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Oahu, Hawaii| Courtesy of Julie Cao
Oahu, Hawaii| Courtesy of Julie Cao
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Oahu, Hawaii’s Best Culture And Art Events

Picture of Julie Cao
Updated: 9 February 2017
Oahu is well known for beachcombing, outdoor partying, and hiking. While all these popular activities play an integral part in island life, Oahu is far more diverse than just a tropical vacation destination. There are countless festivals for visitors to learn about the island’s rich culture and heritage. With so many activities taking place year-round, here are the some of the best.
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Waikiki Spam Jam

April 30, 2016, 4-10pm

Waikiki Spam Jam is an annual food festival that brings thousands of locals and visitors together for a taste of traditional Spam dishes. This event is designed for locals to celebrate their deep affection for Spam – with an average of six million cans consumed each year. There are over 40 different Spam dishes presented at the Spam Jam, including the local moco Spam burger, Spam nachos, spicy Spam ramen, Spam brittle ice cream, and Spam katsu dynamite. Purchase any of those dishes and eat them under the sunset at Waikiki Beach. After savoring a scrumptious Spam meal, enjoy live Hawaiian music and hula halau on two main stages on Kalakaua Avenue.

Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 735 7788

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Billabong Pipeline Masters

December 8-20, 2016


Billabong Pipeline Masters| Courtesy of Julie Cao

Every December, world-class surfers venture out to the Banzai Pipeline, across from Sunset Beach Elementary School, on North Shore for an exciting but challenging surfing experience. Once there, visitors can expect 30 feet rolling waves and the formation of barreling curls of water one after the other. Along with shallow coral reefs, the Pipeline Masters puts surfers’ ability of riding the world’s deadliest waves to the ultimate test. Take an early morning ride to North Shore, stand at the edge of the water, look in awe as the surfers ride the beautiful waves, and enjoy a beach picnic with your family and friends.

Ehukai Beach Park, Haleiwa, HI, USA

First Friday

First Friday takes place on the first Friday of every month to promote art galleries, restaurants, and bars in Chinatown. Visitors burst onto the streets, hopping from bar to bar that offers happy hours, live music and DJs. From Bar 35 and NextDoor to the Manifest, you can collect countless entry stamps on your wrist as memorabilia. After happy hour, explore art galleries on Smith Street and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which is open for business during the night of First Friday. Although this event officially ends around 9 pm, the fun continues till the wee hours of the morning, as millions of people keep throwing themselves into the bars and onto the streets for soirees.

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Sunset on the Beach

Sunset on the Beach features free movie nights on the Queen’s Surf in Waikiki. Although this event only takes place three to four times a year, it draws hundreds of people to the beach to watch movies on a 30-foot screen. With a starry sky overhead and the waves crashing along the shoreline in the background, Sunset on the Beach renders a perfect opportunity for family and friends to get together, watch movies, and hang on the beach. For those who arrive early, you can sit on the beach, entertain yourself with the live music performance, and watch the sunset. Tables and seats are set up on the beach so you can walk in and take a seat. Reasonably priced local cuisine and mainland-themed pizza can be purchased from street vendors nearby.

2709 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI, USA


Sunset in Waikiki Beach | Courtesy of Julie Cao

Great Aloha Run

February 20, 2017

Starting off at Aloha Tower and ending at Aloha Stadium, the Great Aloha Run (GAR) features an 8.15-mile foot race each February. The GAR is merely a racing competition that raises funds for more than 150 non-profit health and humanitarian service organizations. In addition to the fundraising, GAR is an easy way to spread the spirit of Aloha. Participants can feel the love along the way as there are live bands, radio stations, DJs, first-aid stations, and cheerleaders on the road to provide them support. Prior to the event, entrants are welcome to join free eight-week In Training Workshops offered every Sunday that focus on stretching, running skills, and injury prevention.

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Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony

May 30, 2016 (Memorial Day)

The Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony is a collective ceremony where people from all over the world come together to honor their loved ones and those who passed during service to their country. The highlight of the event is the individual lantern floating with hundreds of lanterns being released into the water for the currents to take them out to the ocean, in hope that past friends and family of the participants will receive them. For those wishing to participate in the individual lantern floating event, arrive between 10 am to 4 pm at the Lantern Request Tent to get a lantern kit. Write your messages and assemble the lantern. Around 7 pm, place your lantern into the water under the sunset and embrace the spiritual and emotional moment.

Ala Moana Beach Park, 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 786 4611

Lantern Floating Ceremony

Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony | Courtesy of Camille Cobbs

Hawaii Foods and Wine Festival

Oct 2016 (Information about the event date, time and location is coming soon on the event official website)

Founded by two award-winning Hawaii chefs, Roy Yamaguchi (owner of Roy’s Hawaii) and Alan Wong (owner of Alan Wong’s Restaurant), Hawaii Food and Wine Festival on Oahu is a four-day epicurean event showcasing the best fusion of the island and Asian cuisine, local produce, and artisanal food offerings from over 100 celebrity chefs. Sample local dishes such as poke, manapua, and Kalau pork sliders, savor wine varieties during wine-tasting seminars and enjoy live music on the oceanfront – a testament to Hawaii’s culinary culture and natural beauty. A list of participating chefs for the 2016 Food and Wine Festival can be found on the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival’s official website. Tickets can be purchased online and at the event site depending on availability.

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Hawaii International Film Festival

April 2-10, 2016

The Hawaii International Film Festival features over 150 independent and international movies. It is the only film festival in the US where movies are screened and chosen to be displayed in theaters. This two-week film festival presents a wide category of movies including world premieres, comedy, drama, documentary, action and short films. In addition to the films, audiences can participate in workshops, seminars and panels, and special award presentation receptions. All these events provide an excellent opportunity for audiences to interact with film producers, directors, and film stars, and learn about Hawaii’s film industry.

Hawaii International Film Festival, 680 Iwilei Rd, Suite 100, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 447 0577 (Box Office)

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Punahou Carnival

Punahou Carnival is a two-day annual state fair. Two main features of this event are delicious island cuisine and the White Elephant Booth. Take the city bus #4, #5, or #18 to the Punahou School. Upon arriving, purchase enough scrips by Dillingham Hall or in the EK Fernandez tent (shortest lines) for E.K. Fernandez rides and the food. Grab dozens of freshly fried malasadas (Punahou recipe), which the locals claim to be the best on the island. For lunch and dinner, purchase the Hawaii plate, huli huli chicken, or Portuguese bean soup at the food booth. Find a table at upper campus to eat while enjoying the live island music. If you need a break from food and the rides, visit the White Elephant Booth, where you can purchase second-hand books, clothes, and housewares at ultra-low prices.

1601 Punahou Street, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 944 5711


Punahou Carnival | Courtesy of Pierre Omidyar