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Exploring Hawaii’s Big Island for free leads to rewards as diverse as the destination itself.
The island is alive with forests and other natural splendors that don’t cost a penny to enjoy. Free demonstrations and attractions offer additional options for budget-conscious travelers.
Following are a few of the many ways to save money while savoring a visit to the Big Island.
Hamakua Macadamia Nut CompanyFrom plain to honey-jalapeno macadamia nuts, the free samples alone are worth a visit to this Kawaihae-based factory. A video and self-guided tour describe the growing, shelling and roasting processes involved in creating these popular island snacks.www.hawnnut.com
Kalopa State Recreation AreaHead here for family fun in the cool highlands 2,000 feet above sea level. An easy nature trail winds through a grove of native ohia trees. Additional lures: picnic areas and an arboretum with rare palms, hibiscus and other island plants.www.hawaiistateparks.org
Mokupapapa Discovery CenterThis Hilo attraction explores the unique science, culture and history of the northwestern Hawaiian islands and surrounding marine environment. Hands-on exhibits, maps, murals, a saltwater aquarium and life-size models of sea life educate and entertain.www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/education/center
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and GardensThis 12-acre oasis just south of Hilo features native Hawaiian critters like the io (hawk), plus lemurs, monkeys, turtles, monarch butterflies and more. The setting is awash with exotic trees, plants and flowers. The Saturday petting zoo is a hit with families.www.hilozoo.com
Traditional Portuguese Bread MakingEach Thursday, Kona Historical Society presents free demonstrations of traditional Portuguese bread making. Visitors help roll and pan the dough for baking in communal wood-fired stone ovens. The sweet, warm, finished product is sold for $7 per loaf. www.konahistorical.org
Puako Petroglyph PreserveA short hike leads to one of Hawaii’s largest fields of ancient lava rock carvings. Some 3,000 images of human and animal forms represent everyday life from centuries gone by. Access the trail at Holoholokai Beach Park next to Fairmont Orchid Hawaii.www.gohawaii.com/big-island
Puukohola National Historic SiteThe centerpiece of this ocean-side attraction is Puukohola Heiau (temple), built on a hill for King Kamehameha I in the late 1700s. Today it is one of the largest of its kind in Hawaii. The park’s visitor center runs free cultural demonstrations and programs.www.nps.gov/puhe
South PointKnown by Hawaiians as Ka Lae, this southernmost spot in the U.S. is where the first Polynesians landed in ancient Hawaii. Cultural remnants include heiau, or temples, and fishing shrines. Sea cliffs provide a unique vantage for gazing out to sea. www.gohawaii.com/big-island