Learn How To Play The Ukulele At Royal Hawaiian Center
Another of the free activities in Oahu, Hawaii, to partake in at the Royal Hawaiian Center is learning how to play the ukulele. Youll spend time with a seasoned ukulele player and learn some songs on the traditional Hawaiian instrument.
During the lesson, you can also sing along to well-known songs. Learning to play the ukulele is a great skill to gain to remind you of your trip. As doing so costs nothing, its well worth it!
See Famous Artists Work At The Honolulu Museum Of Art
Originally founded way back in 1922, the crowd-favorite Honolulu Museum of Art houses the largest art collection in the state, with a vast collection that highlights the spectacular works of renowned artists from near and far with a few names you might just recognize: Hokusai, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, and Warhol.
When first founded, the museum had a heavy focus on Chinese textiles and ceramics but grew across all art categories over the years.
Since its earliest days, the museums exhibition displays have grown, and the gallery now houses more than 50,000 artworks and items from Asia, America and across Europe.
At the Central Courtyard is the indoor Doris Duke Theater, where you can watch independent and international films, as well as documentaries. After youre done exploring, grab a cuppa at the HoMA Café and Coffee Bar.
Feeling inspired? At the museum, let your inner creative free and try an art class. There are both adult and youth art classes available like drawing, painting, ceramics, metal work and fiber art.
Free On The North Shore
The North Shore is our main stop when we head back to Oahu. Our son Henry loves to run around and play in the water, making the free things to do on the North Shore our go-to list.
Oahu is expensive, opt for these free things to make the most of your time on Oahu and in the North Shore.
Head to our Hawaii Recommendations to plan your perfect trip to Oahu. We share our favorite activities, things to pack, and itineraries.
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Shangri La Museum Of Islamic Art Culture & Design
Phillip B. Espinasse / Shutterstock
Shangri La might be a mythical land, but the Shangri La Museum is a very real place located just outside of Honolulu.
Commissioned by the famous heiress Doris Duke, Shangri La was started as a mansion where she could collect and display Islamic artwork.
Shed been fascinated by it during her honeymoon to the Middle East, and she wanted a place where she could keep all of her portraits, tiles, jewelry, embroidery and wood carvings.
Today, the Shangri La Museum is open to the public thanks to the Doris Duke Foundation, and its become a mecca for those who are interested in Islamic art and culture.
Its one of the most unique places to see in the entire state of Hawaii, so reserve your ticket well in advance!
Address: 4055 Pp Cir, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA
Kalapana Lava Viewing Area
The Big Island is famous for its active volcano. If you want to see molten lava, the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area offers an excellent vantage point. Best of all, you can witness the hot lave gushing into the ocean, one of the must-see sights for any vacationer on the Big Island. Conditions change daily, so be sure to call the viewing hotline for up-to-date conditions during your trip.
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Get Creative At Hawaii State Art Museum
A visit to the Hawaii State Art Museum is a great idea for a fun cultural day out in Oahu. Best of all, admission to the museum is always free.
Exhibits on display feature a range of artworks, with many by American artists. There is additionally a whole section of the museum featuring Hawaiian-themed artworks and pieces by Hawaiian artists.
If you enjoy Hawaii State Art Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art is also free to check out every third Sunday as well.
Do A Sunrise Koko Head Hike
No matter how fit you are, a Koko Head hike will have you huffing and puffing, dripping with sweat.
First off, what is Koko Head? Basically, the Koko Crater Trail is a Stair Master workout all the way up the 1000+ stairs, with a rewarding panoramic view up top.
If your family is into heart-pumping activities, this could be the perfect family activity!
As challenging as it sounds, hiking the Koko Head trail is super fun as people passing each other are continuously motivating or complaining to each other. Its pretty, entertaining, and a very popular hike on Oahu. Highly recommended if youre going to be spending any amount of time in HI!
The views are absolutely amazing here on a clear day.
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Best Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii
Even though the island of Oahu is the most populated island in Hawaii, its just as beautiful as the other islands, and there are so many good things to do in Oahu for every kind of traveler.
Some of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii include hikes, beaches, waterfalls, botanical gardens, water sports, wildlife sightings, and more.
There are also some unconventional things to do in Oahu, like seeing lighthouses, visiting the Pear Harbor memorial, or touring the Jurassic Park film site.
Ive been privileged to visit the Hawaiian islands many times, so Ive done a bunch of hiking, exploring, and sightseeing all over Oahu, including some of the most far flung corners of the island.
This travel guide is our complete list of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii!
Back In Time At The Hawaii Plantation Village
Ready to take a step back in time? With a calming botanical garden and a recreated village that boasts more than 25 restored buildings, plantation structure replicas, an infirmary, a bathhouse, and plenty more, a trip to this outdoor museum is considered one of the best things to do in Oahu.
From 1850 to 1950, sugar plantations ruled the islands in their ten folds and many local villages lives revolved around the plantations.
A trip to the Hawaii Plantation Village is a fantastic time to divulge into ethnicities and cultures that have landed on Hawaiian shores and called the island home, such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Okinawan, Filipino, Portuguese and Puerto Ricans.
Whilst sugar crops grew in natural abundance, immigrants landing in Hawaii bought with them their own plants to grow. During a tour around the cultural village, sample some of these fruits, for example.
To reach the Hawaii Plantation Village, head to Waipahu, and the town itself is a former sugar plantation.
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Fort Derussy Beach Park
A 71-acre beach-front military reservation that is almost entirely open to the public, a visit to Fort DeRussy Beach Park is one of the best things to do in Honolulu Hawaii for families.
Located in Waikiki, Fort DeRussy covers around one-fourth of Waikiki Beach, making it the largest beach in the area.
It is a great place to have family fun in Honolulu with loads of exciting activities.
You and your family can enjoy splashing in the surf and playing in the sand.
Theres a large shaded playground area that offers plenty of activities for children to enjoy.
Use the picnic tables and grills to prepare a meal for your family.
Enjoy the racquetball, pickleball, and volleyball courts, too.
Theres also a U.S. Army Museum to explore.
There are two public restrooms available on either end of the beach.
Concessions are not available, so be sure to pack food and drinks.
Into A Traditional Outrigger Canoe
Theres an abundance of ways to explore Waikikis pristine coastline, although arguably none are more authentic than on a traditional outrigger canoe.
Did you know that these traditional Hawaiian boats have been used for centuries, originally by royalty and then as a mode of transport? Fast forward to modern times and the outrigger canoes are still a huge part of local culture, but travelers to Oahu can experience this water sport for themselves.
Hopping into a canoe attached with an outrigger, passengers each use an oar to paddle the canoe, but thanks to the attachment, the ride is ten times more stable. This allows riders to easily maneuver waves, as well as ride them. This is one of the closest ways to feeling the flow of riding the ocean like a surfer.
Depending on your tour of choice, you can find yourself snorkeling, exploring nearby islands, learning all about local culture, and listening to Hawaiian music.
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Relax At Lanikai Beach
One of the best things about Hawaii is that they have some of the nicest beaches in the world. Lanikai Beach has been ranked the #1 beach in the United States for several years.
Its up in the Kailua area, but its totally worth the drive from Waikiki. Its kind of tucked away in a residential area, so it can sometimes be tricky to find the parking and the path to get to the beach.
The sand is incredibly soft here, and theres a great view of the Mokulua islands. Pack up a cooler with drinks and lunch items and plan on spending a full day here.
Its also right next to Kailua Beach, which is also known as one of the best beaches in the world.
Snorkel Or Beach At Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay Beach Park is one of the most beautiful beaches on the North Shore. Its also a perfect place to visit with the whole family after your adventures in Waimea Valley.
In the summer, Waimea Beach offers visitors a beautiful white sand beach to lounge on and picturesque waters to swim in. During winter, its one of the worlds most historical surf breaks!
During the summer months, visitors can do all sorts of things, including snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, or even surfing.
Looking to snorkel during your beach time too? Waimea Bay is a wonderful place to do that. While the waters here are rough in winter, Waimea Bay can be as calm as a swimming pool on summer days, meaning lots of great snorkeling opportunities.
In fact, the bay is part of the Ppkea Marine Life Conservation District, which means that the amount of fishing is limited, protecting the local aquatic life.
There are no snorkel rentals available at Waimea Bay, so if you want to snorkel, you must bring your own snorkeling set.
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Walk Around The Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
If you love looking at Hawaii photos on Instagram, you probably have seen photos of people standing on an empty road with gorgeous mountains in the background. These photos are taken at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, and its completely free to visit. Not only can you DIY an epic Hawaii photo shoot, but you can also participate in on-site art classes, go fishing, or go birdwatching.
Stroll Around Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Honolulu covers 400 acres and features an array of flora and fauna. Interestingly, the gardens were constructed in 1982 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a form of flood protection.
Despite the gardens practical beginning, today it’s a much-loved attraction. When visiting, you can see a variety of tropical plants from across the world. A trip to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is for sure one of the best things to do on Oahu for free.
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Walk The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
A picturesque lighthouse straddling the Windward Coast, Makapuu dates back to 1909 and has since become a popular walking trail.
While the walk is a round-trip of roughly 3.7 kilometers, dont be put off the actual trail on a dedicated boardwalk is straightforward and flat for most parts. It takes just over one hour to complete.
To reach Makapuu, trek past seaside cliffs with sprouts of green and ocean flora and fauna dotting the way, and when you peek the lighthouse, standing against a backdrop of magnificent ocean blue, its like a postcard.
The hike is accessible for all ages pick-up from Waikiki hotels is often included, youll also be blessed with views of the Halona Blowhole and if youre lucky humpback whales! Make it a solo activity or combine it with a day trip to Kailua Beach, either way, its a great adventure.
Cool Of With Some Waiola Shave Ice
Unlike the rest of the United States, Hawaii isnt big on ice cream. Instead, if locals arent enjoying an acai bowl, theyre keeping cool with a traditional and simple cone of shave ice.
Even though its become a staple Hawaiian dessert, the sweet treat originates from Japan and was brought over by immigrants in the 19th century.
What sets the dessert apart is the ice is finely shaved, and not made with crushed ice. After shaven, its topped with a sweet, flavored syrup. Ask any Honolulu resident: theres no joint more famous for a dessert than Waiola Shave Ice.
While its a little off the beaten path its definitely worth the extra time to get there! Plus, if its good enough for Chrissy Teigen, John Legend and their fam , its good enough for us!
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Climb Aboard The Uss Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
Showcasing a collection of intriguing artifacts surrounding the history of US submarines, this popular attraction located around the main Pearl Harbor sites gives travelers the chance to explore a WW2 submarine first-hand, made all the more fascinating with an audio tour, educational infographics, and friendly staff.
An old US Navy Balao-class submarine, called the USS Bowfin, has been converted into a museum and is anchored at the docks. To access it, visitors need to board the submarine.
Interestingly, the USS Bowfin was employed only after the attack on Pearl Harbor and it patrolled the Pacific area from 1943 to 1945. Launching the submarine exactly one year after the infamous strike, it was nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger.
Theres a lot to learn at this navy vessel museum through two dedicated galleries the World War Two Gallery and the Cold War Gallery.
Stumble across maritime objects, get a visual look into the past through black and white photographs and personal letters, or look into navy traditions such as handmade battle flags created by the crew.
Parts of the submarine are also on display, like control boards and propellers. Before you leave, be sure to check out some of the outdoor exhibits at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, from memorials to a turbojet-powered cruise missile.
Swim And Snorkel At Hanauma Bay
Considered the premier snorkeling destination on the island, Hanauma Bay is teeming with colorful sea life warm, clear waters shallow reefs, and terrific views.
As a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park since 1967, continuous efforts are made in preserving the natural habitats and ecosystems here. After knowing this, its crystal clear waters, marine life and picturesque setting make total sense.
Families, particularly those with young children, love Hanauma Bay for its snorkeling, thanks to the calm, flat ocean in this part of Oahu.
Since this popular spot often gets busy as the day goes on , a guided experience is recommended plus, that way, all the equipment, and transportation is included!
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The Best Free Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii
Hawaiis natural beauty and climate mean that you will want to spend most of your time outdoors. This is great news for those looking for free activities. And it is also excellent for those who want to travel during the pandemic, but want to avoid gathering inside with others . So pack your bags and sunscreen and explore all the free things to do in Oahu.
Hana Koa Brewing Company
Hana Koa Brewing Company
Who doesnt love a spontaneous night out? asks the Hana Koa Brewing Company, as they explain why they dont require reservations.
Its this kind of casual and fun-loving attitude that makes them one of the most beloved date night destinations in Waikiki.
At its heart, the Hana Koa Brewing Company is a brewery.
Tours and tastings are available if youd like to go behind the scenes and learn how your favorite brews undergo the transformation from grain to bottle.
Otherwise, the restaurant of the brewery is world class.
The menu ranges from finger foods to full-course meals.
It also has a distinctly Asian flavor with dishes like kimchi, lettuce wraps, panko tofu, and Korean-style short ribs.
If youre looking for cool places to dine tonight, hit up the Hana Koa Brewing Company.
It isnt fancy, and it doesnt require a tie or a reservation.
You can just show up and enjoy yourself!
Address: 962 Kawaiahao St, Honolulu, HI 96814, United States
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Explore The Pearl Harbor National Memorial
U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Visiting Pearl Harbor is one of the best things to do in Hawaii. So, it may come as a surprise that its free to enter this historic site! Nonetheless, note that you do need to make a reservation for Pearl Harbor National Memorials USS Arizona Memorial Program via the Recreation.gov website.
While you dont technically have to pay for your ticket, this website does charge a $1 per person fee to complete your reservation . After receiving your confirmation email, make sure to print out your QR code or take a screenshot of it on your phone.