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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Discover Hawai'i's Rich Cultural History

HAWAI'I – The Hawaiian Islands are unlike anywhere else in the world. Beyond the beautiful scenery and tropical climate, the aloha spirit that stems from the state's traditional Hawaiian culture is what makes the Hawaiian Islands so unique. The Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA) honors and perpetuates the Hawaiian culture and community by supporting vital programs and initiatives that help to preserve and promote the 'ōlelo Hawai'i (Hawaiian language), hula (dance), music, art and other cultural traditions and customs.

To invite visitors to know more about the Hawaiian culture, HTA works closely with the Hawaiian Cultural Program Advisory Council (HCPAC), which includes key agencies and individuals within the Hawaiian community, visitor industry, and cultural practitioners across the state. Visitors can experience and discover Hawai'i's unique culture through the Native Hawaiian Signature Events Program, Kūkulu Ola: Living Hawaiian Culture Program, Ma'ema'e Tool Kit and other various community events throughout Hawai'i.
The Native Hawaiian Signature Events Program is a series of major events that highlight the Hawaiian culture, which residents and visitors can enjoy every year. They include:
  • Considered by many as the world's premier hula competition, the Merrie Monarch Festival is a weeklong cultural festival on Hawai'i Island that concludes with its prestigious three-day hula competition. Featuring female soloists and hālau hula (hula schools) from around the world, the typically sold-out event showcases dancers competing in both kahiko (ancient) and 'auana (modern) forms of hula. This year's event will take place Apr. 20-26.
  • The 4th annual Mele Mei is a statewide month-long celebration of Hawai'i's music, language and culture, featuring some of Hawaii's best musicians, including the Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winning artists and Lifetime Achievement Award honorees during various events throughout the month of May, statewide.
  • The King Kamehameha Celebration is a month-long celebration that honors the king famous for uniting the Hawaiian Islands. Statewide festivities on the islands of O'ahu, Maui, Kaua'i, and Hawai'i Island include a ho'olaule'a (celebration), statue decorating ceremony, hula competition, and floral parades. This year's events will take place June 11-14. 
  • Prince Lot Hula Festivalis an all-day exhibition event, held in the beautiful Moanalua Gardens on O'ahu. The festival features performances by hālau hula (dance schools) that grace the pā hula, one of the few remaining hula mounds in Hawai'i. This year's event takes place on July 19. 
  • Aloha Festivals is Hawai'i's premier cultural showcase, a celebration of Hawai'i's music, dance and history intended to preserve the unique island traditions. This long-standing event is a favorite among residents and visitors. This year's festival will take place on O'ahu on Sept. 6, 13, 20, and 27.
In addition to the HTA's Native Hawaiian Signature Events Program, the Hawaiian Islands are home to attractions and other events unique to each island that help to perpetuate and promote the Hawaiian culture.

  • 'Iolani Palace is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States, 'Iolani Palace is a national historic landmark and Heritage Site of Hawai'i. A walking tour of the Palace offers visitors an opportunity to experience the lifestyle of Hawai'i's last two monarchs and learn about an important period of Hawai'i's history. 
  • Bishop Museum is Hawai'i's largest museum dedicated to studying and preserving the history of Hawai'i and the Pacific. Originally designed to house the extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I, the museum is now the premier natural and cultural history institution of the Pacific. It is also designated as a Heritage Site of Hawai'i.
  • The 44th Annual Ukulele Festival happens every July at Kapi'olani Park on O'ahu. Families, ukulele fans, and visitors follow the sounds of music. The music swirls over the tops of ironwood and monkeypod trees toward Diamond Head. This upbeat, infectious, bouncy music about surf and sunny days will make you want to dance and sing like a beach boy. The irresistible charm of the ukulele embraces all who hear it. This year's events take place July 18-20.

  • Located in Old Lahaina Courthouse, the Lahaina Heritage Museum offers an overview of the extensive history and rich culture found in Lahaina. Open daily, visitors can listen to narratives, view touch screens and watch videos.
  • Held annually during Easter weekend, the Celebration of the Arts at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua pays tribute to the people, arts and traditions of Hawai'i. Festivities include hula performances, arts and cultural workshops, keiki (children) crafts, entertainment by local musicians, and a Hawaiian luau. This year's events will take place May 9-11.
  • Every year, Kā'anapali Beach Hotel hosts Hula O Nā Keiki,Maui's only keiki (children) solo hula and chant competition, featuring dancers from 5 to 17 years old. The weekend-long event also features hula and Hawaiian chanting workshops, arts and crafts displays and traditional food and entertainment. This year's events will take place Nov.14-16.

  • Ka Hula Piko Festival translating to “a celebration of the birth of hula,” showcases traditional Hawaiian dance, chanting and lectures every May. On May 3, residents and visitors can enjoy entertainment, food and handcrafts made by local artisans.

  • Celebrating its 54th year, The Kaua'i Museum helps to educate and promote the indigenous and immigrant culture and history of Kaua'i and Ni'ihau through exhibits, publications and educational programs. Every month, the museum presents the “Hawaiian Pāʻina First Friday and Storytelling,” which includes award-winning culinary favorites by Kaua'i chef Mark Oyama, traditional Hawaiian lore as told by kūpuna (elders), Hawaiian lei-making and other activities for residents and visitors to participate.  
  • Since its inception in 1988, Eō E 'Emalani I Alaka'i (also known as the 'Emalani Festival) invites kumu hula (hula masters) and their dancers each year to create an outdoor event dedicated to telling the story of Hawai'i's beloved Queen Emma and her inspiring legacy as a humanitarian leader. This year's event will take place on Oct. 11.    
  • The 22nd Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival “Kauaʻi Style” was created with aloha and love of the music and to honor Gabby 'Pops' Pahinui, who contributed so much to the music of Hawai'i. The festival continues his legacy and helps to perpetuate and preserve a unique Hawaiian acoustic guitar art form known as "Ki-ho'alu,” a distinctive part of the Hawaiian culture. The event will take place on Nov. 16.

Hawai'i Island
  • The second Governor of the Island of Hawai'i, John Adams Kuakini built Hulihe'e Palace in 1838. Located in Kailua-Kona, it was a favorite vacation residence of Hawaiian royalty. Today it is a museum operated by the Daughters of Hawai'i and is a showplace of beautiful furniture and fascinating artifacts.
  • Throughout the month of September, Hawai'i Island Festival will celebrate 30 days of Aloha. With this festival, Hawai'i Island celebrates Hawaiian culture and traditions with various events featuring music, dance and other activities. Signature events include a Poke Contest and the Clyde Kindy Sproat Falsetto and Storytelling Contest.
  • The Moku O Keawe International Festival annually attracts hālau hula (hula schools) from around the world to participate in a showcase of different interpretations of the hula. The event will take place in November 2014 and includes workshops and cultural classes at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.

All of the above events are subject to change without notice. For a complete listing of Hawai'i's festivals and events visit

In 2014, the HTA is supporting 22 Kūkulu Ola: Living Hawaiian Culture programs (LHCP). The LHCP was created to strengthen the relationship between the visitor industry and the Hawaiian community, nurture the Hawaiian culture by creating visitor experiences, activities and marketing programs that are respectful and accurate, and support Hawaiian programs and cultural practitioners, craftsmen, musicians and other artists that preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. For a list of Hawaiian Culture organizations supported by this program, visit

The Ma'ema'e Tool Kit is an online resource guide that offers essential information to promote the Hawaiian Islands. It includes geographical, historical, cultural, experiential and basic information about Hawai'i, in addition to a language tool that offers auto-correct diacritical spelling options for Hawaiian words. Through the development of tool kits and awareness education, this resource is intended to generate authentic promotional materials and media coverage to market Hawai'i to the world.

For images, please visit the image library at Register under “public.”

Established in 1998, the Hawai'i Tourism Authority, the state's tourism agency, is responsible for strategically managing tourism to optimize benefits for Hawai'i that integrates the interest of visitors, the community and visitor industry. Tourism is our state's leading economic driver and largest employer and the HTA continually works to ensure its sustainability well into the future. For more information on the HTA, please visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@HawaiiHTA).

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