Free Things to Do in Hawaii: 33 Amazing Activities

Uncover Hawaii’s hidden gems on a budget! Dive into pristine beaches, historic sites, and local secrets without the hefty price tag.

A trip to Hawaii can rack up bills unless you know the best free places to visit. Beyond its stunning resorts and eateries, Hawaii boasts a plethora of attractions that you can explore without spending a dime on admission tickets. Think sun-soaked beaches, expansive state parks, tranquil botanical gardens, and poignant historical landmarks.

The key to a Hawaiian adventure that fits your budget? Prioritize these cost-free gems! Spend more on accommodation (easier to splurge on a dream stay at the Royal Hawaiian if you save on attractions) and necessary transport, but when it comes to experiences, there’s plenty to savor without reaching for your wallet. Follow along as we dive into Hawaii’s best offerings.

Big Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

On regular days, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park requires an entrance fee. However, the National Park Service grants visitors free access on specific dates throughout the year. These special days allow you to explore scenic routes, stroll through the mesmerizing Thurston Lava Tube, and stand in awe as Kīlauea volcano lights up the night.

To plan your visit, check the National Park Service website for fee-free dates, usually aligned with occasions like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, the First Day of National Park Week, The Great American Outdoors Act, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.

If your trip coincides, seize this opportunity for a wallet-friendly adventure to one of the Big Island’s top attractions!

Lava Flowing over cliffs into the ocean at Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park - The Big Island, Hawaii, USAHike the Pololu Valley Lookout Trail

For those with a penchant for nature and outdoor adventures, the Pololu Valley Lookout Trail is a gem not to be missed. Among the hiking trails in Hawaii, this one stands out for its brevity paired with high rewards–a mesmerizing black sand beach awaiting the journey’s end!

Related Post: Big Island Hikes – 12 Best to Explore

After seeing the dramatic panorama of lush cliffs plunging into the azure sea with your own eyes, you will agree that the most unforgettable experiences don’t always come with a price tag.

Visit Hapuna Beach

Hāpuna Beach is a popular Hawaiian treasure that is positioned as one of the best free things to do in Hawaii Big Island. Its reputation extends globally, consistently ranking among the world’s best beaches.

When you’re in Hawaii, feel free to enjoy over half a mile of pristine white sand and continuous shore break that is perfect for all types of activities, from bodyboarding to playful splashing.

daytime view of Hapuna Beach at Big Island of HawaiiSwim with Manta Rays

Witnessing manta rays in their natural habitat is nothing short of magical, and the Kona Coast provides one of the rare opportunities globally to experience this up close. You can encounter these magical creatures without a Manta Ray Tour, but you’ll need to be patient (and call on your lucky charm).

Head north to Manta Point in the Mauna Kea resort where you can swim from the shore directly into the shallow waters where the mantas glide gracefully. While tours operate from this very spot, independent snorkelers can venture on their own, hoping for a serendipitous sighting.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach is a must-see spot between the towns of Pāhala and Nāʻālehu in Kaʻū. It’s famous for its deep black sand, making it the most well-known black sand beach in Hawaii.

Visitors also report sightings of endangered Hawksbill and green turtles sunbathing on the shore, which you can try to see for yourself when you visit! If you spot large honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles), enjoy watching them but don’t touch them. And remember, take all the photos you want but leave the black sand where it is.

Wide shot of Punalu’u Black Sand Beach with lots of palm trees and the ocean in the background on the Big Island, Hawaii, USAStargazing at Mauna Kea

Among the top free things to do in Kona Hawaii, stargazing at Mauna Kea is one of the best things to do in Kona Hawaii for free. Even from an elevation of 9,000 feet, a shimmering blanket of countless stars unfolds above. And the best part? You don’t even need a telescope to be mesmerized.

You can choose to stargaze near the Visitor Center or venture to the summit for breathtaking hiking and sunset views. However, please note that only 4WD vehicles can pass beyond the Visitor Information Station. So if you want, although you’ll have to pay, you can join numerous Mauna Kea stargazing tours that operate around the region.

Kauai

Waimea Canyon Lookout

One of the most breathtaking things to do for free in Hawaii is to visit the Waimea Canyon Lookout. Located at mile marker 10, the lookout serves as the primary viewpoint for those keen to absorb the canyon’s beauty without embarking on a hike.

Related Post: Waimea Canyon Hike: Explore Kauai’s Natural Wonder

And for those wary of the challenging Kalalau Trail at Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon offers splendor without the risk! Here you will be treated to a nature’s lover dream, with unobstructed views of wild foliage, tropical cliffs, a fusion of green and pink landscapes, enchanting waterfalls, and frequent rainbows.

aerial view of rainbow over Waimea Canyon State Park in Kauai, Hawaii, USAHanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay, open daily, is a gem among Hawaii’s treasures. Known as one of the most photographed beaches globally, its beauty is undeniable with white sand, clear blue waters, tropical palm trees, and vibrant green mountains in the background.

Beyond its looks, Hanalei Bay is a hotspot for water activities. From surfing, which many consider among Hawaii’s best, to swimming, bodyboarding, paddling, and kayaking, there’s no shortage of fun!

Wailua River State Park

Wailua River State Park, located near Kapaa on Kauai, is more than just a river. This state park encompasses a spectrum of attractions – from stunning waterfalls and a hidden romantic spot to remnants of an ancient village.

As one of Hawaii’s few navigable rivers, this means a chance to enjoy an unforgettable day by hopping on a boat or kayak, and then spending the rest of the day exploring the many hidden gems that this stunning state park offers to us adventurous souls.

Aerial View of Wailua River in Kauai HawaiiKapa’a Town Walk

Strolling through the historic streets of Kapa’a is a delightful free activity in Hawaii that captures the essence of island charm. As you wander, you’re treated to interesting local galleries that showcase local talents, as well as unique boutiques that offer a range of intriguing finds. While strolling, soak in the coastal ambiance hand in hand with a loved one.

Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn is a coastal geyser that you’ve probably seen a couple of times on travel social media pages. That’s because it’s one of Kauai’s most photographed natural wonders!

Located on the island’s south shore, water surges under a lava shelf and bursts through a small opening, thus creating a spectacular spout that can shoot water up to 50 feet in the air.

Related Post: Best Snorkeling Kauai – Guide to the Most Beautiful Spots

This natural display is accompanied by a distinct hissing sound, which local legends suggest is made by a trapped giant mo’o (lizard). Going here and staying as long as you like is completely free!

water spewing from rock by the ocean on a sunny day at Spouting Horn on Koloa Trail in Kauai, Hawaii, USA
photo credit: Susan Charbonneau via Facebook

Maui

Ho’okipa Beach Park

Ho’okipa Beach Park, situated on Maui’s north shore, is a magnet for water sports enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. Renowned for its powerful waves and consistent winds, it’s a paradise for surfers and windsurfers from around the globe.

But even if you’re not riding the waves, the beach offers opportunities to find sea turtles resting on the sandy shores! And we all know that one of the best Hawaii free things to do is to spot these green giants, not to touch, but to adore and take Instagram-worthy photos from a distance.

Haleakalā Sunrise

Many will agree that watching the sunrise at Haleakalā is one of the most unforgettable and breathtaking experiences in Hawaii. watching the sunrise at Haleakalā, you will see that the vast crater of Haleakala is painted in hues of purple, orange, and gold.

Positioned above the cloud line, you will feel as if you’re floating in a dreamy world, making it one of the top free stuff to do in Hawaii. Before you embark on this sunrise adventure, remember to dress warmly as temperatures can be chilly at such high altitudes. And since this is one of the best free things to do in Maui, arrive as early as possible to get a good spot!

Haleakala sunrise on Maui Hawaii
sunrise from the summit of Haleakala volcano on the tropical island of Maui, Hawaii

Historic Lahaina Town

Step back in time as you wander through Historic Lahaina Town on Maui’s west coast. Once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, today’s Lahaina offers a blend of rich history and modern charm.

At its heart stands the iconic banyan tree, one of the largest in the U.S., casting vast shade over the town square and serving as a gathering spot for both locals and tourists. Whether you just want to go for a walk along a seaside setting or you’re looking for unique shops, Lahaina Town will not disappoint.

Maui Friday Town Parties

Maui Friday Town Parties are the island’s signature free events that encapsulate the vibrant spirit of the Hawaiian community. Every Friday, a different town in Maui becomes a hub of celebration where locals and visitors come together to revel in the festivities.

Related Post: Best Beach in Kauai – 5 to Add to Your Bucket List

The streets come alive with music, artisan vendors, local food, and cultural performances–overall a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s lively atmosphere without breaking the bank!

Banyan Tree lighting for Christmas in Lahaina, Hawaii, USA
photo credit: Hakuna Matata Maui via Facebook

Oahu

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach, with its powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters, is often hailed as one of Oahu’s most picturesque beaches. Nestled away from the hustle of Waikiki, this tranquil spot offers unparalleled sunrise views, making it a favorite for early risers.

This part of Oahu is perfect for relaxation, just like the laid-back island vibe of Sunset Beach at the North Shore. However, if you want a bit more action, Ala Moana Beach Park may be the way to go, another free beach you can take advantage of during your vacation.

Waikiki Beach

With Diamond Head crater looming in the backdrop and crystal-clear waters at its forefront, Waikiki Beach offers postcard-perfect views. No wonder why this Hawaiian gem stands for the state’s iconic beach culture!

Related Post: Things to Do in Waikiki Hawaii: 19 Incredible Adventures To Try

The shimmering stretch of white sand on Oahu’s south shore is frequented by both avid surfers catching waves and sun-seekers lounging on the sand. And as a bustling hub of activity, street performers, hula shows, and free movie nights under the stars are just a few of the things to do in Hawaii free of charge. Entertainment by the beach without denting your wallet!

people on waikiki beach in Honolulu
waikiki-beach-750
Check out Waikiki Beach at least once when visiting Honolulu.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a tropical paradise located on the windward side of Oahu. This lush, 400-acre garden is a haven for nature lovers, featuring a diverse collection of plants from around the world.

The garden’s centerpiece, a tranquil lake, offers a catch-and-release fishing experience that you can do aside from strolling along the garden’s scenic trails. With free admission, you won’t regret spending time away from the urban bustle of beautiful Honolulu.

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor stands as a poignant reminder of the events of World War II and while some attraction admission tickets (save with a Passport to Pearl Harbor), there are some you enjoy free of charge.

The USS Arizona Memorial, a solemn site commemorating the brave souls lost during the tragic attack, is one of the attractions you can explore free of charge.

For a comprehensive understanding, you can embark on a guided walking tour. Nearby, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific further honors the servicemen and women of World War II, making this area a significant destination for history enthusiasts and those wishing to remember and reflect.

View looking down on Pearl Harbor during the day and there appears to be some oil in the water in Oahu HawaiiDowntown Honolulu Historic Sites

Discovering the rich history of Hawaii is as easy as strolling through Downtown Honolulu historic sites. And the best thing about it is you can explore several iconic landmarks for free! It’s free to go around the Iolani Palace, a testament to Hawaii’s royal heritage and once the residence of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Plus don’t forget to view King Kamehameha I Statue, the bronze statue that honors the first king of the Kingdom of Hawaii who united the islands in 1810.

Plan a Budget-Friendly Hawaiian Vacation

Crafting a dream Hawaiian vacation on a budget is more attainable than you might think. With a plethora of free attractions ranging from pristine beaches to historic sites, Hawaii offers endless adventures that won’t break the bank.

Now that you have more ideas about free things to do in Hawaii, elevate your savings strategy by opting for a Hawaii vacation package, which bundles your accommodation with attraction tickets. Not only does this simplify your itinerary planning, but it also significantly reduces costs.

Dive into the spirit of Aloha, immerse in the island’s natural beauty, and relish the experiences, all while ensuring your wallet remains as full as your heart.

What Did We Miss?

Have any free Hawaii activities to add to our list? Leave us a comment below!


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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...


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