We’re sharing tips on where to go for cheap outdoor adventures in Oahu, Hawaii! 🙂 Once we finished our one week contract with work, we didn’t want to leave after seeing how much there is to explore! So we spontaneously decided to stay for another week. Thankfully, our round trip flights, food, car rental, and housing for the first week in Oahu were covered.
The second week we stayed in Oahu, we were definitely on a budget since it’s up to us to cover all of our expenses. With the car we rented and housing we booked, we thought it was a great idea to freely explore the island. We visited both South Shore and North Shore areas on our own time, without a scheduled itinerary to follow. After roaming around Oahu, here’s the list of inexpensive outdoor adventures we recommend checking out!
Lulumahu Falls (1.8 mi hike) is located at 4459 Pali Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817 (free parking & no entrance fee).
Once you’ve reached the address mentioned above, parking is on the dirt area next to the highway. You should be able to see other cars parked there too. Also, you may notice the area is gated but there’s a little opening by the road to enter. To get to the waterfall, you must hike through the bamboo forest and follow the pink ribbons. Other travelers have tied them around the trees. Since the trail isn’t maintained and it’s not officially open to the public, the ribbons made it possible for us to get to the falls.
Part of the adventure on this trail is walking across the river, climbing huge rocks, getting wedged between narrow passageways, and scaling over large logs. It sounds dangerous and tricky, but if this is the adventure you’re looking for then you’ll enjoy hiking to Lulumahu Falls!
Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is located at Nuuanu Pali Dr, Kaneohe, HI 96744 ($3 for cars & no entrance fee).
After we hiked Lulumahu Falls, we found out that Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is only 1.5 mi away from us (directions going towards Kailua). We arrived at this viewpoint to find ourselves standing on a historical landmark with amazing panoramic views. We were standing on a stone terrace that overlooked the areas of Kaneohe and Kailua, Mokolii (a pointy island locals call Chinaman’s Hat), Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, Coconut Island, and many more!
The history we learned about the Pali Lookout is that during 1795, King Kamehameha I was leading a battle called the Battle of Nuuanu. When he won the fight, it finally united all of the people in Oahu under his rule. Many soldiers died fighting this battle, where they were forced off the cliff. The name “Pali” means “cliff” in Hawaiian and that’s how Nuuanu Pali Lookout received its name. To pay our respects, we had a moment of silence where we just admired the beautiful view. It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to visit.
Tantalus Lookout is located at Nutridge St, Honolulu, HI 96822 (free parking & no entrance fee).
Another scenic spot we drove to is called, Tantalus Lookout (2,000 acre park). From here, we saw striking views of Diamond Head’s volcano cone and the Waikiki skyline. There are spacious grass areas, which made it perfect for our picnic. We brought food and a blanket to have lunch with our friends that lived in Oahu. It was a beautiful day, where we enjoyed catching up as we sat under the shade.
I appreciate places like these that are open to the public, sharing the history behind its preservation. Reading it’s history and learning about the people that helped build it back together is amazing! In the late 1800s, it was sadly stripped off it’s natural resources for building purposes. With the help of the Territorial Government, Tantalus Lookout (originally named “Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a,” or “Hill of the Rolling Sweet Potato”) was declared a Forest Reserve in 1913. Thousands of trees were replanted to bring it back to life. Now, it’s one of Oahu’s popular summits that tourists from all over the world come to visit!
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is located at 45-680 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744 (free parking & no entrance fee).
This botanical garden is sized at 400 acres and exotic plants grown from other parts of the world are found here. You’re able to catch fish with bamboo sticks at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden during the weekend from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Sadly, we weren’t able to experience fishing with bamboo sticks because we went on a weekday. It’s a catch and release program that you can enjoy while visiting, just remember to bring bait (fresh white bread works).
Other than fishing, we found ourselves in front of Ko’olau Mountain Range (towering over the garden). It was a quick visit for us in the morning, but this is honestly the largest botanical garden we’ve ever encountered!
Shark’s Cove is located at Haleiwa, HI 96712 (free parking & no entrance fee).
Snorkeling has to be part of your “things to do” when you’re in Hawaii. We were able to swim with all kinds of fish and explore incredible marine life under water. It was the most relaxing adventure we did throughout our time in Oahu.
Our favorite beach to snorkel at is Shark’s Cove, where we also saw the most epic sunset (shown above)! Even though we visited in January, during Hawaii’s surf season, we were lucky enough to snorkel and swim around safely. Since there are no lifeguards around, please be mindful of swimming at your own risk. The pool of water is located within the lava-rock formation. This wide range of lava rocks are apparently a surrounding cliff. It created a wall that calms the water down, making it safe for us to snorkel here.
We ended up purchasing our snorkel gear from a local CVS store, since there’s none available to rent or buy at the beach. It was definitely worth buying our own snorkel gear, since we planned on swimming a lot during our trip. Make sure to also bring water shoes to protect your feet from the lava rocks, as the entrance to the beach isn’t sandy.
Public restrooms and showers are available at the parking lot. There are also small shops across the street for food and drinks.
Hanauma Bay, one of Oahu’s popular beaches for tourists around Honolulu, is an amazing location for snorkeling too. Compared to Shark’s Cove, there are entrance fees and additional costs ($7.50 per person for 13 years of age & older, bring $1.00 cash for parking, snorkel gear rental starts at $20.00, lockers for rent starting at $10.00, and expensive meals sold at the food stand).
If you’d like to visit Hanauma Bay and you’re on a budget, you should pack food, water, sunscreen, water shoes, and snorkel gear to save you a lot of money. I’ve linked the website to Hanauma Bay State Park, in case you wanted to read more info about it before heading out there!
Waimanalo Beach Park is located at 41-741 Kalanianaʻole Hwy, Waimanalo, HI 96795 (free parking & no entrance fee).
Where We Stayed
The cheapest Airbnb we stayed at was in Waimanalo, where it was only $60 per night. We were able to experience our van life dream (more like a bus turned into an Airbnb) for a few days. This bus had everything we needed and we successfully conserved water for 3 days! Our maximum use is only 30 gallons. You’re able to refill the water tank with the hose provided outside the bus, but we ended up not needing any more water.
There’s a stove available with pots, pans, and microwave to prepare your meals. There’s also Wi-Fi, TV, and a very comfortable bed. The bed only fits 2 people though, so it was perfect for Chris & I. The only part we struggled with was the pooping situation. If you live in a van, you might be able to relate with this issue. Once you poop in the bus, it’s game over for the other person! Our game plan during the 3 nights we stayed here, poop at the McDonald’s near us (which was only 0.5 mile away). 🙂
Waimanalo Beach Park
Another reason why we wanted to stay at this Airbnb, it’s walking distance from Waimanalo Beach Park. It’s a very beautiful beach, with turquoise-like ocean color. Sometimes it’s almost empty to where you have the whole beach to yourself. However, we didn’t feel completely safe to where we would walk around by ourselves. Sadly, there’s a homeless community by the parking lot where you can see a line of tents built up. There’s not much stores or restaurants around here and the restaurants that are available closes early.
The bright side about being on an island is that everything isn’t far from each other. We were able to still roam around Honolulu area and drive back to Waimanalo with no problem. Their distance from each other is about 19.1 mi. If you’re interested in renting out this bus, I’ve linked their Airbnb listing above!
Thank you so much for reading
Our time in Oahu, Hawaii has been the most memorable! I was so surprised at all the places we went to that didn’t require a parking fee. The ones that did have a parking fee wasn’t expensive neither (compared to California). I’m so used to having to pay for parking all the time in the Bay Area and LA, that it was a nice perk having in Oahu.
I hope I’ve helped you plan out your next adventure here. If you have any questions or enjoyed this blog post, leave a comment below. I would love to connect with you! Feel free to also subscribe to us for new updates. 🙂