Event Finds: Waikiki

1) Spam Jam

In Hawai‘i residents consume the most spam per person than anywhere else in the United States. So it's no surprise that the state that consumes close to seven million cans of Spam each year also has its own festival for it, and the annual Waikiki Spam Jam -- held every April along Kalakaua Avenue -- is a food festival like no other.

Your opu (belly) will be singing a new tune as you sample spam dishes from some of the island's top eateries who take a local twist on Hawai‘i's favorite canned meat. Our taste buds were abuzz with Spam Jam twists like the loco moco spam burger, spam siu mai, spam street tacos and more. Spam-a-licious.

After filling your stomach on spam, you can jam out at one of the event's two entertainment stages or check out the Spam-themed merchandise tents and Hawaiian craft booths. And while there is no cost for admission to Spam Jam, attendees can make a donation of canned spam (or any other canned food) to the Hawai‘i Foodbank. Because we can all do something to can hunger!

To make plans for next year's spam-a-jama visit www.spamjamhawaii.com.


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2) Okinawan Festival

Celebrating Japan's southernmost prefecture for more than 30 years, Waikiki's Okinawan Festival has been bringing together people from all ethnicities and walks of life to honor the Uchinanchu (Okinawan) culture in Hawai‘i. From local Okinawan favorites like the Anda Pop (because very few things in life are as good as andagi - a deep fried dessert - on a stick dipped in chocolate) to getting up close and personal with the Okinawan dragon dog -- this festival offers something for everyone.

If you attended the Okinawan Festival years ago you may remember it at Ala Moana Park's McCoy Pavilion but it has since grown out of those digs and is now held every September at Kapi‘olani Park in Waikiki to accommodate the more than 50,000 guests it attracts annually.

If you can, make plans to check out the Okinawan Festival Bon Dance which is traditionally held on Saturday night, and allows participants of all ages and ability levels to get their bon dance on. In between sets grab a fundagi (or two) for the fam. The Okinawan-style funnel cake, lightly dusted in sugar is only available during the Saturday bon dance and will have you doing a special fundagi-inspired jig.

If you prefer to drive, the Hawai‘i United Okinawa Association - which hosts the event each year and is the beneficiary of all proceeds -- hosts a shuttle bus that runs continuously from Kapi‘olani Community College to the festival. To get all the latest and greatest details on this year's Okinawan Festival, visit www.okinawanfestival.com.


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3) Ukulele Festival

Strumming along since 1971, the Ukulele Festival Hawaii has been bringing the joy of Hawaiian music to island residents and visitors for dozens of years. Striking the perfect note every July, Ukulele Festival Hawaii is the largest ukulele festival of its kind in the world, attracting thousands of spectators as well as guest artists and an enormous ukulele orchestra of more than 800 ukulele students. The complimentary concert at the Kapiolani Park bandstand in Waikiki is now an annual summer tradition for local families who make a day out of it, grabbing their blankets, lawn chairs and coolers for a picnic at the park.

A member of the guitar family of instruments, the ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-leh-leh) is a 19th century instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants where it quickly gained popularity. Ukulele Festival Hawaii organizer and well-known ukulele musician Roy Sakuma and his wife Kathy have dedicated their lives to sharing the joy of this local instrument through lessons, festivals and community events.

Follow your ears and the sweet sounds of the uke to enjoy internationally and well-known celebrity musicians, food booths, ukulele displays, giveaways and lessons. Grammy award-winning artist James Ingram is a regular face at the festival since 1994 when he and Roy Sakuma met and collaborated on the Ukulele Festival Hawaii's theme song, "Come and Join Us," which was later honored with the Hawaii Music Award's single of the year award. While the Ukulele Festival has since taken to the road to include shows on Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui, the original is still considered by many - the best.


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4) Lantern Floating Hawaii

Each Memorial Day, Ala Moana Beach Park lights up with Lantern Floating Hawai‘i - a longstanding local event which invites participants to celebrate the lives of those who have passed. Hosted by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order the event typically attracts tens of thousands of kama‘aina and visitors from around the world who float through Magic Island to participate in the local tradition.

Arrive early to lock in your own lantern. The "lantern tent" opens at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day, but the line lengthens quickly to snap up the paper lanterns, which share handwritten notes of remembrance. For those who hope to share a message or memory of a loved one, all notes submitted online at www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com at least one week prior to the event will be included on the lanterns released during the ceremony. Lanterns are free but donations are accepted on behalf of the City and County of Honolulu.

Pack a picnic and some lawn chairs and spend the day sunning and surfing as you wait for the main event at dusk. Leading up to the lantern ceremony participants also enjoy a bright lineup of entertainment including song and dance. As the sun sets participants release more than 5,000 lanterns inscribed with messages to their loved ones into the Pacific Ocean.


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5) Restaurant Week

Each November, local gourmands get out of the kitchen and hightail it to their favorite restaurants or make reservations at previously unexplored eateries for Hawai'I's annual Restaurant Week. The seven-day celebration highlights the local cuisine scene creating a foodie fantasy filled with never-before-seen dishes, special pre-fixe menus, promotions, and discounts all to benefit the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head.

If you're anything like us you'll want to scour the Restaurant Week Hawai'i website ahead of time to study the complete list of participating eateries and offers. This way you can map out your meals for the week and make reservations well in advance.

For those who don't want to wander far to enjoy great eats, Nobu's (just downstairs) and Orchid's (right across the street) are Restaurant Week regulars. Because with names like Alan Wong's, Azure, Chef Chai, Diamond Head Market & Grill, Rainbow Drive In and more a week full of digging into delicious meals will have you weak in the knees.


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6) Courtyard Cinema Film Series

If you flip for film, you won't want to miss Ward Village's monthly Courtyard Cinema. Taking place every second Thursday of the month at the IBM Building Courtyard, each event features a different Hawai'i International Film Festival (HIFF) flick. Enjoy rotating refreshments, activities and special guests focused on that month's selected film as you enjoy the beautiful weather and backdrop of Honolulu.

For families with kids, Courtyard Cinema is a great way to spend the night. The free screenings won't break your budget and provides an educational opportunity as well since each showing highlights the art of independent films, from intellectually stimulating scripts to family-oriented favorites.

A partnership between Hawai'i International Film Festival and Consolidated Theaters at Ward Villages, all screenings are open to the public. Tickets can be reserved online at www.wardvillagecourtyardcinema.com/.

Free parking is available throughout Ward Village and a parking structure is located conveniently just across the street. With a selection of boutiques and eateries you can even shop and grab a plate lunch for dinner before heading over for the 6 p.m. showing. See ya at the cinema!


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7) Charity Walk

Make your morning walk more meaningful by participating in the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk. The walk is open to everyone looking to spend a morning enjoying food, fun, and local entertainment in support of Hawai'i's nonprofits!

Since 1979 the Visitor Industry Charity Walk has been an avenue for the visitor industry statewide to show aloha for local charities. As one of the few walks where you can actually GAIN weight, keep in mind that those extra calories are for a good cause. And while treating yourself to drinks and snacks at various check points along the four-mile O'ahu route, don't forget to pull over at the Halekulani for a special treat from the Waikiki Parc and our sister property!

On O'ahu participants are asked to make a minimum donation.  In past years thousands of walkers have helped to raise more than $1.8 million statewide to support island communities.  Contact the Concierge for more information.




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8) Honolulu Zoo Summer Concert Series

If you're looking for a roaring good time, zip on over to the Honolulu Zoo's Summer Concert Series. Held every Wednesday evening from June through August, the Wildest Show in Town headlines popular Hawaiian musicians like Willie K., Kapena, and Manoa DNA with zoo residents roaring, squawking and chattering as back up.   

The Wildest Show in Town brings together the sound of animals and the sound of music. Hosted by well-known entertainer Roy Sakuma, the 10-week concert series costs just $3 for anyone over age two. Arrive early and be one the first 30 lucky duckies to register and enjoy a guided-tour through the zoo before the concert!

For families, children age 12 and younger can participate in the Keiki Koloring Kontest or explore the animal-themed legos by HI Lego Users Group.

Swing over to the zoo early when gates open at 4:35 p.m. to hawk out the best spot on the lawn. The music starts at 6 p.m. and we recommend bringing a towel or chair to keep comfortable during the show. And while you can't feed the animals, you can definitely feed your family with food and drinks from participating vendors.

So take a walk on the wild side and get your fill of lions, tigers and bears with a paw-fully good performance of Hawaiian-style music. 



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9) Waikiki Aquarium Summer Concert Series

Beat the summer heat with Waikiki Aquarium's cool Summer Concert Series. The Ke Kani O Ke Kai concert series, which translates to The Sound of the Ocean, provides an opportunity to dive into the sweet sounds of Hawaiian music accompanied by the crashing waves of Waikiki Beach. Perfect for families, the admission fee includes access to the aquarium's exhibits so you get a fish-full of exhibits before spreading out on the lawn for a performance by one of the island's top entertainers.

Taking place each summer from June through August, concerts are held on alternating Thursday nights and feature different celebrated local musicians including award-winning names like Makana, Sean Naauao, Raiatea Helm, Cyril Pahunui, Jake Shimabukuro and many more.

Before leaving the room, pack a few towels and light jacket to ward off the chilly ocean breeze. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and many guests arrive early to kapu (reserve) their spot on the lawn and to give them time to explore the aquarium's displays before the music starts tuning up at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase online and are $50 for adults and $20 for children ages 5-12.  Children under age five are free. 



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10) Aloha Festivals

Ain’t no party like a Hawai’ party. And in Hawai’i the start of the fall season also kicks of Aloha Festivals, a two-month festival that includes hundreds of events across the state. Running from September through October, Aloha Festivals features a number of signature events including the Made in Hawaii show, steel guitar festival, music concerts, hula performances and much more. Much like the Makahiki celebrations of old Hawai’i, Aloha Festivals is a cultural celebration honoring the special heritage and aloha spirit that the islands are celebrated for. Originally called Aloha Week, it was expanded to Aloha Festivals in 1991 and now features more than 300 events and attracts more than a million guests each year. On O’ahu, Aloha Festivals steps out with the annual Aloha Festivals Parade. Each island is represented by a king, queen, prince, princess and attendants of Hawaiian descent and dressed in colorful aloha attire. Another not-to-be missed event is the Waikiki Hoolaulea. Just a brisk walk from your Waikiki beach hotel, the block party is the largest in the state, typically welcoming more than 80,000 guests and featuring live musical performances, food booths, and arts and crafts along Kalakaua Avenue. For an up-to-date list of this year’s schedule of events and more information on Aloha Festivals visit www.alohafestivals.com/.

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