Introduction: How to Do Waikiki and Oahu on the Cheap (But Not Missing Out) Guide

Welcome to SB Designs' Waikiki and Oahu on the Cheap (but not missing out) Guide.

This guide WILL SAVE YOU MONEY! It is a no frills guide to not spending much hard-earned money in the tourist haven of Waikiki, on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii, U.S.A., whilst seeing almost all it has to offer. There are many free or very inexpensive attractions. Hikes, swims, cheap meals, and free entertainment! There are many tips to avoid paying too much (or at all).
You could of course buy a Lonely Planet Guide for $US20, but why pay when this is FREE and already customized to the desires of the budget traveler!

My guide also has the benefit of being prepared by a bona fide discount traveler.
I visited Waikiki in August 2007 for 7 days, and ate well, saw almost everything possible, and didn't spend a fortune whilst doing it. I got most of the information before I arrived from the Lonely Planet Guide to Hawaii (now you don't need to). Everything listed below I saw/did inside 7 days (Phew!).

I don't believe that I am a cheapskate (although some of my friends may disagree), but I don't like to pay through the nose, when a bit of pre-planning and thought can achieve the same or an even better outcome for less!

Note: This guide is NOT a front for advertising of any establishments, it is simply a guide to places I visited that didn't cost an arm and/or a leg, and tips for making your dollar go further.

Note 2: Please excuse my Australian spelling!

Disclaimer: These tips are current as of my August 2007 holiday. Things change, don't hold me responsible!

It includes:

Accommodation tips,
Must-see places, and how to get there,
Pearl Harbor,
The Lost campsite,
The original starting point for the Gilligan's Island 3 Hr Tour,
How to get around Oahu on the Bus,
10km hike through the forest canopy, with spectacular views,
A Free Signed Historical Walk through Waikiki,
Diamond Head Crater Walk,
Free Hula Show,
Free Movies on the beach,
Cheap Eats, and local delicacies,
Where to go jogging,
Free Internet,
Where to snorkel,
Shopping and Souvenirs,
Downtime at the Airport.

Step 1: Getting Started

Before you arrive:
-Google Earth your hotel before arrive in Waikiki, and get a feel for the general layout of Waikiki and Oahu.
-A paper copy of this Instructable.
-Download and print copies of documents recommended in this Instructable.
-Borrow a library, or a friend's copy of the Lonely Planet Guide for Hawaii.
-Always have a pen and paper/diary with you to note down any bargains for later in your trip.
-Pack a snorkel, mask and fins (borrow if you have to) if you plan on lots of snorkeling.

Accomodation (this one's up to you)
Although cheap, hostels are also crowded, noisy and poorly maintained. I don't know about you, but the only party I want to hear is my own! It doesn't cost much more for a private room in hotel.
There are plenty of cheap hotels around. Most places cost more for a beach view, so choose a city/mountain view room where possible (avoid facing directly down to Kuhio Ave, as there are loud buses almost 24hrs a day).
After reading through Lonely Planet and reviews on the internet at, etc., I booked online and stayed at Waikiki Grand at the Diamond Head end of the Waikiki strip at From reviews, I was aware that a Gay Bar was located beside the ground floor, but I hardly heard a sound from it from my room. I simply clicked on the hotel's Book Reservations link and found a cheap room. On arrival I was upgraded to an awesome beach and Diamond Head view for FREE! by doing nothing extra. Room was nothing special, but tidy, and included a basic delivered breakfast and newspaper. Next time I'm in Waikiki, I'll book definitely there again!
So read your borrowed copy of Lonely Planet Hawaii, get online, and make your choice.
Usual Hotel Tip: Don't use the Mini-Bar. Go to an ABC store (see below) for all of your supplies.

As soon as you arrive:
-At the airport, find a brochure stand, and collect a few Free Maps and Tourist Magazines (see below), to get you started, and fill in time on the shuttle.
-Then grab a Shuttle (all pretty much the same) to your Hotel, make sure that you buy a Return Ticket, it's cheaper ($US14 vs $US8 + 8). Just remember, when arranging at your Hotel's desk to book a shuttle back to the airport to show them your ticket, so that they know which company to ring. A bus would be even cheaper, but at this stage you probably aren't exactly certain where everything is, and they don't allow much luggage on board.

Once you have checked in:
-Go for a walk up Kalakua Avenue, which is the main strip along the beach, to get to know your surroundings, and
-Visit the Visitor Information Center, located in a Gazebo at the Diamond Head end of the Waikiki strip, Corner of Kapahulu and Kalakaua.
The staff are very helpful, and have just about every possible brochure available, including individual bus route/timetables. They have a very good handout on Getting to/From Diamond Head State Park. Collect TheBus System Map, also.
-Collect many of the numerous Free Tourist magazines, (What's on/This Week in Waikiki, etc.) from stands on most main street corners in Waikiki and hotel lobbys (plus at the Airport). Collect as many different magazines as possible, so as to see all discount offers.
-Collect Free Maps of Waikiki and Oahu, from the same places as above. Again, collect many different ones.
-Avoid conversing with Booking Stands, as they often advertise more expensive versions of tours and activities, many that you can simply do on your own for free. Just look at the displays from a short distance to see what's on offer.
-TheBus System Map, (Visitor Information Centre, and some other places), has all bus routes around Waikiki and Oahu.
-ABC stores are on almost every corner. Stock up on bottled water (bulk packs), cans of soda (mixers), and alcohol. Very reasonably priced. Great place for cheap souvenirs.

A basic online starting map can be found at or

Step 2: Getting Around

Getting Around Waikiki and Oahu

There is no need to hire a costly rental car (and almost zero free car parks at any hotel), as The Bus is so reliable and cheap. You may be able to get around the entire island of Oahu for $US4, depending on your starting location, and how many stops you make!
It costs only $US2 per trip, which includes one transfer. This allows you to take two bus trips for the one price. You simply collect a transfer coupon off the driver and hand it in to the next bus driver (transfers have a two-hour limit stamped on them).
All Buses are tidy, on-time, air-conditioned, and the drivers are courteous.
The main bus route hub is at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Do some shopping/window shopping here between trips.
If you have a particular place you want to visit on Waikiki/Oahu, go to The Bus website and check out the bus routes and timetables ahead of time.
Tip 1: Always make sure that you have plenty of $1 bills or coins, as the drivers don't handle change.
Tip 2: Don't forget to ask for a Transfer coupon from the driver to ensure that you get the second leg of the journey included in your $2!

On Foot around Waikiki
The entire shopping and eating area of Waikiki is fairly accessible from most hotels by foot, provided you have a moderate level of fitness. Just make sure that you have a basic map with you. It is quite easy to keep your bearings as you can usually go by the direction of the beach, the mountains/Ala Wai Canal, or Diamond Head. It does get quite hot, so take a backpack with bottled water. Also don't forget that ABC stores are everywhere and sell refrigerated bottled water.

Step 3: Free and Cheap Stuff

FREE Stuff in Waikiki

Starting at the airport end of Waikiki (opposite of the Diamond Head end), here are a number of free attractions.
The Gilligan's Island Harbor
Remember where the 3 Hour Tour started from at the beginning of the TV show? Well, it's here at Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Check out some rather large pleasure craft. It's at the airport end of Waikiki between Hawaiian Prince and the Hilton Lagoon. Nothing special, but well worth a photo!
US Army Museum of Hawaii
Awesome displays and artifacts from both Hawaiian wars and WWII.
Waikiki Beach
Just have a swim, paddle, snorkel, body-surf, sun bake, sleep, whatever floats your boat!
Royal Hawaiian Hotel (the big pink, old looking one)
Free tours 2pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center (In the Fountain Courtyard)
Torch Lighting ceremony nightly from 6 to 6.15pm.
30 minute Polynesian show 6.15pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Polynesian show 10 to 11.30am Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
Hula Lessons 10am Monday, Friday.
Lei-making lessons 11am Monday, Wednesday.
Ukulele lessons 10am Tuesday, Thursday and 11.30am Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Sheraton Moana Surfrider (looks like an old Plantation Inn)
Free tours at 11am and 5pm, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Wizard Stones of Kapaemahu
On Kalakaua, beside Police Station. They are said to contain the secrets and healing powers of four sorcerers.
Duke Kahanamoku Statue
Just Diamond Head side of the Wizard Stones. Hawaii's most decorated athlete, who brought surfing to the world.
Hula Mound
Most nights of the week there is some form of free entertainment at the Hula Mound (200m Diamond Head side of Duke's Statue on Kalakaua), at 6pm. Hula shows predominantly.
Oceanarium Restaurant
From the hotel lobby of the Pacific Beach Hotel you can easily see a massive aquarium that divides two restaurants (very expensive food). Divers feed the fish at noon, 1pm, 6.30pm and 8pm.
The Wall (and Groin)
Built on top of a storm water outlet, this is a great little walk out to the end, to get a different view of Waikiki beach. You can watch surfers and boogie boarders at very close quarters.
Sunset at the Beach festival (not August)
Every Saturday and Sunday, except in August, the Mayor throws a beach party. Queen's Surf Beach. Hawaiian bands perform from 4pm to sunset, then when darkness falls, a huge screen is set-up to watch a feature movie! Tables and chairs are set up. Food stalls galore, with nothing over $US6!
Free concerts (not August)
Sunday 2 to 3pm, the Royal Hawaiian Band, at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand.
Friday 5.30 to 6.30pm, different Hawaiian groups each week, at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand.
Kapiolani Park and Beach Park
Gorgeous, well manicured place for relaxing. On weekends, the locals relax, swim, and grill on the barbeque.
Waikiki Historic Trail
Look out for the surfboard markers with historical information about a particular area. 23 in total, you can walk it all in one day, or just complete sections whilst visiting other nearby areas. Definitely print out the text and map from
Walk along Waikiki beach at sunset
Sample the outdoor Hawaiian shows at the beachfront hotels. See musicians playing at Sheraton Moana Surfrider's Banyan Veranda, Duke's Canoe Club or poolside performers at Sheraton Waikiki.
Kalakaua at night
Street Performers and buskers abound. Also enjoy the antics of the mentally deranged homeless (I know that's not PC but it is free and entertaining).

Not Free, but CHEAP
Waikiki Aquarium
$US9, supposed to be quite good. A great place to identify all of the fish you will/have seen snorkeling.
Honolulu Zoo
$US6, how good is that. Just be aware that it closes at 4.30pm. Occasionally they have a jazz night after hours.

Step 4: Attractions

Attractions near Waikiki

Diamond Head
This is a must visit, as it is so close to Waikiki, and it stares down at you every day! Make sure that you have picked up the Getting to/From Diamond Head brochure (a photocopied single sheet), from the Visitor Information Booth (see Once you have checked in) . It explains which buses and how to get to the entry booth. $US1 entry! It is a tough but fair walk, which is rewarded with some exceptional views. Take water. The return trip from the entry booth is about 1hr. Make sure you haven't overeaten, as vomit puddles are often evident during your walk! If you can't get the brochure, it is Bus 58 or 22 to the base of the access road (Diamond Head Crater Sign), walk up a tough little hill, through the tunnel and across to the entry booth. Reverse the process home. If you're feeling exceptionally fit you can walk back to Waikiki, but it'll be quite hot by that stage! As my hotel was at the Kapiolani Park end of Waikiki, I chose to walk home, and had lunch at the Diamond Head Market and Grill (Grilled 'ahi (tuna steak) sandwich, yummy!), but I was exhausted by the end. Check out my home-made version instructable of the Waikiki 'ahi SandwichWaikiki 'ahi Sandwich.

Pearl Harbor

A must see.
Catch the Bus No 42 and City Express-A, taking about an hour. The No. 20 Bus will also get you there, but it detours through the airport, costing you an extra 15 minutes.
Free entry, but get there relatively early so that you're session time (for the video presentation to start the tour) is close to your arrival time. If you arrive at noon you may not be starting the tour until 3pm (if there are any tickets left). These tickets cannot be pre-booked and must be collected in person (so as to stop tour companies snapping up all of the good ones). You are limited in what you can take on the tour with you, but lockers can be hired. I basically took my camera without it's bag. Your admission ticket is a nice memento.
Whilst waiting for your session, you can fill in time in the gift shop or adjoining museum (excellent artifacts), or for a longer time-filler walk across the car park to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and enjoy the free displays in the park (Missile, torpedoes etc.) It costs extra to go into the museum or board the submarine, so enjoy the surrounds, and you can still get quite close to the sub.

Attractions around Oahu

The Lost campsite
Warning: Apparently all of the props from this campsite were removed in Summer 2008! Now it's just a beach with some history!

On Bus No. 52 get off at Papailoa Rd, 2km North of Hale'iwa, on the Kamehameha Hwy. Then walk down Papailoa Rd. A few houses before the massive No Entry sign at end of the road, turn right through a dirt track to the beach. Walk 500m South and there is the campsite and Mr. Eko's church, from the TV Series Lost. There are security guards so don't enter it, just go up to the nylon fencing and take your photos. By all means have a chat with the guards (who knows, they might take you through!). As I was leaving the beach a huge turtle was swimming in the shallows!

North Shore

May to October is calm, so it's a snorkeler's paradise.
November to April is Big Surf. Not for the faint-hearted. Death-wish required.
Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach are here.
Tip: Watch out for Da Hui, fiercely-defensive locals. Respect.

Island Round Trip

From the Ala Moana Center, Catch the No. 52 (Wahiawa-Circle). It goes all the way via Hale'iwa and the Nortn Shore up to Turtle Bay Resort, and then becomes the No. 55. The bus then makes its way along the Windward coast before heading under the Nu'uanu Pali Cliffs and down the Pali Hwy, back to the Ala Moana Center. The trip takes about 4 hours minimum. Depending on your stops, this should cost well under $US10.

Step 5: Recreation

There are plenty of hikes to do not too far from Waikiki. For detailed trail maps go to . Always take plenty of water!! The 10km hike that I completed was tough, but fair. I went in an Easterly direction, but due to the splintered tracks initially, I would suggest a Westerly walk, to avoid any confusion. Catch the No. 5 (Manoa Valley) from Ala Moana Center to the furthest point of Manoa Rd then walk 500m north following signs to the start of the Manoa Falls Trail. The walk to the waterfall is relatively easy and enjoyable. The waterfall itself is quite spectacular. Just prior to the waterfall, on the left is the Aihualama Trail, so take this after having a nice rest at the falls. Head west along the Aihualama Trail for 1km, then it stops at a junction (Panoa Flats Trail), turn right, and after 500m uphill, you will come to an awesome lookout across the Nu'uanu valley. You can see the ocean to the north from here. Turn back down the Panoa Flats Trail, and return past the junction for another 200m. Turn right at the Nu'uanu Trail and follow this. Stay on this track (which includes awesome views of Waikiki and Pearl Harbor) until it reaches the Judd Trail Loop, and turn right. Follow the Loop trail until you can turn right, cross the Nu'uanu stream and exit onto the Old Pali Rd. Walk left along this road until the corner of Kimo & Nu'uanu Pali Dr/Old Pali Dr, and take the No. 4 bus back to Ala Moana Center. A photocopied version, well worth printing out is at
Go for an early morning jog along Waikiki beach, as it's deserted. Other popular morning and evening (due to the heat) areas to jog, are along the Ala Wai Canal, Kapiolani Park and Kapiolani Beach Park.

Queens Surf Beach
Awesome safe snorkelling right off the beach. Heaps of colourful fish. I even saw a morey eel. If you swim out to the end of The Wall or (especially) around the end of the rock wall at the other end of Queens Surf Beach, you will be rewarded by some massive fish. You might even find the odd ring or coins in the shallows that have been lost by frolicking tourists!
Shark's Cove (May to October)
Catch the Around Island Bus (No. 52) and get off at Pupukea Beach Park. Safe, easy entry. Absolutely teeming with fish. Nearby change rooms. Then grab an 'ahi (tuna steak) sandwich at Shark's Cove Grill (little white trailer next to Foodland) opposite. Yummy!
Tip: I didn't bother to go to Hanauma Bay as it was out of the way and apparently has been loved to death by over a million visitors a year trampling on the coral.
Turtle Bay
Haven' snorkeled there, but apparently it's great. It's at the end of the No. 52, and the start of the No. 55.

Step 6: Free Internet and Cheap Shopping/Souvenirs

Free Internet
The only free internet I could find any information about was at Hula's (Gay) Bar on Kapahulu. So I cautiously, but confidently strutted in like I knew what I was doing, and ordered a beer. It was like a parody of The Birdcage and a Village People music video, combined! I then spotted the three computers and found out that No drinks are permitted near Computers. Quickly drank beer, quickly checked email, and got the heck outta Dodge!
Next time I'll just use the cheap internet available at most of the Hostels. But it was memorable!

ABC stores have everything you could think of, and cheap. But for some variety try:
International Market Place on Kalakaua Ave, my favorite. Has an enormous variety of souvenir stalls and shops. If you can't find it her, you won't find it!
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center on Kalakaua Ave
Kalakaua Ave has plenty of souvenir shops along it.
Recommended gifts:
Kona Coffee, Tiki statuettes/carvings, postcards, T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, hats.

Step 7: Where to Eat


As breakfast was included (and delivered to my room), I never ventured from my balcony (did I mention the Ocean and Diamond Head View!). So I can't help you.


Fatty's Chinese Kitchen is a hole in the wall at Kuhio and Duke's Lane. Very popular with locals.
Aloha Sushi is in a few different locations. Try the Musubi (see Local Delicacies).
For a cheap lunch, try any of the vendors at the Food Court at the International Market Place, or at Ala Moana Center.
Rainbow Drive-In has it all, and cheap.
Diamond Head Market and Grill, a bit out of the way, but the grilled 'ahi sandwich is a taste sensation.
Shark's Cove Grill on North Shore has an awesome 'ahi sandwich.


Keep an eye out for specials. Some restaurants have a seated before 6 special. Cut out coupons from the Tourist magazines.
For a very cheap dinner, try any of the vendors at the Food Court at the International Market Place.
Also try the Seaside Bar & Grill (not close to the seaside!) at Kuhio and Seaside. Early bird specials (before 7pm) are sensational (New York Steak - $US9.95). Sunset Dinner Special (4pm to 10pm) $11.95 for 2 items with sides (e.g.: Island Mahi Mahi and Jumbo Fried Shrimp with Roasted Garlic Herb Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, Garlic Bread & Salad!!).

Local Delicacies

Saimen: Local-style noodle soup. YUMMY!
Musubi (Spam Sushi Roll): Yes, a pan-fried strip of Spam in a rice filled nori California Roll. It's YUMMY!
Loco Moco: An amalgamation of rice, fried egg and hamburger patty, topped with gravy and a dash of shoyu. AWESOME!!
Bento: A sushi lunchbox.
Shave Ice: Extreme snow cone, very sweet.
Plate Lunch: A fixed plate meal, two scoops rice, one scoop macaroni and an entree.


As this can easily blow a budget, and is a matter of personal preference, I'll leave it up to you.
Cheap alcohol at ABC stores.

Step 8: Going Home (Boo!)

Downtime at the Airport
After you've checked in, you will most likely have quite a wait before your flight. So head on downstairs to the beautiful, enormous, and of course free, Airport Garden. Located on the concourse level, it has three distinct areas: A Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian Garden. It is very tranquil. I spent almost one hour in there looking at all the plants and chillaxing in the meditative areas. Until a leaf-blower started up!

And finally:
I hope this helps you out. Waikiki and Oahu don't have to break your budget, in fact whilst I saw almost everything humanly possible inside 7 days, I found I spent less money than expected!
If you have any further tips or places to eat/see, feel free to comment, or email me at, and I'll credit you on any updated versions.
Steve - sbdesigns

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