Best Cheap & Free Things to do on the Big Island

Are you planning a trip to the Big Island on a budget? Scroll to find out the best cheap and free things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii!
This list of cheap and free things to do on the Big Island contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Planning a trip to Hawaii on a budget?

The Big Island has plenty of things to do that are cheap or free! You can explore the island and see all the amazing sights without spending a lot of money.

With so many great options, you’ll be able to have an amazing time without breaking the bank. You won’t regret choosing the Big Island for your Hawaiian vacation.

Keep scrolling to read my ultimate guide on finding the best cheap and free things to do on the Big Island! 

Best Budget-Friendly Big Island Activities

Best Budget-Friendly Big Island Hotels

  • Grand Naniloa (this is my favorite place to stay in Hilo and it has an incredible ocean view)
  • Kalani Kai (this is a great, affordable condo option right in Kona town)
  • Ali’i Villas (it has a heated pool, making it perfect for winter months)

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Big Island Itinerary complete with daily schedules, fun activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Big Island Travel Guide by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel Spot

Best Free Things to do on the Big Island

Here are some of the best things to do in the Big Island for free! There are plenty of Big Island free activities that you can spend your entire vacation enjoying without spending a thing! 

1. Go to the Beach 

With over 100 different Big Island beaches, you can explore as many as possible without spending a dime. The beaches on the Big Island are for the public to enjoy! 

Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island. Image of a golden beach with green hills in the background.
Hapuna Beach State Park.

Hapuna Beach is one of Big Island’s best white sand beaches. You will definitely want to spend a few hours soaking up the sun here! 

For a black sand beach, head to Punaluu Black Sand Beach. You might even spot some sea turtles lying on the sand! 

If you want a more secluded beach and don’t mind a little hike, Honomalino Beach would be the perfect spot for a romantic beach trip. 

2. Go Hiking 

Another one of the free things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii, is to explore the beautiful nature on this island with a hike. 

Pololu Valley on the Big Island: Image of a sandy beach with lush greenery and the bright blue ocean
Pololu Valley beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Pololū Valley is a shorter, easier hike that leads you to the beautiful black sand beach too. It is a great one, especially if it is your first time on the Big Island. 

For one of the best hikes on the Big Island, have fun on the Pu’u Kalepeamoa Sunset Hill Trail. And be sure to add these Hawaii hiking essentials to your packing list!

3. Red Road

If you want to discover more of the beauty on this island, take a nice drive down Red Road. You can take a few stops along the way at some beaches and state parks.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach.

Once you reach the end of the road, walk down the Kaimu Beach Eco-Path, a lava field. 

4. Kaumana Caves

Another one of the free things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii, is to see the Kaumana Caves! There isn’t an admission fee, and it only is a short walk down to explore these interesting caves. 

These are just to observe, but you cannot go very far into them because they become private property. But they are pretty neat to see! 

5. Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company

You cannot visit Hawaii without getting some macadamia nuts! You can visit the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company and get some free taste tests of their delicious nuts. 

Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory on the Big Island. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

All of their macadamia nuts are grown in Hawaii, and there is a huge variety of flavors to enjoy as well. Take a self-guided tour to see the process for these macadamia nuts, too, if you want; it is all free! 

6. Rainbow Falls

You will definitely want to go see a waterfall in Hawaii at least once! Rainbow Falls is very easy to get to, and it is only a short hike to see the falls. 

Rainbow Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii: Image of a short waterfall with a rainbow near the basin
Rainbow Falls in Hilo Hawaii.

This is an 80-foot waterfall that goes over a lava cave. The parking lot is close by, and sometimes you can even see the falls from there too! 

7. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

Head over to the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park to learn more about Hawaiian culture. This is one of the free things to do in Kona and is a nice spot to stop during your trip to the Big Island. 

Image of a large Hawaiian a-frame structure at Kololo-Honokahau National Historical Park on the Big Island of Hawaii
Fishing house at Koloko-Honokahau National Historical Park. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Here you will find temple ruins, fishponds, rock art, and so much more, and there are no admission fees! 

8. Go Snorkeling

Kahalu’u Beach Park is the best and easiest place to go snorkeling for free! It is a protected bay filled with exotic fish and marine life and one of the top things to do in Kona, Hawaii, for free. 

From tropical fish to coral, there are so many incredible things to see while you snorkel at Kahalu’u Beach Park. You might even see some sea turtles too! 

9. Lava Tree State Monument

Have you ever heard of lava trees? A lava flow through this park left lava molds surrounding the trees. It is quite beautiful to see and is another one of the free things to do in Hawaii on the Big Island! 

Image of lava tree molds at Lava Tree State Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii
Lava Tree State Monument on the Big Island.

The Lava Tree State Monument located in Hilo is another Hawaii state park that doesn’t require an entrance fee. 

10. Sunset on the Beach 

One of the things to do in Kona at night is to take a romantic walk along the beach while watching the sunset. You will see a gorgeous sunset pretty much anywhere on the island. 

Image of a red sky at a Kona Big Island sunset
The sunsets in Kona are spectacular!

The Hawaiian sunsets are stunning, so be sure to head outside around 6:00 to 7:00 pm every night during your stay so you can catch every sunset! 

11. Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo

Head to the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo to experience a tropical zoo and garden all in one! It is absolutely free to visit, but donations are encouraged. 

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo: Image of a white tiger statue outside the entrance to the zoo
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo entrance. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

You will see a wide variety of animals in this smaller zoo. It is a fun spot to spend an hour or two during your trip. 

12. Greenwell Farms Coffee Tour

Every day from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm you can get a free guided tour of the Greenwell Farms! These tours last around an hour long, and you get to see the process of how they make their coffee. Of course, there are free samples too! It’s one of the many affordable Kona coffee tours.

Best Cheap Things to do on the Big Island

Here are some of the top cheap things to do on the Big Island that will help you save money and still have lots of great adventures during your vacation to Hawaii. 

1. Hulihee Palace

Do you want to see where the royals spent their vacation years ago in Hawaii? Then head to the Hulihee Palace! For a self-guided tour, you can go and see artifacts at this museum for only $16. 

If you prefer a guided tour, it will cost $22. It is a fun place to learn more about the Hawaiian culture too. 

2. Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s markets have tons of great souvenirs, plate lunches, shaved ice, and more, all for reasonable prices. Going to farmer’s markets is a great way to save money and support the locals too. 

Hilo Farmers Market: Image of a coconut drink in front of a bunch of pineapples
The Hilo Farmers Market is one of the largest on the Big Island.

With over 20 different markets all over the island, you will be sure to find one close to where you are staying. 

3. Akaka Falls State Park

It costs $5 to enter and $10 for parking, but it is definitely worth it to see the stunning Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls: Image of a tall Big Island waterfall surounded by lush greenery
Akaka Falls State Park.

It is a short hike through a beautiful green rainforest. First off, you will see the 100-foot Kahuna Falls. Keep going, and you will reach Akaka Falls, which is 442 feet tall. 

These are some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the Big Island, so be sure to check them out! 

4. Botanical Gardens

There are a few gorgeous botanical gardens all over the Big Island that are a perfect place to visit if you want to explore the beauty on this island. Botanical gardens are so peaceful too! 

Some of the botanical gardens are free, while others require a fee. 

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden: Image of a brochure in front of a lush Big Island botantical garden
Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden is $25 to visit. Here you will go through the lush rainforest to observe countless tropical plants, waterfalls, and streams along the trails. 

The University of Hawaii Hilo Botanical Garden is free for visitors, but you will need to pay a $3 parking fee. 

The World Botanical Gardens is another fun one to visit, and it costs $25 per person. There are so many things you can do here; you can easily spend an entire day in this garden! Enjoy the rainforest and complete their incredible maze too! 

5. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

You cannot go to the Big Island without seeing some of the volcanoes and lava! It costs $30 for one vehicle, and the pass will last for an entire week. But, they do have 5 different days where it is free to enter the park too! 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Image of lava
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

You can do many great things at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There are plenty of great hikes that get you close to the volcanoes. You can also do a few road tours where you drive to see the craters. 

You will have a fun time learning more about Hawaii’s volcanoes and taking some awesome pictures! 

6. Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea is one of the volcanoes on the Big Island that you will want to see at least once. You can drive any car up to the visitor center, but if you want to reach the summit, you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle. 

Mauna Kea: Detailed image of the Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii
Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island.

It is at very high elevation, so it might be best to stay at the visitor center and explore at that level. 

7. Kona Brewing Company Tour

If you want to try out some good Hawaiian beer, head to Kona Brewing Company for an hour-long tour. You will get some free 4oz samples during the tour as you learn all about the brewery on the Big Island as well as the process they use to make beer! 

This tour at the Kona Brewing Company is $20 per person. You will find this brewery in Kona. 

8. Art After Dark at Holualoa

If you want to see some local art and drink coffee, head to Holualoa on the first Friday of every month. From 5:30 to 8:30 pm, this village comes together to bring you live music, delicious food, and artwork all over! 

9. Go Kayaking 

Rent one of these clear-bottom kayaks and have a fun day out on the water with your significant other. It is so fun to explore the ocean and see all the marine life without going under the water! 

This is one of the cheap things to do in Kona as it only costs $23! You might even see some dolphins or sea turtles under your kayak as you are out on the ocean! 

10. Coffee and Chocolate Tour 

For $25 per person, you can go on a coffee and chocolate tour at this farm in Holualoa. You will be greeted by the actual owner and will learn all about how coffee and cocoa are grown to produce the best coffee and chocolate bars in Hawaii. 

Image of Kona coffee plants
Learn about Kona coffee.

You will get some free samples to enjoy and will also get to see how they make their natural soap too! It is a full tour of the farm that takes around three hours. It is jam-packed and full of information and is one of the best farm tours to go on! 

11. Sunset Kona Salt Farm Tour

For another romantic nighttime adventure, go on the Sunset Kona Salt Farm Tour! Here you will learn the history of the farm, why salt is so important in Hawaiian culture, and their salt-making process. 

After the tour, you will also have the opportunity to taste some of the salt. When the tour is finished, head back to the fire pit and watch the sunset over the ocean with your loved one. It is a simple tour that only costs $25. 

12. Get Shave Ice

You can’t visit Hawaii without stopping for some shave ice! You can find plenty of shave ice all over the island, with prices ranging from $4 to $10. Ululanis Hawaiian Shave Ice is located in Kona.

They have so many amazing flavors and toppings; it is a great place to stop when you are in Kihei. 

Big Island on a Budget FAQs

What is there to do on the Big Island budget?

There are plenty of great things to do on the Big Island for free or very cheap. From exploring the state parks and hikes to watching the turtles and looking in caves, there is something fun for everyone to do!

What is the cheapest month to visit the Big Island?

Usually, the cheapest time to go to Hawaii is when there are no major holidays coming up. Typically, February or September you will find to be cheaper than other months.

Things to do in Kona Hawaii for Free or Cheap Wrap Up

You can definitely visit the Big Island on a budget! These are some of the best free and cheap things to do all over the island. Choose from any of these and have a blast during your vacation to the Big Island. 

Looking for more Big Island travel resources? Check out the best Big Island waterfalls, budget-friendly Big Island restaurants, cheap places to stay on the Big Island, the top Big Island beaches, and my Big Island packing list!

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