15 Best Free Things to Do in Hawaii

Yes, these islands are surrounded by water with many beautiful beaches gracing their shores, with free public access. However, the islands have much more to offer in the arena of “free of charge.” So say mahalo for these 15 spots.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Honolulu, Oahu, HI

This memorial serves two purposes: to commemorate the events of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and to honor the Americans who served and died on that day. Access to the Visitor Center, two museums, and the USS Arizona Memorial program is free. However, to truly experience the full scope of this historic site, plan on spending a day. The memorial is open seven days a week from 7 am to 5 pm.

Hawaii State Art Museum, Honolulu, Oahu, HI

Take a walk through the state’s extensive collection of paintings, print, photos, and sculptures, representing Hawaii’s artistic and cultural communities in one place… here. There are four galleries and a sculpture garden to explore. Admission is free. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Closed on Sunday and state and federal holidays.

Laniakea Beach, North Shore, Oahu, HI

The green sea turtle, or honu, is found throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Still, the best place to get up-close-and-personal with one is on this beach where you’ll find them basking in the sun. Classified as an endangered species, they are protected by federal law, so you can take pictures and admire them from a safe distance. So spend some time, and you might see them munching on seaweed or riding a wave into shore. Open year-round.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, Kaneohe, Oahu, HI

This peaceful 400-acre garden, the largest in Oahu, showcases plants and flowers from around the world, as well as Hawaiian favorites. The Koolau Mountain Range, towering nearby, makes the drive-in spectacular. In addition to admiring all flora and fauna, there are other activities — fishing, camping, kayaking on the reservoir, picnicking, plus a visitor center and an unlimited number of photo opportunities. Open daily, 9 am to 4 pm, except for Christmas day and New Year’s Day.

Kauai Coffee Company, Kalaheo, Kauai, HI

Coffee lovers can take a moment to stop and smell the coffee at the largest coffee farm in the U.S. While you stroll through the orchard consisting of 4 million trees across over 3,100 acres. You might not see them all, of course. Guides are on hand to answer questions about growing, harvesting, and roasting. Be sure to stop by the visitor center for a cup of fresh brew. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm. They are closed on some holidays.

The Banyan Tree, Lahaina, Maui, HI

A visit to Downtown Lahaina isn’t complete without a picture of an enormous Banyan Tree under the town’s main feature. In 1873, when first planted, it was only 8 feet tall. Now, it’s a towering 68 feet tall and a quarter-mile in circumference. The 16 major trunks support a network of branches, leaves, and aerial roots. Sit for a while on one of the many benches positioned underneath the tree, and you might spot one of the hundreds of squawking mynah birds that live in it. Open year-round.

Ke’anae Arboretum, Kula, Maui, HI

The song, Going to Hana, says, “the drive's a thrill the beauty never ends.” Part of the reason for that is this spectacular spot. Colorful highlights include the rainbow eucalyptus and the blue marble trees, with edible blue fruit the size of ping pong balls. Once farming land, it is now home to more than 100 native and tropical plants. Take a walk through the six-acre botanical garden, and you’ll see gingers, hibiscus, papaya, and different varieties of taro. Open year-round.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center, Hilo, Hawaii, HI

The Discovery Center was created to highlight the nature, culture, and marine environment of the Northern Hawaiian Islands to provide educational opportunities for visitors. It is under the umbrella of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which protects what is known as the Hawaiian Archipelago. The Center houses a 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium, interactive educational exhibits, and life-size wildlife models. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, Hilo, Hawaii, HI

As the only zoo in the country located in a tropical rainforest, you’ll find primarily native flora and fauna, plus rainforest animals in the zoo. Color abounds in the garden with orchids, rhododendrons, bromeliads, plumerias in full bloom under hundreds of lush, green palms. The walking path takes you through this 12-acre tribute to the tropics, also home to the zoo, which features more than 60 animals native to rainforest habitats. Open every day from 9 am to 4 pm.

Purdy’s All-Natural Macadamia Nut Farm, Ho’olehua, Molokai, HI

Learn how to crack a mac, nut that is, at this five-acre family-run farm. The original orchard of 50 or so trees, planted in the 1920s, has been added to throughout the years. Now the farm has several hundred trees in production. The owners, longtime locals, are a wealth of information about all things macadamia and island lore and culture. Be sure to try some fresh-from-the-shell nuts and the local honey produced there. Open Monday through Friday, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, Saturday 10 am to 2 pm.

Wailua Falls, Kapaia, Kauai, HI

Hiking is not required to see this picturesque waterfall. Cascading water from Wailua River plunges over a rocky edge to a glassy pool more than 80-feet below. This double-tiered waterfall is best seen from the overlook, right off the parking lot, making it so accessibly viable. If you’re lucky and the sun is just in the right spot, you might be treated to a beautiful rainbow. Open year-round.

Big Island Bees, Captain Cook, Hawaii, HI

This farm is busy as a beehive. Likely due to the 120 million bees, give or take a few, that call this farm home. The multiple flavors of honey produced here take on the flavors on the nectar of the flowers the bees collect. Their organic Ohi'a Lehua honey, from the blossoms of the Lehua flower, is found only in Hawaii. Their museum, where you’ll see an active hive, tasting room, and store, is open to the public at no charge. Stop by Monday through Friday, 10 am to 3 pm.

Mauna Kea, Hilo, Hawaii, HI

The best place to see a sunrise in the islands is from the top of this dormant volcano, the state’s highest peak and tallest sea mountain in the world. With a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you can drive from the Visitor Information Center to the summit or hike the six-mile trail to the top. Both choices have their challenges, so summiting is not mandatory to experience a sunrise or sunset. You can do both at the Information Center, plus some star and moon gazing. Open daily from 11:30 am to 7 pm.

Waikiki Historic Trail, Honolulu, Oahu, HI

All you need to do on this tour is a good pair of walking shoes and a curious nature. At each of the 23 sites, a colorful surfboard marker is posted with information describing what happened on that spot. The trail takes you along Waikiki Beach, where Duke Kahanamoku taught people to surf, through the International Market Place and winds its way to the last marker in Kalakaua Park. The two-mile trail brings to life the state’s history and culture—accessible 24-hours-a-day, year-round.

International Market Place, Honolulu, Oahu, HI

There is no better place to find that perfect Hawaiian trinket, souvenir, or tchotchke than this open-air shopping mall. Enjoy a delicious meal at any dozen restaurants in the Grand Lanai. Or, learn about the history of the Marketplace from the educational plaques scattered around, or listen to local musicians. Open daily from 11 am to 8 pm.

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