Oahu's Lively Festivals and Special Events

Sponsored content: Oahu’s colorful festivals and year-round events are marketing opportunities for targeting your family client. Discover Oahu’s many celebrations.
Include festivals and sporting events into itineraries depending on the interest of the family client.  Dukes Oceanfest celebrates surfing and Duke,...
Include festivals and sporting events into itineraries depending on the interest of the family client.  Dukes Oceanfest celebrates surfing and Duke, the father of modern surfing.  // © 2007 Oceanfest

Oahu’s many colorful festivals and special events celebrate everything from food and sports to art, dance, and music. These one-of-a-kind celebrations provide an opportunity for families to experience and learn about the multicultural heritage, history, and customs unique to Oahu while interacting with the local population. Learn which events interest your family clients or make sure they know which festivities coincide with their travel dates. 

Oahu’s Festivals Provide Special Reasons to Travel
The following monthly listings guide will familiarize you with Oahu’s many special festivities and enable you to advise your family clients about celebrations that will interest their group. Only on Oahu can your family travelers enjoy such a comprehensive range of events, from authentic hula and ‘ukulele concerts to world class culinary festivals and nationally ranked athletic competitions. 

Moanikeala Hula Festival – Gifted hula dancers and halau (schools) come together at the Polynesian Cultural Center for the first hula event of the year.

Sony Open in Hawaii – The Sony Open in Hawaii kicks off the PGA Tour by bringing many of the world’s best professional golfers to Oahu’s exclusive Waialae Country Club. 

NFL Pro Bowl – One week before the Super Bowl, the biggest names and hardest hitters in the National Football League (NFL) travel here for the NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. 

POW! Wow! Hawaii – Local and global artists showcase their work during a celebration of street art featuring gallery shows, panel discussions, mural projects, concerts, and live art installations. 

Great Aloha Run – This annual competition features an 8.15-mile foot race from Aloha Tower to Aloha plus a three-day Sports, Health, and Fitness Expo. 

Hawaii Chocolate Festival – Chocolate lovers can learn about chocolate making and enjoy chocolate tastings, classes, guest speakers, chocolate inspired spa lounge, chocolate garden, and coco café. 

Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival – This ultimate mind, body and soul wellness festival features yoga masters, musical performers, top chefs and winemakers along with leading wellness speakers. 

Honolulu Festival – The annual festival celebrates cultures from across the Pacific with art, music, dance, and crafts, culminating in a Grand Parade and fireworks display.

Hawaii International Film Festival
– (April and October) The festival is dedicated to the advancement of understanding and cultural exchange among the peoples of Asia, the Pacific, and North America through film. 

Honolulu Century Ride – Hawaii’s oldest and largest cycling event begins and ends at Kapi‘olani Park, and participants can choose to ride 20, 25, 40, 50, 75, or 100 miles at their own pace. 

Mele Mei –
A month-long celebration of Hawaiian music every May, Mele Mei encompasses over 30 workshops, concert performances, and other events, culminating with the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, Hawaii’s most prestigious musical awards. 

Hawaii Book & Music Festival – Held on the Frank F. Fashi Grounds at Honolulu Hale, the event celebrates and honors books, storytelling, and music

Lei Day – This holiday celebrates the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei. Kapi‘olani Park hosts entertainment, food booths and a lei-making contest May 1 contest followed by an honoring of Hawaii’s ali‘I (royals) at Mauna Ala and Kawaiaha‘o Church May 2. 

Waikiki SPAM Jam – This event celebrating Hawaii’s love of SPAM features Honolulu’s finest restaurants serving up SPAM-inspired creations plus live entertainment.

We Are Samoa Festival/Annual World Fireknife Championship – Dancers of all ages showcase their mastery of Samoan fireknives in which acrobatic moves and death-defying tricks combine with ancient Samoan culture during We are Samoa Festival at Polynesian Cultural Center. 

Lantern Floating Hawaii – On Memorial Day, thousands gather at Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. At sundown, more than 3,000 candlelit lanterns are set afloat on the ocean, a traditional Buddhist rite from Japan. 

Honolulu Triathlon – The Olympic distance triathlon features a 1.5K swim, 40K bike race, and 10K run beginning and ending at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Rainbow Film Festival –
The festival educates and raises community awareness about gay and lesbian culture, arts, and lifestyle through independent films shown at the Doris Duke Theatre. 

King Kamehameha Floral Parade – This colorful celebration honors King Kamehameha with a parade featuring brightly decorated floats, marching bands and traditional pa‘u riders representing a Hawaiian royal court on horseback.

Pan-Pacific Festival – The three-day celebration features Pacific Rim cultural performances, demonstrations, hula, food, ho‘olaule‘a (block party), and colorful parade with thousands of participants in lively costumes marching down Kalākaua Avenue.

Obon Dances and Festivals (June-August) – Buddhist temples celebrate the Japanese Obon tradition through dance, music, and special festivities.

Ala Moana Center Fireworks –
This July 4 celebration is one of the nation’s most spectacular fireworks displays and part of a grand weekend of live entertainment and mall wide shopping savings. 

Prince Lot Hula Festival – Hawaii’s largest non-competitive hula event honors Prince Lot Kapuāiwa who reprised the once forbidden hula in the district of Moanalua. 

Haleiwa Summer ArtFest – This North Shore event features visual artists, musicians, singers, dancers, demonstrations, storytelling, student art displays, historical trolley tours, and children’s arts and crafts. 

Ukulele Festival – The largest festival of its kind in the world is a free, five-hour concert featuring the finest ‘ukulele players, national celebrities, Hawaii’s top entertainers, and a ‘ukulele orchestra with over 800 students, mostly children. 

Korean Festival – This popular cultural celebration highlights the unique food, dance, art and music of Korea through cooking lessons, a singing competition, and even a kim chee eating contest.

Hawaii All-Collectors Show – This annual collectibles and antiques show and sale features more than 200 booths with one of the largest selections of Hawaiiana under one roof.

Mangoes at the Moana – This celebration of all things mango (over 60 varieties grow in Hawaii) includes recipe contests, cooking demonstrations, and a mango cocktail throw down.

Made in Hawaii Festival – More than 400 exhibitors offer a wide variety of items made and grown in Hawaii plus performances by award-winning entertainers and cooking demonstrations by Hawaii’s top culinary artists.

Duke’s OceanFest – This annual celebration honors Duke Kahanamoku, the revered Hawaiian waterman, through longboard surfing, surf polo, swimming, and standup paddle competitions and the lei draping ceremony of Duke’s statue. 

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival – The festival celebrates, perpetuates, and preserves the unique acoustic guitar art form of “ki ho‘alu,” which means “loosen the key.”

Okinawan Festival – The largest ethnic festival in the state of Hawaii celebrates Okinawan culture with food, entertainment, arts, crafts, and authentic activities.

Aloha Festivals – This premier performing arts showcase celebrates and perpetuates Hawaii’s music, dance, and history with festivities on Oahu that include a Waikiki Hoolaulea and a floral parade. 

Hawaii Food & Wine Festival – HFWF is an internationally renowned gastronomic extravaganza that features an all star line up of renowned chefs cooking with locally sourced ingredients, spotlights Hawaii’s natural bounty, and promotes a sustainable Hawaii.

Rice Festival – The celebration of “the grain that connects us” features entertainment, cultural performances, and cooking demonstrations by local celebrity chefs while showcasing how rice is prepared by the different cultures on Oahu.

Waikiki Roughwater Swim – Swimmers from all over the world tackle the challenging waters of Waikiki in the open water, 2.384-mile long race, from near Waikiki 

Aquarium to near Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Hawaii Fishing and Seafood Festival – The annual event celebrates Hawaii’s fishing and seafood industry with fishing workshops and demonstrations, games and activities, fresh seafood dishes, and more. 

Molokai Hoe – One of the longest running annual team sporting events in Hawaii, the outrigger canoe race starts at Hale o Lono beach on Moloka‘i and ends at Duke Kahanamoku Beach at Waikiki. The event perpetuates one of Hawaii and Polynesia’s most important and historic cultural traditions. 

Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing – The world’s best surfers gather on the island’s famed North Shore every November and December for a trio of the sport’s most prestigious events, where pros challenge themselves on epic waves at Hale‘iwa, Sunset Beach, and Banzai Pipeline.

Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational In Memory of Eddie Aikau – The world’s best big wave surfers are invited to Waimea Bay on the North Shore to compete in “the Eddie” that can only be held when surf measures at least 20 feet (Hawaiian scale) for a full day.

XTERRA Trail Run World Championship – The Xterra Trail Run is an off-road half-marathon that winds through beautiful Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s northeastern shore. The event also has a family walk for young kids, 5k and 10k races that families can do together or different ages can participate in. The race is great way to see many movie locations as Kualoa is renowned as “Hollywood’s Back Lot.”

Honolulu Marathon – Thousands of runners from around the world participate in the Honolulu Marathon, a 26.2-mile course with spectacular views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic – This eight-team, 12-game bracket tournament features some of the nation’s best collegiate men’s basketball teams and is held at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sherriff Center.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – The annual college football bowl game is played at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve.

Tips for incorporating festivals and events

  • Ask questions and learn your clients’ interests so you can recommend the ideal festivals. 
  • For outdoor enthusiasts (i.e., marathoners or swimmers), find out event dates, registration dates and whether event has family options. Many families with a passion for the outdoors want their families to participate. The Xterra Trail Run, for example, has various levels of runs so that kids and parents can participate. 
  • Create a database of events by month or interest and make sure you alert your clients in plenty of time about special festivities.
  • Create custom itineraries themed around events. For example, develop a culinary itinerary around the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival that might include farmers’ market visits, a private chef dinner, and reservations at a variety of island eateries.


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