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Originally published Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 2:58 PM

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Fun and free Waikiki

Waikiki is one of Hawaii's busiest tourist areas, with luxury hotels edging miles of white-sand beach on the outskirts of Honolulu. But it's easy to find low-cost or free fun around Waikiki.

Seattle Times travel staff

Waikiki is one of Hawaii's busiest tourist areas, with luxury hotels edging miles of white-sand beach on the edge of downtown Honolulu. But it's easy to find low-cost or free fun around Waikiki. Among the options:

Hula shows on the beach. Lots of Hawaiian hotels stage luaus that include hula, and you can pay a lot to see them. Or you can enjoy the free, authentic Hawaiian music and hula shows by some of Hawaii's finest dance troupes and performers Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays (weather permitting) at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound, near the Duke Kahanamoku statue, beachside at Uluniu and Kalakaua avenues in Waikiki. Opens with traditional blowing of a conch shell. It's 6:30-7:30 p.m. most of the year, or 6-7 p.m. November through January. Seating on the grass; beach chairs, mats, etc., OK and cameras are welcome. For information, call 808-843-8002.

Music and movies on the beach. "Sunset on the Beach" is a series of free movie nights, usually a couple nights a month, with a large screen set up on Queen's Beach in Waikiki. Live musical performances precede the 7 p.m. movies, and dinner is available from local food wagons. Check the schedule at www.sunsetonthebeach.net.

Band concerts at the palace. The Royal Hawaiian Band, founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III and claiming today to be the only full-time municipal band in the United States, gives free concerts at noon most Fridays on the lawn in front of 'Iolani Palace, the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom's last two monarchs — King Kalakaua, who built the palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Lili'uokalani. It's a short bus ride from Waikiki. More information: www.honolulu.gov/rhb.

Tropical farmers market. Even if you don't spend a penny on fresh produce, flowers or breakfast from local vendors, the Saturday farmers market in the parking lot at Kapi'olani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road, is worth a wander to take in the sights, smells and spectacle. Instead of salmon and local apples like you'd find in Seattle, expect local papaya, fragrant white ginger flowers and apple bananas. Every Saturday, 7:30 to 11 a.m. Get there a half-hour before opening time, everyone else does. See www.hfbf.org/farmersMarket.shtml.

A jungle hike. Hike to Manoa Falls, starting from a trailhead within a 20-minute drive of Waikiki, for a great (though muddy) introduction to wild Hawaiian forest — go ahead, call it jungle — complete with hanging vines and philodendron leaves the size of elephant ears. Two miles round trip.

If you don't mind the $5 suggested donation, and you're a fan of long, quiet trails lined with exotic flowers that make the place like an open-air perfume factory, a wander around nearby Lyon Arboretum is well worth your time, too. See www.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum.

A free art museum. The Hawai'i State Art Museum, 250 S. Hotel St., across from 'Iolani Palace, presents a large collection of work by Hawaii artists. See http://hawaii.gov/sfca.

Hula and ukulele lessons. Royal Hawaiian Center, 2201 Kalakaua Ave., one of Waikiki's main malls, offers free cultural enrichment alongside shopping at Cartier, Hermes and Ferragamo. See www.royalhawaiiancenter.com/hawaiian-heritage/cultural-classes for details.

Friday fireworks. Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road, puts on a fireworks show every Friday night at 7:45. A poolside seat for the Rockin' Hawaiian Rainbow Revue, just before the show, is $15. But you can see the fireworks for free from the beach or most anywhere around Waikiki. Details: www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com.

Brian J. Cantwell: 206-748-5724 or bcantwell@seattletimes.com

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