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The Best Festivals & Fairs in Hawaii 2017

by Paul Joseph  |  Published December 16, 2016

Surfing, kitsch shirts, the hula, the ukulele…as national stereotypes go, Hawaiians can probably feel they got off lightly. But look beyond the famed reputation of this volcanic archipelago state in the Central Pacific and you’ll soon discover there’s plenty more than meets the eye. Before long, you’ll notice Hawaii’s natural beauty, with its rugged landscapes of cliffs, waterfalls, tropical foliage and gold sandy beaches. But spend enough time here and you’re likely to also encounter one of the fabulous festivals and fairs that take place every year.

An enthusiastic beach-goer jumps for joy on Hawaii’s sandy shore (Photo: Tiago Buosi via Flickr)

Hawaii Bike Festival

With uncluttered, wide open coastal roads and beautiful scenery every which way you turn, it’s no surprise that Hawaii is a cyclist’s paradise This festival is designed to unite Hawaii’s cycling community and features a full day of racing, exhibitions, vendors and food. There’s also a host of fun events and activities including a Pump Track Challenge, a bike parade, and a Cyclocross race. All proceeds from the festival go towards improving local facilities for cyclists. WHEN 12 January WHERE Blackham Coliseum, Lafayette

Sand Island Bike Festival

Bikers negotiate wooden obstacles at the Hawaii Bike Festival (Photo: Hawaii Bike Festival)

Maui Whale Festival

From late December to early May each year, many thousands of humpback whales call Hawaii home by using its waters as its principal wintering ground – and thanks to the efforts of organisations such as the Pacific Whale Foundation, those numbers are on the rise. Maui Whale Festival is designed to raise awareness and inspire action to further protect these majestic marina mammals. Over 20,000 visitors descend on the event to enjoy a diverse programme of live music, a Keiki Carnival, a whale regatta, Acromagic and Illusionist acts, local cuisine and much more. There’s also plenty to keep the kids entertained, including bouncy castles, crafts, games, face painting, cotton candy, prize givings and a unique reverse bungee jump. WHEN 18 February WHERE Oceanside Kalama Park, South Mau

Maui Whale Festival

A musician performing at the Maui Whale Festival (Photo: Maui Whale Festival)

Season’s Best Christmas Craft & Gift Fair

The festive season is celebrated with great gusto by Hawaiians and the Season’s Best Christmas Craft & Gift Fair is certainly a merry occasion that exudes the spirit of Christmas. Held over three days in December, the event showcases a diverse assortment of hand-crafted products that will visitors the chance to pick up unique and unusual Christmas gifts, or simply something to adorn their own home. There’s also fantastic homemade food for sale. WHEN 16-18 December WHERE Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Center, Downtown Honolulu

Honolulu Craft and Gift Fair

Crowds mingle at the Honolulu Craft and Gift Fair (Photo: Honolulu Craft and Gift Fair)

Hawaii Bridal Expo

When people think of Hawaii and weddings, they might imagine love struck couples and beachside ceremonies, but the archipelago also plays host to a different kind of r wedding-themed event each year. For 3 days, a huge expo comes to town showcasing a huge variety of wedding-related products, accessories and services, all centred on the person we all know to be the main protagonist at every wedding – the bride! There’s beauty and skincare, bridal consultants, dresses, registry, cakes and desserts, calligraphy, candy buffet and much more besides. So if you’re in Hawaii during the New Year and are seeking some inspiration for an up-coming wedding, then this event is well worth a visit. WHEN 13-15 January WHERE Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Center, Downtown Honolulu

Hawaii Bridal Expo

A model poses on the catwalk at the Hawaii Bridal Expo (Photo: Bridesclub)

Oʻahu Fringe Festival

Now into its fifth year, the O’ahu Fringe Festival is a four-day jamboree that sees talented artists and performers from around the world come to Chinatown in Honolulu to display their talents. As the name of the festival suggests, the acts are slightly off the mainstream and include theatre, dance, puppetry, comedy, and even a live podcast. Look out for the high school troupe whose athleticism and derring-do is a sight to behold. WHEN 12-15 January WHERE Chinatown, Honolulu

Oʻahu Fringe Festival

A theatrical performance at the Oʻahu Fringe Festival (Photo: Terri Lin)

Wanderlust

Located on Oahu’s breathtaking North Shore, the 850-acre Turtle Bay Resort is the scene for the Hawaiian edition of Wanderlust, the world’s largest yoga lifestyle event. Held over four days, the beachside festival invites yoga enthusiasts, surfers, families, foodies and adventurer-seekers to enjoy this all-embracing celebration of the ancient discipline of yoga. But those unacquainted shouldn’t be put off, as there’s far more to Wanderlust than the downward dog and finding your chakra points. There’s live music, inspiring lectures, a beauty bar, authentic local cuisine, surfing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, eco-kayaking and plenty more besides. WHEN 23-26 February WHERE Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku

Wanderlust

Supple festival-goers jump for joy at Wanderlust (Photo: AliKaukas for Wanderlust Festival)

Wekfest

The Hawaii edition of this renowned automotive event, which is held across seven US cities each year, features over 250 pre-screened vehicles under the roof of the Blaisdell Exhibition Center in Honolulu. Leading car brands, as well as accessories and lifestyle companies, will be in attendance, along with thousands of car enthusiasts, or ‘petrol heads’ as they are affectionately known. Where this show differs from others is that every car in attendance boasts its own unique back-story and character – and the results are exceptional. WHEN 4 February WHERE S. Blaisdell Exhibition Center, Downtown Honolulu

Wekfest

A variety of Automobiles lined up at Wekfest (Photo: Wekfest)

Honolulu African American Film Festival

Organised and hosted by the Honolulu Museum of Art, this is one of the most important events on Hawaii’s cultural calendar. Taking place during African American History Month, the festival explores the cultural richness of the black experience through film, cinema, music, theatre and visual arts created by and about people of African descent. In particular the two-week festival highlights female black voices by creating a space for them to be heard. The 2017 edition will also feature a special textile exhibition by Karen Hampton. WHEN 4-17 February WHERE Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Honolulu African American Film Festival

A promotional shot from the Honolulu African American Film Festival (Photo: Honolulu African American Film Festival)

Honolulu Festival

With its penchant for music, colour and sheer unadulterated fun, there can’t be many better locations for a festival than Hawaii. Each year the island hosts the hugely popular Honalulu Festival that combines raucous entertainment with an earnest desire to promote understanding, economic cooperation and ethnic harmony. Held over three days, the event draws thousands of visitors who come to enjoy a huge array of events and activities including dance performances, traditional art demonstrations, and a spectacular parade down Kalakaua Avenue in the beachfront neighbourhood of Waikiki. Admission to the festival is free for all-comers. WHEN 10-12 March WHERE Venues across Honolulu

Honolulu City Lights

Hawaii is certainly not short of natural beauty, but once a year the capital of Honolulu puts its faith in more artificial embellishments in order to grab the limelight. In the lead up to Christmas, the annual City Lights transforms Honolulu into a kaleidoscope of dazzling colours, drawing thousands of families and traditions to enjoy what has become a beloved island tradition. As well as the lights displays, the event also features a procession of festooned city vehicles and school marching bands, a star-studded holiday concert, a giant tree-lighting ceremony and an array of stalls selling festive food, drinks and novelty items. WHEN Various dates from 9-23 December WHERE Honolulu Hale, Honolulu

Honolulu City Lights

A bird’s-eye view of the sparkling Honolulu City Lights (Photo: Tammy Seymour)

Pacific Island Arts Festival

It may a little off the radar of the art world elite, but you don’t need to dig very far to discover that Hawaii has its own vibrant arts scene. This hugely popular arts festival showcases pieces by some of the most distinguished artisans and artists in Honolulu. With over 100 participating artists, the two-day event provides an exceptional opportunity for art enthusiasts to peruse and discover the work of new artists and perhaps even purchase pieces to add to their collections. Additionally, the festival programme also includes a wide variety of live performances, and some great food and drink. WHEN 21-22 January WHERE Kapi’olani Park

Sony Open

Each January the Sony Open in Hawaii attracts many of the world’s greatest golf professionals to the Waialae Country Club on the island of Oahu. Unsurprisingly given the stunning backdrop, this is one of the most popular events on the PGA Tour circuit, for players and spectators alike. Former winners have included distinguished names from the world of golf including Ernie Els, Ryan Palmer and Jimmy Walker. It is also the largest charity golf event in Hawaii and since 1999 has raised over $16 million dollars for over 350 local not-for-profit organisations WHEN 9-15 January WHERE aialae Country Club, Oahu

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