20 Secret Bargains of Oahu for Under $10
Aloha, cheapskates! A former kama'aina gives us the lowdown on low deals in Honolulu and environs
10. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about pineapples
The Dole Plantation, in the rich red earth of Wahiawa in Central Oahu, is a fun, free-of-charge destination. Begun as a roadside stand in 1950, the large center has history displays, gift shops, free samples, demonstrations on how to properly cut pineapples-even a $5 pineapple maze (the largest in the world according to Guinness) and a $7.50, two-mile train ride through the plantation. Info: 808/621-8408, dole-plantation.com.
11. Discover a princess
Most guests at the classy Sheraton Princess Ka'iulani (120 Ka'iulani Ave., 808/922-5811) in Waikiki don't realize that the hotel is built on the former Ainahau Estate where the young princess lived. For no charge, you can partake in a guided tour of the grounds and historical rooms Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Included is a reading of the poem "Island Rose," which Robert Louis Stevenson penned for Ka'iulani.
12. Free fish gazing
Built in 1904 and holding four impressive galleries of tanks, the Waikiki Aquarium (808/923-9741) is a steal at $7 a ticket, but there are two other lesser known but free aquariums in Waikiki as well. One, The Tube, at the DFS Galleria Waikiki shopping mall (330 Royal Hawaiian Ave., 808/931-2655), is a 65,000-gallon, two-story saltwater aquarium you can actually stroll through. The second is the Oceanarium Restaurant at the Pacific Beach Hotel (2490 Kalakaua Ave., 808/922-1233), a three-story, 280,000-gallon saltwater tank, also free.
13. Shave off the heat
Probably the most famous yet humble shave-ice (known to you mainlanders as "snow cone") store in the world, Matsumoto's (66-087 Kamehameha Hwy., 808/637-4827, matsumotoshaveice.com) near the North Shore town of Haleiwa offers this local delicacy starting at only $1.20 per cone, and that includes a dollop of ice cream as well (with red beans, an Asian favorite, it's 60 cents more).
14. Budget bus blast
One of the best-kept secrets on Oahu is the public bus ride around the entire island of Oahu for $2! The route is over 150 miles, and bus tours run by big outfits will charge you over $50 for the same pleasure. The benefit of riding "The Bus" (as it's known) is that you can get off and on at different beaches or towns for up to two hours without incurring a second fare -- it's a treat to escape the cement of Waikiki and discover the lush island's more remote shores. Take Circle Island Bus 52 or 55 from the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Info: 808/848-5555, thebus.org.
15. Tea for three (dollars)
The Urusenke Teahouse in Waikiki (reservations: 808/923-3059) is a soothing, authentic Japanese teahouse that presents a full-fledged ancient tea ceremony on Wednesdays and Fridays starting at 10 a.m., for a small donation of three dollars. You sip tea made from 400-year-old bushes in a reverent setting (long pants and socks required) and soak up the Zen atmosphere away from Waikiki's bustle.
16. Pig out, local style
Irifune (563 Kapahulu Ave., 808/737-1141) is usually full of locals in the know. Snapshots of friends and Kabuki masks cover the walls, fishing nets and glow-in-the-dark stars hang above diners, and there's a TV fish tank in the bathroom. Huge Japanese meals with all the trimmings go for under $10.
17. Aloha art
With over 35,000 Asian, Western, and Pacific works, The Honolulu Academy of Art (900 S. Beretania St., 808/532-8700, honoluluacademy.org) is well worth relinquishing a day at the beach for. The admission is only $7, but you can avoid that by arriving on the first Wednesday of each month when it's free. Included are the James A. Michener Collection of Japanese prints, and royal feather capes and tapa hangings.
18. Palacial yesteryear
Queen Emma's Summer Palace (808/595-6291, daughtersofhawaii.org), along the Pali Highway in dramatic Nu'uanu Valley, is just five minutes from the center of Honolulu. For $5 you can witness how the royalty lived in this mansion with its rich koa-wood furniture, and sumptuous grounds where the queen entertained.
19. Polo in paradise
Yes, Oahu has it all-even polo grounds. Prince Charles himself has played at the Waimanalo Polo Grounds, located on the island's windward coast near Waimanalo town at the base of the spectacularly ridged Ko'olau Mountains. For $3, you can take in a real polo game every Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (practice games Wednesdays and Fridays at 4:30 p.m.) from April to October, with plenty of shade, a snack bar, and the kids get to pet the resident ponies as well. Info: 808/947-6511, honolulupolo.com.
20. Ascend Diamond Head
Once free, the popular hike to the top of Diamond Head now costs $1, but it's still one of the best deals on the island. You park inside of the actual crater (called Le'ahi and the site of human sacrifices on its western slope) and ascend about a mile of trail, ducking through tunnels, ramparts, and up steps built during World War II. You're rewarded with certainly the best view of Waikiki available anywhere.
21. Shrimp surprise
When traveling on the North Shore, stop by Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. Its heaping plates of locally harvested shrimp go slightly beyond our budget ($11) but are worth the splurge, especially with its infamous Hot & Spicy sauce ("hot as our volcanic lava") that's also sold separately for $5 a bottle. Decorated with comments handwritten by loyal customers, the truck is along the Kamehameha Highway near the town of Kahuku. Info: 888/923-9494.