Fave Five Upcoming Hawaii Food Festivals

Contributing Editor Marty Wentzel dishes up these mouthwatering suggestions

By: By Marty Wentzel

Two chefs with slab of meat at Taste of the Hawaiian Range, Hawaii's Big Island. // (c) Michael Darden, West Hawaii Today
Sample signature dishes from some of Hawaii’s most creative chefs at the festivals more than two-dozen booths.

A Taste of Lahaina (Maui)
Sept. 19-20
Maui’s largest culinary and music festival is about to celebrate its 16th anniversary. Here’s how it works: Just follow the crowds from tent to tent – more than two dozen in all -- for yummy samples of signature dishes by the state’s most creative chefs. In between swallows, check out the country store and purchase some made-in-Hawaii products to take home as souvenirs. Adults can hit the beer and wine garden for tastes of good libations while the kids pounce on inflatables and play games with each other. The icing on the cake is the live music by some truly talented island performers.
Lahaina Recreation Park II

Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agricultural Festival (Hawaii’s Big Island)

Oct. 3
Hawaii has its fair share of celebrity chefs, many of whom make an appearance at this annual food fest. The emphasis here is on Hawaii’s agricultural products and the extraordinary dishes they end up in, from delicate preparations of range-fed meats, to specialties made with fresh vegetables from island farms, to desserts concocted with locally-grown fruits, chocolate and vanilla. It’s also a good place to try locally-prepared foods like tropical ice cream and malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts). Better yet, you can wash it all down with some Kona coffee, specialty teas and micro-brewed sodas. A new event this year is a Ranch Roundup Cookoff featuring the best recipes from Hawaii's historic ranches. Tip: get there when it opens at 6 p.m., because there’s only so much food and when it’s gone, the party’s over.
Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort

Performers in costume at Oktoberfest, Ala Moana Hotel, Honolulu. // (c) Brad Kawakami
More than 8,000 guests from
across the state turn out for
this authentic celebration.

Oktoberfest (Oahu)
Oct. 7-12
Break out your dirndls and polka shoes! Hawaii’s longest-running authentic Bavarian-style Oktoberfest event (now in its 38th year) attracts more than 8,000 guests from across the state for a mind-boggling selection of German fare, beer and entertainment. To prepare for the uber-delightful celebration, the Ala Moana Hotel annually produces more than 3,000 pounds of German delicacies including sauerkraut, pig knuckles, bratwurst and apple strudel. Over the seven-day event, participants are expected to consume more than 600 gallons – or 74,689 glasses – of Germany’s best ales and schnapps. OK, I’ll admit it: This event is so much fun that I’ve even been known to boogie down to the popular Chicken Dance, which plays at least 50 times throughout the week. Be sure to catch the official keg-tapping ceremony on Oct.7 at 6 p.m.
Ala Moana Hotel, Honolulu

Coconut Festival (Kauai)
Oct. 11-12
For anyone who thinks the coconut is simply something that grows on palm trees, here’s the party for them. For 12 years the Garden Island has been hosting this one-of-a-kind festival – the signature event on the island’s east side, fittingly called the Royal Coconut Coast -- and it never fails to entertain. Activities focus on the many reasons to love the kooky fruit, from its cultural, historical and social significance to the delicious dishes it enhances. Along with unique coconut culinary creations, there’s entertainment, games, cooking demonstrations, and lessons on how to use every part of the coconut from the fibrous husk to the large seed. The weekend also features silly games, live shows for kids and an impressive gathering of Kauai artisans. Hungry clients who don’t mind getting messy should time their visit with the coconut pie-eating contest.
Kapaa Beach Park

Woman sniffing coffee at a cupping competition during Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. // (c) Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
Coffee enthusiasts head to Kona for this annual festival, now in its 38th year.

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (Hawaii’s Big Island)
Nov. 7-16
Aged to perfection, this 38-year-old java jive provides a perky excuse to head to Kona. While I haven’t been able to attend all the events -- over 50 and counting – I’m an enthusiastic fan of the coffee plantation and mill tours, international lantern parade, coffee picking contest, coffee cupping competition and talent night. Other lively options include the Miracle Mile Run, coffee art exhibit and Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Pageant. With the exception of just a few admission charges, the festival button – sold at scores of locations on the island and a work of art in itself -- serves as the ticket to the events.