Oahu has the best of both worlds: the bright culture and excitement of city life, and the tranquil and untouched beauty of mountains, tropical rainforests, and distant beaches.
Since it is Hawaii’s most visited island, experiencing the beauty, culture, and adventure that Oahu offers can cost money, pressuring you to limit your expectations.
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However, our guided tours and this article will show you that you can experience Oahu on a budget without limiting your expectations and explorations. Here are the nine cheap things to do in Oahu that will save your vacation and save you money.
1) Encounter History In Person On The Pearl Harbor – USS Arizona Memorial & Honolulu City Tour
One of the best ways to learn history while still having fun is to book our Pearl Harbor and Honolulu City Tour. If you wish to see the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and other historic sites in a timely manner, this is for you.
This tour begins at Pearl Harbor itself. You can visit exhibit galleries that use personal memorabilia, descriptive photographs, artifacts, and a short documentary to give you a vision of the lead up to the attack. Take a boat ride to the fallen ship itself, USS Arizona, to see history in real life.
After your trip to the past, we will take you to downtown Honolulu where you will see other tourist attractions like:
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
King Kamehameha Statue
Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives
Aloha Tower Marketplace
Since this tour covers the bus ride, the boat ride, and multiple tourist sites in 6 hours, this is one of the best cheap things to do in Honolulu. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey and reserve your thrilling trip to Pearl Harbor and Honolulu!
2) Take A Stroll On The Sands Of Waikiki Beach
Since the previously mentioned tour ends at Waikiki, it would be the perfect time to bask in the sun and sands of Waikiki Beach. All the beaches around the island are free, but there are reasons why this is one of the most popular beaches.
The white sand and clear waters are paradise personified, and there are many free things you can do like swimming, snorkeling, surfing, or learn how to surf if you’ve never tried it before.
Listen to live music at the Waikiki Beach Walk Plaza while you relax; they also perform a traditional hula show every Tuesday.
If you are in the mood to learn history, follow the 21 surfboards, also known as the Waikiki Historic Trail. Each surfboard is a marker that traces Hawaiian history and legacy.
3) Take Free Cultural Classes At The Royal Hawaiian Center
Speaking of historic markers, the Royal Hawaiian Center is one of them. It is considered the main gathering place in Waikiki.
You can visit local boutiques and try on some island fashion or find unique gifts and souvenirs. You can check out the salons, and showrooms, and eat food that ranges from affordable food to fine dining.
One of the best free things you can do is the cultural classes that connect you to the Hawaiian culture. The classes include:
How to play the ukelele
Making a lei
While it does have free validated parking for the first hour, you will need to pay $10 after the first free hour, then $2 for the second and third hour. If possible, we recommend public transportation or walking to save money.
4) Watch Hula Shows While Shopping At The World’s Largest Open-Air Shopping Center
After visiting the other center, come to Ala Moana Shopping Center, the world’s largest open-air shopping center.
It offers more than 350 department stores, first-class boutiques, and over 160 dining options. Prices and styles range from cheap and casual to fine dining and high class, catering to everyone.
For those of you with kids, there is a great children’s play area for kids 3-12 where they can play for free. Or have them watch live music and hula shows on the center stage.
To take a break from the energetic shows, Ala Moana Beach Park is just a 10-minute walk away. It has numerous grassy areas and shade trees, giving you exceptional spots to relax and have a picnic.
5) Indulge Your Adventurous Side On North Shore
Our Premium Oahu Circle Island Tour is a fulfilling activity for those who love adventure and trying new things.
The main stop, the North Shore, is well-known for its countless surfing sites, beautiful beaches, and many opportunities to snorkel and see various sea life, including sea turtles.
Our tour features many attractions from relaxing to daring like:
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Tropical Farms (free macadamia nuts!)
Sandy Beach Park
To learn more about what the tour entails, go through the full description here and get ready for an adventurous day around Oahu’s North Shore.
6) Go Beach Hopping And Snorkel On The Shores Of Oahu
For those wanting to snorkel at a leisurely pace, visit Lanikai Beach and Shark’s Cove (sharks not included).
Lanikai has stunning views, from the Mokulua Islands to the green sea turtles. It is a great windsurfing and kitesurfing spot for its steady winds.
There are few amenities at Lanikai Beach, but Kailua Beach Park next door has bathrooms, picnic areas, and outdoor showers. Make it extra fun by bringing your own food and gear; it makes the trip more personal and will save money.
Shark’s Cove is one of the top 12 shore dives in the world, where you can encounter vibrant rocks, fascinating coral heads, delightful tide pools, and maybe even spot majestic sea turtles. Get your snorkel gear ready and prepare for an unforgettable experience!
Fun fact: the cove got its name from its shape seen from above it.
7) Marvel At The Modern Art Of Local Artists At Hawaii State Art Museum
Located in downtown Honolulu, the Hawaii State Art Museum (a.k.a. Capitol Modern) is the home of unique pieces of art from local Hawaiians and around the world.
The museum is free of charge, and it offers many sights to behold. You can either walk on your own or follow the free guided tours available. It also offers free art activities where you can take your works of art home.
It has the largest collection of artworks by contemporary Hawaiian local artists, inspiring more art and promoting education and cultural enrichment. The exhibitions give an insight into the trends, diversity, and themes of the local art scene. Some of the exhibits are:
Creatures and Characters
Fear of the Unknown
The last exhibit is a part of the Art in Public Places Collection. They can be found in public buildings like schools, libraries, and state offices, giving you another reason to walk around Honolulu and Oahu.
An outdoor courtyard called Sculpture Garden resides on the ground floor. They feature several sculptures and sometimes host live concerts in the evening.
8) Hike Up The Slopes Of Diamond Head
Everyone knows that one of the things you should cross off your bucket list when you visit Oahu is to hike Diamond Head. It is one of the most popular cheap things to do in Oahu.
This crater is packed with history, from its volcanic creation 500,000 years ago to the historic battles with the government for its preservation.
The hike is a short 1.6-mile roundtrip with paved walkways and stairs for the steepest parts. However, it can still be challenging for some hikers because of its steepness and lack of shade.
It is best to go very early, specifically before 8 am, and bring plenty of food and water with you. Also, bring some cash to try some food trucks and refreshing drinks after the hike.
Non-locals must pay admission ($5 per person) and reserve a time slot (between 6 am and 6 pm), but they are still budget-friendly prices.
9) Surround Yourself With Exotic Plants And Flowers At Waimea Botanical Garden
Diamond Head is not the only piece of preserved land with great views and history around the island. The Waimea Botanical Garden shares Hawaiian history and culture through a kaleidoscope of exotic plants and flowers, including:
A Lei Garden
Fruits, Nuts, and Spices
There is a $25 admission fee to enter the Waimea Valley to partake in the tour. But the 52 beautifully themed gardens and passionate guides will make this trip worth it.
Plan Your Oahu Trip With These Guided Tours And Cheap Activities!
Just because Oahu is a popular tourist destination, doesn’t mean you have to spend excessively to experience it. We hope this list of cheap things to do in Oahu inspires you to surf, learn, and snorkel at the best places with little worries about budgeting.
While you iron out the details of your traveling plans, check out our tours in Oahu so you can appreciate the festivities and historical parts of Oahu on a budget that fits you.
Let us help you turn your Hawaiian dream into a reality!