Last updated: 07:43 PM ET, Thu September 15 2016

Celebrating Aloha Style

Festivities shine a spotlight on Hawaii’s multi-cultural heritage

Vacation Agent | Destination & Tourism | Stacey Barbara Martin

Celebrating Aloha Style

King Kamehameha Day parade float. Photo courtesy of the Oahu Visitors Bureau

A deeper look into the traditions and customs of Hawaii’s holiday celebrations offers an educational journey into the destination’s multi-cultural and multi-ethnic heritage. The true beauty of the Hawaiian Islands is that all ethnicities respect and perpetuate traditions and customs as one island family.

Here is a sampling of events.

World Whale Day and Parade of Whales

Maui – Feb. 18

Maui’s celebration of whales is an all-day family event that kicks off with the Parade of Whales at 9 a.m. along South Kihei Road. The celebration continues through 6 p.m. at Kalama Park on South Kihei Road. The event features live entertainment, food from Maui restaurants, kids activities, the Made on Maui artisan’s fair and environmental displays.

Prince Kuhio Festival

Statewide – March 25-27

The annual holiday commemorates the birth of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. On Oahu, the Royal Order of Kamehameha at Prince Kuhio Park enhances island-wide ceremonies with story sessions by artisans and cultural specialists, local Hawaiian music and Taiko drumming.

Celebration of the Arts Festival

Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua – Saturday and Sunday of Easter weekend

This annual celebration of the arts features demonstrations, films, cultural panels, music and dance that provides both visitors and residents the opportunity to interact with one another and enjoy Hawaiian culture.   www.

Maui County Agricultural Festival

Maui Tropical Plantation – April 2

The annual festival is designed to raise awareness about the vital role agriculture plays in Maui’s economy and culture. Visitors can experience Maui’s local produce, fruit, flowers, coffee, and more.

Lantern Floating

Honolulu – May 29

Every year on Memorial Day, thousands of people gather at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. At sundown, more than 3,000 candlelit lanterns are set afloat on the ocean, a traditional Buddhist rite originating in Japan.

The ceremony also features speeches and live entertainment by local and international musicians. People are invited to place lanterns in the water with wishes for peace and happiness of loved ones who have passed. Lanterns – one per family or party —are distributed on the day of the event from 10 a.m. until they run out.

King Kamehameha Day

Statewide – June 11

Kamehameha Day was established by in 1871 by King Kamehameha V as a national holiday to honor the memory of Kamehameha, the king’s great grandfather, who united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810 and become Hawaii’s first king. Kamehameha Day, now known as the Kamehameha Festival, includes Hawaiian music, dance, and arts and crafts. Island festivities also include parades and lei drapings of Hawaii’s King Kamehameha statues.     www.

May Day

May 1 – Statewide

“May Day is Lei Day” has evolved into a day of great cultural significance for Hawaii with the lei internationally recognized as a symbol of aloha. Celebrations focus on making, giving and wearing leis. The largest celebration takes place on Oahu at the Queen Kapiolani Park and Bandstand in Waikiki.

Independence Day

July 4 – Hawaii Island

At the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows on Hawaii Island’s Kohala Coast, July 4 is synonymous with “Turtle Independence Day.” Since 1989, Mauna Lani has raised endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles, or honu, from Oahu’s Sea Life Park in the property’s saltwater ponds. Live entertainment, educational displays and food trucks are part of the celebration. or

Christmas Season

Clients can experience “Mele Kalikimaka” at the many holiday festivals throughout Hawaii. Here is a sampling.


The destination is home to Hawaii’s largest Christmas celebration – “Honolulu City Lights,” scheduled for the first Saturday in December. Held at Honolulu Hale (city hall), it features an elaborate Christmas tree and wreath exhibits, Yuletide displays and live entertainment.


The Rotary Club of Kauai traditionally kicks off the holiday season on the first Friday in December with “The Lights on Rice Parade.” The celebration starts with The Festival of Lights and the lighting of the Historic County Building and Royal Palms. Rice Street is closed for the event and parade, which features more than 2,000 performers.


The “Annual Twilight Holiday Parade,” the second oldest parade in Hawaii, takes place in Waimea and includes a Santa float and dozens of others featuring keiki (children) to kupuna (elders) representing churches, schools, youth groups and community organizers.


Visitors are invited to celebrate the lighting of Lahaina’s historic Banyan Tree in Lahaina Town on Front Street on the first Saturday of December. Santa makes an appearance and community choirs sing Christmas carols. The event also includes an arts and crafts fair and Hawaiian musical.

Special events listed are subject to change at any time and at the sole discretion of the provider.

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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the September 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.