Honolulu on a budget: best things to do
How to enjoy the best of this iconic tropical paradise without breaking the bank.
- January 2018
- Updated November 2021
Sun-soaked selfies, leisurely beach walks and cocktails overlooking the surf: these are a few of our favourite things about a holiday to Hawaii. If you’re on the hunt for a relaxing tropical getaway, it doesn’t get much better than Honolulu. These are our top tips for budget travellers visiting Hawaii's capital.
1. Snap stunning views at Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park
When it comes to spectacular selfie backdrops, the panoramic views over Honolulu from your vantage point at Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park can’t be beat. The scenic drive through the windy mountain roads make for ideal happy snaps, and once you arrive, you can capture the envy-inducing moment against views of Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and the Waianae Mountain Range. Pack a picnic lunch and a blanket and lay out your setting to take in the spectacular vistas at leisure.
2. Hike to lush Manoa Falls
If you’ve packed your activewear and a good pair of sneakers, put them to use with an invigorating hike to gorgeous Manoa Falls. The trail is short enough for a quick and easy trek (around 1km each way) making it the perfect opportunity for some brief exercise, maybe enough to work off that last serving of garlic shrimp. The journey will have you shadowing a rocky stream, and concludes at the spectacular falls – the perfect spot for selfies.
3. Snorkel the pristine waters of Hanauma Bay
This bay is mind-blowingly beautiful: set in the crater of an ancient volcano, its perfect crescent-shaped beach, glowing white sand and aquamarine water is the stuff of beach-lazing fantasies. But the true reason for its popularity is the incredible wealth of its marine life. The shallow, protected bay provides the best possible conditions for snorkelling. There are more than 400 species of fish here – and loads of them. It may also be your best chance to swim with green sea turtles, which are abundant.
Daily visitor numbers are capped, so you’ll need to book ahead online. Check the Honolulu parks website for details.
4. Recreate the most romantic film scene in history
If you’re here with someone you really, really like, now’s your chance to recreate a classic movie moment. The infamous beach scene in From Here To Eternity, where stars Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr roll, embracing, in the surf – scandalous at the time – was filmed here in 1953. The beach, Halona Beach Cove, is located around 15 minutes from Waikiki. This amazing rock formation was naturally sculpted by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago, and still has molten lava running beneath it. It’s also home to endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles (honu), which you may encounter waddling onto the beach.
5. Get snap happy at Aloha Tower
If a holiday takes place without being documented on social media, did it really happen at all? Sensational photo opportunities are half the allure of travelling to an exotic location like Hawaii – and at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, a one-minute elevator ride is your ticket to one of the best vantage points for fun photos in all of Honolulu. The 10th floor of the tower is where you’ll find the observation deck, an open-air emporium where you can stage an impromptu photoshoot against gorgeous harbour views on one side, and the Honolulu skyline on the other.