Kauai Events

There are festivals in Kauai and other types of Kauai events happening somewhere on the island throughout the year. Some of these events in Kauai are ongoing, scheduled weekly or at other regular times. Many revolve around ancient Hawaiian customs, like traditional dancing or the luau. Because the interior of the island is so rugged, and all towns and cities are on or near the coast, many Kauai festivals occur on the beaches or even out in the ocean.

One of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles is also one of the annual Kauai events that occurs in the ocean and goes from December through April. This is the humpback whale migration, and it can be seen on whale-watching expeditions in Kauai or any of the other islands. Sometime in December, the great aquatic mammals begin their 3,000-mile journey from their summer feeding waters in Alaska to the Hawaiian Islands to give birth to their calves. Mating also occurs in the islands, and the whales remain until about April when they make the return journey north.

One of the most important Kauai festivals is Lei Day, held on May Day (the first day of May), and sponsored by the Kauai Museum in Lihue. It is designed to keep the art of lei-making alive and to emphasize care of the unique Hawaiian environment. There are workshops and classes in Hawaiian culture and a lei-making contest. The winners are judged on their artistic merit and, like the floats of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, their use of natural plant materials, such as flowers, leaves, seeds and seed pods, stems, roots, and fruits. While you will find hula demonstrations happening somewhere just about any day of the year, it is at the Lei Day events in Kauai when you will probably learn the most about the ancient (kahiko) and the contemporary (auana) hula.

The Kauai World Challenge is one of the Kauai events that draws onlookers and competitors from around the world, including Australia, Tahiti, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, the Canary Islands, New Zealand, South Africa, and elsewhere. It is held over several days in mid-May and involves coastal relay races for one- and two-person outrigger canoes, called surfskis. You can station yourself at change points in Hanamaulu Bay near the Lihue Airport, Kalapaki Bay off the Kauai Marriott Resort, and Poipu Beach to watch the team changes. Another popular ocean sport is surfing, and Kauai has superb spots for this. If you want to learn, try the gentler surf at Poipu Beach. If you want to watch the surf artists at work, head over to Hanalei—but unless you’re an expert surfer, stay out of the waves here.

No matter what decision you make about when to go to Kauai, you’re bound to encounter events in Kauai happening somewhere on the island. From September through May, you can attend a series of concerts at Kauai Community College in Lihue. Every Monday in February, March, and April you can attend traditional Hawaiian music workshops in the Puhi foothills. In late March, dozens of local artisans show up at the Garden Artisan Faire at Poipu Beach. Also in late March is the Prince Kuhio Celebration of the Arts at the beloved monarch’s birthplace and at the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa. Every Monday, you can join free walking tours of historic Waimea Town.

If you want to learn about traditional Hawaiian foods, attend the ultimate Sunday brunch called Taste of Hawaii. This is held at Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Wailua Bay on the first Sunday in June. More than 50 chefs from across the Hawaiian Islands assemble to prepare their signature dishes for you. Finally, what is probably the most important of all Kauai festivals, the Kauai Polynesian Festival, is held over Memorial Day weekend in the soccer field adjacent to Vidinha Stadium in Lihue. It begins with an elaborate traditional luau and continues with entertainment from Tahiti, the Maori people of New Zealand, Samoa, and Hawaii. There are Pacific Rim dance competitions, and you will find vendors offering traditional local foods and arts and crafts.

Top image: HTA / Tor Johnson

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