How to do Hawaiian Culture on a Shoestring Budget (Re: Cheap)

Budget vacation

Okay, you’re visiting Oahu and you’ve heard all about the customary Hawaiian activities – the snorkeling, hiking, Luaus and eating shave ice. But, you are not the run-of-the-mill tourist: you are a unique individual, a sophisticated connoisseur of culture, a person in search of memorable and meaningful cultural experiences.

And, you’re tight on funds. 

You’re in luck, because there are an abundance of fun cultural activities and experiences to be found on the island that’ll leave a few clams you can use to take home a t-shirt.

1. Check a Flick

Hawaii Filmakers Collective
Why spend nearly $50 or more to see a first-run movie at a movie theater when you can enjoy an independent film for free or for less than $10?

At a regular cinema, by the time you buy tickets ($9.50 to $13.50), a few bags of popcorn and soft drinks for you and your partner, your budget is demolished and your wallet is running on fumes.

Then, to top it off, if the movie sucks, your seething anger at the critics who said it was a, “must see,” results in a fight with your partner.  We all know how that ends- you sleep on the couch.

Support Indie Film in Honolulu, part of the Hawaii Filmmakers Collective, has monthly screenings of independent films, with each screening being followed by a thought-provoking discussion about the movie.

Sometimes, the director shows up to talk about their work and answer questions. When’s the last time you got to ask Quentin Tarantino questions about his latest movie?

Admission is free (they do take donations). They even provide yummy snacks.

Usually, there is a social or cultural themed film presented, which in the past has included topics like transracial adoption, issues involving veterans and the harshness of life in Africa for children.  Or, the collective might be focused on presenting films by female filmmakers.  Check out. For information about general screenings and other activities, click here

2. Don’t get hammered, get slammed!

You can definitely get hammered on Oahu and you get slammed too!

HawaiiSlam’s First Thursdays is the largest registered poetry slam in the world.  It’s common for 500 people to show up.

Sign up for an “open mic night” and use the art of poetry to spew your opinions about social issues, politics, your ex-spouse or employer.  And, unlike your relatives and friends who may walk out on you, audience members (many who are fellow poets) will sit and listen.

Take this opportunity to shock the audience by publicly exposing your deepest, darkest secrets through prose. Afterwards, your spouse may divorce you, you may be arrested, your family may have you committed, but it’s all worth it just to get it off your chest. What a relief!

Then again, you can always just sit back, have a beer and enjoy the eclectic roster of poets who come from all over Hawaii and beyond. Admission is $3 before 8:30pm, $5 afterwards.

3. Get your art on at ARTafterDARK

Honolulu Museum of Art

Get your art fix on Oahu at the Honolulu Museum of Art on the last Friday evening of each month.

Enjoy the added bonus of live entertainment, food and the opportunity to wear outrageously loud and hip clothing to match the often cultural theme of the evening.

Stroll into the party packed with stylish folks who stand shoulder to shoulder, cocktails in hand. In the past, a Chinese cultural theme included a DJ with purple, spiked hair playing Chinese electro beats in one room, while in the courtyard. a Chinese martial arts group dazzled with a lively demonstration.

Finally, imagine a dragon and lion dance group electrifying the crowd with a colorful performance. And, of course, there is a variety of impressive art adorning the walls. Your friends back home would be impressed. Make sure to take lots of selfies!

There’s also plenty of cuisine and drink to tantalize the taste buds and quench the thirst, provided by StreetGrindz and EAT Honolulu. Beverages are provided by Free Spirits Mobile Bartenders.

Admission is $25, the same cost for a one year membership to the museum, and members enter free.  So, just cough up the $25 and you’re all set to come back whenever you want for free.

People watch, admire the creative hipster dress of some folks or snicker at the outlandish, tastelessness and what-were-they-thinking duds worn by others.

Surreptitiously take out your camera phone and snap their photos, too, then immediately post to your social media, with the photos accompanied by your, “trash the outfit” comments.

As Austin Powers would say, “Oh Behave!”

Oh, and while on the subject of art gallery etiquette, here are some tips: Don’t take your kids out for ice cream and then to an art gallery where they run loose and then do the unthinkable – touch the art – smearing chocolate chip all over an expensive piece.

Furthermore, get off your damn cell phone; turn it off or throw in the trash before entering the gallery.  People do not want to hear you jabbering while they are contemplating a piece of art! To them you sound like a high-speed dentist drill.

Finally, keep your finger on your chin most of the time.  As you stare intently at an art piece, make sure to remain silent, lips pursed and periodically mumble to your friend or to yourself as if you’ve been struck by some grand epiphany.

4. Fun, Hawaiian activities for the sedate or heavily sedated

Hawaii Symphony Orchestra

These activities are ideal for the seriously cultured, for people recovering from a nervous breakdown or hospital outpatients who are heavily medicated.

Give the symphony a try. Although you can dress down – with shorts, slippers and your favorite aloha shirt – you need to be on your best behavior. There are definitely clear lines of etiquette that are drawn here. Don’t cross them, or you will be given the collective stink eye from the audience.

Don’t talk during a performance or clap or make noise between movements and musical selections. Wait until the conductor turns to the audience before you start breathing again.

Clap politely and with a well-controlled sense of rhythm. No shouting, foot-stomping, whistling or testifying – this isn’t a Baptist church service. Make sure when discussing the concert at intermission and afterwards, to use words like “exquisite,” “innovative” and “provocative.”

Show up sober, because there’s nothing worse than someone sleeping, snoring and/or drooling during a concert.

5. Free Hula Everywhere You Go

For the frugal, broke or downright cheap visitor, there are plenty of live, cultural performances found at malls, parks and even outside office buildings. Just about every night, there are Hula performances and music by local musicians all over Oahu.

Warning! Please don’t embarrass yourself by leaping on stage with the Hula dancers if you have no sense of rhythm, are clumsy, are intoxicated or if the hula dancers haven’t pointed at you and invited you up. This could result in an unexpected visit to the E. R.

Hawaii can be pricey, but if you search hard enough you will find plenty of fun Hawaiian activities and cultural experiences that barely put a dent in your budget!