For the most part, Hawaii residents celebrate Thanksgiving around a dinner table loaded with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, just like their fellow Americans on the mainland.
But for free-spirited travelers ready to create new holiday traditions, the islands offer a cornucopia of unconventional activities throughout the day. Following are five ways to do Thanksgiving in Hawaii, out of the box.
(Editor's Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the only option available for Thanksgiving 2021 is the Rock-A-Hula Thanksgiving Dinner & Show in Oahu. Domestic travelers can return to Hawaii with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. As of Nov. 8, international travelers can return to Hawaii with proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.)
Paddle for Hunger With Hawaiian Paddle Sports, Maui
Folks often feast to excess on Thanksgiving, but this event reminds us of the less fortunate who don’t have enough to eat every day. Organized by Hawaiian Paddle Sports and held at Kihei Canoe Club, it raised $9,000 and 1,000 pounds of food for the Maui Food Bank last year.
Donations aside, this untimed race is free. Contestants glide along the water using various vessels, followed by door prizes and a silent auction.
Participants must bring their own boards, kayaks and other floaties, which visitors can rent in advance from local watersports companies. It presents a perfect opportunity for working up an appetite before enjoying the holiday meal.
Rock-A-Hula's Thanksgiving Dinner & Show, Oahu
On Thanksgiving, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson tribute artists join other talented entertainers for a special edition of Rock-A-Hula, a Waikiki dinner show.
Clients can choose from three packages: either a luau buffet with a mai tai; a four-course lobster spread with premium cocktails; or the Green Room package, with a backstage tour and souvenir photo with one of the stars. All meals include a Thanksgiving-themed dessert and a meet-and-greet with the cast.
Not to be outdone by the food and drink, the show dazzles with Hawaii-inspired songs and dances from the 1920s to today, complete with a fire knife performance.
Thanksgiving Volcano Tour With KapohoKine Adventures, Hawaii Island
While families and friends cook indoors, participants on this intimate excursion explore the dramatic outdoor landscapes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Guides lead guests on a hike to see massive craters, steaming bluffs and the aftereffect of the 2018 eruption that rocked the park.
The adventure also includes a tour, a wine tasting and a sit-down dinner at Volcano Winery. Along with traditional favorites such as turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, clients get a glass of wine and a champagne toast.
Space is very limited for this rare experience, which costs $249 per person for visitors staying in Kona/Kohala and $179 for Hilo-based guests.
Turkey Trots on Oahu and Maui
In anticipation of the day’s big banquet, clients can burn some calories at a morning fun run. These aren’t your usual races, where speed matters — in fact, no wristwatches or timers are allowed. Instead, before entrants begin jogging, they predict their finishing time, with awards for those who guess best.
On Oahu, the 10-mile Turkey Trot starts at Waikiki’s Kapiolani Park. Hosted by the Honolulu Marathon Clinic, it’s followed by drawings for door prizes.
Maui’s 8-mile Turkey Trot, presented by Valley Isle Road Runners, begins at Rice Park in Kula. Participants are encouraged to bring donations of nonperishable edibles for the Maui Food Bank.
Waikiki Holiday Parade Commemorating Pearl Harbor, Oahu
Held on the day after Thanksgiving each year since 1998, this festive procession honors service men and women, including survivors of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.
Starting at 7 p.m. at Fort DeRussy, the parade winds its way through Waikiki and ends at Kapiolani Park. Marching bands, military units and Hawaii dancers enliven Kalakaua Avenue, and beauty queens, local officials and dignitaries ride in convertibles and wave to well-wishers.
But the crowds lining the route get particularly emotional as veterans pass by, generating salutes and applause. It’s a memorable way to give thanks during the season of gratitude, while ushering in the December holidays.