From the best places to catch the breadth of independent Hawai’i cinema or nosh on cuisine inspired by Hawai’i-grown and -raised ingredients, to music festivals centered around the artistry of slack-key guitar and ‘ukulele, to celebrations of Hawaiian culture and Hawai’i’s many ethnicities, here are 10 annual events in the Hawaiian Islands everyone should know about.
A week of aloha? Count us in. Marking its 70th year in 2016, Aloha Festivals is one of Hawai’i’s longest-running cultural celebrations. A showcase of Hawaiian culture and the Islands’ multicultural mélange of customs and traditions, its big events include a royal court investiture, massive Waikïkï block party ho’olaulea(celebration), and a must-see floral parade.
Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival
O’ahu, Maui, Hawai’i Island
A multitude of international chefs and Hawai’i’s-own world-renowned chefs doing what they do best. A dozen or so dining events on four islands. And a mission for this premier Hawai’i culinary event of spotlighting the Islands’ farmers, fishermen and ranchers, and sustainable food and agricultural traditions. Did we mention you’ll also eat … a lot?
Hawai’i International Film Festival
O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i, Hawai’i Island
The largest annual festival for independent film from Hawai’i, Mainland U.S. and international filmmakers is also one of the most focused in the world for tracking down new cinema from the Pacific Rim and Asia. With more than 150 films typically on tap, HIFF offers an amusing only-in-Hawai’i quandary: Giving up time in the great outdoors for great flicks indoors.
Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival
O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i, Hawai’i Island
If you can think of little better in life than kicking back for an afternoon while a few of Hawai’i’s best kī hō‘alu (slack-key) musicians play nothing but this as-relaxed-as-it-is-lively, born-in-the-Islands genre of open-tuned, finger-picked acoustic guitar music, we’re right there with you. Graciously, entry for the annual summertime concert series is free.
Kōloa Plantation Days
Think a 10-day celebration of the multicultural and agricultural roots of Kaua’i’s sunny south shore and its main town, founded in 1835 with the opening of Hawai’i’s first sugar plantation. Sound good? So will the best bits of this annual festival, packed with Kōloa town tours, nature hikes, cultural activities, food events, entertainment, sports competitions, a parade and a rodeo.
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
Go joe! The coffee bean, farmers and roasters that made the southwest side of Hawai’i Island famous are the stars of this 10-day festival celebrating the 200-plus-year history of Kona coffee growing, culture and art of the brew. For fans of the typically bright, sweet and subtly fruity java, the fest offers a wealth of tastings, farm tours, harvesting and cupping competitions, and more.
Kū Mai Ka Hula
A slightly easier ticket to get a hold of than the hula competitions of the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, this annual Maui contest features hālau hula (hula groups) from Hawai’i, the Mainland U.S. and Japan competing in group and solo performances. The hula at Kū Mai Ka Hula is also top notch, with dancers judged in both kahiko (traditional) and ‘auana (modern) hula.
Maui ‘Ukulele Festival
The world-renowned Hawai’i-born musical instrument adapted by 19th-century Portuguese sugar plantation laborers in the Islands – and the state’s official ‘auana musical instrument – takes center stage with a full afternoon of performances by some of its most talented and inventive players. A bonus for inspired fest attendees? A chance to win an ‘ukulele as a door prize.
Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration
December 7, 2016, will mark the 75th anniversary of the 1941 attack on U.S. military installations at O’ahu’s Pearl Harbor. The special anniversary will be commemorated with multiple events, from Dec. 1-11, at the museums and memorials of Pearl Harbor Historic Sites and locations throughout Honolulu, and include concerts, movie nights, galas and remembrance ceremonies. Annual National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremonies on December 7 will be marked by a full day of memorial events at the harbor culminating with an evening parade in Waikïkï.
Hawai’i Yoga Festival
Held at a Hawai’i Island retreat center surrounded by rainforest along the remote Puna district coastline, the location of this annual gathering of yoga teachers and practitioners is certainly complementary to the discipline’s benefits of stress relief, mind calming and mental focus. That its six days incorporate traditions of Hawaiian culture and care for nature adds to the calm.