Honolulu isn’t particularly cheap. However, you can save more money for your travel budget by checking out some of these free things to see and do. Some are in Honolulu itself, while a few others can be part of easy trips around Oahu. You can explore historical sites at Pearl Harbor, climb a lighthouse, hike up an ancient volcano for breathtaking views, or enjoy hula shows for free. Want to seek serenity and escape the city altogether? You can head up to the Ko'olau Mountains for a bit of Zen. Read through this list, showing you the best of Honolulu for budget travellers.


    Hit the sand and surf of Waikiki Beach

    Enjoy Hawaii’s scenic and popular coast

    You can’t consider your Honolulu visit complete without experiencing Waikiki. This sandy, palm-lined beachfront is bordered by some of Honolulu’s most luxurious hotels. Parasols and loungers speckle the coast, facing the azure waters of the Pacific. If you’re coming from Downtown Honolulu, walking to the beach can be a great part of the experience. From Kaʻiulani Avenue, you can stroll through the lush public garden, past the statue of the last Hawaiian crown princess.

    Location: Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA


    Climb Aloha Tower for harbour views

    A tall landmark overlooking Honolulu’s Pier 9

    You might easily mistake this lighthouse for a clock tower. It’s one of Honolulu’s most distinctive landmarks, built in 1926 to mark Honolulu’s status as a major port. The Aloha Tower stands tall at Pier 9, overlooking the coastal cityscape and the Honolulu Harbor. You can head up to the top of the tower for breathtaking views. Up close, you can admire the craftsmanship that contributed to the historical building’s exterior. At ground level, the Aloha Tower Marketplace features shops, event spaces and dining spots. 

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    Location: 155 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 808-544-1453


    Learn about the history of Pearl Harbor

    A scenic and tranquil harbour full of wartime history

    World War II historical tours are awe-inspiring at Pearl Harbor, the naval base near Honolulu where the Imperial Japanese forces launched their devastating surprise attack in 1941. It’s best to come early, since Pearl Harbor visits are done on a first-come, first-served basis, with the first 1,000 or so visitors allowed in for free from 7am. Entry to the visitor’s centre and enjoying the scenic harbour is free. However, tickets apply if you want to go inside individual sites, such as the USS Bowfin submarine or the Pacific Aviation Museum.

    Location: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 808-422-3399


    Find Zen in the Valley of the Temples

    A Japanese temple garden cradled by the Ko'olau Mountains

    This iconic site on Oahu’s eastern mountainside features Buddhist gardens and Honolulu’s famous Byodo-In Japanese temple, which is a replica of the temple of the same name in Kyoto, Japan. Among the temple's striking features are its tranquil gardens and koi ponds, a Buddha statue that's around 18 ft (5.5 metres) tall and a 3-tonne bell that you can occasionally ring. The Valley of the Temples is around a half-hour drive from Downtown Honolulu and getting here past the jagged Ko'olau Mountains is a scenic journey on its own.

    Location: 47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 808-725-2798


    Take a historical walking tour

    Free walks with bits of Hawaii’s past

    Downloadable maps of the Waikiki Historic Trail allow you to stroll along Waikiki Beach with a deeper understanding of its past and with plenty of different highlights, such as statues of Hawaiian royalties and historical figures, along the way. The strikingly pink hotel, The Royal Hawaiian, offers complimentary weekly walking tours with fascinating stories about their iconic resort. The Moana Surfrider hotel, named the First Lady of Waikiki, has much history to tell, provided through its history walks every Monday and Wednesday from 11am.

    photo by Prayitno (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Climb up the Diamond Head

    For prize views from an ancient volcano’s peak

    You can reach this extinct volcano within a half-hour drive south-east from Downtown Honolulu. The Diamond Head is a great spot for hiking adventures near Oahu’s southern coast. The climb up to the volcano’s rim usually takes around an hour to accomplish. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with the prize view: the vast foreground natural landscape of the green crater, with Honolulu’s high-rise skyline and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on the horizon afar.

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    Location: Kapahulu, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 808 587 0300


    See hula shows at Kuhio Beach Park

    Ready your camera and your hips for dances

    For a free cultural treat, head up to Kuhio Beach Park, a small grove that’s right at the far eastern end of the main Waikiki Beach strip. Here, you can experience authentic Hawaiian music and eloquent hula shows performed by some of Hawaii’s finest traditional musicians and hula dance troupes. The sunset ritual opens with a torch lighting ceremony, often involving the dramatic blowing of conch shells. Shows are every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday between 6.30pm and 7.30pm, depending on sunset times.

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    Location: Kuhio Beach, Kalakua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

    Phone: +1 808-923-1094


    Hike the Manoa Falls Trail

    Scenic path to Oahu’s impressive waterfall

    Oahu’s Manoa Falls is the tallest accessible waterfall on the island of Oahu. The Na Ala Hele Manoa Falls Trailhead leads you to it, traversing lush Hawaiian rainforests with a wealth of flora to discover along the route. The trail is a 2-mile and approximately 2-hour roundtrip, though you’ll most likely spend more as you stop to admire the beauty of the falls and its wild surroundings. The trail can get slightly muddy, so sturdy hiking footwear and bug repellent are advisable.

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    Location: Na Ala Hele, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm


    photo by Daniel Ramirez (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Tour the Hawaii State Capitol

    The statehouse of Hawaii, right in the heart of Honolulu

    You can visit Hawaii’s official US statehouse in Downtown Honolulu on Beretania Street. The Hawaii State Capitol replaced the 19th-century Iolani Palace as Hawaii’s statehouse in 1969. The new building is practically right behind the palace. Public tours inside, which include a chance to look around the massive senate chamber, are available by appointment and on weekdays only. It’s a good idea to check on availability beforehand. Or, if there’s a school tour on, you can usually join in for free. Even if that’s not available, just admiring the spectacular building and its architectural features can be great on its own.

    Location: 415 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

    Open: Monday – Friday from 7 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 808-586-0034


    photo by Daniel Ramirez (CC BY 2.0) modified


    See the Honolulu Fish Auction

    The only fresh tuna auction in the United States

    The Honolulu Fish Auction, which is one of the very few fish auction houses in the world and is the only fresh tuna auction site in the United States. It’s reminiscent of Japan’s famous Tsukiji market, with its clean and efficient layout. The waterside facility is on Berth Number 33 of the Honolulu fishing docks. The auction is open to the public. However, for $25 you can go on an optional guided tour on select Saturday mornings from 6am, for a better understanding of how tuna gets from dock to auction.

    Location: 1131 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 4 am to 2 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +1 808-536-2148

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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