5 Amazing Things To Do In Hawaii Oahu For Free 2024

Aloha! Welcome to my ultimate Hawaii vacation guide for 2024. As an experienced travel writer who has been blogging about my adventures for over 10 years, I’m thrilled to share my best tips for planning an unforgettable trip to these beautiful islands.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover the top things to see, eat, and do on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. I’ll provide detailed recommendations on the can’t-miss attractions, the best places to stay, my favorite restaurants, and hidden local gems.

Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or with your family, this Hawaii guide has got you covered. Read on to start getting excited about sandy beaches, epic hikes, delicious plate lunches, and magical sunsets! The aloha spirit is calling your name.

Oahu

Nicknamed “The Gathering Place,” Oahu is home to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, giving it an energetic, cosmopolitan vibe alongside world-famous surf breaks and relaxing resorts.

Here are my top Oahu recommendations to have an incredible time on this diverse Hawaiian island:

See Iconic Sites in Honolulu and Waikiki

  • Diamond Head State Monument – Climb to the 761-foot summit of this iconic crater for awe-inspiring 360-degree views. Go early to beat the heat on this moderately strenuous hike.
  • Waikiki Beach – Grab your surfboard and hit these famous waves or simply stroll the lively 2-mile beach and take in views of Diamond Head. Stop for a refreshing shave ice.
  • USS Arizona Memorial – Take a boat to this haunting memorial marking the resting place of 1,102 sailors killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. Learn about WWII history at the visitor center.

Get Outdoors Around the Island

  • Lanikai Beach – Soak up the sun at this postcard-perfect beach with powdery white sand and calm, turquoise waters. Arrive early to snag parking and have it more peaceful.
  • Kaena Point Trail – Trek out along this rugged 11-mile roundtrip coastal trail spotting seabirds, even whales in season, until you reach the westernmost point of Oahu.
  • Manoa Falls Trail – Walk less than a mile through lush jungle dotted with guava trees to a picturesque 150-foot waterfall. Swim in the refreshing pool if safe.

Indulge in Hawaiian Food Culture

  • Leonard’s Bakery – Join the line at this Honolulu institution for hot-from-the-oven malasadas (like doughnuts without holes). Get them plain, filled, or dusted with sugar.
  • Helena’s Hawaiian Food – Sample traditional Hawaiian dishes like kalua pork, lau lau, chicken long rice, and poi at this beloved family-run restaurant in downtown Honolulu.
  • Kua Aina – Sink your teeth into one of the juicy burgers or sandwiches here. I love the chicken katsu served with a side of their tasty mac salad. Sit outside right on Waikiki Beach.

Best Places to Stay on Oahu

After 10+ trips, I highly recommend these areas and hotels to stay on Oahu:

  • Waikiki Beach – Can’t beat the location at Waikiki Beach hotels like the classic Royal Hawaiian Hotel. You’ll be steps from world-class shopping, dining, and that famous stretch of sand and surf.
  • Ko Olina – For more peace minus the big city hustle and bustle, Ko Olina on Oahu’s west side has lovely manmade lagoons great for kids and adults plus luxury resorts like Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
  • North Shore – Laidback surf towns like Haleiwa and Sunset Beach offer a super chill vibe. Turtle Bay Resort sits oceanside surrounded by lush gardens and trees, perfect for embracing your tropical vacation mood.

Maui

As the second largest Hawaiian island, Maui tops many travelers’ lists with its incredible beaches, iconic road to Hana drive, scenic views from Haleakala Crater, and charming small towns.

Don’t Miss These Maui Highlights:

  • Road to Hana – Take it slow and stop often during this famously winding drive along Maui’s northeast coast. Marvel at waterfalls like Twin Falls and bamboo forests before arriving at lovely Hana town.
  • Haleakala National Park – Watch a stunning sunrise then hike through otherworldly landscapes in the crater of this dormant volcano that makes up 75% of the island. Check conditions before going as clouds often obscure views.
  • Kapalua and Kaanapali Beaches – These postcard-worthy beaches boast golden sand and calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Watch skilled cliff divers at Kaanapali as the sun sets behind Lanai island in the distance.
  • Maui Ocean Center – For an indoor activity, check out Maui’s largest aquarium to see sharks, vibrant coral displays with bright tropical fish, penguins, and more marine life.

Where to Stay on Maui

Base yourself at one of these excellent areas and resorts to experience Maui:

  • Wailea – Luxury lovers rejoice! This ritzy area boasts 5-star hotels like the Fairmont Kea Lani, excellent restaurants, and golf courses all fronting a lovely coastline.
  • Lahaina – For more of a livelier small town feel, Lahaina features charming shops, galleries, and historical sites like the Old Lahaina Luau. Stay oceanfront at hotels like the Royal Lahaina Resort.
  • Wailea and Makena – Situated at the quieter end of popular Wailea, properties like Four Seasons Resort Maui offer extra privacy and tranquil vibes, though you still have easy access to fabulous Wailea Beach and restaurants.

Kauai

Boasting epic scenery and tropical landscapes, Kauai earns its nickname “The Garden Isle.” Get back to nature while also enjoying tasty food trucks and swimmable beaches around the island.

Don’t Leave Kauai Without Doing These Activities:

  • Waimea Canyon State Park – There’s a good reason this is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific! Be awestruck staring out at colorful rock cliffs standing tall over the canyon, carved over eons by the Waimea River.
  • Napali Coast State Wilderness Park – Take a boat tour, zip line over, or rigorously hike the Kalalau Trail to witness Kauai’s magnificent rugged northern coastline with emerald peaks soaring above the sea.
  • Spouting Horn Beach Park – Marvel at nature’s power watching ocean swells fill then dramatically shoot out of the blowhole (like a water fountain) at this unique geologic formation and cultural landmark just beyond Nawiliwili Harbor.
  • Hanalei Bay Beach Park – Find your slice of paradise on this breathaking half-moon bay backed by towering mountains. Swim or snorkel then grab a shave ice to enjoy on the inviting golden sand beach.

Top Places to Stay on Kauai

Create treasured memories with an unforgettable stay at one of these prime Kauai locations and hotels:

  • Princeville – Perched on a bluff overlooking gorgeous Hanalei Bay, enjoy private condos or book a room at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas with awesome vistas, pools, and quick access to Queen’s Bath and other North Shore sights.
  • Poipu Beach – For fabulous sunsets and sea turtle sightings, this sunny south shore area features inviting beaches and charming low-rise hotels like Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort nestled right on the sand.
  • Lihue – Kauai’s largest town, Lihue puts you centrally located to explore the whole island. Choose from major hotel chains like Marriott and affordable condos ideal for extended stays, families, or travel groups.

Big Island

Lastly, Hawaii’s largest island dazzles visitors with its incredible diversity. From stark lava deserts to lush rainforests and caldera lakes, discover endless beauty and adventures.

I highly recommend adding these Big Island experiences to your itinerary:

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Trek across crater floors, through immense lava tubes, past fern forests, steaming bluffs and (when flowing safely) near rivers of molten lava inside this rugged 505 square mile park. Check conditions at the visitor center.
  • Mauna Kea Summit Stargazing – Take a guided sunset summit tour to gain altitude then look through professional telescopes revealing sparkling galaxies, nebulae and more in what’s considered among the world’s best night skies. Dress very warmly!
  • Akaka Falls State Park – Journey less than a mile through vibrant jungle dotted with wild orchids to admire dramatic 442-foot Akaka Falls then continue downstream to see the cascade’s 100-foot sister falls, Kahuna Falls.
  • Place of Refuge – Step back centuries walking these sacred grounds, learning the history of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau-a place where ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers.

So there you have it – my insider’s guide to experiencing Honolulu’s iconic sights and hidden gems without spending a fortune. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions! I’m happy to offer tips so you can make the most of your Hawaiian getaway. Now go out there, soak up some rays, try a shave ice, and let the spirit of aloha warm your soul!

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