Maybe you’ve even been looking at some amazing Oahu tours.
But you also want to know what are some of the top things to do on Oahu when you’re in Hawaii on a budget!
So, you may find yourself on Oahu with that all-important question…
What to do on Oahu today for free?!
If you do all of the things on the list below, chances are that when you are on your flight back home from Hawaii, you will feel like you had a PERFECT Hawaii vacation on Oahu!
So, have a look to these activities when planning your first trip to Hawaii.
10 best things to do on Oahu during a one week Hawaii vacation
You can totally fit in ALL 10 of these things with one week in Hawaii!
🌴 Side note! While this list focuses on the best things to do on Oahu for free, the same basic activities can mostly be applied to other Hawaiian islands too! For specifics on the Big Island, have a look at these best things to do on the Big Island for free. /end side note
1. Laze on the beach
Okay, let’s start off with the most obvious.
When you think about Hawaii vacation, you probably imagine those pictures of white-sand beaches.
Well, they really do exist!
And the vast majority of beaches on Oahu are FREE!
Head to one of these picture-perfects beaches on Oahu…
Or stay closer to where you’ll probably be staying…
2. Oahu circle island road trip
Cost: $50 for one-day car rental
Now $50 may not sound like a cheap Oahu activity up front.
But if you’re a family of 4 or more, this will work out to around $10 per person, which beats paying per person for an island tour.
You might even be able to find a better deal on a car rental.
So renting a car for one day can be a GREAT way to spend your day on Oahu.
3. See a Hawaiian culture show
There’s a cultural show that features Hawaiian music and entertainment.
And, not only is this show free, it’s an outdoor event, AND it takes place in the heart of Waikiki which makes it very convenient to attend.
This takes place a few times a week right near Kuhio Beach.
This also means that as you’re waiting for the show to begin, you can take in the sunset on the beach!
Another free outdoor event that takes place every week is the Friday night fireworks hosted by the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach.
There are also other free activities to see Hawaiian culture, including a visit to a heiau (an ancient Hawaiian temple) or ancient birthstones.
You can make these pretty quick visits when you’re nearby.
Puu O Mahuka Heiau (on the North Shore)
Kukaniloko Birthstones (near the Dole Plantation)
4. Go snorkeling with tropical fish
Another thing that may come to mind when you think about a trip to Hawaii is snorkeling!
The most popular snorkeling spot on Oahu costs around $8 per person.
Most importantly, there’s a good reason to wear reef-safe sunscreen.
There are also a few FREE snorkeling spots on Oahu that you have a chance to swim with colorful tropical fish.
You can try places like Waikiki (Queen’s Beach) and the North Shore (Shark’s Cove, Kuilima Cove, Waimea Bay).
And, if you want to splurge, you can go on a tour of swimming with dolphins in the wild.
5. Pearl Harbor
It’s totally reasonable to go to Pearl Harbor on your own, but there are also tours that can give you a deeper understanding of the tragedy that occurred and the event that propelled the United States into World War 2.
There’s a free museum here, and there are informational signs located throughout the outdoor grounds so you can learn more.
There are a couple of paid attractions here as well.
6. Day trip to the North Shore
Cost: Depends on what you do!
You can make this a part of your circle island tour, or even better, dedicate a whole day just to the North Shore!
The North Shore of Oahu is famous as being one of the best surfing spots in the world.
With a day trip to the North Shore from Waikiki, you can visit a nature park with botanical gardens and waterfalls (Waimea Valley – $15+ entry per person), visit an ancient Hawaiian temple with amazing view of the North Shore (Puu o Mahuka Heiau – FREE), go snorkeling (Shark’s Cove – FREE)…
…or hit up some of those famous North Shore food trucks!
And oh yes, have your very first beginners surf lesson too. (Although that probably wouldn’t go in the cheap Oahu tour category.)
Or you can go for a week-long surf camp if you want to go all in!
Or if you want to go even further with a wellness vacation, you can find yoga retreats in Hawaii too.
For free beaches on the North Shore (all the beaches all free), look to Waimea Bay, Shark’s Cove (for snorkeling), and Sunset Beach.
See more of the best things to do on the North Shore.
If you are in Hawaii, you kind of MUST go for one of the best Oahu hikes with beautiful ocean views.
Most hikes on Oahu are free, although the most famous one of the Diamond Head hike is $1-5 depending on how you arrive. (By foot vs by car.)
The Diamond Head crater is worth a hike for the views of Waikiki Beach and Honolulu.
More of the best hikes on Oahu
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
Kuliouou Ridge Trail
See more photos of the best hikes on Oahu.
Also see some of the best beach hikes on the Big Island.
8. See turtles
Well, spotting turtles on Oahu has a little to do with luck.
But there are a couple of places that you might be able to test that luck a little better for some exciting turtle sightings!
Where to see turtles on Oahu
You might be able to see some in Waikiki in front of the Sheraton, along the pier in front of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, or around Queen’s Beach.
You can also increase your chances of spotting a turtle by visiting Laniakea Beach aka Turtle Beach at sunset on the North Shore.
9. Bike along the coast
Cost: $10 – $30
Biking with ocean views?!
Where to find bike rentals on Oahu
Waikiki or downtown Honolulu
Relatively new to Hawaii is bike sharing.
This means that you can rent a bike in one spot of Waikiki or downtown Honolulu, ride the bike, then return it at a different spot.
There are these bike sharing stations all around Waikiki and Honolulu.
The cost starts at around $4 for 30 minutes.
There are also a number of places to rent bikes in Kailua.
This might be around $20-30 for a half day or a full day.
10. FEEL THE ALOHA!
So there’s your top 10 in Hawaii!
What else to do in Hawaii?!
So now you know that there are lots of FREE and cheap things to do in Hawaii.
But there are also lots of worthy paid tours too!
Have a look to:
What to pack for Hawaii?!
There are affiliate links below. You should totally check out these things for your trip to Hawaii.
- Sun shirts with UV protection (for women and for men) so you have to wear less sunscreen
- Popular water shoes (for women and for men) for the hidden rocks on the beach
- This standard snorkeling set
- This CHEAP way to make your phone waterproof so you can take amazing underwater photos!
- This type of waterproof pouch so you don’t need to leave valuables on the beach
- Sunscreen that’s NOT a part of the Hawaii sunscreen ban
- See some more snorkeling essentials for Hawaii
And for hiking in Hawaii…
HAPPY OAHU VACATION PLANNING!
If you're headed to Hawaii soon, see some ideas for top snorkeling essentials to pack for Hawaii, including why people wear a rash guard for snorkeling. And for Oahu travel tips, see this 3 day itinerary, this 2 week itinerary, and then some more things to do on Oahu.
And if you're headed to the Big Island, be sure to see things to do on the Big Island along with this 7 day itinerary that includes black sand beaches, waterfalls, a lava cave hike, turtles, beautiful beach hikes, and tons of scenic drives!