Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

Free Tours vs. Paid Tours


When visiting Hawaii, especially if it’s your first time, you’re going to want to learn all you can about the history of the islands. The best way to do that is through a tour. But which type of tour is best for you: paid or free? Obviously your budget will come into play here, but there are other considerations to ask yourself on this topic. Check out the pros and cons of each, along with some samples of the best paid and free tours.

Free Tours

Many tourist attractions on Hawaii feature free tours, at least for part of the experience. Take the Dole Plantation, for example. You can get access to the grounds for free, and even participate in a few activities like a pineapple-cutting demo and a fish-feeding pond. However, you’re charged extra fees for participating in things like the Pineapple Garden Maze, the Pineapple Express Train Tour and the Plantation Garden Tour. Free tours are a great way to experience part of an attraction if you just want a taste, or if you’re looking to see if you like it enough first before paying for the extras.

You’re not going to get anything too fancy with a free tour, but if you play your cards right, you can see Hawaii on a lean budget this way. Some great free tours can be had at the following locations:

• Botanical Gardens
• Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail
• USS Arizona Memorial Tour at Pearl Harbor
• Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve
• Honolulu Museum of Art (certain days of the week)
• Puu o Mahuka

Paid Tours

When you pay for a tour, you’re usually getting something with a bit more meat to it. You get access to a trained tour guide who knows the attraction inside and out, and who offers personalized attention and interesting tidbits about the location in question. You can see sights you wouldn’t normally see on a free tour. There are submarine tours, for example, that explore the beautiful underwater reefs of Hawaii for a price. Another example of a paid tour that’s well worth the cost is Pearl Harbor. Yes, the USS Arizona Memorial is free, but there are three paid attractions here: the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

There are many paid tours on Oahu, including:

• Glider rides
• Helicopter rides
• Food tours
• Honolulu Zoo
• Waikiki Aquarium
• Eco-adventure tours
• Horseback riding tours
• Polynesian Cultural Center

Paid tours give you a certain advantage over free tours because they often come with perks, such as free lunch included or souvenir photos. You also get the back story to the attraction you’re visiting with a professional behind the wheel — something you may miss out on with a quick free tour.

Booking a tour is easy with Hoku Hawaii Tours. Call now to reserve your spot!