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Diving into it all is easier than you may think
HONOLULU – Beyond the sun, sand and surf that often initially draws visitors to the Hawaiian Islands are the many intimate, interactive and indelible opportunities to discover the wonder of their historically-rich and vibrant indigenous Hawaiian host culture and dynamic multicultural population.
Alongside and often drawing thoughtfully from this multiethnic quilt, largely born of Hawaii’s now long-departed sugar and plantation eras, is a thriving culture and arts scene that is equally unique and also a must-experience. Hawaii’s multifaceted arts and cultural offerings are, in fact, a large part of what genuinely inspires travelers the first time they visit the Islands and fuels their desire to return as soon as they can.
Inspired to experience as much of the above as possible on your next stay in the Hawaiian Islands? Make plans to experience the very best of the arts and culture of Hawaii in the five amazing ways listed below.
1. At these unique-to-the-Islands festivals and events. Time your visit around popular annual festivals where Hawaii arts and culture take center stage.The Prince Lot Hula Festival brings some of the best halau hula (hula schools) from Hawaii and the mainland to the grounds of Iolani Palace on Oahu for two days of public performances. The Honolulu Festival welcomes the artists and cultural practitioners of Hawaii’s Pacific Rim neighbors to Oahu for exhibitions and performances, and showcases Hawaii’s host culture and ethnic mix. Celebrate the multicultural and agricultural roots of Kauai’s sunny south shore and the area’s main burg Koloa with town tours, food and cultural events, a parade, a rodeo and lots more at Koloa Plantation Days. The coffee bean, farmers and roasters that made the southwest side of the island of Hawaii world famous are celebrated with 10 days of java-related events at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. And while the East Maui Taro Festival honors all things wonderful about the district’s sublime kalo (taro), it also sings the praises of the area’s rural communities and ag with hula, music and lots of great local food. Art lovers should bookmark Honolulu Biennial 2019, featuring art from the Pacific, Asia and the Americas.
2. At these cultural, historical and science-forward museums and attractions. Make some time to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the Hawaiian Islands’ natural, geological, scientific and multicultural histories. A few hours exploring the massive collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artifacts at 129-year-old Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum on Oahu offers an exhaustive and revelatory glimpse into Hawaiian history. At the Imiloa Astronomy Center on the island of Hawaii, interactive exhibits explore the connections between modern astronomy being done on Maunakea volcano and early Hawaiian studies of the cosmos. The exhibits at Kauai Museum spotlight the past and present heritage of the indigenous Hawaiian culture and multiple sugar plantation-era cultures of Kauai and neighboring island Niihau. Hale Hoikeike at the Bailey House displays the Maui Historical Society’s intriguing collection of pre-Western contact Hawaiian antiquities, Christian missionary-era and plantation-era artifacts, and a century-old Hawaiian waa (canoe). Hawaii’s Plantation Village offers a story-filled walk through the period-authentic multiethnic residences and structures of a replica early 20tth century sugar plantation village. Tip: Take the docent tour for a detailed, often firsthand perspective on plantation life.
3. At these city, town and neighborhood main street events and walks. The Hanapepe Town Friday Art Night keeps its namesake Kauai town’s main street restaurants, bake shops, retailers and art galleries open into the evening every Friday for post-sunset art strolling. Friday nights also mean a Maui Friday Town Parties main-street shindig is kicking into gear in either Wailuku, Lahaina, Makawao, Kihei or, on Lanai island, Lanai City, offering a fun way to explore each town’s personality and culture. Almost any day is a great one to explore the eclectic restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, retailers, museums and more, situated in the century-old buildings of Hilo’s historic downtown district, which is also home base for the ever-popular, ever-diverse Hilo Farmers Market. On the island of Hawaii’s west side, Kona’s historic Kailua Village shuts down a portion of its bayside Alii Drive to accommodate the artist, merchant and food booths of its monthly Kokua Kailua Village Stroll. Back on Fridays, the art galleries, boutique retailers and mod-cool eateries of Honolulu’s Chinatown and Kaimuki neighborhoods welcome bustling after-work crowds to their monthly First Friday Downtown Art Walk and Third Fridays Kaimukitown exploration nights.
4. At these compelling Hawaiian cultural and historical sites. The sharing of Hawaiian history and culture in the actual locations that shaped both propel the narratives of four National Park Service-managed sites on the island of Hawaii’s west side. Discover centuries-old loko ia (Hawaiian fishponds), protected wetlands and native birdlife, and beach-snoozing Hawaiian green sea turtles on the coastal trail of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. Participate in crafts and skills practiced by early Hawaiians and gain a richer understanding of Hawaiian culture at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park andPuukohola Heiau National Historic Site. At all three, explore segments of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, an island-circling foot trail used by early Hawaiians to travel between coastal settlements. On Oahu, learn about early Hawaiian aquaculture on a tour of Heeia loko ia and possibly volunteer in its restoration with nonprofit Paepae o Heeia. The only official royal residence in the U.S., Iolani Palace near downtown Honolulu was home to last reigning Kingdom of Hawaii monarchs King David Kalakaua and sister Queen Liliuokalani, and continues to share the stories and artifacts of their lives and times there.
5. At eateries and festivals serving up Hawaii’s multicultural-influenced cuisine. Dining in Hawaii is akin to an engaging exploration of multiple world cultures led by your appetite and taste buds. True Hawaiian food is rooted in the indigenous Hawaiian culture’s menu of traditional dietary staples. Favorite dishes include kalua pork, laulau, poke, luau stew and recipes crafted with varietals of kalo, uala (sweet potato) and ulu (breadfruit). Seek it out. Also perennially popular are the mouthwatering traditional comfort food favorites introduced by Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Okinawan andPuerto Rican field laborers during Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantation era. Imaginative local chefs have embraced or reimagined many of these dishes, often folding in the ingredients and cooking styles born of multiple Hawaii ethnicities to create new modern Hawaii cuisine favorites. The state’s largest annual culinary event, the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival makes spotlighting the Islands’ farmers, fishermen and ranchers, ingredients, produce and sustainable agricultural traditions the mission of its grazing events and invited line-up chefs from Hawaii and around the world. Other Hawaiian Islands food-focused festivals include the Okinawan Festival, Korean Festival, Filipino Fiesta, A Taste of the Hawaiian Range, Honolulu Poke Fest and more. Schedule your visit near one of these and you won’t go home hungry.
Hawaii Tourism United States (HTUSA), managed by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, is contracted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) for marketing management services in the continental U.S. The HTA, the state of Hawaii’s tourism agency, was established in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry well into the future. Its mission is to strategically manage Hawaii tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with the state of Hawaii’s economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires, and visitor industry needs. For more information about the Hawaiian Islands, visitgohawaii.com.