Feature image (above): Lahaina is one of five Maui towns that take turns hosting Friday night parties. // © 2016 Maui Fridays
During Kokua Kailua on Hawaii Island, Kailua's Alii Drive turns into a pedestrians-only street fair. // © 2016 Kailua Village Business Improvement District
Hawaii’s town parties are helping visitors get their aloha on. From hip gatherings in Honolulu’s Chinatown to homespun festivals in Lanai City, these community affairs are offering culturally-rich settings for soaking up the island ambiance.
During rotating weekly and monthly events, clients can wander through shops and galleries that stay open after hours. They can sample locally-prepared dishes, watch artists and craftspeople work their wonders and jive to live performances. Here’s a look at Hawaii’s top town parties, where everyone’s invited.
First Friday (Oahu)
There was a time when few people hung out in downtown Honolulu at the end of the work day. Now, it’s the preferred place to party, thanks to an influx of trendy boutiques, bars and eateries. That’s especially true on the first Friday of each month, when stores and studios in Honolulu’s Chinatown district keep their doors open late with free exhibits, entertainment and live music. First Friday officially runs from 5 to 9 p.m., but the merriment often continues well into the evening at voguish watering holes in the ‘hood.
Friday Art Night in Hanapepe (Kauai)
Laid-back Hanapepe calls itself the biggest little town on Kauai. On Friday nights from 5 to 9 p.m., it lives up to that hype with this irresistible party, complete with food trucks and strolling musicians. Creative spirits of all stripes hold forth in kiosks and chat with passersby, who peruse their paintings, sculptures, photos and crafts. Street vendors sell tasty soups, pies and island favorites such as malassadas (Portuguese doughnuts). Old wooden buildings strewn with lights provide a timeless backdrop for the festivities.
Kokua Kailua (Hawaii Island)
One Sunday per month, seaside Kailua Village transforms its main street of Alii Drive into a pedestrian-only party. Throughout the afternoon, clients get to know the classic Kona Coast town while meeting its merchants, musicians and artists. The gathering also provides a good opportunity to check out the area’s historic sites, including Mokuaikaua Church and Hulihee Palace. A free Hawaiian music concert enhances the event, which draws thousands of locals and visitors.
Maui Fridays (Maui and Lanai)
Alternating between five burgs, Maui Fridays is a lively way to usher in the weekend. Each town touts its own artistic, musical and culinary charms. Centrally-located Wailuku hosts the month’s first party. The second takes place in Lahaina, Hawaii’s former capital. Look for the third in the upcountry paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of Makawao, with the fourth in Kihei, on the southwest coast. When there’s a fifth Friday in the month, Lanai City plays host, with roundtrip ferry service between Maui and Lanai.