Hawaii says aloha with free attractions

HONOLULU — Airfare, hotels, guided tours and pricey luaus – a Hawaii vacation can add up, especially now that hotel room prices are back on the rise.


But walk past the expensive hotels in Waikiki, the tourist epicenter of Honolulu, and the greatest attraction of all awaits, free: the beach. With miles of coastline in Oahu, there’s certain to be a sand, sea and surf spot to your liking.

But if that’s not enough, there are plenty of other great things to see and do without spending a dime. Here are five:

ROYAL HAWAIIAN BAND: This 32-member band dates back to the days when the monarchy ruled Hawaii. The band was founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III and now runs as its own municipal agency. Today, it plays free concerts around Hawaii, with a standing date every Friday at noon at Iolani Palace near downtown.

ROYAL HAWAIIAN CENTER: This mall in Waikiki has its own cultural programming budget, offering free music every night and free activities every day, from lei-making to hula and free performances twice weekly from dancers and musicians from the Polynesian Cultural Center.

MANOA FALLS HIKE: This is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu, loved by both tourists and locals for its natural beauty. Fair warning: Although it’s only eight-tenths of a mile (1.2 kilometers), it’s not exactly a cakewalk. If you want something different or easier, you can always go to the state’s trail Web site– goo.gl/hY4QL – to find your path.

USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL: This popular site at Pearl Harbor is actually a grave, a resting place for crew members who died in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. Visitors can see it on a first-come, first-serve basis, and many do so to see a significant piece of history and pay their respects to those who died.

HAWAII STATE ART MUSEUM: The Hawaii State Art Museum is free and well-located in historic downtown Honolulu, and it offers a bonus of seeing other historic buildings in the neighborhood. The museum is open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, and offers rotating exhibits.