From music festivals to culinary celebrations, Travel Agent highlights the best festivals in Oahu worth pitching to Hawaii bound clients looking for some entertainment outside of the hotel.
Music & Entertainment
Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii - February 11
The 10th annual Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii will be stringing together a day of events in celebration of Hawaii’s official musical instrument. The festivities are being held at Kakaako Gateway Park on Sunday, Feb. 11 with performances by famous musicians from Hawaii and Japan and various vendor booths that visitors can peruse. All events and entertainment are free and open to the public.
Mele Mei - April to June
Mele Mei is an annual celebration of Hawaii’s music, hula and culture. Music and hula events are held from April through June at various hotels, venues, on the beach and statewide. From ukulele to steel guitar, traditional Hawaiian music to slack key, island reggae to rock and everything in between, Mele Mei has something for every musical taste.
Hawaii Book & Music Festival - May 4-7
Visitors can experience the finest of Hawaii’s contemporary culture at the Hawaii Book & Music Festival. Held on the Frank F. Fasi Grounds at Honolulu Hale, the free event celebrates and honors books, storytelling and music in a way that is fun, accessible and memorable for people of all ages, backgrounds and tastes.
Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival - May to December
Slack key guitar originated in Hawaii in the 19th century with Hawaiian “paniolo” (cowboys), and continues to gain popularity. The Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival, founded in 1982, celebrates its cultural importance and perpetuates and preserves the unique acoustic guitar art form of “ki hoalu,” which means “loosen the key.” There are now six Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar festivals that take place throughout the island of Oahu featuring performances by well-known slack key musicians.
Biggest Little Airshow in Hawaii - June 2-3
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor’s popular remote control Biggest Little Airshow in Hawaii, sponsored by Aloha Petroleum, is back for its 10th year. A family favorite, the airshow features open cockpits, hangar tours, restored World War II aircraft and remote control flying by some of the best pilots and aircraft from the mainland. For two days, Ford Island will come alive with remote control flying, hands-on modeling stations and a Kids Zone with rides, food, drinks, retail, music, entertainment and activities.
Ala Moana Center Fireworks - July 4
For the 27th consecutive year, Ala Moana Center will present locals and visitors with one of the largest fireworks shows in the country. In addition to the fireworks, Ala Moana Center will offer a weekend’s worth of live entertainment and a mall-wide shopping savings pass.
48th Annual Ukulele Festival Hawaii - July 15
Local ukulele legend Roy Sakuma and his sponsors help to keep the instrument alive with the 48th Annual Ukulele Festival Hawaii, attracting thousands each year. A free five-hour concert showcases the finest ukulele players from around the world, along with national celebrities, Hawaii’s top entertainers, and an ukulele orchestra of more than 800 students. The festival benefits Ukulele Festival Hawaii, a nonprofit organization.
Rainbow Film Festival - August 9-19
The Rainbow Film Festival serves to educate and raise community awareness about gay and lesbian culture, arts and lifestyle through independent films shown at the Doris Duke Theatre. Locally-submitted films are also featured and supported by the festival.
Made in Hawaii Festival August 17-19
Enjoy this three-day celebration highlighting the unique products of Hawaii. More than 400 exhibitors offer a wide range of goods made in Hawaii from art, clothing, food, home furnishings, jewelry, toys, fresh produce and plants to authentic Hawaiian handicrafts.
Hawaii International Film Festival - November 1-11
The Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) is dedicated to the advancement of understanding and cultural exchange among the people of Asia, the Pacific and North America through the medium of film. HIFF showcases independent feature films and is held at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 Theatres each spring and fall. Attendees can expect the latest in independent and global cinema.
Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade - December 7
Talented performing groups join bands and floats to parade down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki to honor and pay respect to the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, veterans, active duty military and their families. The parade takes place on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack and starts at 7 p.m. at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki.
Arts & Culture
ARTafterDARK - The last Friday of every month from January through October
Offering a new twist on “pau hana” (after work) happy hour, the Honolulu Museum of Art presents an evening that aims to invigorate the senses with a combination of food, art, music, dancing and drinks. The theme for each event is based on the museum’s current feature exhibition and provides a fun and social way to view art in a festive atmosphere.
POW! WOW! Hawaii - February 10-17
Local and global artists will showcase their work in Honolulu during a widespread beautification and education of street art during POW! WOW! Hawaii. The event will include gallery shows, live panel discussions, mural projects, concerts and live art installations.
Prince Kuhio Festival - March
The Prince Kuhio Festival is a series of events, ceremonies and activities organized by The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs to celebrate the birthday of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole who founded the first Hawaiian Civic Club on Dec. 7, 1918. These celebrations began in the early 1970s and have grown to include month-long activities including a commemorative parade and choral concert.
Honolulu Festival - March 9-11
The 24th annual Honolulu Festival is one of Hawaii’s premier cultural events, promoting understanding, economic cooperation and ethnic harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim region. Each year, the festival draws thousands of new and returning spectators. Through educational programs and activities, the festival continues to successfully share the rich and vibrant blend of Asia, Pacific and Hawaiian cultures with the rest of the world.
MAMo: Maoli Arts Movement - May
The PAI Foundation celebrates the Maoli Arts Movement (MAMo) during May in Honolulu with popular exhibitions, arts markets, trunk shows and the MAMo Wearable Art Show, which highlights native Hawaiian arts, artists and cultural practitioners. MAMo programming has expanded to the entire year, and the geographic reach has expanded to neighbor islands, nationally and internationally.
Lei Day Celebration - May 1-2
On May 1, a celebration that includes entertainment, food booths and a lei making contest takes place at the beautiful Queen Kapiolani Park and Bandstand in Waikiki.
The event is followed by an honoring of Hawaii’s “alii” (royalty) at Mauna Ala and Kawaiahao on May 2. Lei Day was created to celebrate the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei.
We Are Samoa Festival - May
The "We Are Samoa Festival" at the Polynesian Cultural Center features the annual World Fireknife Championship and High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival.
Dancers of all ages showcase their mastery of Samoan fireknives in which acrobatic moves and death-defying tricks combine with ancient Samoan culture.
Held in conjunction with the World Fireknife Championship, the High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival is an event in which Hawaii high school students demonstrate their own cultural knowledge of Samoan traditions with exhibitions in basket weaving, coconut husking and fire making.
Lantern Floating Hawaii - May 28
Every year on Memorial Day, thousands of people gather at Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park 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 serves to honor those who have sacrificed their lives in war, pay respect to ancestors and loved ones who have passed away, and pray for a harmonious and peaceful future.
The ceremony also features live entertainment by local and international musicians, as well as inspiring speeches.
Pan-Pacific Festival - June 8-10
The 39th annual Pan-Pacific Festival is a three-day international cultural celebration that features a weekend of Pacific Rim cultural performances, demonstrations, hula, food, and “hoolaulea” (celebration).
The event culminates with a colorful parade with thousands of participants in lively costumes marching down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.
Annual King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade - June 11
Celebrating its 102nd year, this colorful celebration honors the reign of King Kamehameha, who was responsible for uniting the Hawaiian Islands under his rule in 1810.
The parade features brightly decorated floats, energetic marching bands and traditional pa‘u riders who represent a Hawaiian royal court on horseback. Following the parade will be a “hoolaulea” (celebration).
21st Annual Haleiwa Arts Festival - July 20-21
The 21st Annual Haleiwa Arts Festival will feature a broad spectrum of traditional, contemporary and ethnic arts at Haleiwa Beach Park.
This event includes visual artists, musicians, singers, dancers, demonstrations, storytelling, student art displays, historical trolley tours and children’s arts and crafts.
Visitors can browse and purchase unique works by artists of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
41st Annual Prince Lot Hula Festival - July 21-22
The 41st Annual Prince Lot Hula Festival is a two-day event featuring halau hula (hula schools) gracing the hula mound for spectators to enjoy and showcases native Hawaiian culture through crafts, kapa making, lauhala weaving, lomilomi massage and traditional Hawaiian games.
Korean Festival - August
The Korean Festival is an annual event run by the Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce in partnership with dozens of community organizations and businesses and hundreds of volunteers.
This popular cultural celebration highlights the unique food, dance, art and music of Korea.
In the past, festivities included Korean cooking lessons, a singing competition and even a kimchee eating contest.
Greek Festival - August 25-26
The 37th Annual Greek Festival, held at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park, celebrates Greek culture with ethnic food, live entertainment and cultural booths. The popular annual festival is sponsored by the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
Annual Okinawan Festival - September
The Hawaii United Okinawa Association presents one of the largest ethnic festivals in the state of Hawaii. The event kicks off with a mini procession at Kapiolani Park, featuring a taiko drum performance. The three-day festival celebrates Okinawan culture with food, entertainment, arts, crafts and cultural activities.
Aloha Festivals - September
Aloha Festivals is the largest Hawaiian cultural celebration in the U.S. Aloha Festivals has become a statewide celebration of Hawaiian culture with major events on the island of Oahu. Thousands of volunteers work together each year to stage the events, which are attended by over 100,000 people. This premier showcase celebrates Hawaii’s music, dance and history, and is intended to preserve the islands’ unique traditions.
Waikiki SPAM Jam - April 28
The Waikiki SPAM Jam is an exciting annual street festival that takes place on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. This annual event celebrates Hawaii’s love of SPAM and features a variety of Honolulu’s finest restaurants serving up SPAM-inspired creations.
Two entertainment stages provide non-stop entertainment ranging from hula dancers to local musicians, and merchandise vendors sell SPAM-themed items and Hawaiian crafts. Proceeds from the event benefit the Hawaii Food Bank.
Mangoes at the Moana - July 14
The Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach, hosts the 10th annual Mangoes at the Moana festival. Mango enthusiasts are invited to visit food and activity booths featuring this local favorite.
This celebration of all things mango will include recipe contests, cooking demonstrations and a mango cocktail throw down. With more than 60 varieties of mango grown in Hawaii, visitors will be sure to find something they like.
The Joy of Sake Festival - August 10
The Joy of Sake celebrates Hawaii’s hundred-year love affair with sake—from the early days of Japanese immigration and the founding of the Honolulu Sake Brewery up to the present.
Today, Honolulu hosts the annual U.S. National Sake Appraisal. After this blind tasting, all of the sake is presented for tasting by the public at The Joy of Sake.
This event, with entries from every region and representing virtually every brewing style, gives an unparalleled perspective on the great variety of delicious sakes being produced today.
Rice Festival - September
September is national rice month and what better way to celebrate than to attend the ninth annual Rice Festival. The celebration features entertainment, cultural performances and cooking demonstrations by local celebrity chefs. Rice Fest is a free, one-day event which explores the many uses for rice, as well as the cultures that use it.
Hawaii Chocolate Festival - October
The eighth annual Hawaii Chocolate Festival is where chocolate lovers can learn the steps that go into making this sweet treat from start to finish.
There will be chocolate tastings, guest speakers, chocolate inspired activities, live entertainment and more. The festival was created to raise awareness about Hawaii’s growing cacao industry.
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival - October 24-28
The festival includes culinary-focused events and evening receptions featuring dishes prepared by an all-star lineup of chefs from Hawaii and around the world, using locally sourced ingredients. The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is co-chaired by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong and serves to showcase the state’s bounty of produce and proteins and highlights the islands’ return to a sustainable eco-system of agriculture, environment and economy.
Sporting and Fitness Events
Sony Open in Hawaii - January 8-14
The Sony Open in Hawaii kicks off the PGA Tour by bringing 144 of the world’s best professional golfers to Oahu’s exclusive Waialae Country Club each January.
Past participants include notable golfers including 2017 winner Justin Thomas, who set a PGA Tour scoring record at Waialae Country Club; 2003 and 2004 winner, Ernie Els and Hawaii’s own Michelle Wie and Tadd Fujikawa.
The seven-day event is one of the largest charity events in the state of Hawaii.
Great Aloha Run - February 19
The Great Aloha Run is an 8.15-mile foot race that starts at Aloha Tower in Honolulu and ends at Aloha Stadium in Halawa.
A three-day sports, health and fitness expo occurs during the weekend of the race and includes an array of exhibition booths offering unique products and services, entertainment and workshops.
Wanderlust Oahu - March 1-4
The Wanderlust Oahu is a gathering of yoga masters, musical performers and top chefs along with the world’s leading wellness speakers. Visitors can open the mind, refresh the soul and satiate appetites at this event held at Turtle Bay Resort.
Hapalua Hawaii’s Half-Marathon - April 8
Sponsored by Honolulu Marathon Association, the event is expected to draw more than 5,000 runners. The start of the Hapalua is by The Duke Kahanamoku statue in Waikiki and finishes in Kapiolani Park. Both walkers and runners are welcome.
LPGA LOTTE Championship - April 11-14
The annual LOTTE Championship features a star-studded field of marquee pros who grace the world stage of ladies’ professional golf.
The 2018 LOTTE Championship, presented by Hershey, will tee off at Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei.
Haleiwa Metric Century Ride - April 29
The annual John B. Kelley Haleiwa Metric Century Ride begins and ends in Kaiaka Bay Beach Park on the North Shore of Oahu.
The course takes riders through Haleiwa Town, out towards Kaena Point, then back along the shores past Waimea Valley, Sunset Beach, Kahuku, and Kaaawa. All skill levels and ages are welcome.
Filipino Fiesta and Parade - May 5
The 26th annual Filipino Flores De Mayo Parade features numerous bands, floats, marching groups manned by various civic, cultural and community organizations.
The post parade fiesta in Kapiolani Park showcases an assortment of food, educational and craft booths.
Honolulu Triathlon - May 13
Thousands of triathletes from around the world visit Oahu each May to compete in the Honolulu Triathlon.
The Olympic distance triathlon features a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run that begins and ends at Ala Moana Beach Park.
Duke’s OceanFest - August 18-26
Duke’s OceanFest, a weeklong festival, features a variety of exciting water sports competitions including longboard surfing, surf polo, swimming, standup paddling and other events that pay tribute to the local waterman.
The festivities culminate with the Duke Kahanamoku Statue lei draping ceremony on Aug. 24, the anniversary of his birthday.
The Reebok Spartan Race Hawaii Trifecta Weekend - August 25-26
The annual event at Kualoa Private Nature Reserve includes four race types: "sprint," "super," "beast" and "ultra beast" in one weekend. Participants can run one of these individual races, or take on the Spartan Trifecta Challenge. The race is designed to test participants’ physical and mental toughness and entitle them to accomplishment when crossing the finish line.
Waikiki Roughwater Swim - September 1
The 49th annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim is where swimmers from all over the world will tackle the challenging waters off Waikiki.
This open water swim measures 2.384 miles long, beginning at Sans Souci Beach between the Natatorium and the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and ending near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
Honolulu Century Ride - September 30
The Honolulu Century Ride is Hawaii’s oldest and largest cycling event, attracting approximately 4,000 people around the world each year.
The ride begins and ends at Kapiolani Park and participants can choose to ride 20, 25, 40, 50, 75, or 100 miles at their own pace.
Proceeds from the annual fun ride support the Hawaii Bicycling League and its efforts to promote cycling for health, recreation and transportation through advocacy, education and events.
Molokai Hoe - October 7
This year marks the 66th annual Molokai Hoe, one of the longest running annual team sporting events in Hawaii, second only to football.
The race starts at Hale o Lono beach on Molokai and goes through the Kaiwi Channel, ending at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki.
The Molokai Hoe perpetuates one of Hawaii’s and Polynesia’s most important and historic cultural traditions, while honoring outrigger canoe paddlers around the world.
Vans Triple Crown of Surfing - November-December
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing returns to the North Shore of Oahu. Kicking off with the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the series continues with the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, and lastly the Billabong Pipe Masters at the famous Banzai Pipeline.
Oahu’s North Shore is home to these final events on the World Surf League (WSL) calendar that will crown surfing’s new world champion.
Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Run World Championship - December
The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is an off-road half-marathon that winds through Kualoa Private Nature Reserve on Oahu’s northeastern shore. Trail runs, a kids’ race, and other family events will also be offered.
Honolulu Marathon - December 9
Thousands of runners from around the world travel to Oahu each year to participate in the Honolulu Marathon. The 26.2-mile scenic course includes spectacular views alongside world famous Waikiki Beach and Leahi (Diamond Head).
The marathon is held every year on the second Sunday of December.
Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic - December
The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic is an eight-team, 12-game bracket tournament that features some of the nation’s best collegiate men’s basketball teams. The tournament is held at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center.
Hawaii Bowl - December 24
Following the University of Hawaii’s move to the Mountain West Conference (MWC) in 2012, the Hawaii Bowl will pit a team from the MWC against a team from Conference USA in the annual college football bowl game played at Oahu’s Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve.
Visit www.sheratonhawaiibowl.com and www.visit-oahu.com. Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.