Take advantage of the many fun, free, family activities available in Hawaii
In these tough economic times it’s great to find things to do that won’t cost you a dime. All of Hawaii’s islands have great mountain hiking trails that are free. Just bring plenty of mosquito spray, water bottles and park along the road. Make sure that you don’t leave any valuables in your car. Almost all of Hawaii’s beautiful sandy beaches are open to the public and have parking and toilets at the beach park facilities. Some beaches, like Ko Olina on Oahu, Wailea on Maui and the beach at Waikoloa on the Big Island, are accessed by passing through hotel property. Just tell the security guards that you want to go to the public beach and they will direct you to the public parking and beach access.
Here’s our suggestions for completely free destinations that are uniquely Hawaiian:
Aloha Tower, Oahu — Spectacular views of Honolulu and Waikiki can be seen from the 10th floor observation deck. Aloha Tower was the bustling center of arrivals to Hawaii in the “Boat Days,” now a festival marketplace surrounds the tower. There is a Gordon Biersh restaurant located on the waterfront here — we recommend having some garlic fries and watching the harbor traffic go by. Honolulu Harbor is busy with container ships, cruise vessels and a coast guard station. There are several very informative plaques located around the grounds of the marketplace with stories and photos that tell of the area’s history. Low-cost public parking is available in Harbor Court (located across the street) and validated parking is available in the parking lot adjacent to the marketplace if you intend to shop or dine while there. Visiting hours for Aloha Tower’s observation deck are 9am – 5pm, daily, seven days a week.
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens, The Big Island — This country zoo, located a few miles beyond Hilo, is a real hit with kids. 80 animal species are featured in a lush tropical setting with more than 100 varieties of palms (many of them marked) and spectacular ferns and flowers. The star of the zoo is Namaste, a beautiful white Bengal tiger. There’s also a Saturday afternoon petting zoo with a miniature horse and a Llama among other adorable animals. Hours and location information at the zoo website.
Whaling Museum, Maui — Visit the Whalers Village Museum, in the Kaanapali Beach Resort, which chronicles Hawaii’s golden age of whaling from 1825 to 1860. A beautiful 12-foot long scale model of a whaling ship and displays of journals, harpoons scrimshaw and sea chests make the era come alive. Lahaina, just a short drive away, was once the center of whaling activity in the Pacific. Hours and location.
The dolphins at Hilton Waikoloa Village, the Big Island — It’s loads of fun to just to stand beside their pool and watch them swim and play. Hotel guests pay for an in-the-water dolphin encounter, but watching is free. Parking is also free at the public beach park access and it’s just a bit farther than the paid hotel parking.
Aloha Friday King’s Jubilee, Oahu — Friday evenings are literally a blast at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort as they honor King Kalakaua with hula, Hawaiian music and a royal procession. You can view the show for free from the open-air lobby and then head down to the beach for a front row seat at the offshore fireworks show that follows.
April-September: Show 6:45 pm, fireworks at 8:00 pm
October-March: Show 6:15 pm, fireworks at 7:30 pm
Winery Tour, Maui — Tedeschi Winery is located in the cool upcountry slopes of Ulupalakua Ranch. Tour the grounds and production facilities, including the cellar where the wines are fermented, aged and stored. The tours end in the tasting room where you can sample their wines — including some made from pineapple! The tasting room is charming, dating from 1874, when it was built as a retreat for King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. Check their website for tour times and tasting room hours.
Moana Historical Tour, Oahu — Movie stars, millionaires and sports legends have all stayed at the timelessly-elegant Sheraton Moana Hotel on the beach at Waikiki. They offer free guided tours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m. You’ll see more than 200 historical artifacts and hear some fascinating stories involving the hotel including what could be a murder mystery!
Friday Art Walk, Kauai — Wander through Hanapepe’s art galleries and watch artists at work in a variety of media. A Hawaiian musician strolls the streets and refreshments are served in the galleries. There’s even a Storybook Theatre for the kids! 6-9 p.m. on Fridays.
Whale Educational Center, Maui — Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s educational center features displays, artifacts and multimedia on whales. Hours and location here.
Hilo Farmer’s Market — Located at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in historic downtown Hilo, it’s open all year round, every Wednesday and Saturday, from dawn til’ it’s gone. While it’s free to shop, you’re bound to spend some money here because the prices are great, the produce is fresh picked and people are friendly. There’s more than just produce here, you also find arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, pareos, T-shirts and more. My daughter had her fortune told — it was fun and he was amazingly accurate about her personality.
We hope you have a wonderful time while you are visiting Hawaii. Be sure to have a look at our recommendations of things to do and books to read before you come.