One of the state’s most popular cultural events, the Honolulu Festival promotes harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim. The festival is sponsored by its own non-profit foundation, which has been putting on the free yearly event since 1995, featuring dance performances and traditional art demonstrations from the region of countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Residents and visitors spend the entire weekend (usually in early March) celebrating the festival. The end of the event is marked by a large parade down busy Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki and a spectacular fireworks show over the ocean.
Throughout the major island chain, Prince Kuhio Day is held every 26th of March to help celebrate Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, an heir to the throne of his cousin Queen Liliuokalani and Hawaii’s first delegate to the U.S. Congress. Prince Kuhio was born on Kauai in 1871, and studied on the mainland and England before becoming one of Hawaii’s most well-known political leaders. The week-long festival features all kinds of events all over the state, most notable a royal ball on Kauai and a grand parade on Oahu.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a lover of hula dancing who has not heard of the famous Merrie Monarch Festival. Held on the Island of Hawaii during the week during Easter, this celebration of one of Hawaii’s most important traditions has been going on since 1963. The festival spans about a week in length, culminating with one of the world’s most prestigious hula competitions and the award for Miss Aloha Hula. Held in Hilo’s Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium on the east side of the island, the competition also honors the legacy of King David Kalākaua, the Hawaiian monarch who was passionate about preserving traditions of the native Hawaiian people.
The first day of May is Lei Day in Hawaii. The statewide event celebrates the aloha Hawaiian spirit and the symbolic flower lei. Each Hawaiian island has its own type of lei, meaning that you will get to experience a little bit of that island’s own unique culture if traveling to Hawaii during that time. Each island also has its own way of celebrating the event, with lei-making competitions, live music, cultural demonstrations, and the naming of the Lei Queen chosen based on lei making, hula dancing, and Hawaiian language skills. The biggest event is held on Oahu on the beach in front of the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, featuring live Hawaiian music, canoe rides, and games.
Every Memorial Day at Ala Moana Beach Park, the island comes together to remember lost loved ones with a lantern floating ceremony off the beach. The event on Oahu attracts an estimated 50,000 people who come to pay their respects and view the beautiful sight of 7,000 individual lanterns floating on the water. Additionally, the festival includes Hawaiian and Japanese cultural demonstrations and is live streamed around the world.
King Kamehameha Day, established in 1871 to honor King Kamehameha I, is celebrated all over the state each June 11. The war chief was born on the Big Island of Hawaii, and is known for uniting the Hawaiian islands under one ruler in 1795. For this reason, Hawaii Island holds the most events on this day, especially in the Kohala region where Kamehameha was born, with symbolic lei draping over the legendary Kamehemaha statues as well as parades and festivals on all corners of the island. Oahu also holds well-populated celebrations such as the annual Floral Parade through Kapiolani Park.
The Kapalua Wine and Food Festival is the longest-running food and drink festival in the state of Hawaii. Usually held in June, the four-day culinary celebration attracts some of the most talented chefs and master sommeliers in the world for a series of evening events, cooking demonstrations, wine-tasting seminars, and world-class winemaker dinners. Kicking off in the beautiful northwestern coastal region of Maui and featuring samples of the state’s most prominent wines and food, it's no surprise that the event sells out nearly every year. The event cuts off ticket sales at about 3,500 guests in order to maintain a certain level of intimacy and quality.
The Maui Film Festival in Wailea is a completely one-of-a-kind experience for film-lovers. Held under the stars at the ocean’s edge in an open-air setting, there’s truly no other place like Maui for celebrating the art of filmmaking. Each summer, the festival attracts top actors and directors as honorees, the past including names such as Paul Rudd, Colin Farrell, Laura Dern, Woody Harrelson, and Jessica Biel.
This free, week-long event is held in Koloa and Poipu on the island of Kauai every July. The family-friendly celebration is held in an important region of the island where Hawaii’s first sugar plantations were founded in 1835. Throughout the week, events and activities are put on to showcase the area’s natural history as well as the history and cultural traditions of those who came to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations.
Perhaps the best place in the state to buy Hawaiian souvenirs, food, and gifts under one roof, Oahu’s Made in Hawaii Festival is held every August on Statehood Day Weekend inside the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena in Honolulu. As the name suggests, the festival celebrates the arts, crafts, food, music, and everything else “made in Hawaii.” Each year, you’ll find about 400 exhibitors showcasing their unique products, cooking demonstrations by that year’s Hale Aina Award winning chefs, and Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners playing their music.
The Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival was originally co-founded by two of the state’s favorite James Beard Award-winning chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. The two-week-long festival features over 150 internationally-recognized culinary professionals, celebrity chefs, and wine producers. The main mission of this October event is to recognize and celebrate Hawaii’s rich culinary history and relationship between the land and food. Demonstrations, dining events, and wine tastings help highlight the special bounty of the islands from produce to protein.
Since 1981, athletes have made the journey to the volcanic landscape of Kailua-Kona to participate in the Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship. Competitors, typically about 1,500 of them, have 17 hours to complete the race including a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race, and 26.2-mile run. The ultimate test of mind and body, the event is usually held in October.
Each November since 1970, the Big Island of Hawaii hosts a two-week celebration of one of the region’s most precious resources: coffee. Specifically, the unique and award-winning style of coffee from Kona. As the only coffee festival held in the United States, over 30 separate community events take place over the course of the festival including Hawaiian music, dance expositions, cultural exchanges, food events, and coffee tastings.
One of Honolulu’s most cherished traditions happens during each holiday season in the city’s downtown. The Honolulu City Lights festival features opening night festivities with the lighting of a 50-foot Christmas tree, wreath exhibits, a parade, and live entertainment. The huge holiday displays, including a statue lovingly referred to as “shaka Santa,” remain up for the entire month of December.
The Honolulu Marathon is the fourth largest marathon in the United States. The epic run through paradise takes place in December, starting at 5 a.m. at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Queen Street. The route takes runners through downtown, Diamond Head, and Hawaii Kai, ending at Kapiolani park near the beach. The Honolulu Marathon is a great race for all kinds of runners, as there is no time limit and no limit to the number of participants.