There's a lot to see and do around the Waikiki area that will drain your bank account. But there's also a lot to do for those on a budget!
You can certainly lounge on the beach all day for free. You can even visit Pearl Harbor for free! But there's tons of other cultural, physical, and food-related activities around Waikiki that I find a lot more interesting!
In this post, I outline the best activities in the Waikiki area that won't break the bank!
1. Take selfie's under the banyan trees
You'll find Banyan trees (ficus) all over Hawaii. But some of the easiest to access (and take selfies with!) are in the parks next to the Waikiki beaches.Find the enormous banyan tree with a maze of rooted limbs (pictured above) across from the zoo. Just be careful of the little nooks where homeless people like to take shelter!
2. Nom Malasadas from Leonard's
Who knew you could get great Portugese food in Hawaii? For just $1.50 each, try a malasada from Leonard's Bakery in Waikiki. Choose from a variety of flavors: plain sugar, cinnamon sugar, custard, chocolate, haupia (coconut), li hing (plum), and more.
Learn about more must-eats on Oahu.
3. Watch free movies at the Pier
Ever watch a movie on the beach in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Well, now you can at the Kapahulu Pier in Waikiki.
"Sunset on the Beach" takes place there on Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon and evening. A huge screen plays free films, local food is served for under $10, and musicians often come by to hang out and jam.
4. Hike Diamond Head
Parking is just $5 or, if you take a cab, walk-ins pay only $1. Then hike at your leisure to the top of this popular peak!
Diamond Head gives awesome views of Waikiki below from two pillbox vantage points. Rainstorms are frequent so you'll probably catch a rainbow up there like I did!
Don't miss the other side with views of the Pacific Ocean off the east coast.
Learn about more hikes on Oahu.
5. Visit the Royal Hawaiian Center
There is tons of free cultural programming at the Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Ave.
Choose from classes on hula dancing, lei making, ukulele, Hawaiian massage, Hawaiian quilting and more. The schedule for these activities vary so be sure to look at the schedule on their website.
6. Eat a Hawaiian plate lunch for under $10
Get on over to Helena's Hawaiian Food and choose a couple of small plates of authentic Hawaiian food, like kalua pig. There are opportunities to splurge here, but you can also get your fill for under $10.
7. Jump off the China Wall
This is a local favorite that is visited less frequently by tourists, so shhhhh! The spot has really interesting swooping rock formations and short cliffs to jump into the ocean waves below.
Swim here or do some light surfing. It's also a great location to bring a picnic and watch the sunset!
8. Check out the Aloha Tower
The Aloha Tower is a Honolulu icon. Since 1926, the tower has been a landmark welcoming tourists off cruise ships. A rickety elevator will take you up 184-feet to the top for free views of the city below. It's open 9AM to 7PM all year.
9. Snorkel Hanauma Bay
Hands down, Hanauma Bay is my favorite snorkel location in all of Hawaii! It's a protected marine conservation area, so the coral is pristine and the fish are numerous. The variety here is spectacular. Just don't touch or stand on anything! Before heading down to the bay, you'll watch an educational video to learn about safety and preventing damage to the coral and marine life.
Do not pass this up, even if there's a $7.50 fee! Oh, and there's a $1 parking fee. No biggie!
10. Kapiolani Bandstand
The Royal Hawaiian Band is a 160 year old band connected to Hawaiian royalty. It was first commissioned by King Kamehameha III in 1836. They play free of change at the 'Iolani Palace Bandstand Fridays at Noon. They also play at the Kapi'olani Bandstand in Kapi'olani Park Sundays at 2PM.
11. Participate in a tea ceremony
At the Urasenke Foundation, participate in "tea for 3"—a tea ceremony costing only $3! They make tea from 400-year-old bushes. Show your respect for the tradition by wearing long pants and socks. The ceremony starts at 10AM.
12. Lounge on the International Market Place rooftop
Go to the International Market Place to explore the many shops and restaurants it has to offer. Just make sure you head to the roof when you're ready for a break. Lounge in this open area on comfy seating found under shade. This was a serene place for me to catch up on a book and e-mails with free Wi-Fi.
13. Climb the Kuliouou Ridge
Aside from a few exceptions like Diamond Head, most hikes are totally free and open to the public around Oahu. My favorite was Kuliouou Ridge. You'll get views of Hawaii Kai and part of the North Shore from the top. But the path along the way is filled with magical natural beauty.
See more must-do's with My Interactive Oahu Map.
Have more to add? Comment below!