Events in Hawaii to plan your trip around (cultural, musical, culinary and more!)

Important cultural (and other) events in the Hawaiian Islands

Aloha! There are a few important Hawaiian cultural events that take place in the Hawaiian Islands throughout the year. If you're planning a trip to Hawaii, or even if you're just a fan of the islands, it's beneficial to be aware of these events. From celebrations of Hawaiian culture and history to community gatherings and Hawaiian markets, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the true spirit of aloha while on vacation in Hawaii. We've also included a few sport/surfing events as they are a big deal in the islands! Mahalo for reading and we hope this blog post helps you plan your next Hawaiian getaway!

The Merrie Monarch Festival is held every year in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. The festival celebrates Hawaiian culture and arts, with hula competitions as the main event - April 9, 2023 - April 15, 2023

The Merrie Monarch Festival has been a beloved cultural celebration since its inception in 1963, honoring and highlighting the unique traditions of the Hawaiian islands. Considered the “world's premier exhibition of Hawaiian culture,” Merrie Monarch is held annually in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii – usually during the first week of April. From hula competitions and kahiko performances to Hawaiian crafts and food festivities, Merrie Monarch is an event like no other. Collectively, islanders from around the globe look forward to this weeklong event each year to share their culture with each other and the world at large!

The Honolulu Marathon is held every year on the second Sunday - December 10, 2023

picture of runners at the Honolulu marathon - Aloha Spirit

Every year, the Honolulu Marathon brings people from far and wide to the tropical paradise of Oah'u. With over 25,000 marathoners from over 80 countries taking part, this marathon is one of the biggest in the world! From Kona, to Kauai and everywhere in between, all across Hawai'i marathoners come together as one united Ohana to take part in this event. It may not be a cultural event per se, but it's an incredibly important event for Honolulu and its people - a chance for a celebration of unity and spirit that gives everyone something to rally around. So whether you're just visiting or from around these islands, come join us on the second Sunday in December for a marathon like no other!

Prince Lot Hula is held every summer in Moanalua Valley on Oahu.

The festival celebrates Hawaiian music and dance, with hula performances by some of the best dancers in Hawaii. Every summer, the beautiful Moanalua Valley on Oahu comes alive with the sounds of hula, as dancers perform in honor of Prince Lot Hula. This special festival is a celebration of Hawaiian music and dance that has been going strong for over 90 years. Not only does it bring together some of Hawaii's best hula dancers, but also those who simply want to enjoy traditional Hawaiian culture. Onlookers can bask in the beauty of native costumes and appreciate the grace and skill of each dancer's individual performance. So if you're ever looking for a fun way to learn about Hawaiian culture, be sure to join us for Prince Lot Hula!

Eō EʻEmalani I Alaka‘i Festival is held every October on Kauai at Kokee State Park.

Ah, the Eō EʻEmalani I Alaka‘i Festival—it's always so special to take in the culture and history of Hawai'i every October on Kauai. The experience is deeply rooted in art and culture, the perfect way to experience Kauai's treasured traditions. With demonstrations of lei making, wood carving, and performances by local hālau (hula schools), it's an opportunity to become truly immersed in Hawaiian culture. Be sure not to miss one of Kauai's most endearing celebrations!

King Kamehameha Day is celebrated every June 11th statewide in Hawaii to honor King Kamehameha I, who unified the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom in 1810.

king kamehameha parade

Every June 11th, the Hawaiian islands come together to celebrate King Kamehameha Day. This holiday honors the influential leader who united Hawaii under one kingdom in 1810. As a sign of recognition and appreciation, countless Coconut Fronds are displayed around homes and businesses throughout Hawaii as part of a royal lei draping ceremony. It is customary to leave this lei untied as a symbol of peace and goodwill. Islanders gather in parks, open spaces, and along the shoreline for song and hula performances that honor each other, their ancestors, and the achievements of King Kamehameha I. Come June 11th - wherever you are in Hawaii - prepare for an unforgettable celebration!

Hawaiʻi Food and Wine Festival is a yearly event that takes place on various islands throughout Hawaii showcasing local chefs and cuisine.

The Hawaiʻi Food and Wine Festival is an annual culinary celebration of Hawaiian flavors that has gained worldwide recognition. Gathering chefs from all over the world, the Hawaii Festival offers its guests culinary creations that delight the senses and highlight Hawaii's incredible food culture. Throughout this festival, attendees are treated to a diverse experience as they sample delicious regional cuisines, listen to music, and lectures, watch culinary demonstrations, and more. If you are looking for something truly remarkable and unique, then the annual Hawaiʻi Food and Wine Festival is definitely worth attending!

Kapalua Wine & Food Festival takes place annually on Maui each May featuring celebrity chefs, cooking demos & wine tastings.

The Kapalua Wine & Food Festival is an annual culinary experience that will leave you in an island-bound state of delight. For the culinary and wine enthusiast, this event is a must-attend happening. Enjoy culinary demonstrations by celebrity chefs and exclusive behind-the-scenes tastings with some of the best wines around. Held during May each year on Maui, it’s a feast for your senses that promises to put you in a relaxed Hawaiian vibe!

Shinnyo Lantern Floating Festival - May 2023

This beautiful tradition has Buddhist roots and takes place each May.  Shinnyo means "reality" or "true nature of things".  The festival returns to Ala Moana beach for the first time since 2019.   The event is meant to be a time to reconnect and heal and inspire community.  In the past over 40,000 have attended this special and unique event.

The annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival happens yearly on Hawaii's Big Island celebrating coffee heritage with farm tours, cupping events & more happening island-wide over 10 days each November

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival poster

Every November, coffee lovers from all over flock to the Big Island for the annual Kona coffee cultural festival, an amazing 10-day coffee celebration! The city of Kona and coffee farms around the island come alive in honor of coffee and its rich heritage; coffee farm tours take visitors on a journey through coffee-making history while educational cupping events delight the palate. Taste freshly roasted coffee and make memories with locals keen to share their knowledge of cultivation, processing, and even coffee art! In 2023, the premier coffee event will be held November 3-12, 2023.

Guided Gather: A Locally Grown Culinary Experience - Kauai

While not a one-time event, Guided Gather offers a unique culinary experience in Kauai for any appetite. These tours can be booked on Saturdays. During their tours, Guided Gather takes its guests on an exciting journey through the countryside to learn about local ingredients, techniques, and food cultures. Guests will explore in-season produce from local farms and sample delectable cuisine from local vendors along the way. It's a great opportunity to connect with the spirit of Kauai while discovering its delicious offerings! Guided Gather's goal is to bring people together to share unforgettable moments - all while building appreciation for what the island has to offer. For those looking for an authentic and flavorful Hawaiian experience, guided gather will not disappoint.

Hālau Kū Māna School Earth Day Stream Cleanup - April 22, 2023

Halau Ku Mana is hosting an Earth Day Stream Cleanup event on April 22, 2023, and inviting its students and their families to participate. Come spend time outside while making a difference in your community! Halau Ku Mana is passionate about teaching responsibility towards the environment and invites its students of all ages to join them in making a difference. Everyone involved will get hands-on experience in cleaning up a streambed, as well as learn more about current conservation efforts surrounding it. So put on some sunscreen, dress appropriately for being outdoors, and help Halau Kum Mana make this Earth Day cleanup the best one yet!

Kona Brewer's Festival - A Zero Waste Event Supporting Nonprofits & Community Organizations - March 11, 2023

Get ready for the event of the year! The Kona Brewer's Festival is back and open for all. The event will take place in beautiful Hawaii on March 11, 2023, and promises to be bigger and better than before. This year, we've taken a special focus on sustainability and zero waste -- so you can come to enjoy tasty beer, great music, and fun activities while making sure nothing goes to waste. Plus, proceeds from the festival will support local nonprofits and community organizations to ensure Hawaii remains vibrant and strong! Aloha!

Hawaiian Native Plant Month - April

Ahh, Hawaiian Native Plant Month! It's always a special time of year here on the islands - plants native to Hawaii, such as 'Ōhi'a, Wiliwili, and Pāpala are celebrated with festivals and activities, making it an absolute wonderland for nature lovers. This month highlights the importance of preserving these plants for their cultural significance and the impact they have on the environment. Everyone is encouraged to do something to preserve native plants by removing invasive species that could threaten them or even starting a garden of their own. We all play a part in protecting our unique little slice of paradise here in Hawaii!

Kauaʻi Chocolate & Coffee Festival - October

The Kauaʻi Chocolate & Coffee Festival is an event that is sure to awaken your senses! Every October, Kauaʻi puts on this amazing event that celebrates the locally-sourced flavors of this delightful island. Enjoy live music and outdoor exhibits featuring fresh and delicious chocolates, coffees, and teas. Sample local products as you stroll through meticulously crafted displays of mouth-watering treats. Relax in a tranquil atmosphere while having a cup of freshly roasted coffee or sipping iced tea to beat the Hawai‘i heat. Experience the unique flavors of Kauaʻi with friends and family; the Kauaʻi Chocolate & Coffee Festival will take your taste buds on an unforgettable ride!

Hawaiʻi International Film Festival

The Hawaiʻi International Film Festival offers an abundance of amazing films for both locals and visitors to enjoy. Whether you're seeking family-friendly films, feature films from Hawaii or around the globe, documentaries, or even student films, it's a great opportunity to reconnect with the world of cinema. The festival truly maintains that special Hawai'i vibe with its relaxed atmosphere and commitment to highlighting independent filmmakers and their way of storytelling. With so many amazing films available this year, the festival is sure to be a memorable experience!

The Honolulu African American Film Festival 2023

The Honolulu African-American Film Festival 2023 is coming soon and is going to be a vibrant celebration of Black talent and artistry. Dedicated to showcasing the latest in African-American cinema, this exciting event will bring together inspiring stories through the voices of filmmakers, actors, and everyone else who has worked hard to bring their vision to life. With a peaceful atmosphere in stunning Hawaii, attendees can look forward to enjoying not just movies but beautiful scenery too. Relaxation meets beauty at this noteworthy gathering and we're so lucky here in Honolulu that we get to experience it all first-hand!

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival At Ka Makana Alii

Ka Makana Alii, the largest outdoor shopping mall in West Oahu, will be hosting a Hawaiian steel guitar festival this weekend. This exciting event allows everyone to celebrate Hawaii’s musical and cultural heritage through steel guitar jams and performances by local steel guitarists. Everyone is invited to experience the magical sound of steel guitars while enjoying some traditional Hawaiian food. Local steel guitarists are coming together to showcase their remarkable talent and share their love for the islands with all in attendance. Don't miss out on this opportunity to hear an iconic part of Hawaiian music!

Maui Marathon - April 23, 2023

Aloha runners: The Maui Marathon on April 23, 2023, is an excellent opportunity to join the stunning island of Maui in experiencing its tropical atmosphere and untamed beauty. The course will offer a tour of many popular landmarks including Ho’okipa Beach Park, Tedeschi Vineyards, Ka’anapali Beach, and Iao Valley. World-famous for its ever-present hospitality, there's nothing like running in paradise with the unbeatable warm Hawaiian breeze beneath cloudless skies! Rejuvenate your body and soul by participating in Maui Marathon and make it a memorable experience. Mahalo nui loa!

Eddie Aikau Surf Contest - December - February (timing depends on surf conditions)

eddie aikau big wave surf contest

"The Eddie" is a big wave surf contest held when waves on Oahu's North Shore reach 20 feet in height. The competition window is between December 1 and the end of February and entirely depends on surf conditions. As a result, the event has only been held about 10 times since its launch in 1985, mostly recently on January 22, 2023. The contest was launched in 1985 in honor of Eddie Aikau, a Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard who lost is life in 1978 during a re-enactment of an ancient Polynesian voyage between Tahiti and Hawaii. When the event does happen, the entire island gets in to it, so keep an eye on conditions if you are in the islands between December and February.

Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards

Launched in 1978, the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards are the Hawaiian equivalent of the Grammy Awards and they honor excellence in Hawaiian music. The ceremony is held each May. Most award categories are restricted to Hawaii resident artists though a few categories are open to non-residents.


Hawaii offers thousands of events each year that span across cultures, cuisines, education, and entertainment. From historical festivals to surf competitions to local hikes or special cultural celebrations, visitors will find a plethora of memorable experiences to cherish for a lifetime. Whether you're looking for something relaxing on the beach or an adrenaline-charged adventure, Hawaii has something for everyone. So go out and explore all that this vibrant island has to offer - we are so much more than just beaches!

So why wait? Get out there, book a trip, and make some amazing memories. Who knows what kind of unexpected experiences await? Closing with a Hawaiian saying: Hiki mâlie , which translates to “It’s easy!” When it comes to making unforgettable stories here in Hawaii - it truly is. So what are you waiting for?


Comment below and let us know what kind of Hawaiian adventure you'll choose first!



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