The Arizona Memorial, One of the Top Free Things to Do in Hawaii
The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu is a part of the multi-state World War II Valor in the Pacific National Memorial and is managed by the National Park Service. This is Hawaii’s top tourist attraction and chronicles the events that occurred during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as well as the heroism and sacrifices of those who fought in the Pacific Basin theater during World War II.
There is no charge to enter the two museums at the memorial as well as to ride the boat ride to the memorial itself. Here, you can see the sunken hull of the USS Arizona where over 1,100 sailors and marines are still entombed.
However, only 1,300 tickets are issued for the boat ride to the memorial itself which is located off of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Tickets are given out starting at 7:00 am daily on a first come, first served basis. All persons in your group must be present at the ticket counter to receive tickets. You can also reserve your ticket up to 60 days in advance online at www.recreation.gov but you will be charged a non-refundable $1.50 convenience fee for each ticket.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on the island of Oahu is popularly known as Punchbowl and is another one of the top free things to do in Hawaii. There is no charge to enter the memorial cemetery, located in the heart of Honolulu and managed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs. The national cemetery was initially completed in 1949 to provide a permanent place of internment for servicemen for those whose bodies were temporarily stored throughout the Pacific Basin. Today over 53,000 servicemen and women are buried here, including famous World War I veteran and World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, in addition to numerous Medal of Honor recipients.
The national cemetery is a solemn, yet beautiful place to visit. The memorial features artwork depicting the battles that America has fought in the Pacific as well as offers some of the best panoramic views of Hawaii’s largest and capital city, Honolulu.
The Hana Highway
There is probably no more famous and scenic drive in Hawaii than taking the road to Hana on the island of Maui and is certainly one of the top free things to do in Hawaii. The 64 mile winding road features 620 curves and 59 bridges along verdant rain forests, numerous scenic seaside coves and many picturesque waterfalls. Here you can stop along the rustic town of Hana with its nearby seaside caves and anchialine pools (landlocked pools where fresh and sea water converge together). Past the town of Hana, you visit the grave site of arguably the world’s most famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, in the town of Kipahulu.
While the drive itself is not that long from a distance traveled perspective, the one-way drive could take longer than 3 hours because of the narrow and winding nature of the road. The highway was designated as the Hana Millennium Legacy Trail in August 2000 as well as listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 2001.
The 10 mile long and 3,500 feet deep Waimea Canyon is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” for good reason. The multi colored geologic features of the canyon of green, red and brown hues were formed over million years by the erosive flow of the Waimea Stream and lend themselves to comparisons to those that can be found in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Along the 18 mile State Road 550 on the western side of Kauai, there are 4 major lookouts to view and take pictures of the immensely picturesque canyon. Along these lookouts, you can also get a commanding view of the remote neighbor island of Niihau. Waimea Canyon is a part of the Hawaii State Parks system, which does not charge a fee to enter this park.
National Historical Parks
What may be the Big Island of Hawaii’s most under-appreciated attractions are its National Historical Parks. Two of them can be visited without charge, the Kaloko-Honokohau and the Pu’ukohala Heiau national historical parks. These two parks, which interpret key aspects of Hawaii culture and history, are managed by the National Park Service.
King Kamehameha I built the Pu’ulohala Heiau as a place of worship around 1790 and dedicated it to the war god Kūka’ilimoku. According to legend building the heiau or temple was a prerequisite for fulfilling a prophecy for unifying all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. The prophecy was fulfilled as he ultimately became ruler of all of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park preserves the traditions and culture of an ancient Hawaiian settlement. It contains the partitions of a typical Hawaiian ahupua’a which are land divisions that extend from the mountain to the ocean. Here, you can also find ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs, stone housing platforms, fishpond and heiau.