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50 free things to do in Hawaii
There’s nothing cheap about a Hawaii vacation. From airfare to the average hotel being $260 per night, Hawaii is expensive.
One of my best tips for how to save on a Hawaii vacation is to plan your splurges and do free things around them.
While Hawaii certainly isn’t cheap, the islands do offer plenty of free activities. I also have a post about how much it costs to go to Hawaii if you’re still trying to figure that out.
In this post, we’ll go island by island and find free things to do in Hawaii on the Big Island, Kauai, Oahu, and Maui.
Free things to do on the Big Island
The Big Island is the largest and geologically the youngest of the Hawaiian islands. Its’ diverse landscape and active volcano, Kilauea, draw visitors from all over the world.
The Big Island is more than just an active volcano, it has 8 of the world’s 12 climate zones! You can visit a sunny beach, slowly mountain, rainforest, and volcano all in the same day.
You’ll find many of the free things to do in Hawaii on Hawaii Island. The Big Island is one of the best islands for families. You might also want to check out how to plan a Big Island vacation for travel planning tips.
1. Visit the Puako Petroglyph Preserve
This list of free things to do on the Big Island is filled with both historical and cultural sites. The first is Puako Petroglyph Preserve, where you can see about 1200 petroglyphs. Petroglyphs offer a unique view of Hawaiian history.
The word “Petroglyph” comes from two Greek words: “Petros” for rock, and “glyphein” to carve. Hawaiians call them “k’i’i pohaku, “or images in stone.
You can view more Petroglyphs at the nearby Waikoloa Petroglyph field or Pu’u Loa Petroglyph, inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Visiting the Petryglyph fields is one of my first memories of Hawaii, and I highly recommend it for families with children.
2. Lapakahi State Historical Park
You can see how ancient Hawaiians lived at Lapakahi. This State Historic Park is a large area of ruins from an ancient Hawaiian fishing village.
Located in North Kohala, Lapakahi dates back to the 14th century and is a must-see if you’re staying in or visiting the Kohala area.
3. Take a tour of a Kona Coffee Farm
One of the best free things to do on the Big Island is to take a tour of a Kona Coffee Farm. There are plenty of coffee farms offering free tours. I recommend Heavenly Hawaiian, Thunder Mountain Kona Coffee, or Kona Joe.
4. Visit Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
There are plenty of historical sites on this list of free things to do on the Big Island. The Kohala Historical Sites State Monument is one that you won’t want to miss.
5. Check out South Point
Ka Lae, known as South Point, is the southernmost point in the United States. It is registered as a National Historic Landmark District.
It is believed that Ka Lae is the first place where the Polynesians came to shore when they reached the Hawaiian islands.
6. Take a tour of the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company
All macadamia nuts from the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company are grown by local farmers on the Big Island.
You can take a tour of the factory, try free samples, free coffee, and purchase gifts to bring home in the gift shop.
7. Take the short hike to ‘Akaka Falls
Akala Falls is a 442-foot tall waterfall about 11-miles north of Hilo. There is an entry fee of $5 per car or $1/per person for pedestrians. So while it isn’t free, it’s a very inexpensive and easily accessible way to see beautiful waterfalls.
8. Visit one of the Big Islands multi-colored beaches
The big island has over 100 beaches, and they are all free and open to the public. Here are some of my favorite beaches on the Big Island:
- Kekaha Kai State Park (just north of the Kona airport)
- Hapuna Beach
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
- Papakōlea Green Sand Beach
- Waialea Beach (Beach 69)
If you love sea turtles, make sure to check out the best places to find sea turtles on the Big Island. Don’t forget to bring your reef-safe sunscreen.
9. Visit the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
Located just outside of Hilo, the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is the only tropical zoo in the United States. It is home to a variety of rainforest animals as well as endangered Hawaiian animals, such as the nene goose.
The zoo is small, so plan to spend an hour or two here. It is free, but consider leaving a donation or making a purchase from the gift shop.
10. Drive to the summit of Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is one of the few places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in just two hours. You will need to stop at the visitor center to acclimate to the elevation. Keep in mind that you’ll need a 4-wheel drive.
If you don’t have a car yet, I highly recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rentals for the best deals.
11. Check out Big Island Honey Museum and tasting room
While the beekeeping tour does require advanced reservations, you can visit the Big Island Honey Museum and tasting room for free.
12. Visit The Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
Located in Hilo, the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center features a 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium, interactive educational exhibits, lifesize models of wildlife found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and artwork inspired by those islands and Hawaiian culture. Best of all – it’s free!
13. Hike down to Pololu Valley or Waipio Valley
Waipio Valley gets more attention, but Pololu Valley is easier to access and is beautiful too. You can park and hike down to Pololu, whereas with Waipio, you’ll have to (very carefully) drive down in your 4-wheel drive or take a tour.
No matter what you choose, make sure that one of these free things to do on the Big Island is on your list.
14. Visit Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
I told you this list of the best free things to do on the Big Island would be full of cultural and historic sites. The Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park or the City of Refuge is another must-see on the Big Island.
The Pu’uhonua protected the kapu breaker, defeated warriors, as well as civilians during the times of battle. Take care to be respectful and observe all posted rules and regulations.
15. Snorkel at 2-Step or Kealakekua Bay
I highly recommend kayaking or taking a sail and snorkel tour of Kealakekua Bay. However, you can snorkel at either 2-step (right next to the City of Refuge) or hike down to Captain Cooks’s monument and snorkel there for free.
These are two of my favorite areas for snorkeling on the Big Island, although the hike to the monument isn’t for the faint of heart.
Free things to do in Kauai
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands and arguably the most beautiful. Kauai is often overlooked when visitors are choosing which island to visit.
That is unfortunate because Kauai offers so much. Some of the free things to do in Hawaii are here on Kauai, including plenty of free things to do in Hawaii for those who love the outdoors.
You might also want to check out a 7-day Kauai itinerary and how to plan a Kauai vacation.
16. Take a tour of Kauai Coffee Company
If you know anything about me, you know that I love coffee! I particularly love Hawaii coffee, and the Kauai Coffee Company is one of my favorites.
The Kauai Coffee Company offers free tastings and free walking tours. If you’re visiting with children, they might enjoy the scavenger hunt that takes place every Wednesday. It’s also free!
17. Check out Waimea Canyon
I have more hikes listed below, but I had to share Waimea Canyon on this list of the best free things to do on Kauai.
Even if you aren’t a hiker, you have to check out Waimea Canyon. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is 10 miles long and 3600 feet deep.
There are two lookout points and many hikes in Waimea Canyon. If you can, I also recommend doing a helicopter tour in Kauai and seeing Waimea Canyon from the air!
18. Walk or bike the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Bike Path
The Ke Ala Helen Makalae (“the path that goes by the coast”) bike path is a must-see in Kapa’a. Whether you walk or bike this path, you’ll love checking out the views.
We even saw a whale on our last trip to Kauai! It’s completely free to walk to the path, and some resorts like The ISO Kauai have free bikes that you can use if you are a resort guest.
19. Tour Kauai’s Hindu Monastery
Located in Kapa’a, Kauai’s Hindy Monastery welcomes visitors. Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours, but guided tours are also available.
Make sure to check out the guide for visiting the monastery for the dress code and other guidelines.
20. Take a shelter dog on a field trip*
Okay, so this isn’t one of the free things to do in Kauai, but it’s very inexpensive, and the money goes to a good cause! For a $20* (subject to change) donation, you can visit the Kauai Humane Society and take a shelter dog on a field trip.
The Shelter Dogs on Field Trips program is one of my favorite things to do on Kauai.
I am hiking with our shelter dog, Ellen.
If you are a dog lover or missing your dog back home, this is a great way to spend some time with a shelter dog. It’s a great program because the shelter dogs get to get out and practice their manners. They also wear harnesses letting other visitors know that they are available for adoption.
We took our shelter dog for a hike at Wailua Arboretum, but Kalapaki Beach, Sleeping Giant, Koke’e State Park, and many other places are great options for your dog. Ask the Kauai Humane Society for suggestions if you aren’t sure where to go.
You should also check out Wailua Shave Ice to get a special treat for your shelter pup.
21. Walk or bike the Koloa Heritage Trail
The Koloa Heritage Trail is a 10-mile self-guided trail that you can walk or bike. Most of the stops are also accessible by car if you don’t feel like walking or biking.
Stops include Spouting Horn, Koloa Landing, Poipu Beach Park, Koloa Joda Mission (A Buddhist Temple), Koloa Missionary Church, and more.
22. Take a sunrise hike up Sleeping Giant
One of the best sunrise hikes in Kauai is Sleeping, Giant. Sleeping Giant is an excellent hike for a family, with only a couple of areas
Sleeping Giant (or officially Nounou East Trail) at sunrise.
23. Check out Wailua Falls
Kauai is full of beautiful waterfalls, many of which are not accessible by car. Fortunately, there are several that are easy to access, including Wailua Falls. You can drive right up to the falls and take photos on the overlook.
24. Hike one of Kauai’s amazing trails
When you think of the best free things to do in Kauai, hiking might come to mind. I’ve already mentioned Waimea Canyon and my favorite sunrise hike, but Kauai hikes deserve a spot on this list of their own.
You can check out my ten best hikes in Kauai post for more of my favorite hikes.
I’ve seen some online misinformation listing the Kalalau Trail as one of the free things to do in Kauai. This information is outdated, and you will need either a permit or advanced reservations to access any part of the Kalalau Trail.
Check out Go Ha’ena for more details.
25. Visit some of Kauai’s beaches
Beaches on Kauai are free and accessible to the public, even the resort beaches. There great beaches for spotting sea turtles or Hawaiian monk seals, beaches for snorkeling, beaches for sunbathing, and more. Some of my favorite beaches on Kauai are:
- Polihale State Park
- Hanalei Bay
- Glass Beach in Lihue
- Tunnels Beach
- Poipu Beach
Beautiful (and secluded) Polihale State Park.
Free things to do in Oahu
When you think of a Hawaii vacation, Oahu is likely what comes to mind. There’s so much more to Hawaii than Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor. That said, Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach are two free things to do in Hawaii!
Don’t forget to check out how to plan a vacation to Oahu and 100 things to do in Hawaii.
26. Visit Pearl Harbor
Visiting Pearl Harbor is almost always on the list of things to do on Oahu. It’s a solemn place, but it’s somewhere that you need to see if you are visiting Oahu. If you or your family has any military background, it is an absolute must-do.
One of the things that I always tell my clients is that I will not tell you to buy a ticket for something you can do for free. Sure, you can do a guided tour if you want to, but you can also visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for free.
The best way to get a free ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial is to show up when the park opens at 7 AM. Here is a hint, plan to go earlier on your trip. You’ll be awake, I promise!
27. Check out the famous Waikiki Beach
Let me tell you a secret: Waikiki Beach isn’t my favorite beach on Oahu, not even close. That said, I know it’s on your bucket list!
The good news? Hawaii’s beaches are completely free and open to the public. If you’re staying in a Waikiki Hotel, you can walk right down to the beach. Even if you are staying outside of Waikiki, it’s easy enough to get to the beach.
28. Check out the Hawaii State Art Museum
The Hawaii State Art Museum is small, but it’s also free. The museum also holds regular events for the public, including “First Friday,” a gallery walk held on the first Friday of every month.
Check out the calendar of events to see what is happening during your Oahu visit.
29. See Fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village
The Hilton Hawaiian Village hosts a firework show every Friday at 7:45 PM. It’s part of a resort show, but anyone can watch the fireworks.
All Hawaii beaches are open to the public, so you can bring chairs or a towel and sit on the beach to watch the show.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of my favorite resorts on Oahu. If you’re looking for a place to stay, it’s a great option. You can check the current pricing here.
30. Learn the Hula, lei Making, ‘ukulele and more
The Royal Hawaiian Center offers complimentary classes from Monday-Saturday. You can learn arts like ‘ukulele playing, lei making, hula dancing, and lauhala making.
Check out the Royan Hawaiian Center Cultural Programming Schedule to learn more.
31. Hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
If you’ve read any of my other free things to do in Hawaii posts, you’ll know that I love hiking. You do have to pay to park to enter some hiking trails, but fortunately not at the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.
The path is completely paved, making it ideal for most ages and ability levels.
32. Check out sea turtles at Laniakea Beach
Also known as “turtle beach,” Laniakea Beach is one of the best places to see sea turtles on Oahu. You’ll find the beach on the North Shore between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay off of Highway 83.
Please remember that the law protects sea turtles, and you should never try to touch or approach them. You are in their home, so make sure to show them respect.
You can learn more about Turtle beach and things to do on the North Shore in my post about things to do in Haleiwa.
33. Go snorkeling
My favorite place to snorkel on Oahu is Hanauma Bay. You can save money by bringing your snorkel equipment.
34. Watch the waves on the North Shore
If you’re lucky enough to visit Oahu in the winter, you’ll likely be able to see some incredible waves on the North Shore.
The best spots for watching winter waves are Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach, and Waimea Beach. You might even spot some humpback whales!
35. Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach is one of the best beaches on Oahu, which is why it’s making the list of the best free things to do on Oahu.
This beach is a popular spot for snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking. Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Trail) is also nearby and a fantastic moderate level hike.
Free things to do on Maui
Maui is one of the best islands for honeymoons and offers plenty of free things to do in Hawaii. Even though it’s not free, you’ll also want to check out snorkeling Molokini Crater.
If you’re planning a Maui vacation, here’s a 4-day Maui Itinerary and a 7-day Maui Itinerary.
36. Drive the Road to Hana
Driving the Road to Hana or the Hana Highway is an absolute must-do on Maui. The good news is that it’s completely free!
Sure, you can take a tour, but in most cases, it’s something that I recommend doing on your own. If driving a windy road isn’t your thing, check out a guided tour or a Hana helicopter tour.
The Road to Hana is approximately 65 miles long and takes you past gorgeous waterfalls, small farm stands, some great hikes, and many epic lookout points.
Some of the most popular stops along the Road to Hana are the hike to Twin Falls, the Hana Lava Tube, Wailua Falls, the Halfway to Hana stand, and more. I’ll be making a separate post with a guide to the Road to Hana very soon.
37. Take a tour of MauiWine
If you’re feeling adventurous and decide to drive the back road from Hana, you’ll drive right by MauiWine.
Of course, you can also take an easier route to get there. MauiWine offers free guided tours daily, and no reservation is required unless you have a large group.
You can also try a wine tasting for just $10, and make sure to buy a bottle of wine to bring back to drink while you watch a beautiful Maui sunset!
38. Speaking of Maui sunsets…
They are free! They are beautiful. You don’t want to miss them.
39. Watch the whales
If you’re visiting Maui during whale season, you might be lucky enough to watch whales off of your balcony.
If you plan to visit in the winter, I recommend staying in the Ka’anapali area and choosing an ocean view room with a lanai.
You will likely be able to spot whales off your balcony (maybe while sipping some MauiWine?) Of course, you can also take a whale watching tour, but I still recommend choosing a location where you’re likely to spot them on your own.
40. Check out the Banyan Tree in Lahaina
While you’re in Maui, you don’t want to miss tee Banyan Tree in Lahaina. Banyan trees grow not only horizontally but also vertically, which makes them very interesting.
The Lahaina Banyan Tree has 12 significant trunks and looks like several trees, but it’s just one!
There are often community festivals and events in Lahaina, so make sure to ask around or check the newspaper while you’re in Maui.
41. Go to the beach
I know, you already know that Maui has some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. However, Maui has some spectacular beaches that I just had to add it to the list.
Visiting beaches is one of the best free things to do in Hawaii. Maui beaches are free and open to the public, so make sure to visit as many beaches as possible while visiting Maui.
You can check out black and white sand beaches although I recommend skipping the red sand beach for safety purposes and to avoid trespassing. Some of my favorite beaches on Maui are:
- Makena State Park (Big Beach)
- Baldwin Beach Park (Paia)
- Hamoa Beach (just past Hana)
- Wai’anapanapa State Park (located in Hana)
- Honolua Bay (black sand)
42. Hula Lessons
Do you want to learn to hula? You can try a free one-hour hula lesson at Lahaina Cannery Mall at 5 PM every Thursday.
The Lahaina Cannery Mall also offers a free Keiki Hula Show at 1 PM on the weekends. Keiki means “children,” so this hula show is extra adorable!
43. Watch the Cliff Diver at Black Rock
If you’re staying on Ka’anapali Beach (like I recommended in #4, you will want to check out the cliff diving ritual at Black Rock every evening.
Speaking of Black Rock, this is one of my favorite snorkeling spots on Maui that doesn’t require a tour.
The Sheraton Maui is right next to Black Rock and one of the best resorts on Maui.
Hiking is one of the best free things to do in Hawaii. Almost all of the hiking trails in Maui are free.
A few trails to have an admission fee (such as Haleakala National Park), but those are well worth the admission cost. My favorite hikes on Maui are:
- ‘Iao Valley State Park
- Pipiwai Trail-Oheo Gulch
- Twin Falls
Self-guided walking tours
Maui offers many free self-guided walking tours. Take advantage of one or all of the following self-guided tours during your Maui Vacation.
45. The Lahaina Historic Trail
This self-guided historic trail covers 55 acres and 62 historic sites in Lahaina. Check out the Lahaina Visitor Center for more information.
46. Wailea Beach Park
In the Wailea resort area, this 1.5-mile paved walkway runs by some of the best resorts on Maui.
47. Ka’anapali Historical Trail
Ka’anapali Historic Trail is a short, easy tail in the Kaanapali Resort area exploring significant historical sites.
48. Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
Located between Ma’alalea and Kihei, this 2200-foot boardwalk offers self-guided exhibits with information about local wildlife.
49. Kapalua Coastal Trail
The Kapalua Coastal Trail is an oceanfront trail from Kapalua Beach to D.T. Fleming Beach Park.
50. Maui Friday Town Parties
If you are on Maui on a Friday, there will likely be a party – and it will be free! The County of Maui sponsors Friday Town Parties. There is no admission fee, and they offer live entertainment, local food for purchase, and plenty of vendors.
Free things to do in Hawaii
There you have it, 50 free things to do in Hawaii. If you’re looking for more things to do in Hawaii, make sure to check out my other posts with things to do on each island:
- 10 best things to do in Waikiki
- 10 free things to do on Kauai
- The 10 best tours on the Big Island
- 25 best things to do in Kona
- 10 best things to do on Oahu
- 10 best things to do on Kauai
- The 7 Best Things to do on the Big Island
- 10 best adventure activities on Kauai
Book your Hawaii vacation with a Hawaii Travel Specialist
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients for 2021. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I would recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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