Creative coconut masks bring smiles to Kauai's annual Coconut Festival. // © 2016 Mike Hough
Feature image (above): Talented artists sell their creations at the Made in Hawaii Festival on Oahu. // © 2016 Made in Hawaii Festival
Hawaii loves a good party. Almost every week, island visitors can find a special event inspired by the destination’s one-of-a-kind history, culture and nature. Its creative celebrations are seasoned by influences from its melting pot of residents.
For a memorable experience during a trip to the Aloha State, travelers can time their itineraries with one of its yearly fairs, parades and unique gatherings. Some are spectacular and others are quirky, but all are worth checking out. Following are five of our favorites.
Coconut Festival, Kauai
Groves of coconut trees define the coastline and communities of east Kauai, so it makes sense that the ubiquitous fruit is honored by an annual bash. Located at Kapaa Beach Park, the festival has something for everyone. Kids keep busy with crafts such as coconut painting. Hungry clients dig into the coconut-pie-eating contest. Souvenir shoppers browse booths with Kauai-made artworks while chatting with the vendors. Live tunes, cultural displays and cooking demos add to the fun.
Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival, Hawaii Island
Sippers and swizzlers agree that the mai tai is one of Hawaii’s signature cocktails. Each year, Royal Kona Resort toasts the decadent drink — a mix of rum, lime juice and liqueurs — during this day-long party.
Local chefs take part in the Battle of the BBQ, with attendees tasting and voting on the results. A marketplace features arts, crafts, food and beverages. Top Hawaii musicians take center stage for a free concert. The main event is a mai tai mix-off, a rousing three-hour competition feting the classic concoction.
Hana Festivals of Aloha, Maui
For decades each fall, Festivals of Aloha have been celebrated across the Hawaiian chain. The tiny, rural Maui town of Hana takes an especially irresistible approach to the tradition. Homespun events include a talent show, a carnival night, games, music, sports contests, a colorful parade through town and a movie in the park. The week wraps up with an evening of Hawaiian entertainment, food, stories, culture and hula under the stars.
Made in Hawaii Festival, Oahu
Visitors searching for the ultimate island souvenir are sure to find it at this three-day showcase of local products. The creativity of Hawaii’s people is in full force at this gathering in Honolulu’s Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. Hundreds of booths feature everything from apparel and art to food and flowers. Enhancing the festivities are live Hawaiian music by award-winning performers and cooking demonstrations by the destination’s best chefs.
Spam Jam, Oahu
Hawaii eats more Spam than any other U.S. state. It only follows that Oahu throws an annual party extolling the joys of the canned lunch meat. Waikiki’s main road is closed to car traffic so that thousands of pedestrians can have easy access to the event’s food booths, each serving dishes with Spam as the star ingredient. Island musicians serenade the crowds, and vendors sell arts, crafts and Spam merchandise. A benefit for the Hawaii Foodbank, Spam Jam is a family-friendly Hawaii festival with a big heart.