The Best Free Things to Do in Oahu

Published On 05/17/2016 Published On 05/17/2016
Yoga in hawaii

Sure, it'd be great to sip handcrafted cocktails or bathe yourself in luxury spa baths all weekend, every weekend, but you may or may not want to blow your entire tax refund before the year is up. For the days that feel more penny-pinching than champagne-spilling, we've rounded up some totally free things to do that'll still make you feel like you've gotten your money's worth, without spending a cent. (And if you happen to only have $10 on hand, we've got you covered there, too.)

Ward Village

Get your movie fix at Courtyard Cinema

Every second Thursday, in partnership with the Hawaii International Film Festival and Consolidated Theatres at Ward Village, the IBM parking lot transforms into an outdoor movie theater, complete with free admission, free seating, free parking, and best of all, free popcorn. All you have to do is reserve your tickets online before other plucky people get their virtual hands on passes before you do.

Flickr/Wendy Cutler

Tour a desert garden

If you’re in Hawaii Kai and are looking for pleasant views without climbing the natural StairMaster that is the Koko Crater Railway Trail, you can save your quads from that 1,110-step grueling staircase and opt for a peaceful, two-mile loop around Koko Crater Botanical Garden instead. During the summer and fall especially, the volcanic crater is blossoming with rare and endangered dryland species, a cactus and succulent garden, and native Hawaiian plants and flowers, making the flat terrain the perfect place for a lazy, eye-catching stroll.

View works of art at the Hawaii State Art Museum

Called the “people's museum,” the four-gallery museum is free to the public all year round, displaying a permanent and rotating collection of paintings, sculptures, pottery, and 3-D works. Spend a day staring at walls and absorb the island's diverse culture and history.

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa

Stretch your hamstrings at a free yoga class

Listen to the sounds of the ocean as you downward facing dog in the Diamond Head Lawn at the historic Moana Surfrider, for their free, monthly vinyasa flow, led by popular yoga teachers from across the island. For an additional post-workout glow, organic wines are available for $5 a pour... and come with parking validation.

Flickr/Jim Bowen

Visit the Hālona Blowhole

Sure, it's a big tourist attraction, but that doesn't mean it’s not amazing to watch the ocean waves push itself 30ft in the air through a molten lava tube. Just don’t stand too close to the natural geyser. Pro tip: if the ground is wet, don’t step. It’s best to enjoy the water spout from afar.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

Watch a fireworks show

On Friday evenings at 7:45pm, find an empty stretch of sand or grass and watch the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s fireworks show light up the night. The pyrotechnic light show is the finale for the resort’s Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Revue, but you don’t have to buy tickets to enjoy the sparkly views.  

Spend an evening with Sunset Mele on the Rooftop

Once a month, the rooftop at the Hawaii Convention Center transforms into an entertainment extravaganza, with free live entertainment and a movie screening, with local artisans and food vendors selling crafts and small bites. Bring your low-backed chairs and beach blankets and snag a front row seat as the sun sets (sunset views, also free!)

Times Supermarkets ( Fujioka's Wine TIMES )

Sip fine wines

Before picking up groceries or eating dinner at a restaurant nearby, cleanse your palate with a free wine tasting at Fujioka’s Wine Times, held Friday and Saturday afternoons.  

Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority

Hit the beach

All beaches in Oahu are free and open to the public, so grab a towel, some SPF, an inner tube or a surfboard, and head to the coastline for some cash-free, unadulterated fun.  

View the Nuuanu petroglyphs

Tucked along Nuuanu Stream near Nuuanu Memorial Park and past Alapena Falls, the quick hike will lead you a small cave with animal and human figures carved onto the walls. Added bonus: you can enjoy a pretty waterfall along the way. Jump in... if you don’t fear leptospirosis or whatever.

Visit the USS Arizona Memorial

Pay your respects at the site of the Pearl Harbor attacks, which serves as a World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Nearly 2 million people visit the site a year, and the first 2,000 guests can enter the monument for free, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Royal Hawaiian Center

Pick up some skills at the Royal Hawaiian Center

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to string lei, strum a ukulele, give lomilomi massage, learn hula basics, or weave lauhala jewelry, you can do so for free with the Center’s Complimentary Cultural Programming. Don’t forget to showcase your new talents later. Ahem, lomilomi massage.

Join a running club

Add a couple thousand more steps to your Fitbit and join free running groups, whether you’re training for a race or just looking to burn off lunch. Get the blood pumping with Hawaii Running Lab on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then reward yourself to 10% off an açaí bowl at Arch Café. Or, opt for three to five mile loops with Lanikai Juice Kakaako’s running club and refresh with post-run refreshments and weekly raffle prize giveaways.


Visit the Royal Mausoleum

Also known as Mauna Ala (fragrant hills), the only royal burial ground in the nation is the final resting place of the Kamehameha and Kalākaua Dynasties. Tucked in Nuuanu, the historic and sacred site is one of the only places on the islands where the Hawaiian flag can be flown solo, without the American flag.  

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Summer Nakaishi is a freelance writer for Thrillist and has rarely met a free sample she couldn’t turn down.