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Top 10 Low-Cost, and No-Cost, Activities on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii

Updated: May 12, 2023

We went to Oahu with family for nine days - check out our video on the Royal Grove Hotel for an affordable, fun and kitschy experience - and found ways to stretch our travel dollar with activities that cost very little (under $10 each) or cost nothing. If you haven't seen it yet, check out our video of our Top 10 Budget-Friendly Activities on Oahu.

First thing you need to figure out is how to get around the island. Oahu is not big – Oahu, Hawaii's third largest island, covers an area of 1546 square kilometres (597 square miles) and features 180 kilometres (112 miles) of coastline, including some of the world's most beautiful and most famous beaches. At 70 kilometres (44 miles) long and 50 kilometres (30 miles) wide, there are options for getting around that are budget friendly.

We recommend getting a ‘Holo’ card from one of the ABC stores and loading it up with $15-$20 dollars (for a 7-10 day stay). Waikiki is walkable, and if you are energetic you can walk quite a bit of Honolulu. It is nice to have the ‘Holo’ card for when your feet get tired. ‘The Bus’ (the name of the buses used on public transit) covers the whole island. A trip to the North Shore might take a bit of planning and being strategic about where you are getting off – how long you are staying at a spot, and then being at the stop for the next bus. Around Honolulu and Waikiki, the buses are frequent. The bus up to Moana Falls is less frequent and may require monitoring; downloading the transit app to your phone (if you have one – otherwise there are paper brochures with times) can be handy.

We have never rented a car for the entire stay – when you are coming from Canada that can be expensive – up to, and over, $200 per day CAD once insurance is factored in. Our early trips we used ‘The Bus’ – these days we will rent a car for one or two days to do a North Shore trip – otherwise we use public transit. Packing a lunch with you and a water bottle reduces costs during the day.

Here are our top 10 picks for low-cost and no-cost activities on the island of Oahu to help stretch out the travel dollar.

#10: Snorkelling at San Souci Beach

#9: Dole Plantation Grounds

#8: Waikiki & Waikiki Beach

#7: Mount Tantalus Lookout (this fellow’s travel site is quite good)

#6: Pali Lookout

#5: Chinatown in Honolulu

#4: Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market, Hyatt Farmers Market & the Kailua Farmers Market

#3: Kailua and Lanikai Beaches

#2: Byodo-In Temple

#1: Diamond Head Crater

Reservations required – it is quite easy to do and they give you an hour window to arrive


The Bus

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