Travel insights from Jenna Buege, contributing editor of The Compass

Your Monthly Guide to Hawaiian Events and Traditions

There’s always something happening in beautiful Hawaii. To help you find the perfect experience, here’s our guide to popular events and traditions throughout the year.

February

  • Chinese New Year – Honolulu starts the year off strong with their annual Chinese New Year celebration held at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza. The color red is associated with the holiday and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the coming year. Honolulu celebrates the occasion with a bumpin’ block party and a colorful parade. The event also features no shortage of live entertainment, food, games, cultural demonstrations and fireworks.

March

  • Honolulu Festival – A cultural experience not to be missed, Honolulu Festival is a three-day event that celebrates the relationship between the Pacific Rim region and Hawaii. The festival showcases a colorful blend of Asia, Pacific and Hawaiian cultures in an attempt to promote mutual understanding and ethnic harmony. Event attendees can look forward to vibrant dance performances, art demonstrations, local craft vendors and the annual Grand Parade.

April

  • Merrie Monarch Festival – Also referred to as Hawaii’s “hula’s Olympics,” this annual event in the town of Hilo is seriously suspenseful. Spectators watch in awe as solo, women’s and men’s competitors face off for the prestigious titles of Miss Aloha, Kahiko and Auana. In addition to many amazing hula numbers, visitors can also browse the Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts Fair for local art, crafts and entertainment. The Arts Fair also features numerous cultural demonstrations and workshops like Lauhala weaving, Kapa making and Pahu drumming.
  • Waikiki Spam Jam – Here’s a lesser-known bit of trivia for you: Hawaiians love Spam; they just can’t seem to get enough of that canned meat. The Waikiki Spam Jam is a day entirely dedicated to celebrating this beloved comfort food where Kalakaua Avenue is shut down and transformed into a public block party. Travelers can taste tasty Spam-filled dishes crafted by notable local restaurants and make a purchase from the Spam-themed gift shop to forever commemorate their experience.

May

  • May 1, Lei Day – In Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day. No matter which day of the week May 1 falls, a bustling Lei Day celebration occurs each year at Waikiki’s Queen Kapi’olani Park. The event is jam-packed with fun featuring live music, hula performances, a lei contest, local crafts and of course, plenty of scrumptious food. Each year the Lei Queen oversees the festivities as she prepares to pass on her crown to whoever crafts the best lei, has the most hypnotic hula skills and can fluently speak the Hawaiian tongue.

June

  • King Kamehameha Day – Each June, Hawaii celebrates King Kamehameha Day, a state holiday in honor of Hawaii’s first supreme ruler, King Kamehameha I. Event goers partake in the symbolic draping of lei where hundreds of handmade flower lei are strung like ropes upon the King Kamehameha Statue in downtown Honolulu. Another event highlight is the annual King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade, a colorful display of ancient Hawaiian culture. This display of old Hawaiian pageantry starts at Iolani Palace and weaves through the city until arriving at its final destination, Queen Kap’iolani Park in Waikiki.

July

  • Ukulele Festival – Calling all music lovers, there’s no better place to experience the joys of the instrument most associated with Hawaii’s laid-back lifestyle than Waikiki’s Annual Ukulele Festival. Each July, thousands of attendees gather to enjoy live entertainment from Hawaiian ukulele masters and featured articles from around the world. The most anticipated segment of the event is a performance from the ‘ukulele orchestra a group consisting of over 800 local students.

November

  • Vans Triple Crown – First organized in 1983, the Vans Triple Crown is the most celebrated surfing event in the world. The competition takes place at various venues throughout Oahu’s North Shore and consists of three main events: the Hawaiian Pro, Vans World Cup of Surfing and Billabong Pipe Masters.

December

  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance – The Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, resulting in the death of 2,403 Americans and wounding 1,178 more. Each year, the U.S. state of Hawaii observes the attack with commemorative ceremonies throughout the Hawaiian Island chain. Those interested in viewing the ceremonies but unable to attend the event can tune in via livestream at pearlharborevents.com.

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