Free for All: Hawaii's Free Activities

The best free things to do on each island

By: By Marty Wentzel

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Who says Hawaii is expensive? On the contrary, there’s plenty to see and do at no charge. Here are my picks for free activities on the islands.

Big Island
Browse the 12-acre Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens, where Namaste — a white Bengal tiger — gets fed daily at 3:30 p.m. Learn about the marine life of the remote, pristine Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, which features a 2,500-gallon saltwater aquarium. Stop by Kohala Historical Sites State Monument, home of Hawaii’s most famous heiau (temple) and King Kamehameha’s birthplace. Enjoy free tours and samples at Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company’s new factory store. Stroll through the Puako Petroglyph Preserve, featuring more than 3,000 ancient rock carvings.

Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kauai // (c) Kauai Visitors Bureau
Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kauai

Kauai
Explore Waimea Canyon, dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific — measuring one mile wide, 10 miles long and more than 3,500 feet deep — followed by a picnic lunch at nearby Kokee State Park. Enjoy free hula performances every Wednesday at Coconut Marketplace and Harbor Mall. Hike some — or all — of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail along the majestic Na Pali Coast. Drive up to the picturesque 80-foot Wailua Falls, a fixture in the opening credits of the 1970’s television show "Fantasy Island," or take pictures at the island’s most accessible major waterfall, Opaekaa. Discover Kauai’s quaint towns, including Koloa, the site of Hawaii’s first sugar plantation, and laid-back Hanapepe, where each Friday night nine galleries open their doors for free artistic enjoyment.

Explore Waimea Canyon, dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific — measuring one mile wide, 10 miles long and more than 3,500 feet deep — followed by a picnic lunch at nearby Kokee State Park. Enjoy free hula performances every Wednesday at Coconut Marketplace and Harbor Mall. Hike some — or all — of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail along the majestic Na Pali Coast. Drive up to the picturesque 80-foot Wailua Falls, a fixture in the opening credits of the 1970’s television show "Fantasy Island," or take pictures at the island’s most accessible major waterfall, Opaekaa. Discover Kauai’s quaint towns, including Koloa, the site of Hawaii’s first sugar plantation, and laid-back Hanapepe, where each Friday night nine galleries open their doors for free artistic enjoyment.

Maui
Watch whales from November through May off Maui’s southern and western coastlines, the best vantage points for viewing humpbacks. Drive over 54 one-lane bridges on the 56-mile Hana Highway, winding along lava shores, through old plantation towns, past miles of beaches and through towering forests. Take in the art scene at any of the island’s 50 galleries and see the works of well-known local artists as well as internationally acclaimed masters. Tour the historic preservation district of Lahaina, and see the biggest Buddha outside of Asia at the Lahaina Jodo
Mission.

Oahu
Spend time at Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, built to honor the men who lost their lives the day before World War II began. Listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace on Fridays from 12-1 p.m. and Kapiolani Park on Sundays from 2-3 p.m. Watch an outdoor movie at Waikiki Beach during the Sunset on the Beach event held on weekends. Visit the Hawaii State Art Museum, one of the few state-sponsored art museums in the country, and view the finest collection of works from Hawaii’s best artists. Walk through Chinatown for a fascinating look at noodle factories, herbal shops, markets and gift shops.

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