Lively Honolulu, the island’s business and government hub, boasts extraordinary museums that celebrate the diverse artistic and cultural traditions of Hawaii. Bishop Museum, built in memory of a beloved Hawaiian princess, reveals the rich natural history and cultural heritage of Hawaii and the Pacific region dating back two millennia. Extraordinary exhibits depict the stories of the region and the people through authentic artifacts, archeological finds, artworks, photographic images, and sound recordings of music and oral history. The newly renovated Pacific Hall explores the origins, culture and values of Pacific people and the migrations and settlement of the Pacific Islands. Hawaiian Hall showcases the values, beliefs, daily life, and cultural practices of Native Hawaiians from pre-contact time forward.
At Honolulu Museum of Art, galleries and courtyards are filled with impressive collections from Hawaii and lands around the world. The wide-ranging art reflects the museum’s mission to present art specifically relevant to Hawaii’s ethnically diverse community. Hawaii State Art Museum celebrates the art and artists of the islands through exhibits and live demonstrations with Hawaiian quilters, ceramicists, and other artists and artisans.
In a serene Honolulu neighborhood just ten minutes from Waikiki, Manoa Heritage Center is an example of one family’s commitment to responsible land stewardship and cultural heritage. Visitors tour this beautifully restored private property which is home to a rare, one-thousand year-old Hawaiian heiau (temple) called Kukaoo and a native plant garden with more than 60 species, many rare and endangered.
Oahu’s multicultural heritage is showcased in Waikiki. The Kuhio Beach Torchlighting and Hula Show at Kuhio Beach Hula Mound is beautiful display of this authentic Hawaiian performance art. Hawaiian music and dance performances plus cultural demonstrations in ukulele, hula, and Hawaiian language are held at Royal Hawaiian Center, an elegant shopping and dining venue built on the grounds of Helumoa, the ancient home of Hawaiian monarchs.
Around the Island
On the North Shore, beautiful Waimea Valley is part of an ahupuaa, a crescent shaped, mountain to sea land division where ancient Hawaiians sustained themselves through farming and fishing. Hawaiian Hiking Company’s off the beaten path, private guided hikes of Waimea Valley present an opportunity to learn fascinating historical, cultural, and botanical insights and information while experiencing amazing scenery, panoramas, and a refreshing dip under a waterfall
Polynesian Cultural Center celebrates the customs and traditions of Pacific islands with authentic village settings, activities, and shows. Recent 50th anniversary exhibits include the rebuilt Hawaiian Village designed to reflect an ancient ahupuaa; Hawaiian Journey, an interactive cinematic experience; and a revitalized farm to table menu for the Alii Luau.
Non profits on the Windward Coast are engaged in restoring and preserving the ancient ahupuaa of Heeia, once an abundant food-producing area with forests, loi (agricultural wetlands), fishponds, and the ocean. Three non-profits enable visitors to volunteer in different sectors of the ahupuaa. Paepae O Heeia is dedicated to caring for the Heeia Fishpond, an 88-acre Hawaiian fishpond built 600 to 800 years ago. Mahuahua Ai o Hoi is community driven project to restore traditional agricultural and ecological productivity to a 405-acre parcel in the Heeia Wetlands. And Papahana Kualoa is cultivating upland crops like taro, awa, and sweet potato.
Over on the Windward Coast, Kualoa is a 4,000-acre cattle ranch with cultural programming including the Legends & Legacy Tour, Kahiko Hula Lessons, and the Ancient Fishing Grounds and Tropical Gardens Tours. Byodo-In Temple in a serene memorial park at the foot of emerald green Koolau Mountain pali (cliffs) celebrates the Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
Oahu’s Festivals And Special Events
Oahu is home to numerous festivals and special events that celebrate everything from food and sports, to art, dance, and music, and reflect Oahu’s diverse heritages and traditions.
January: Moanikeala Hula Festival
February: Chinese New Year Celebration, Hawaii Chocolate Festival, Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival
March: Honolulu Festival
April: Waikiki SPAM Jam
May: Mahina Mele, Lei Day, Annual World Fireknife Championship, Lantern Floating Hawaii, Honolulu Triathlon
June: Rainbow Film Festival, King Kamehameha Floral Parade, Pan-Pacific Festival, Obon Dances and Festivals (thru Aug)
July: Prince Lot Hula Festival, Haleiwa Summer Art Festival, Ukulele Festival, Korean Festival
August: Made in Hawaii Festival, Duke’s OceanFest, Slack Key Guitar Festival, Greek Festival
September: Aloha Festivals, Okinawan Festival, Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, Rice Festival
October: Hawaii International Film Festival, Hawaii Fishing and Seafood Festival
November: World Invitational Hula Festival, Vans Triple Crown of Surfing
December: Honolulu Marathon, Honolulu City Lights