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Hawaii on a Budget

Updated on September 4, 2016
Nuuanu Pali Drive
Nuuanu Pali Drive | Source

The Hawaiian Islands offer much for the sight seeker. The island of Oahu, on which I live, boasts many gorgeous beaches and lush dense mountains.

There are many educational and fun things you can do in Hawaii that are inexpensive or totally free. We are all looking for a great deal. Whenever I have visitors from the mainland, I tell them about the sites they can see without spending too much in the Hawaiian Islands. This is not a comprehensive list, but it includes some of my personal favorites.

African tree at Foster Botanical Garden
African tree at Foster Botanical Garden | Source
Cannonball Tree - Foster Botanical Garden
Cannonball Tree - Foster Botanical Garden | Source

Depending on what tickles your fancy, you can choose from the following great sights and activities on the island of Oahu:

Botanical Gardens

One of my favorite things to do is see the beautiful Hawaiian botanical gardens. They are full of tropical flowers and trees. I have been to most of these gardens on our island:

  • Foster Botanical Garden: This garden covers fourteen acres and has over 10,000 species of rare tropical plants. These come from all over the world. There are some amazing trees in this garden. It is in Honolulu, but is shielded from the busy city by large plants. It smells divine due to the many tropical flowers and trees. 50 North Vineyard Boulevard Honolulu, HI 96817 Cost: $5 Adults, $3 Residents, $1 Children 6-12, Children under 5 Free
  • Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden: This is by far my favorite. It is in the most beautiful location, just under the Ko'olau Mountains, and covers 400 acres. We take our grandchildren there on holidays. They especially enjoy the ducks that come up be fed a bit of bread. The park is divided into geographic areas representing plants from Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and other countries. 45-680 Luluku Road, Kaneohe, HI 96744-1855 Cost: Free
  • Halawa Xeriscape Garden: This is a specialized garden which raises plants requiring little water. It features plants from around the world, especially dry tropics since it on a drier side of the island of Oahu. They use many different types of irrigation systems. Pineapple is a crop which grows well in dryer climates, and can be found in the Bromeliad Section. 99-1268 Iwaena Street, Aiea, HI 96701 Cost: Free

Byodo Temple - Temple Valley Oahu
Byodo Temple - Temple Valley Oahu | Source
Tropical plant
Tropical plant | Source
Lollipop flowers
Lollipop flowers | Source

Waikiki Aquarium


If you are up for a hike, there are plenty of great trails on Oahu. We even have one in our little town of Laie. Here is a list of trails for hiking that I am aware of:


There are some amazing temples on the island of Oahu that are free to visit. In Laie, where I live, there is the Laie Hawaii Temple. There is a visitor's center, where you can find out more, and you can also walk around the lush Hawaiian gardens including cascading pools, and admire the statues, large banyan trees and flowers. Cost: Free

The other temple that is stunning is the Byodo-In Temple in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park near Kaneohe. All faiths are welcome. You can gong the sacred bell, observe the koi fish and wild peacocks. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit on the island. Cost: $3

Turtle Watching

On the North Shore, you can observe the turtles at Turtle Beach. This is between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay - on the southern end of Pohaku Loa Way. Be aware that Honu (sea turtles) are protected, so be respectful, and do not touch them. Cost: Free

Surfer Watching

My favorite place to watch the surfers is at Waimea Bay. There are usually plenty of brave souls catching waves. Not only that, but there are some big rocks nearby that the young at heart like to jump off. It is quite a site to see. Another good surfer watching area is at the beach near Turtle Bay on the North Shore. During the winter, the waves can get really tall. Cost: Free


If you have your own equipment, you can snorkle away, and observe the amazing Hawaiian sea life. One outstanding place is at Shark's Cove where the pristine waters are great for viewing fish, coral and other sealife. They also rent equipment for $10 per person per day.

Walk Downtown Waikiki at Night

Often my husband and I just like to get some exercise and walk down in Waikiki. It is well lit, and there are plenty of sights and sounds to entertain you. You do not have to spend anything if you don't want to. Halloween is a fun time to do this. Also, there are parades with colorful floats in Honolulu and Waikiki during celebrations such as the Aloha Festival, King Kamehameha Celebration, Chinese New Years and the Honolulu Festival.

For sure, you should take a ride up to the Pali Lookout. It is a fantastic view from lofty cliffs down to the Windward side of the island. It may cost you $3 for parking only.

Especially For the Children

There is a Children's Discovery Center for educational fun in Honolulu. Cost: Under $10

Also, I took my children to the Waikiki Aquarium, and it was fantastic and we learned a lot for under $10 each.

Children's Discovery Center
Children's Discovery Center | Source

Hawaii is family friendly. You can actually have a good time on Oahu without losing your aloha shirt!


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