Guide to Christmas on Oahu: Celebrations, Parades and Events

Shaka Santa and Mrs. Claus Honolulu
RobertCravens / Getty Images

Christmas celebrated in a very unique way in Hawaii. While much of the country dreams of a white Christmas with Santa bringing presents on his sleigh on Christmas Eve, in Hawaii, Santa often arrives on a surfboard or outrigger canoe, and unless you're at the summit of Mauna Kea, you won't see snow or any cold weather.

And, Hawaii has another important event in December: remembering the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. This list highlights seasonal events in December on Oahu and the Hawaiian Islands for 2018.


  • 01 of 13
    Christmas Tree in Honolulu

     Kent Nishimura

    Every year, Honolulu has a month-long Christmas lights display at Honolulu Hale (the city hall). Opening night is Dec. 1, 2018, and the lights stay on until Jan. 1, 2019.

    Each year on opening night, the mayor of Honolulu flips the switch on the lights and the city Christmas tree, followed by the annual parade of festooned vehicles and school bands on River Street that continues through downtown. Special events continue at Honolulu City Lights throughout December.

    For 2018, events include a huge block party on opening night, movie night on December 15, free milk and cookies on December 22, food trucks, and an annual wreath contest.

  • 02 of 13

    Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade

    Lighted Cobra and Huey helicopters, floats, and bands parade down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki on Dec. 7 each year to honor the fallen at the attack on Pearl Harbor, the survivors, and all veterans. The parade route goes from Fort DeRussy in Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue to Kapiolani Park. Parade-goers will enjoy more than 2,000 people marching along with 10 bands.

    The opening ceremony takes place at 4:30 p.m. at Fort DeRussy Park followed by the parade starting at 6:00 p.m. The closing ceremony takes place at the Waikiki Shell at about 7:30 p.m.

  • 03 of 13
    The Nutcrakcer performed by Ballet Hawaii

    Ballet Hawaii 

    Ballet Hawaii puts on an annual December performance of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker." And, as expected, they have a twist to the presentation. The ballet is set in the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1858, but still tells the story of this classic Christmas story. You'll see Hawaiian flowers and birds and Hawaii’s Queen Lili’uokalani. Performances are at Blaisdell Concert Hall. 2018 dates are December 14 - 16, 2018. 

  • 04 of 13

    Noland Ugalde 

    Make-a-Wish Hawaii sponsors this walk and run event through Honolulu City Lights in downtown Honolulu annually. But don't come in running clothes—this run isn't timed, so you can wear some holiday finery and bring pets and strollers if you'd like.  Show up at the Hawaii State Capitol building at 3 p.m. for early events. Children can take advantage of the Keiki Sprint and kid-friendly activities. There will be food trucks and more to do while you wait for the walk to start. 

    The walk and run start at 6 p.m., entrance fees are $35 per person, and all funds go to Make-a-Wish. The 2018 date is December 16.

    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13

     Festival of Light Boat Parade

    For a totally Hawaii-inspired event (water, boats, and the hula), check out the Festival of Lights Boat Parade. Boats decorated for the season with bright lights will cruise by the marina at Hawaii Kai Towne Center on Oahu in this annual event. And there's live entertainment, too: The U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific will perform, and that will be followed by an authentic hula performance.

    The 2018 date is December 15 and festivities start at 3 p.m.

  • 06 of 13

    Hugh Gentry/Courtesy Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

    Santa knows that he can't land in Hawaii in his sleigh, so he goes to Plan B: He shows up at the beach in a canoe. Each year, he lands at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort in Honolulu in early December. He'll be happy to let you take his picture in the lobby of the resort after he arrives.

    The 2018 date is December 8 and Santa arrives at about 9 a.m. on the beach.

  • 07 of 13

     WiseTim (CC BY 2.0)/Flickr

    During the Chinatown Winter Walk, enjoy the holiday window displays.  Over 40 merchants decorate the shop windows during December. Look for walking maps in the area covering a nine-block radius in Oahu's downtown Chinatown. 

    If you want to delve more deeply into the culture and history of Chinatown, you can take a self-guided tour with a map showing historic points of interest. 


  • 08 of 13

     Tina Mahina

    Head over to the Neal Blaisdell Expo Hall for the Mele Kalikimaka Marketplace. Shop over 100 vendor booths for Hawaiian crafts, food, jewelry, clothing, and gift items. There will be a gingerbread workshop and a chance for kids to meet Santa and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. It will be a fun time with live entertainment and lots of arts and crafts workshops. 

    2018 dates are: Saturday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13

    The Polynesian Cultural Center will be decorated for Christmas and have activities for the whole family. There will be a special Christmas canoe ride, holiday train rides, and a scavenger hunt.

    You'll enjoy the Winter Wonderland snow play event at the Hukilau Marketplace scheduled each December. 

    2018 dates will be available on the Polynesian Cultural Center website.  

  • 10 of 13

    Island Music and Hula

    At the Waikiki Beach Walk at about sunset, you can watch a one-hour hula show. While you are at the shopping center, stop into the Waikiki Christmas Store for a special ornament or decoration to take home.

    2018 dates are December 19 - 25.

  • 11 of 13

    Hawaii Symphony Orchestra

    The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra presents a Holiday Pops concert at the Hawaii Theater, a historic 1922 theatre in downtown Honolulu. You'll enjoy holiday favorites and classics with local Hawaiian flair. 

    The 2018 date is December 12 at 7:30 p.m.

  • 12 of 13

    The huge shopping center, Ala Moana, offers weeks of holiday fun along with shopping. You can get a limited edition Santa blanket with a purchase if you time things right. There are photo ops with Santa for the kids, the dog, and the kids and grandparents. 

    There's a PJ Day, an Ugly Sweater Day and a Grandparents Day. And, on selected Sundays, a free holiday hula show. 

    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13

    It's an Oahu tradition to celebrate the New Year with a performance of "Ode to Joy," by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and the Oahu Choral Society. The event takes place at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. 2018 dates are December 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m.