Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Let's face it, Hawaii IS expensive, no matter which way you slice the pie. Airfare, car rental, gas, food, and your hotel/Airbnb stay is going to hurt your wallet the most - but adventuring on the island doesn't have to be expensive! Keep in mind that each of the Hawaiian islands is just as special and different as the next, so there are things that can ONLY be experienced on Oahu. Personally I have YET to explore the island of Oahu but after much research, I've come up with a pretty good itinerary! This sample itinerary is also great for families traveling to the "gathering place isle" as most of the items on this list are budget friendly, cheap and adventurous!
** For the most authentic Hawaiian stay as well as affordable, be sure to stay on the North Shore of the island, pretty much as far away from Honolulu and Waikiki as possible**
Friday Night Fireworks at Waikiki
I know, I know I literally just said "stay as far away from Waikiki as possible" but that doesn't mean you shouldn't spend some time here as well, I just meant, not all your time. The best time to be on this side of the island would definitely be on a Friday! Located at Hilton Hawaiian Village and starting after sunset around 7:45pm is the greatest firework show of all time. I love that this is perfect for families as well because what children don't love a good firework display? Enjoy a nighttime picnic on the soft sand as a soft ocean breeze blows over a calm ocean while the fireworks explode overhead in remembrance and celebration of King Kalakaua's Jubilee.
Visit Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial Monument
A memorial that was built to honor the men who died on the USS Arizona the day World War II began. A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial makes for a solemn and sobering experience of an attack that took place December 7, 1941 where 1,177 men lost their lives. You can see the wreckage of the sunken ship beneath you and you can go inside the memorial for a small price. Parking and admission to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free. Admission to Arizona Memorial is free. Tickets for all four attractions are available at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites ticketing counters, located in the courtyard of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Open daily from 7:00am to 4:00pm
Diamond Head State Monument
A free hike with $1 (cash only) access per person to see the monument! Diamond Head (Lē‘ahi) is one of Hawaii’s most iconic geological features and a significant natural, cultural, historical and recreational resource. This broad, saucer-shaped crater was formed about 300,000 years ago during a single explosive eruption that sent ash and fine particles in the air. As these materials settled they cemented together into a rock called tuff creating the crater and which is visible from the trail in the park.
Fantasize About Moving to Hawaii...
Take a self-guided tour through Manoa, Kapahulu and Kaimuki, some of Honolulu's oldest and charming neighborhoods. If you do this on a weekend I'm sure you can even find an Open House or two?
Experience the ʻIolani Palace in Honolulu, the only royal palace located in the United States.
An excellent place to begin a walking tour of historic Honolulu is at the Iolani Palace especially on Fridays! The Royal Hawaiian Band has a long tradition of sharing Hawaii's music with the world. Once known as the “King’s Band,” this group of musicians was put together by King Kamehameha III and performed for state occasions, funerals and parades.
The Royal Hawaiian Band presents free concerts on the Iolani Palace Grounds most Fridays from noon-1pm. The Lolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom's last two monarchs - King Kalakaua, who built the Palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliʻuokalani.
Visit The Dole Plantation and Enjoy a Dole Whip
Race through the "World's Largest Maze" at the Dole Plantation on the way to the North Shore and afterward enjoy their signature Dole Whip.The fastest maze wanderers to find all eight stations, stencil in each station's different symbol on their maze cards, and return to the entrance, win a prize and have their names recorded on a sign at the maze entrance. The fastest times have been clocked at about seven minutes, while the average is about 45 minutes to one hour. Cheap fun for all! $8 for adults and $6 for children.
Hike to Pillbox and Enjoy Lanikai Beach
After accomplishing the Lanikai Pillbox Hike (which is an easy to moderate hike and one of the most popular) enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches on the island down below, without moving your car! This is the “double-relation-whammy.” Combine the two for an all day adventure: start early with a nice sunrise hike and rinse off in the cool Pacific afterwards. Lanikai Beach is shallow for approximately 20feet/6meters out and has a sand bottom for a majority of the area. The waves are also generally small to none most days - perfect if you are traveling with children.
Experience the Tranquility of the Valley of the Temples
Home to the Byodo-In Temple which is the only of it's kind except on the southern outskirts of Kyoto. A wonderful and peaceful place for the practice of Buddhism and also and great place to watch the peacocks showoff their colors. You can also find a variety of plants and flowers and a bridge with plenty of koi ponds to enhance the peaceful serenity of this sacred place. The Byodo-In Temple was built in the 1960's to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant workers in Hawaii who came to work in the sugar plantation fields. It is a replica of the 950-year-old Byodoin Temple located in Uji, Japan on the southern outskirts of Kyoto. If you are lucky you may encounter Mr. Harada, the temple's caretaker who will tell you about the history and architecture of the temple.There is a cash only admission to the Byodo-In Temple - General Admission $4.00, Children $2.00
Try The Shrimp Trucks on North Shore
Sometimes the best places to eat on Oahu come in food truck form. A trip to the North Shore will put you in prime shrimp truck paradise. There’s quite a few of them to choose from—try the popular Giovannies Shrimp Truck or any of these other awesome shrimp joints; Mackeys, Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp, Fumi's Kahuku Shrimp Truck or Big Wave Shrimp! A traditional North Shore lunch for around $10.
Eat @ The Rainbow Drive-In
The ultimate in Hawaiian Plate Lunches, Rainbow Drive-in is a no-frills spot that serves up cheap and generous plates. There’s hot dogs, bacon-SPAM sandwiches, and breakfast, but the real winner here is the Plate Lunch. You choose your entree, accompanied by two scoops of white rice and one scoop of macaroni salad. Entree options include BBQ Steak, Fish of the Day, Loco Moco, and Shoyu Chicken. Can’t decide? Try the Mix Plate, with BBQ beef, fish, and boneless chicken.