Situated at the northernmost part of Hawaii lies Kauai – the oldest and arguably the most historic among the Hawaiian island chain. This serene paradise is the fourth biggest island of Hawaii where scenic mountain slopes, green valleys, and cascading waterfalls are just a few of the many marvels that it has to offer.
Though significantly less-populated among other islands, festivals and celebrations are no stranger here. Customs and traditions that have been celebrated for many generations have continued to uplift people both locals and tourists up to this very day.
Having your trip planned at any of their festivals will be an unforgettable experience. Musical events run the whole year and their full-bodied food options offer memorable experiences. A rich, colorful cultural adventure awaits. Here are 6 of the island’s most popular celebrations, when they happen, and what you can expect from each event.
7 Celebrations to Experience in Kauai
1. Lei Day
One may immediately remember the first of May as a celebration for the international workers’ day but in Kauai, a bigger festival is celebrated – the island’s Lei Day. This statewide celebration in Hawaii starts in the morning and is continued until the next day. Robust arrays of flowers and lively parades flood the street during this celebration.
In a nutshell, this is a celebration where people create or buy Leis – Hawaiian flowers strung together to a garland usually worn in a form of necklace, bracelet, or headdress. It is customary to give and wear these beautiful garlands, making it a lovely and distinct celebration of the aloha spirit.
The festival is where you also see people do the famous hula dance accompanied by tribal drum beats or sounds of Hawaiian music. On the streets, different crafts and food vendors crowd the streets for people to explore. You don’t want to miss the lofty Lei Day contest where a different level of Lei artistry is exhibited for everyone to enjoy.
2. Prince Kuhio Celebration
Prince Kuhio is known in Hawaii for his efforts on preserving Hawaiian cultural values and assuring native Hawaiians a home in their native land. His work has been immortalized as people continue to celebrate his legacy annually on Prince Kuhio Day. The statewide holiday is celebrated every March 26 but amazingly runs for weeks in some places like Poipu and Anahola.
Sports festivals such as canoe racing and commemorative ceremonies are just some of activities lined up for people to enjoy during this festival. You can also expect to experience a luau, a traditional Hawaiian party where entertainment comes in traditional Hawaiian music and famed Hawaiian food like haupia, poke and opihi are served. There are also people who pay their respects by visiting the prince’s resting place at Oahu’s Royal Mausoleum.
3. Koloa Plantation Days
More vibrant energy surrounds the southern part of Kauai when summer hits and Koloa Plantation Days opens. This ten-day celebration every July is filled with food, music, and dances as the island’s plantation heritage and cultural diversity are highlighted. It’s easy to see why waves of visitors flock to the charming shores of Poipu and Koloa where the abundance of the festival happens.
Agriculture remains a big part of Hawaii, with sugar cane as one of its most valuable crops. During Koloa Plantation Days, this is celebrated along with the appreciation of traditions and groups that have shaped the Hawaiian culture that we know today. One can immerse in the paniolo culture by spending a rodeo-themed weekend or by enjoying dinner with Polynesian fire dancers.
Various craft shops pop out of parks, adding more flavor to the festival’s experience. Golf and tennis tournaments are also in the directory of activities to let people experience more of the modern-day side of Koloa’s culture. One may also indulge in a cooking and culinary market where local harvests are ready for grabs. This celebration is without a doubt one that must be on your list on a trip to Kauai.
4. Kilauea Art Night
Trendy food trucks. Local artisans. Great music. Kilauea Art Night is one of those captivating festivals that you just have to experience when in Kauai. This event that runs for hours is celebrated at the heart of the island, in the historic town of Kilauea. The dates for this celebration changes every year, so it’s best to contact Kauai’s tourist centers before booking your visit.
Huddle up with friends and lay your blankets on the ground while listening to local bands. To spice up the experience, one may indulge in Hawaiian food from modish trucks and stalls dotting the area. Unique and innovative kinds of artwork also highlight Kilauea’s rich and colorful history, making for a leisurely browsing activity.
Pottery and paintings side by side with magnificent woodworks are things you can find being exhibited during this cultural night. One can also experience Kilauea’s art by getting henna tattoos or being face-painted by local artists. Before the night ends, find yourself a pair of custom-made slippers that you might want to use for your stay in Hawaii. You can expect to see a bounty of unique arts and crafts on this night of gathering – definitely prepare a souvenir budget and extra luggage space!
5. Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair
Every year in August, the biggest festival in the Garden Island of Kauai is celebrated. The three-day Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair aims to give visibility to communities with the abundance of produce that one can witness in this celebration. The vast field of Vidinha Stadium located in Lihue is filled by non-profit groups and local business owners.
In this event, there is a great focus on helping local businesses involved in agriculture market their products. Diverse buyers from locals to tourists then gather to purchase the freshest produce you’ll see in Kauai. Pop-up markets also participate during the fair, adding to the wide array of products one can explore.
The best part of this festival is that hobbyist groups and other agricultural communities are made direct recipients of all proceeds that are earned. This supports various endeavors such as growing more flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and overall boosts Kauai’s agricultural economy.
6. Red Clay Jazz Festival
Music has always been an integral part of Hawaii’s celebrations. Such is the Red Clay Jazz Festival where national and local jazz artists convene to perform. Solo artists and bands playing all around the island make fun-filled days for locals and tourists alike.
Anyone may jam along to performers outdoors on beach chairs. Tent seats are also available for groups and families. Like any celebration in Kauai, a lot of food will also be present! Relish in locally grown organic food and find some Koloa Rum. Enjoy a variety of beverages to choose from as you dance and sway to all the jazz and blues performances.
Aside from concert experiences, one may also try their hand at workshops that professionals offer during this festival. For music enthusiasts, these workshops can jumpstart a journey to a career or exploration in jazz and blues.
7. Waimea Town Celebration
Are you looking forward to experiencing a festival that showcases all that Kauai has to offer? You’ll have the most fun at the annual Waimea Town Celebration, which is Kauai’s oldest and largest festival to date.
The Historic Waimea Theater and Cultural Arts Center (HWTCAC) welcomes locals and visitors yearly for 9 days of activities and entertainment. Imagine experiencing Kauai’s best in 9 days, from tasting the island’s heavenly cuisine to viewing films and plays about the island’s history in cozy outdoor setups.
Competitions also color the 9-day celebration with vigorous energy. Optimistic athletes from all over the island gather to compete in rodeos and sports like baseball and basketball, while artists have the chance to shine in ukulele and hat-making contests. If you’re up for a good old contest that’s just for fun, an ice-cream eating contest will be open to anyone who thinks they can ace it!
Experience Them All
Truly, the fun never runs out in Kauai. For upbeat visitors, there’s always a community planning a social gathering, may it be simple or incredibly grand. Thanks to Kauai’s rich history and culture, the people of Kauai always have something to celebrate. The best part is – everyone’s invited!