The Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA) defines ecotravel as “nature and culture-based tourism that is ecologically sustainable and supports the well-being of local communities.” Here are a few of my top picks for things to do on Oahu that are eco friendly and that teach (in very fun ways!) about Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian animals and Hawaiian history.
Hawaiian Culture, History and Science
Bishop Museum and Planetarium: This is one of my favorite things to do on Oahu!The Museum has recently completed construction of its new Science Adventure Center! New attraction aside, this museum located in downtown Honolulu is the number one place to learn about the culture, history and natural science of Hawaii.
It’s also the perfect place to get an overview as well as in depth knowledge of places you will visit on the island. The premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific, the Bishop Museum holds collections of 24 million cultural objects and natural history specimens (one of the largest in the world), of Hawaii and Polynesia.
From archaeological to Hollywood in Hawaii exhibits, the museum has enough to keep you occupied and learning all day. “Please touch” exhibits bring history to life. Photography, including flash and video taping is allowed. And in keeping with eco-tourism standards, serving and representing the interests of Native Hawaiians is a primary purpose of the Museum.
New Science Adventure Center! The Bishop Museum’s 17,000 square-foot science center offers interactive exhibits found nowhere else in the world, including a three-story walk-in volcano with hidden chambers and lava eruption and a 30,000 gallon aquarium with interactive activities. You will see here how intricately science is related to the natural environment and to Hawaiian culture as well.
You will also find ongoing activities to choose from throughout the day, including garden tours, Hawaiian music and dance, “Living Stories,” and planetarium shows, such as “Explorers of Polynesia” and “The Sky Tonight.” Rest under the shade trees in the beautiful courtyard with its well manicured lawn and native Hawaiian plants.
All of the above, including the new Science Center, is included in the price of admission: $15.95 for teens and adults, and $12.95 for children over 4 to 12.
Budget Travel Tip: Membership could save you some money and will get you extra perks. A Family Membership runs $50 and includes free admission for 1 or 2 adults and their children and grandchildren under 18 (to the Science Adventure Center as well). You can apply for this online.
USS Arizona Memorial The National Park Service’s memorial to the tragic loss of life in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona Memorial interpretive program consists of a 23-minute documentary film and a boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial where oil from the wreckage below still bubbles to the surfac
Visitors should expect crowds and arrive early. Tickets are free, but they are handed out on a first come, first served basis and can be gone by noon on busy days. Strict security measures prohibit all bags and items that offer concealment. The Website is packed with information on the memorial itself and the history of December 7, 1941.
Iolani Palace: Located in Honolulu, this late 19th century palace was the royal palace of the Hawaiian Monarchy. The palace reflects the tastes of its builder, King David Kalakaua, the Merry Monarch, a patron of the arts. His sister successor, Queen Lili`uokalani, was later imprisoned here when the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown. It was during her imprisonment that she composed her haunting song of farewell, that later became the signature song of Hawaii, “Aloha ‘Oe.” On most Friday evenings the Royal Hawaiian Band (the same band that introduced “Aloha ‘Oe” to the American public) provides free concerts on the lawn in front of the palace.
The self-guided tour of the palace’s galleries is $6 per adult and $3 per child (Grand Tour (docent guided) is $20, adults; $5 for children). The Friends of the Iolani Palace’s Website has a plethora of images and articles, as well as tour information.
The Waikiki Aquarium This marine research and education center is one of your best bets for leaning about Hawaiian animals and for seeing the rare and endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. More than 420 species of marine, Hawaiian animalsare represented. You’ll have close-up views of reef sharks, Hawaiian monk seals, rays, reef fish, jellyfish and many other ocean inhabitants. Jack London was among the Aquarium’s early patrons. If you love marine life, don’t miss this!
Admission: $9, adults; $6, students and seniors; $4, teens and persons with disabilities; $2, ages 5 through 12. You’ll find coupons worth a couple bucks off in some of the free publications listed in the Resource section. For a virtual tour visit their site.
These recommendations for things to do on Oahu come from my Hawaii Eco Budget Guide to Oahu. Here’s what one reader said about this book:
“I can’t tell you how much money we saved. I would say we probably had a better time than your average tourist. I lived on Oahu for about three years during my early years in the Navy. I chuckled to my fiance that I did more during our trip compared to the three years I lived there…”
Evan, Bellingham, Washington
One more tip (from my “Blue Hawaii” chapter): After you’ve learned about Hawaiian marine life at the aquarium, go rent one of those $9 a week snorkel sets from Snorkel Bob’s and have fun out on Oahu’s reefs! It’s just one more of the hundreds of free and low-cost things to do on Oahu!