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Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii – Activities & Accommodations on a Budget

One of the best things about Oahu is enjoying the natural beauty of the island. But most people don’t think of “Hawaii” and “budget-friendly” at the same time. While getting to Hawaii can be expensive, enjoying your time on an island as amazing as Oahu doesn’t have to drain your family’s travel budget.

You can afford and enjoy a beautiful vacation, rich with culture and incredible sites. From the best beaches to the highest mountains, and from hidden hikes and temples to popular restaurants, the island is a smart and frugal traveler’s destination. Planning ahead and taking a look at these top ten picks will keep your budget on target.

One of the easiest ways to keep Hawaii affordable is to focus on the island’s outdoor activities that are fun and free. You can enjoy days at the beach, drives along the coast, and hidden hikes – relaxing in luxury and maximizing your budget at the same time.

Top 10 Insider Destinations on Oahu

1. Byodo-In Temple

My favorite site on Oahu is a replica of the original temple in Uji, Japan. When you explore this Buddhist temple, you can ring the sacred giant bell called Bon-sho, which is said to bring prosperity and peace. On the grounds you’ll find peacocks, a Japanese garden, and a Koi pond where you can feed giant Koi fish. The Ko’olau Mountains loom in the background, adding to the serenity of the temple and grounds. Admission is just $2 per person.

2. Pu’u O Mahuka

This five-acre historical site and national landmark is sacred to native Hawaiians. The Heiau (temple) site is practically hidden, and the virtually undisturbed grounds await your visit. Its location high upon a cliff offers views of Waimea Bay.

Insider’s Tip: The entrance is tucked away on a side road, so watch carefully for signs. The road up to the temple is long and winding, but it’s well worth the drive.  The entrance to Pu’u O Mahuka is on Pupukea Homestead Road (Highway 835). From Kamehameha Highway (Highway 83) you’ll turn unto Pupukea Homestead Road. Look for the entry and a small sign across from the Pupukea fire station.

3. Manoa Falls

Tucked away in Honolulu is an easy walking path to a waterfall called Manoa Falls Trail. This quiet walk is surrounded by incredibly lush vegetation and Eucalyptus trees. The waterfall you’ll find at the end is small, but beautiful. While Oahu has plenty of rigorous hiking paths, the path to Manoa Falls is a simple, relaxed walk.

Insider’s Tip: Bugs know about this beautiful spot too, so take insect repellent and visit the waterfall in peace. When leaving your car unattended on hikes or beach stops, be smart and don’t leave cameras and valuables in the car.

4. Foster Botanical Garden

In the heart of Honolulu, you’ll find 14 acres of tropical beauty with several gardens, including an orchid garden and a butterfly garden. You’ll be enveloped in the tranquility of nature, right in the middle of the capital city. The fee for adults and children over thirteen is $5, and children six through twelve can enter for just a dollar. Kids under six get free admission as long as they’re with a paying adult. The garden, located at Fifty North Vineyard Avenue, is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily, except Christmas and New Year’s Day.

5. Diamond Head Crater

After a hike of just under a mile that is at times steep and difficult, you’ll get an exceptional view of the Hawaiian coast. While it may take up to two hours to hike the path and visit the whole crater, I’ve made this trip twice and feel that it’s well worth the effort. The park is located off Diamond Head Road between Makapu’u Ave and Eighteenth Avenue in Honolulu. The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily, including holidays, and entrance is $5 per car or $1 per walker.

Insider’s Tip: The hiking path has switchbacks and steep stairs through a cave, so bring a flashlight for these darker portions of the trip.

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