Take advantage of the free-dom that comes with being on summer vacation. While there are fun and free activities to do on Oahu year-round, summer with its beach-y weather and long days always holds a special place in our hearts.
While there are a number of activities you will definitely want to pay for – like a luau feast with the family or a quick island hop to one of the neighbor islands – there are many others that won’t cost you a single penny. So as you make your summer vacation itinerary don’t be in a budget bind. Work in some of our favorite free Hawaii summer activities that are – you guessed it – free ninety-nine.
King Kamehameha Celebration
Hawaii’s most celebrated monarch, King Kamehameha, is credited for uniting the Hawaiian island chain. His warrior spirit is recognized to this day as the reason Hawaii stands together as one state and not eight separate islands. To commemorate his contribution, an official statue of his likeness was erected across from the Iolani Palace. Each year that statue is draped with fresh lei on June 12. The 3 p.m. ceremony follows traditional Hawaiian protocol for honoring an individual of high rank.
You won’t want to miss the King Kamehameha Day Parade showcasing beautifully decorated flower floats, Hawaiian music, and hula the following day. This year the event takes place on Saturday, June 13 and the parade begins at 9 a.m. at the corner of King and Richards street in Downtown Honolulu and concludes at the Kapiolani Bandstand. The celebration continues there with a ho’olaule’a (party) featuring food, entertainment and local arts and crafts.
Our insider tip: Take a towel and an umbrella so you can spread out while enjoying the sights, sounds and ono (delicious) food at the ho’olaule’a.
As many visitors to the islands may know, Hawaii shares a close relationship with Japan. Over the years the close ties have inspired a festival to signify the goodwill between both places. Today, the Pan-Pacific Festival has expanded to show appreciation of all international cultures. Held annually in June, this year’s three-day event runs from Friday, June 12 through Sunday, June 14 and in true Hawaii fashion begins with a Waikiki parade.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., spectators can line up along the sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue to experience Japanese-style dancing, music, and costumes. The parade makes its march from Fort DeRussy to Kapiolani Park, bringing the area to live with the interesting sounds and colorful cultures from the Pacific. All Pan-Pacific Festival events are free and open to the public, which means that getting a taste of international flavor won’t cost you a dime.
Fourth of July Celebration
Each year Oahu’s biggest and most popular 4th of July fireworks display shoots off the shores of Magic Island. For many, it’s an annual tradition to stake out a spot around Ala Moana Beach Park and spend the day playing on the beach, surfing, barbecuing, and enjoying time with family and friends before the big show.
If you don’t want to fight the crowds, head up to Ala Moana Center and relax with their lineup of Hawaiian entertainment at the main stage. Grab a bite and then settle in to soak up the half-hour fireworks show.
Not vacationing during the 4th of July? You can still catch a free fireworks show every Friday night at 7:45 p.m. from the Hilton Hawaiian Beach. Take the family for a walk along Waikiki or Ala Moana Beach Park and pick up your favorite bento or poke bowl to enjoy as you wait for night to fall and the sky to light up.
The Japanese culture is one of the founding contributors to local culture today, and many hold their traditions as part of their own regardless of their ethnicity. A prime example of this is the many people of all backgrounds that partake in the obon festivals around the state.
Obon or Bon is a Buddhist custom where living honor the spirits of the dead by offering song, dance, and food. It is said that spirits return during the months of June through August and it is during this time that Buddhist temples across Hawaii hold their bon dances to welcome them with joy. You can distinguish these festivals by the decorative lanterns connected to a tower standing and the musical dance area where taiko drums beat a staccato and guests garbed in traditional hopi coats circle the tower in dance.
Here andagi, fried noodles, and other local favorites fill the air and festival-goers’ bellies. While some like to join in and dance – the steps are simple enough to learn quickly — others simply partake in the food, children’s games and entertainment. There is no shortage of Buddhist temples celebrating Bon festivals during the summer – ask your hotel concierge for one near you!
Hula Show at Kuhio Beach
Although Waikiki has been developed since the era of wooden surfboards and grass skirts, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday you can take a step back in time with a free hula show. As the sun sets a man runs across Kuhio Beach with a lit flame, blowing a conch shell as he lights each torch on the beach. He is calling for everyone’s attention, letting them know that the show is about to begin.
During the summer, the sun sets at around 6:30 p.m. and this is when the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound on Kalakaua Avenue transports spectators back into the old days of Waikiki. Find a spot on the lawn or relax in the sand as hula halau (hula groups) take the stage to perform alongside Hawaiian musicians. Watch as their hands, feet, and swaying hips tell the stories of their culture with the natural lighting of the sun setting on their smiling faces.