If you haven’t stepped outside for an adventure lately with the excuse that it’ll break your wallet, peruse these free activities in Honolulu and try one on for size. Whether you’re one of those parents who loves the tropical sunshine, revels in culture, laps up history or indulges their neglected diva, we have the inside edition on where to go — completely free of charge! Try something new or revisit a landmark site. You may surprise yourself. And hey, no excuses, it’s all free
Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial
Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, the resting place of 1,102 of 1,177 sailors who died on the USS Arizona the day World War II began. Located within the facility are a theater playing a 23-minute documentary, museum galleries, a bookstore and gift shop, restrooms, a snack bar and exhibits on the events that led up to the December 7, 1941 attack on Oahu and its aftermath. A short boat ride takes you to the USS Arizona Memorial. Beyond the structural elements of the visitor center, there is a rich human subtext. Most days, one or more Pearl Harbor survivors can be found at the visitor center sharing stories and remembrances with visitors. Programs begin at 8 a.m. with brochures available in 35 languages. The last program each day begins at 3 p.m. Visitors are reminded that they are visiting a site of tremendous loss of life in service to our country. Sandals are permissible, but bathing suits or profane T-shirts are discouraged.
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu HI 96818
Ala Moana Center
Spend a spend thrifty day (or a very spendy day) at Ala Moana Shopping Center, the 290-store mall which happens to be the largest open-air mall in the entire world. Live koi fish inhabit the meandering walkways of Ala Moana’s 80 dining options, one of the largest collections of luxury retailers in the world, four major department stores (Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Sears) and several only-in-Hawaii retailers featuring locally-made products. Ala Moana’s luxurious selection of window-shopping opportunities stretch from Harry Winston and Chanel down to Old Navy and the fabulously fish-decorated food court. Kids will love the Lego Store, Disney Store, Game Stop and Jungle Fun, to name a few. There are surf shops, night club ultra-lounges, arcades, tea shops, kitschy boutiques, supermarkets, drug stores and lots and lots of clothing stores where you can burn calories by shopping til you drop! Stop by Ala Moana Center’s Centerstage, the hub for more than 500 performances annually, varying from hula to rock, from chorale music to street dancing. Mall hours are Monday-Saturday — 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday — 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu HI 96814
Phone: 808-532-7946 ?
Royal Hawaiian Band
City and County of Honolulu
As the only band with a royal legacy in the U. S., the Royal Hawaiian Band revitalizes traditional Hawaiian music as part of the vision of King Kamehameha III, who founded the band in 1836. Their mission is to promote and foster music, both current and historic, to preserve the Hawaiian musical culture, inspire young musicians and ultimately enrich the lives of the people and visitors of Hawaii. The Royal Hawaiian boasts themselves the only municipal band in the country, with over 40 full-time positions. Past band leaders include Heinrich Berger, whose musical setting of “Hymn of Kamehameha I” became the Hawaiian national, and now state, anthem, “Hawaii Pono ‘i.” Listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace on Fridays from 12 noon to 1 p.m. and at Kapiolani Park on Sundays from 2-3 p.m.
Address: 2805 Monsarrat Avenue, Honolulu HI 96815
Phone: 808-922-5331 ?
Stroll through International Marketplace, a bazaar of 130+ shops and carts bursting with colorful sarongs, shell necklaces, hemp jewelry, live pearl oysters, souvenir key chains and other gifts imported from the island’s merchants. Bargain with the vendors if you’re feeling bold! The marketplace is set under the canopy of a century-old banyan tree, with a cascading waterfall as the centerpiece. Street performers, musicians and costumed characters also make the rounds on Kalakaua Avenue fronting the International Marketplace. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Address: 2330 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu HI 96815
Phone: 808-971-2080 ?
Waikiki Street Performers
Listen to Hawaii’s best local entertainers performing in the hotels and on the sidewalks on Waikiki’s “main drag,” Kalakaua Avenue. The whole family will love the robot-suited men, steel drum musicians, smooth Brazilian Bossa Nova, Hawaiian melee on ukulele and caricaturists working the streets for tips. Witness the culture and beauty of the islands as you watch a traditional torch lighting and hula performance on the beach of Waikiki near the Duke Kahanamoku statue at sunset. If you go surfing at Queen’s beach or Canoe’s, you can see the show and hear the music while waiting on your surfboard between sets! And, while browsing the lounges and bars of all the large hotels, catch an earful of the daily lounge acts — pianists, guitarists, slack key, vocalists and more.
Address: Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu HI 96815
First Friday Art Walk
Downtown Chinatown Art Galleries flip the 9 to 5 grind into a fresh and fun 5 to 9 on the First Friday of every month. Families are welcome to take self-guided tours of area galleries, studio art, live performances, refreshments and other exhibitions during this always-crowded monthly event. A little like a block party with art as an excuse, throngs of people from all walks of life revitalize the streets. If the kids aren’t in tow, take advantage of the many bars and nightclubs that hold special events to catch the First Friday crowd. Area restaurants offer First Friday specials as well. Visit the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM), one of the few state-sponsored art museums in the country, to view the finest collection of works from Hawaii’s best artists. Go early because the parking garages can fill up.
National Dance Week Hawaii
An annual week-long dance festival in late spring, National Dance Week’s goal is to get everyone out and dancing. NDW features parties, workshops, dance battles, scholarship opportunities, auditions, flash mobs and classes from world-famous dancers and choreographers as well as local talent. All week long, instructors offer free dance, movement and wellness classes for all ages and abilities, with no dance experience needed for most classes! This annual event is organized by Linda Kuo of Dancers Unlimited.
Queen’s Surf Beach
The whole family will enjoy the Hawaiian sunset and want to stay for the movie shown on a 30-foot screen set up literally on the beach. Queen’s surf beach lights up with pre-movie live entertainment, food vendor booths, crazy kids jumping off Kapahulu pier into the water and body boarders at the popular surf break “walls.” Bring a beach mat and cozy up under the stars (movie and celestial) or sit in one of the chairs provided. It can get windy, so bring something warm to wear over your swimsuit! Located at the beach across the street from Honolulu Zoo. Movie showtime is after sunset — around 7 p.m.
Address: 2715 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815
Sandy Beach Park
Otherwise known as “Break Neck Beach,” water activities at Sandy’s are not for the novice nor the faint of heart. Known world-wide for the infamous waves slamming huge, hard and close to shore, everyone enjoys at least watching the body surfers, skim boarders and body boarders. Sandy Beach has something for everyone, whether you like fishing, lava-rock tide pools, flying kites (high winds!), people-watching or basking on the soft golden sand. Whales can be seen breaching on the horizon in winter from this and other points on the east side of Oahu. Just remember to be extremely careful around the water and watch out for vicious riptides! Bathrooms, showers and parking lots are available at this beach park.
Address: 8808 Kalanianaole Hwy., Honolulu, HI 96806