Ten of the best Hawaii events | Go Hawaii

Ten of the best Hawaiʻi events

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Hawaiʻi sure knows how to put on a show with an impressive list of celebrations taking place across the Hawaiian Islands year-round. Visitors have the opportunity to enrich their Hawaiʻi holiday and gain valuable insight into the destination, its people and local life by attending one of the many festivals and events on offer.

1. Aloha Festivals, statewide in September

The Aloha Festivals are a month-long celebration of Hawaiian culture with special events held state-wide to honour Hawaiʻi’s people, history and customs. Visitors to Oʻahu have a unique opportunity to witness the re-enactment of the Hawaiian Royal Court procession during the Opening Ceremony and to enjoy Waikīkī Hoolauelea, a huge block party featuring Hawaiian music, entertainment, arts and crafts and island cuisine. The festivities culminate with a Floral Parade along Kalākaua Avenue featuring pau (long-skirted) horse riders, colorful floats decorated with Hawaiian flowers, hula performances and marching bands.

2. King Kamehameha Festival, statewide in June

Hawaiʻi locals come together for the King Kamehameha Festival to pay homage to King Kamehameha I, a beloved monarch who unified all of the islands to form the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. The parade begins at ʻIolani Palace, the former residence of Hawaiʻi’s Kings and Queens, and ends at Kapiʻolani Park at the foot of Lēʻahi Head. Thousands of spectators line the parade route to catch a glimpse of the extravagant Hawaiian affair featuring pau (long-skirted) horse riders, ornate floats, decorated vehicles, marching bands, and more.

3. Honolulu Festival, Oʻahu in March

Honolulu Festival is a three-day extravaganza aimed at showcasing the lively Asian, Pacific and Hawaiian cultures through music, dance, arts, crafts, special exhibits and presentations. The entertainment line-up is provided by groups from Japan, Australia, Tahiti, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Hawaiʻi, and more. The festival comes to a close with a Grand Parade down Kalākaua Avenue, where spectators line the street to enjoy a raft of multi-culturally diverse songs, dances and traditional performances, and ends with an incredible Nagaoka Fireworks display.

4. Duke's Oceanfest, Oʻahu in August

An invitation is extended each year for locals and visitors to attend Duke’s OceanFest to participate (or spectate) in ocean sports on Waikīkī Beach in honour of Native Hawaiian surf legend and Olympic champion swimmer Duke Kahanamoku. This series of watersport events encompasses surfing, tandem-surfing, paddleboard racing, swimming, water polo, beach volleyball, and more. Don’t miss the sunrise lei draping ceremony on the Duke Kahanamoku Statue or the Hawaiian Legends Lūʻau.

5. Kōloa Plantation Days, Kauaʻi in July

The purpose of Kōloa Plantation Days is to highlight Hawaiʻi’s natural and social history, and to celebrate the diverse cultural traditions of many ethnic groups that immigrated to Hawaiʻi to work on the sugar cane plantations. The program unfolds at different Poʻipū and Kōloa resorts on the south shore of Kauaʻi and comprises of talk stories, keiki (kids) activities, live music and cultural performances, film nights, craft fairs, culinary events, outdoor sports, a parade, and even a rodeo.

6. Made in Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu in August

Attracting 400 local businesses and over 45,000 attendees, Made in Hawaiʻi Festival is the state’s largest exhibition of Hawaiʻi made products. The latest and greatest from across the Hawaiian Islands is on sale under one roof. Patrons will find everything from homegrown food and beverages, handmade arts and crafts and incredible photography, to unique homewares, custom apparel and bespoke jewelry and accessories. Local award-winning entertainers and Hawaiʻi chefs also feature in the exhibition line-up.

7. Hawaiʻi International Film Festival, Oʻahu, Island of Hawaiʻi and Kauaʻi in November

Created with an intention to “entertain, enlighten and inspire” the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival has become a leading cultural event in the State of Hawaiʻi. Over 150 cinematic works from around the world screen over a two week period including acclaimed films from the Sundance, Cannes and Toronto film festivals. A significant portion of the program is dedicated to Asia-Pacific Rim features, documentaries and short films.

8. Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival, Oʻahu, Maui and Island of Hawaiʻi, October - November

Internationally-renowned master chefs, winemakers, sommeliers and mixologists come together to showcase their epicurean talents and Hawaiʻi’s local ingredients at the Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival. It’s Hawaiʻi’s most prominent foodie affair spanning three weeks. A schedule of festivals and events offer one-of-a-kind experiences from elaborate tasting menus and multiple-course dinner, hukilau beach cookouts and farm excursions to food battles, wine seminars and cooking demonstrations.

9. Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Island of Hawaiʻi in November

The local community of Kona spends ten days annually celebrating its cultural heritage and world-famous coffee beans at the Kona Cultural Cultural Festival. Visitors are invited to sample award-winning brews, tour historic coffee farms, partake in hands-on Hawaiian cultural activities, view coffee art exhibitions, watch the Lantern Parade and party at the finale event, the Hoʻolauleʻa, a lively street festival in Kailua-Kona.

10. Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Oʻahu in November and December

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is a three-part series of professional surfing events held on Oʻahu’s North shore at the beginning of Hawaiʻi’s winter. The first competition, Hawaiian Pro, takes place on a precarious reef at Aliʻi Beach Park in Haleʻiwa. The second stop, Vans World Cup, is set in the deep waters off Sunset Beach. The third and final event, Billabong Pipe Masters, unfolds across the big waves at Banzai Pipeline.
Ashlee Galea is an Aussie living in Hawaiʻi who enjoys sharing Hawaiʻi insider knowledge and travel advice on her blog The Hawaiʻi Admirer.