Best Holidays to Experience in Hawaii

While Hawaii shares the same federal holidays as the rest of the United States, it celebrates them with unique island traditions, and also has a roster of state and local holidays that visitors will want to experience, too. Here are the highlights of unique customs and official observances in chronological order. 

*We only included dates that we could confirm. Please check the organizer’s site for updates.

Featured Photo: Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Canoe Races, courtesy of Charla Photography

January

All Islands

New Years — The large Japanese American community in Hawaii maintains their ancestors’ traditions of marking the new year with by pounding rice into mochi, eating sashimi-grade raw ahi (tuna), and making ozoni soup. Everyone goes crazy for fireworks, sold in local drugstores and seemingly set off at will in local neighborhoods on New Year’s Eve well before and after midnight. In Honolulu, watch the amazing official shows of pyrotechnics at Hilton Hawaiian Village (over the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon), Ko Olina (at coves 1 and 2), and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. On Kauai, head to Poipu Beach for a free family-friendly movie followed by a fireworks show.

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Photo: Courtesy of Waikiki Sony Open

Oahu (Waikiki)

Want to start your year with some golf? The Sony Open, the largest charity golf event in Hawaii, is a hole in one.

Oahu (North Shore)

See some of the island’s top watermen in the Da Hui Backdoor Shoot. In memory of Duke, four-man-teams compete in a variety of sports including bodyboarding, shortboard surfing, longboarding and more.

February

Kauai (Waimea)

For a lively experience on Kauai’s South Shore, make sure to spend a day at the Waimea Town Celebration. This nine-day festival features live music, cocktails & cuisine, competitions, contests and more. The Kauai Paniolo Showdown Rodeo is not to miss!

March

Kona Brewers Festival_Hawaii Holidays_March_800x450
Photo: Courtesy of Kona Brewers Festival

Oahu (Waikiki)

If you’re looking for a day full of parades, crafts, and educational exhibitions, make sure to stop by The Honolulu Festival supporting the Koa Tree Planting Project.

Big Island (Kona)

One of Kailua-Kona’s premier events, Kona Brewers Festival, promotes the craft brewing revolution in Hawaii.

April

Waikiki Spam Jam Festival_Hawaii Holidays_April_800x450
Photo: Courtesy of SPAM Jam Festival

Oahu (Waikiki)

April 14 — The Hapalua Hawaii’s Half Marathon, put on by Outrigger Resorts, is a fun run that travels from Waikiki to downtown Honolulu and back, loops around Diamond Head and ends at Kapiolani Park.

April 23 — You won’t see anything like the Waikiki SPAM Jam Festival, on the mainland! The street festival celebrates Hawaii’s unusually large consumption of SPAM with a variety of booths and restaurants. The celebration also includes free entertainment and all of the proceeds benefit the Hawaiian Foodbank.

Oahu (Ko Olina)

Trade your bathing suit for a superhero fit and enjoy a family-friendly afternoon at the Annual Ko Olina Children’s Festival. The festival includes activities, movies, performances and more. All revenue from ticket sales go to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.

Maui (West Side)

Known as one of the best cultural events in Hawaii, the Celebration of the Arts Festival honors a variety of mediums of Hawaiian art. 

April 24 — Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Maui Marathon on a course that takes you along West Maui’s best beaches during the official Whale Season in 2022. Maui Marathon weekend returns to Kaanapali Resort with the Full Marathon, Relay Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K.

Maui (Hana)

The Annual East Maui Taro Festival celebrates and honors the Taro, a staple of Hawaiian diet, by educating locals and tourists during a festive one-day cultural event. Activities center around the Taro and food booths feature Taro as part of the meal. The festival also includes Hula, music, crafts and more.

May

All Islands

May Day (May 1) — As the official anthem to an unofficial (but widely celebrated) holiday, the song “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii,” explains why you’ll see a profusion of leis and related festivities on and around May 1 in the islands. Read more here.

Memorial Day (last Monday in May)  — Oahu has two special celebrations on this federal holiday. In the morning, the public is invited to the Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the scenic National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (widely known as Punchbowl). Begun in 1949, the ceremony now includes wreath-laying, a flyover, music, speeches and a military salute. At twilight, Lantern Floating Hawaii draws some 50,000 people to Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park for a short Buddhist-led ceremony of songs of peace, hula, and multi-denominational prayer, followed by the release of 7,000 paper lanterns into the ocean at sunset (they’re retrieved later). Go during the day to write the name of a loved one on one of the lanterns.

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Photo: Courtesy of Lantern Floating Hawaii

Maui (Kaanapali)

The Maui Onion Festival is dedicated to cultivation and promotion of the Maui Onions’ unique — said to be the sweetest in the world — flavor yearly. The festival includes chef demonstrations, competitions and entertainment of various kinds.

June

All Islands

Obon season (June through August) — Almost every weekend throughout summer, a different Japanese Buddhist temple welcomes back spirits of ancestors with an evening of taiko drumming and dances in which the public can join in. Don’t care to dance? Enjoy pancake-battered hot dogs, saimin, and other island-style goodies in a festival-like setting. Local newspapers start listing the schedule in late May.

June 11, King Kamehameha Day — Another islandwide official holiday, in this case honoring the memory of the unifier of all the islands, reigning from 1810 to 1819. The date of parades and other celebrations may move to the nearest weekend. In Honolulu, don’t miss the massive Floral Parade with lei-adorned horses and riders in long skirts that starts near Iolani Palace downtown and ends in Waikiki at Kapiolani Park. Smaller but still colorful parades take place in Kamehameha’s birthplace of North Kohala, plus Kailua-Kona and Hilo on the Big Island; Lahaina, Maui; Lihue, Kauaʻi; and Kaunakakai, Molokai. Yards-long leis are alsodraped on the iconic statues of him in his hometown of Kapaau (North Kohala) and in Hilo’s Wailoa Park, and in front of Aliiolani Hale (across from Iolani Palace) in Honolulu.

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Photo: Courtesy of Pan-Pacific Festival

Oahu (Waikiki)

While the tranquil ocean water may be calling your name, don’t forget to dive into traditional Hawaiian culture too. The three-day Pan-Pacific Festival (full of arts, crafts, foods, and performances) is a great place to start.

Oahu (Ko Olina)

There’s no better place to learn about the ocean than at the World Oceans Day Celebration around Ko Olina Lagoon #4. Spend your afternoon participating in sustainability activities, exploring food booths and then watching a movie as the sun goes down.

Big Island

The annual King Kamehameha Day Community route travels along popular Alii Drive right in front of the hotel. This special celebration includes a Hoolaulea featuring Hawaiian Arts & Crafts Fair, Cultural Exhibits and Live Entertainment.

Maui (Kapalua)

Kapalua Wine and Food Festival is calling your name. Known as the most prestigious culinary festival in the state of Hawaii, the four-day program includes cooking demonstrations, wine and food pairings, golf, tennis, a wine tour, evening galas and more. Make sure to purchase your ticket early!

Kauai (Hanapepe)

June 17 & 18 — The town of Hanapepe comes alive during the Soto Zen Bon Festival with hundreds of chochin (lanterns) decorating the temple grounds. Expect traditional Japanese song, music, taiko (drumming), games and folk dancing.

July

All Islands

Fourth of July — While some Native Hawaiians would prefer to celebrate Hawaiian independence rather than U.S. independence, once again the local love of fireworks is on full display throughout the islands. The largest show is sponsored by Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center and takes place across the road from the mall at Ala Moana Beach Park. On Maui, Lahaina also puts on a spectacular show from a barge floating off Front Street, while Kekaha on Kauai’s West Side hosts a family festival with fireworks.

Fireworks_Hawaii Holidays_July_credit Serge Van Neck:Unsplash_800x450
Photo: Courtesy of Serge Van Neck/Unsplash

Oahu (Waikiki)

Want to watch authentic Hawaiian Hula? Be sure to make a stop at the annual Prince Lot Hula Festival featuring performances from a variety of hula groups. The annual Ukulele Festival at Kapiolani Park Bandstand, a Waikiki summer tradition, is the largest ukulele festival in the world. The free concert features guest artists and an orchestra of over 800 students.

Oahu (North Shore)

Looking for artistic inspiration? Make sure to stop by the annual Haleiwa Arts Festival showcasing and celebrating visual, performance and cultural arts from nearly 150 local artists.

Oahu (Ko Olina)

Take a break from the beach and head to the Ko Olina West Side Summer Fest. The festival features local fresh-farmed produce, art, music, food trucks and more.

Maui (Kahului)

Maui Arts and Cultural Center Live Events have returned including Chelsea Handler’s Vaccinated and Horny tour, July 3, Chelsea Handler is a comedian, television host, bestselling author and advocate whose humor and candor have established her as one of the most celebrated voices in entertainment and pop culture.

Kauai (Poipu)

The Koala Plantation Days is a historical and cultural celebration unlike any other on the island. In 1835, workers of various ethnicities moved to Hawaii and helped the plantations flourish. The week-long event, held at the location of the first sugar plantations, celebrates Hawaiian history and the immigrants who contributed to Hawaii’s rich culture. 

Kauai (Princeville)

July 22 – 24 — Paniolo Heritage Rodeo starts the 10-Day Festival of Koloa Plantation Days and it’s filled with fast-action, high-stake races in roping, barrel racing and bull riding. The organizers are committed to perpetuating the Hawaiian Paniolo culture by bringing people together and building strong communities through various unique and family friendly events.

Big Island (Kona)

From July to August, the annual “grandfather of all big game fishing tournaments” draws teams from around the world competing for the prestigious Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) Governor’s Trophy, awarded to the team scoring the highest number of billfish points. This international five-day fishing tournament is the second oldest big game sport fishing event in the world. Spend your days aboard charter boats for some fishing fun.

August

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Photo: Courtesy of Duke's Oceanfest

Oahu (Waikiki)

The annual Duke’s Oceanfest honors the legacy of Duke Kahanamoku’s life through a variety of lifestyle sports activities including surfing, paddleboard racing, swimming, beach volleyball, tandem surfing and more. Duke spread his love of surfing by teaching the sport to others around the world. Duke’s Oceanfest, a non-profit organization, provides resources to other organizations with hopes to enrich the lives of Hawaiian youth.

Oahu (North Shore)

There’s no better place to honor and celebrate the ocean than on the beach! The annual North Shore Ocean Fest makes this possible for locals and visitors. Enjoy an afternoon full of ocean education, activities, music, food and more.

Maui (Kaanapali)

Kauluhiwaolele Maui Fiber Arts Conference recognizes the multiple ways we utilize Hawaiian plant material. Hosted at Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel, using leaves, bark, sedges and roots, which are just some of the fibers used to weave, twill, twine and knot into precious creations. Kauluhiwaolele speaks to the esteemed groves from which traditional weavers gather the fibers to fashion our traditional crafts and the increasing practice of these precious arts in Lahaina. 

The conference will consist of four days of intense instruction in these weaving crafts by 20 of our kumu (master practitioners) from throughout Hawaii. 150 students are invited to the opening and closing ceremonies of the conference to learn the associated protocols of gathering and utilizing weaving materials.

September

The Kauai Marathon_Hawaii Holidays_September_credit Jo Evans:Da Kine Images LLC_800x450
Photo: Courtesy of Jo Evans, Da Kine Images LLC

Oahu (Waikiki)

The Annual Waikīkī Ho‘olaule‘a beachfront street festival, hosted by Aloha Festivals, showcases Hawaiian culture through endless cuisine and craft booths. The festival also features music and other forms of entertainment on four stages. The festival ends with the Annual Floral Parade which ceremoniously debuts all aspects of Hawaiian culture in a colorful march throughout Waikiki.

Maui (Hana)

Eager to make your vacation a little more active? Grab a team of six and sign up to run in the 52-mile Hana Relay Marathon. The annual event challenges locals and tourists alike to run and compete for awards. After running through paradise, enjoy live music and food at the finish line.

Kauai (Poipu)

September 4 — The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon courses follow the contour of the scenic Poipu coastline, offering magnificent views of the island’s picturesque beaches, rugged volcanic peaks, and tropical rainforests.

September 7 – 10 — The Poipu Beach Foundation (PBF) will host the Poipu Food & Wine Festival to celebrate Kauai’s diverse culinary resources and talents, while supporting the Culinary Arts Program at Kauai Community College (KCC).

Big Island (Kona)

Get your paddles ready for the World’s second-largest long-distance canoe race. The Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Canoe Races includes a women’s and men’s 18-mile race as well as other unique races. In addition to the competitions themselves, other ceremonies include a torch-light parade, Hawaiian Luau and more.

October

All Islands

Honolulu Pride — The Rainbow State has long been LGBT-friendly. The largest and oldest Pride celebration in the islands is a month-long affair of parties, athletic competitions and other special events that culminate with a giant parade and festival  in Honolulu. It’s sponsored by the Hawaiian LGBT Legacy Foundation.

Halloween (Oct. 31) — Nicknamed “the Mardi Gras of the Pacific,” Halloween in Lahaina, Maui, is indeed one giant street party. Streets are closed to traffic for a children’s parade, costume contests, live entertainment and general revelry by thousands of adults. Lahaina Town Action Committee sponsors the Halloween happenings, which occur under the watchful eye of about 80 police officers, just to keep things safe for everyone.

Honolulu Pride_Hawaii Holidays_October_credit Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation_800x450
Photo: Courtesy of Hawaiian LGBT Legacy Foundation

Oahu (North Shore)

Stop by the HIC Pro Sunset Beach and be amazed as surfers catch some of the biggest waves of the year and compete for top titles.

Oahu (Ko Olina)

Encourage your family to stay active on vacation by participating in the Race Ko Olina. It features fitness challenges for both kids and adults. If you’re craving a culinary feast and craft cocktails, don’t miss the oceanfront Hawaii Food & Wine Festival featuring more than 100 internationally renowned vintners.

Maui (Hana)

Aloha Week in Hana is packed with celebrations from daily events such as parades to activities such as contests and crafts. Take a look at the schedule and take advantage of the fun and festive week.

Kauai (Hanapepe)

October 13 – 15 — All chocolate and coffee lovers will not want to miss the Kauai Chocolate & Coffee Festival for a taste of Hawaiian specialties. The festival includes live entertainment, educational workshops and presentations, activities and more. To guarantee a sampling of Hawaii’s best chocolate and coffee, make sure to buy a ticket in advance.

Big Island

Calling all bird fanatics to fly to the Big Island of the Hawaii Island Festival of Birds. This relatively new festival features a special guest, guided field trips, pelagic boat tours, and more hands-on activities. The Saturday Bird Fairs include educational booths and activities for all ages!

November

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Photo: Courtesy of Waikiki Holiday Parade

Oahu (Waikiki)

The Waikiki Holiday Parade commemorates the Pearl Harbor Attacks honoring all the military heroes and survivors.

Oahu (North Shore)

There’s nothing like watching over 80 military units march in the annual Wahiawa Lions Veterans Day Parade. Be sure to stop by the parade and honor the veterans. 

Maui (Kaanapali)

Hula O Na Keiki, a children’s solo hula competition, is held on the grounds of Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel. Though the event has grown over the years from a single day affair to an entire weekend of Hawaiian arts and music, the objective has remained the same: to educate our children in the ways of our ancestors so that the culture can be carried forward.

Big Island (Kona)

Coffee lovers won’t want to miss the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. The nine-day festival celebrates Kona Coffee and its tasty flavor. With a world-renowned reputation, this festival celebrates Kona Coffee heritage through education and storytelling.

December

All Islands

Festive/Christmas season — The politically correct travel industry calls the last two weeks of December through the first of “festive season” or just “festive,” but it’s Christmas that takes center stage in the islands’ winter calendar. Island-style Christmas decorations and Hawaiian Christmas music in resorts and shopping centers along with holiday-lighted parades in towns small and large provide distinctive sights and sounds. Honolulu City Lights, a month-long display of giant illuminated Santas and the like, starts with a tree-lighting ceremony and festival at Honolulu Hale (City Hall). The Kauai Festival of Lights in Lihue includes a tree-lighting, lighted displays and a charming exhibition of ornaments “upcycled” from juice cans and such. On the Big island, the Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade in early Decmeber features some 100 illuminated trucks and floats.

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Photo: Courtesy of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Challenge

Oahu (Waikiki)

Eager to make your end-of-the-year visit a little more active? Participate in the annual Honolulu Marathon. There’s no better place to run than paradise!

Oahu (North Shore)

If you’re vacationing on Oahu in December, January or February, make sure to check out the annual Eddie Aikau Big Wave Challenge. With only the best surfers from around the world competing, the contest only runs if the waves consistently reach 20 feet.

Kauai (Poipu)

If you’re looking for the biggest firework display on the island, search no further — the New Years Eve Celebration at Poipu Beach Park is it.

Looking for places to stay on the islands?

Visit our FROSCH x Local Getaways Maui, Oahu, Big Island and Kauai pages for the best hotels and exclusive benefits.

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