Hawaii plays host to so many festivals—from the traditional to the quirky. There’s a fit for every interest and a festival for every family under the tropical sunshine. If you’re looking to go beyond the standard tourist sights, planning a trip around a festival gives you a chance to meet the locals, sample local cuisine, and learn more about the culture and history of the Hawaiian Islands. Here are six Hawaiian festivals to check out in 2018.
Celebration of the Arts (Maui; April 2018)
The past, present, and future of Hawaiian culture are on display at this art-centric festival. Meet the artisans, cultural practitioners, thought leaders, filmmakers, educators, and entertainers, and engage in thoughtful conversation, mindful experiences, and engaging activities. This wonderful celebration goes beyond the superficial to explore the history, traditions, and people behind aspects of Hawaiian culture that tourists have come to love. These include the lu’au dance and ukelele, as well lesser-known traditions like Kalae Pahu (Hawaiian drum carving) and Ohe hano iho (Hawaiian nose flutes). KapaluaCelebrationOfTheArts.com
Spam Jam Festival (Oahu; April 28, 2018)
If you love Spam, you can’t miss the beloved annual Spam Jam. This street festival honors Spam and everything that can be created with the canned pink luncheon meat. Expect unique and creative takes on Spam prepared by Hawaii’s hottest chefs, plenty of live, local entertainment, local artisans, and more. Best of all, proceeds benefit the nonprofit Hawaii Foodbank. SpamJamHawaii.com
Maui Film Festival (Maui; June 13-17, 2018)
If you’ve ever dreamed of attending a star-studded, Hollywood-style film festival, the Maui Film Festival is one of the best, most accessible celebrations of all things cinema in the country. The festival does a wonderful job of pairing Hawaiian culture and film via red carpet film premieres, gala parties, celebrity appearances, and Hawaiian music and dance. MauiFilmFestival.com
Prince Lot Hula Festival (Oahu; July 2018)
Lot Kupuaiwa reigned as Hawaiian monarch Kamehameha V and was known for working diligently for his people as the last great traditional chief. This community festival, hosted at downtown Honolulu’s Iolani Palace, honors his name by bringing together halauhula (hula schools) from communities throughout the Islands. The hula performances at this festival are quite simply the best on the Islands. In addition to tens of hula performances, the festival includes Hawaiian cultural demonstrations, local food, traditional games, lomilomi massages, and arts and crafts, including lauhala (pandanus leaf) weaving, and kapa (bark) and ipu (gourd drum) making. MoanaluaGardensFoundation.org
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (island of Hawaii, Oahu and Maui; October /November)
If you’re a foodie who adores fresh, locally grown, raised, and produced ingredients, enjoyed in a setting that is the close to paradise, the annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is a must-attend event. Featuring a world-class roster of renowned master chefs from Hawaii and around the world, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers, this famous festival is co-chaired by two of Hawaii’s own James Beard award-winning chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Check out the full range of scheduled events at HawaiiFoodandWineFestival.com.
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (island of Hawaii; November)
Get ready to enjoy a jolt of energy and fun at Hawaii’s longest-running food festival. This one-of-a-kind festival honors the beloved cup of joe with more than 50 events including coffee plantation and mill tours, coffee cupping competitions, an evening lantern parade, a festival hoolaulea, a golf tournament, art exhibits, and a coffee recipe contest. KonaCoffeeFest.com