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Most Hawaii devotees know about Aloha Festivals, a 73-year-old fixture billed as the largest Hawaiian cultural celebration in the U.S. The annual September spree features a lavish opening ceremony with hula, chants and music; a big parade with flower-decked horseback riders; and the Waikiki hoolaulea (block party), drawing thousands of attendees with its local food, arts, crafts and live entertainment.
Lately, however, savvy travelers have been buzzing about Ohana (family) Events. Consisting of unique experiences offered by Aloha Festivals friends and partners, they take place during the same time period as the major happenings.
Repeat visitors and clients looking for more intimate ways to learn about the islands’ one-of-a-kind traditions can check out these five Ohana Events; each deserve its own moment in the spotlight.
Sept. 8-29: Ukulele Lessons and Performances at The Laylow, Autograph CollectionThe Laylow, a boutique Waikiki hotel, is putting Hawaii’s plucky instrument front and center with several days of ukulele instruction and performances. On four consecutive Sundays, visitors can take free lessons using their own uke — they’re sold in the hotel’s retail shop — or a loaner.
In addition, The Laylow is presenting shows by high-profile ukulele talents on Sept. 15 and 29. From 7-10 p.m., clients can drink and dine while enjoying the lilting melodies. Look for them at Hideout, the property’s open-air bar and eatery.
Sept. 14: Keiki (Children’s) Hoolaulea at Pearlridge CenterThis free, family-friendly event aims to encourage younger generations to appreciate the significance of Aloha Festivals while perpetuating the destination’s spirit of hospitality.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., musical groups and hula troupes take to the stage to spread good will, as lively arts and crafts stations, demonstrations and other activities enhance the experience. A crowd favorite is the conch blowing contest, when kids can test their tones on shiny shells in the manner of the ancient Hawaiians.
Sept. 22: Local Ukulele Legends at Tiki’s Grill & BarTiki’s — a watering hole on the second-floor lanai of Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel — is helping clients get acquainted with Hawaii’s most famous musical instrument. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., builders and players from the Hawaii Ukulele Guild are presenting a display of custom and vintage four-stringers, which attendees can hold and strum.
Meanwhile, island artists get toes tapping as they serenade the day’s festivities. Enriching the affair are food and drink deals as well as beach and seaside views.
Sept. 22-23: Contemporary Hawaiian Music at The Kahala Hotel & ResortIt’s always a treat to spend time at The Kahala’s elegant Veranda, a lounge that looks out to the beach, pool and dolphin lagoon. There’s yet another reason to stop by on Sept. 22-23, when top performers will share contemporary Hawaiian tunes from 6-9 p.m.
Clients can settle back over cocktails and small plates as they listen to songs by stars such as Lehua Kalima and Shawn Pimental, who have won Na Hoku Hanohano awards — Hawaii's equivalent of the Grammys.
Sept. 26-29: Aloha Festivals Activities at Queen Kapiolani HotelIn honor of Aloha Festivals, Waikiki’s Queen Kapiolani Hotel has planned island-style lures spanning four days. Offerings include a curated tour of the property’s Royal Art Gallery, storytelling by local entertainers, hula dancing and haku lei-making lessons, a pop-up Hawaiian fashion show and live music at sunset.
Clients who book Queen Kapiolani Hotel accommodations during Aloha Festivals get a 20% discount on room rates, waived hospitality fees, free parking and a $20 food and beverage credit (use promo code QKALOHA).
The DetailsAloha Festivalswww.alohafestivals.com