Mele Kalikimaka

Clients will find plenty of special programs in the islands at Chirstmastime.

By: Marty Wentzel

The last week of December is traditionally a sellout for Hawaii tourism, and hoteliers go out of their way to thank their end-of-the-year guests by presenting island-style holiday programs. To get you and your clients into the spirit, here are a few distinctively Hawaiian yuletide festivities lined up at hotels and resorts around the state.

Big Island

King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel introduces guests to the whimsical Hawaiian version of the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” From Dec. 21-Jan. 1, daily events are inspired by one of the days in the local song. For instance, on the 10th day (“10 cans of beer”), the hotel features tastes from Kona’s own microbrewery.

Hilton Waikoloa Village rekindles the island’s 19th-century sugar plantation lifestyle by constructing a 500-square-foot electric train display in the lobby. The elaborate creation depicts vignettes of activity from Big Island days gone by, when the arrival of a train at a small town was a big deal.


Waimea Plantation Cottages employees build floats for the Christmas light parade in nearby Waimea town. Young guests staying at the property are invited to ride in the parade alongside the staff. On Christmas Eve, employees serenade guests in each cottage, and a New Year’s Eve party rounds out 2003.

Guests of Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club are regaled with holiday entertainment throughout the week of Dec. 25. Local choirs perform carols and island musicians share Hawaiian tunes for guests in the lobby. Gingerbread houses and other holiday food displays enliven various parts of the resort, and Santa shows up during the days leading up to Christmas.

At Princeville Hotel, the holidays begin Dec. 6 with a tree-lighting event, with some 150,000 bulbs brightening the North Kauai property. Guests are treated to songs and dances by island children, and the resort offers free Hawaiian holiday card-making and ornament-making classes.


Wailea Marriott celebrates the season with the arrival of Santa in an outrigger canoe. Played by Wailea Marriott employee Kenneth “Aku” Perreira for the past 25 years, Santa hits the beach on the morning of Dec. 22, wearing little more than a lei and a lava-lava (Polynesian-style wraparound).

Sheraton Maui decks the halls with such local decor as gourds, dried ferns and protea blossoms. December menus emphasize homegrown ingredients like Hawaiian salt-crusted turkey, and salmon with sweet Maui onions. Employees serenade guests with carols, restaurant diners enjoy live hula presentations and a ukulele concert rings in the holidays.

On Dec. 1, Ritz-Carlton Kapalua flips the switch on more than 250,000 lights on palm and pine trees around the property. Live entertainment, cookies and cider follow the lighting ceremony. The luxury hotel puts on a teddy bear tea Dec. 27, with stories, songs, games, hot chocolate and cookies for the kids, and there’s a luau on Christmas Eve.

Clients checking in to Aston Kaanapali Shores receive holiday lights for decorating their guestroom lanai. Everyone turns on their lights at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, then guests and staff gather in the courtyard for refreshments and caroling. Santa puts in an appearance on the 25th.


From Dec. 13-24, Outrigger Reef is celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas with free-night giveaways. On the first day, a randomly selected guest wins one free night at the Waikiki hotel; on the second day, another guest wins two free nights; and so on. Winners can use their free nights during their stay or on a return visit. Festivities throughout the holidays include an employee bake sale and storytelling by the general manager.

Santa surfs into Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village in an outrigger canoe, after which there’s a clown show and live island-style entertainment. A Christmas Eve party for families comes with crafts, refreshments and stories by Mrs. Claus. Caroling fills the main lobby and kids can have breakfast with Santa.