When most people think of a Hawaiian Paradise they often picture white cap waves breaking on the beach, mild climate, lush tropical vegetation and a cool breeze from the coast. In truth Hawaii is much more than that. A trip to Hawaii is going to a multi-cultural paradise with some of the best cultural events.
While there are hundreds of cultural events and demonstrations held throughout the islands all year long, many of which are free, there are a couple that stand out from the rest. The two premiere festivals, at least in my opinion, are the Honolulu Festival and the world renown Merrie Monarch Festival.
By singling these two particular festivals out, I do not mean to belittle any of the others. If you have a chance to attend any of the lesser known festivals, parades, or events, you should take advantage of the opportunities. While New Orleans is known as a party town with almost weekly festivities, I think you will find that Hawaii is not very far behind.
HONOLULU FESTIVAL (Held in March)
The Honolulu Festival which began in 1995 to aid in promoting cultural harmony and understanding between the people of Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific countries. The Honolulu Festival Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2000 to manage the activities of the festival and to perpetuate the cultures, customs and traditions of Asian and Pacific Islander communities by raising public awareness and charitable efforts.
The Festival’s theme is “Pacific Harmony” which reflects the Foundation’s vision to share with the people of Hawaii the many cultures of the Pacific region, in addition to the many visitors from around the world. What started as an event showcasing Japan and Hawaii’s culture now includes cultural events from Australia, Tahiti, Philippines, Republic of China (Taiwan), China, Korea and the Mainland!
These events are held throughout Honolulu at the Ala Moana Shopping Center, the Honolulu Convention Center, and the parade through Waikiki, and many of them are free. The Honolulu Festival will give you a glimpse into Hawaii’s culture and heritage combining a little of the old with some of the new opening your eyes to a true multi-cultural paradise.
MERRIE MONARCH FESTIVAL (Held the last week in April)
This highly anticipated annual celebration of Hawaiian culture is held in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii over the last week in April. The Merrie Monarch Festival is named in honor of King Kalakaua who was known as the Merrie Monarch and who did much to restore the pride and heritage of Hawaiian song and dance, which the missionaries had previously banned.
The purpose of this non-profit organization is to promote and preserve Hawaiian music, dance, and culture. The week-long event includes demonstrations, art exhibits, craft fair, and a parade, and culminates with the hula competition held on the last three days of the festival.
These competitions draw entries from around the world. Winning at the Merrie Monarch Hula Competition is a highly coveted award. Tickets for this 3-day competition usually sells out within days of going on sale, the day after Christmas.
Of course, there are a number of additional parades and celebrations held throughout Hawaii all year. Whether it is the King Kamehameha Day parade or the Kuhio Day parade held in Waikiki or one of the other festivals celebrated throughout the islands, you will enjoy the people, pride and cultural mix unique to these tropical islands.