most successful malls in the United States. There are over 290 stores and over 80 dining options. One unique feature of the center is that they have a shopping trolley that provides convenient transportation between the Center and 10 locations in Waikiki every 10 minutes during Center hours.

7. Pearl Harbor

Arizona7What is a trip to Oahu without seeing Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial? Most people do. In fact, there are over 1,500,000 visitors annually. For those that may now know there were 1177 men who lost their lives that tragic day Dec 7, 1941. Thus it is a solemn and sobering experience. You do have to have tickets (which are free) but they are very limited. The best suggestion is to order in advance online at If there are no tickets available online, you can get there really really early as 1,300 Walk-In tickets are available daily on a first come first served basis at the Park Visitor Center.

8. Turtles at Laniakea

Oahu - Turtles at LaniakeaThis is a gorgeous area where you can find green sea turtles sprawled on the beach to feed on the seaweed that grows on the rocks. They also love to bask in the sun. What is interesting about green sea turtles is that they can live up to 80 years. It would be fun to swim with the turtles someday.

9. Duke Kahanamoku Statue

Oahu - Duke Kahanamoku StatueThe Duke Kahanamoku Statue is in honor of a true Hawaiian hero and one of the world’s greatest watermen. As a master of swimming, surfing, and outrigger canoe paddling, he won Olympic gold in the 100-meter freestyle and silver in the relay in 1912. He also won two gold medals in 1920 and won a silver medal at age 34 in the 1924 Olympics. Go see the statue of who they call “The father of modern surfing.”

10. Fireworks Show

Oahu - Fireworks at HiltonIf you like fireworks, you will probably like the free fireworks show at the Hilton  Hawaiian Village on Friday nights. The fireworks show usually begins at 7:45 pm and lasts about ten minutes. They suggest watching them somewhere between the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Outrigger Reef on the Beach. We made sure we were in the area on Friday night and this was a fun and exciting show. Check it out if you are in the area.

11. Aliiolani Hale – Hawaii 5.0 Bldg

Oahu - The Aliiolani HaleOk, it’s not really the building where the fictional 5.0 police squad on Hawaii 5.0 worked, but the outside was used in the show. In actuality, it houses the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center which features exhibits as well as multimedia presentations on landmark Hawaii court cases as well as Hawaii’s legal history. Thus it is not surprising that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  It is open to the public, but reservations are required for guided tours.  We love Hawaii 5.0 and always comment about how much we like the building. I love the grounds and the famed gold-leaf statue of Kamehameha the Great out front. We plan to see if for sure when we make it to Oahu someday.

12. Hike Diamond Head

Oahu - Diamond HeadWhile in Hawaii you have to check out the volcanic tuff cone known as Diamond Head. However, to most Hawaiians, it is known as Lēʻahi. This is most likely from lae ‘browridge, promontory’ plus ʻahi ‘tuna’ because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. British sailors gave it the English name, Diamond Head, in the 19th century when they mistook calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds. An interesting note is that Diamond Head is estimated to be about 200,000 years old and inactive for 150,000 years. It is more than 3,500 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit. Thousands have taken The 0.7-mile hike up Diamond Head and usually takes about an hour to reach the summit, and half that time for the return. However, the last set of stairs is a 99-step climb and much more strenuous. However, the views sound amazing. They say it is definitely worth it, I am assuming. This hike is the one thing on my list that is not actually free. It is in the Diamond Head State Monument Park and there is a $5 per car to enter. Still pretty cheap, especially for Hawaii 🙂

Hope you enjoyed my top 12 free things to do on Oahu. Please feel free to comment if you have been to any of these places or have other suggestions Mahalo.


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