10 Best Things to See and Do on Oahu, Free of Charge



There couldn't be a better place for finding free things to see and do than in Hawaii, and Oahu sure does deliver. One of the great things about traveling to Oahu is that once there, visitors can spend the majority of there time doing things for free, that is if they like the outdoors. Because it shouldn't come as a surprise that the best things in life are free, and outside. Hiking, beaches, snorkeling and surf viewing are some of the best things to do and they're all free.

Beaches may be the biggest lure to Oahu and it has an abundance of amazing ones. Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore and nearby Waimea Bay are two of the best beaches on the island. They both offer fine white sand, beautiful sunsets, and in the winter, front row seats to some of the world's best surf.

Also on the North Shore is a fun hike that climbs quite steep and then traces the inland cliff east, ending at a WWI bunker ideal for sitting an taking in the panoramic view. The Ehukai Bunker Hike is about 1.5 miles round trip and small children can do it too. A much easier hike is Manoa Falls. This is more of a walk through the forest, ending at the falls.

Snorkeling Hanauma Bay will be by far the best snorkeling experience on the island. Since the reef is a marine preserve, no fishing is permitted and the underwater life is thriving with colorful tropical fish.



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Ka'ena Point
Photo courtesy of Andy Jou


 

Ka'ena Point is a great place for a quick day trip. Although it's on the westernmost tip of Oahu, it's something that fits in with a visit to the North Shore. Day trippers can reach the point by foot from Mokuleia on the east side of the mountain range, as well as the west side on the Waianae Coast. At Ka'ena State Park on the east side, a paved road passes a beach and then turns into an unpaved road. After a few miles an low impact hike takes visitors to a beach with protected birds and beautiful views of the coast. It's a very secluded and peaceful area to enjoy and explore.


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Nuuanu Pali
Photo courtesy of ChanStudio/iStock


 

At a lofty point in the Koolau Range (the mountains that divide windward Oahu from the rest of the island) on the east side, is a lookout that offers outstanding views of the eastern landscape. Legend has it that, in 1795, King Kamehameha I and his men drove opposition warriors over the cliffs in the fight for Hawaiian unification. True or not, just imagining such an event at these dizzying heights is enough to give you pause. The locale, accessible via a hike up the mountains, has a tendency to be chilly, and winds whip up as well, so dress accordingly.


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What could be more exciting than swimming with sharks? Still thinking of an answer? There's probably not anything better. With North Shore Shark Adventures, the original Oahu shark tour company, you have a choice of two tours beginning at 7 a.m. and leaving from Haleiwa. You'll travel three miles out to sea and there's a good chance of green sea turtle, dolphin and whale sightings along the way. Jump onto either vessel, the Anela or Abunai, and head out into the ocean where you'll hop into the metal cage and enjoy time in the center of a swarm of sharks. Children as young as three are invited, and ages three to 13 cost $60 to actually get in the cage! Children under three can ride on the boat for free. Adults cost $120 but lower specials are sometimes offered. Military and kama`aina (residents) can dive for $50 while a military of kama`aina child is $35. Shark sizes range from five to 15 feet and each boat is 42-feet long. Tours last about two hours. Check the website for hotel pick-ups for an extra fee. Don't forget the water camera!


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Commemorating one of Waikiki's most famous native sons, this bronze statue provides the four-time Olympic athlete an eternal presence on his beloved beach. A champion swimmer, Duke also helped spread the popularity of surfing in America and was both a sheriff of Honolulu and a film actor. In fact, his fame accounted for his being named the "Hawaiian Ambassador of Aloha." Although the statue faces inland rather than out to sea, it's often adorned with flower leis by those who remember and appreciate Duke's magnanimous character. Stop by to take in the Duke's essence and get a memorable photo to remember your trip with.


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Ehukai Bunker Hike
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt


 

Located on the North Shore across from famous Pipeline, the Ehukai Bunker Hike is a beautiful jungle experience with a great reward of a gorgeous view at the end. The Ehukai Bunker Hike is a hidden treasure located right across from the world's best surf break, Pipeline, and Ehukai Beach Park. The trailhead is in the parking lot of Sunset Elementary School, and leads to two World War II bunkers. The trail up to the two bunkers takes about 20 minutes. But this part is just the beginning of the the 6-mile long Kaunala-Ehukai trail, which is located in the Pupukea-Paumalu State Park. The trailhead for the Kaunala-Ehukai trail is located at the Boy Scouts Camp at the end of Pupukea Road, up the road behind Foodland. The trail is quite vertical, which is tiring but not unsafe. Man people bring children up there, it just takes extra effort. A tip for families would be bring infants you can easily carry, or a toddler that will walk. A large toddler would be hard to carry up here. Once up the hill walk parallel to the ocean going east and you'll come across the first bunker. About five minutes further is another that is set further down the cliff.


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Set on Oahu's windward coast, this gorgeous beach offers incredible waters and the picturesque presence of two small, offshore islands. About a mile long, the beach varies in width, although its entire stretch provides soft sands and beautiful vistas out towards the ocean and of the Koolau Range. Along with swimming and snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are popular pastimes. The beach is protected by an offshore reef, making the waters calm on this quiet stretch of coastline. Located on the east side of the island, the beach is the main draw on the windward coast and is a popular spot for families canoe paddling and snorkeling.


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East Oahu
Manoa Falls
Photo courtesy of aoltravel


 

A beautiful hike leads to gorgeous Manoa Valls in the lush Manoa Valley. The trail is about three quarters of a mile near a rocky stream and comes to an end at the falls. The falls are calming and intriguing, but it's advised to not swim in the pool because the occasional rock has been known to fall in, and you're far away from other people here. The hike takes about a half hour, and is generally easy. Yet be aware of footing on the sometimes muddy and slippery trail. Bring water, a camera, and a lunch if you wish to enjoy the peace and quiet of birds chirping and water rushing.


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Deceptively beautiful, this scenic cove – home to some of the planet's most unforgiving surf – can mean death to naive swimmers. That is, in winter, anyway, when the waves churn up and some of surfing's best talents take to the sea to prove their mettle. In this season, rip currents are strong, and waves can rise to thirty feet. Summer brings calmer waters, however, and even mere mortals can enjoy the beauty of Waimea. Then, they're under the protection of lifeguards and can take advantage of picnic areas, restrooms, and showers. On the west side of the beach there's a huge rock that people love to jump off of.


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Snorkel Hanauma Bay
Photo courtesy of amazing tourism


 

Created from a collapsed volcano crater, this bay is protected and calm, ideal for snorkeling, as you'll see from the crowds around you. The snorkeling is truly amazing, since the preserve protects the wildlife and creates a favorite place for the fish to come eat. It offers great opportunity for viewing marine life and also boasts a terrific beach and hiking trails. Additional facilities include picnic areas, showers and restrooms, concession kiosks, a volleyball court, and lifeguards. Although parking can be difficult if you don't arrive early, a shuttle bus runs from Waikiki in the mornings and makes return trips in the afternoons.


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This North Shore beach is a favorite with folks who follow the surfing circuit and also for those who simply like to laze about in the sand and surf. During the summer, its two miles of white-sand shores are relatively safe, and you'll find swimmers and snorkelers frolicking among milder waves. Come winter, though, the surf runs high, and rip currents can be deadly. At this point, it's best to leave the imposing waves to experts and simply watch experienced folks tackle the ocean from a safe perch on the beach. Watching the sunset here is one of the most exquisite places to do so as it sets over the beautiful mountain range to the west.


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Meet Jade Eckardt

Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and...  More About Jade

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