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15 Great Ways to Experience Hawai’i’s World Famous Multiculturalism

June 5, 2017 Destination Hawaii No Comments Email Email

The story of Hawai’i is comprised of the stories and histories of multiple cultures. From the indigenous Hawaiian culture, which was the first to mālama ka ‘āina (“care for the land), to the Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, Okinawan and Puerto Rican citizens who began arriving in the mid-19th century to work on Hawai’i’s sugar and pineapple plantations. Hawai’i celebrates the diversity of its population year round at festivals, events, museums and exhibits, via activities and tours, and in the daily pursuits of its residents. Next time you’re in the Islands, here’s how you can, too. 

Attend the Prince Lot Hula Festival

Two relaxed summer days of hula kahiko (ancient style hula) and hula ‘auana (modern style hula) from local and off-island hālau hula (hula schools), that is also a celebration of Hawaiian culture. In 2017, the festival is also celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Spend a day at one of Hawai’i’s many culture-specific festivals

The Okinawan Festival, Maui Matsuri, Korean Festival, Filipino Fiesta, Moloka’i Ka Hula Piko, Greek Festival and similar fests offer immersive experiences with the people, food, history and arts of Hawai’i’s myriad cultures.

Participate in a summer evening bon dance

All are invited to attend, join the dance and sample tasty local Japanese comfort food at these annual celebrations honoring the spirits of family members who have passed away. Dances are hosted on summer weekend evenings at Buddhist temples statewide.
Enter “Hawaii bon dance schedule 2017” into your web browser for listings of dances.

Get lost in Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

A few hours in this 127-year-old O’ahu museum’s massive collection of Polynesian scientific and cultural artifacts offers an exhaustive glimpse into Hawaiian history.

Learn Portuguese stone-oven baking at Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Roll dough for Portuguese sweet bread then help bake it, old-school style, in a traditional wood-fired stone forno at this Kona district coffee estate first homesteaded in 1900.

 Visit our National Park Service historical parks, sites and trails

Hawaiian history and culture is shared in the actual locations that shaped both at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Parks, Pu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on Hawai’i Island; Haleakalā National Park on Maui; and Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Moloka’i.

Experience Chinese New Year in Honolulu’s Chinatown District

The biggest Chinese New Year celebration in Hawai’i takes over this downtown district each January or February with parades, street fests, great food, lion dances and firecrackers.

See the Pacific Rim come to Hawai’i at the Honolulu Festival and Pan-Pacific Festival

Two big annual O’ahu events welcoming to our Islands the arts, cuisine and cultures of Pacific Rim neighbors, while celebrating Hawai’i’s host culture and ethnic mix.
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Step back in time on a docent tour of Hawai’i’s Plantation Village

A story-filled walk through the period-authentic multiethnic residences and structures of this replica early-20th-century sugar planation village on O’ahu is the stuff of time travel.

Celebrate King Kamehameha the Great

The Hawaiian Islands’ first king and founder of the Kingdom of Hawai’i is celebrated each June with statewide events, including a now century-plus-old O’ahu floral parade.

Get some Hawaiian cultural knowledge at the Kaua’i Mokihana Festival

The mission of this weeklong fest is simple: offering all attendees myriad opportunities to learn about Hawaiian language and culture through hula, music and inspired talks.

Discover Lāna’i’s non-pineapple history at Lāna’i Culture & Heritage Center

You’ll learn about the sweet, juicy fruit’s early 20th century domination of Lāna’i community and labor, AND the isle’s lesser known ranching, geological and Hawaiian cultural histories.

Purchase a ticket to a Hawai’i food festival

There are few better ways to sample in one location how the Islands’ diversity of cultures collectively shaped the definition of Hawai’i cuisine than culinary fests like the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival, Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and many more.

Visit the Monarchy-era structures of Downtown Honolulu

‘Iolani Palace, Kawaiaha’o Church, Hawaiian Mission Houses and Ali’iōlani Hale (home of the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center) were constructed when Hawaiian royalty governed island life. Today, each is a window into its era and Hawai’i’s history.
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Road trip to the ranching town of Waimea

The paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town is home to a heritage center and working ranches ready to share Hawai’i Island’s fascinating and longtime place in U.S. ranching history.

For information on the Hawaiian Islands, please visit

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