Iʻve beach-hopped, pool-hopped, and restaurant/bar-hopped my way around the world, but there is nothing quite like festival-hopping—that is, if you really want to get a feel for a place. On your next visit, experience Hawaii like you have never before: Watch hula troops performing traditional and modern Hawaiian dance; witness lovers of culture and history ushering in the next generation of artists, chefs, and filmmakers; take to the streets for food, fun, and entertainment. If there was ever a time to do it, it’s now.
Here’s where to start:
What: “In Hawaii, we are a very close society,” says Aloha Festivals Director, Momi Cazimero. This is a way of expanding what we do together in a larger extent to invite everyone as neighbors. It comes in the name, aloha. I feel the Aloha Festivals perpetuate the word aloha, and its meaning.” Established in 1946, this month-long celebration of music, dance and history commemorates the spirit and tradition of ancient Hawaii. This year’s theme, “Beloved Feather Treasures” explores the mastery of traditional Hawaiian featherwork, with beautiful displays of kahili (feather standards), ahuʻula (cloaks), mahiole (helmets) and lei (garlands) of ruling Hawaiian aliʻi (chiefs).
What: All hail the grandest hula competition of them all. The festival, founded by Hawaii County in 1964 has come a long way—from a King Kalakaua beard look-alike contest, a barbershop quartet contest, and a relay race—to the most prestigious gathering of hula and the Hawaiian culture. Today, hundreds of male dancers flock to the island in their finest malo or loincloth, and women in their paʻu or wrapped skirt for the chance to compete in one of three competitions: Miss Aloha Hula, Group Hula Kahiko and Group Hula ʻAuana. The festival ends with a royal parade through downtown Hilo.
Where: Hilo, Hawaii Island
Hawaii Food and Wine Festival
What: It’s a simple fact: food brings people together. And when you factor wine into the equation, it makes for a magnificent pairing. Co-founded by James Beard-Award winning chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, the festival highlights the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement and showcases more than 80 chefs from Hawaii and around the world.
Where: Oahu, Maui, Hawaii
This festival is one of the top ten film festivals in the world, and is the only one to participate in the Ebert’s Young Critics Program set to launch this year. “We are about challenging the next generation of filmmakers, writers, and critics to reach a new level of potential—one that addresses not only the process of creation, but questions the result of that creation,” says executive director, Robert Lambeth. The organization, founded in 1981 by Jeanette Paulson, conducts seminars, workshops, creative labs, and receptions with top Asian, Pacific and North American filmmakers. Today, thousands of people flock to see award-winning films, like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Slow West, and The Royal Tailor.
Where: Dole Cannery, Oahu
What: Get back to your roots with this ten-day family-friendly festival to honor the islandʻs sugar industry and plantation heritage. Take a tour of the Koloa Plantation, the first major agricultural property on Kauai, or try one of the wide variety of activities ranging from fishing, rodeo, hiking, arts and crafts. Enjoy some of the most beautiful ocean views on Kauaiʻs south shore.
Where: Koloa and Poipu, Kauai