Experience Spotlight: Hula Festivals of Hawaii

12 Apr 2018
by Sara Jane Crane —

Many Hawaii visitors know hula only as dinner entertainment, performed at luau and often accompanied by a mai tai and sunset view. For hula practitioners and many others, however, hula is a powerful, dynamic cultural art form that perpetuates the Hawaiian culture and connects modern-day Hawaiians to their history, stories, myths, land, places of importance and each other.

For travelers wishing to seek out one of Hawaii’s most iconic art forms and learn about its connection to Hawaiian culture, below are several places to experience authentic hula in Hawaii:

Travelers visiting Oahu in July with an interest in hula will appreciate attending the 41st Prince Lot Hula Festival, Hawaii’s largest non-competitive hula exhibition, which annually showcases the skills of more than 20 halau hula (hula schools) from across the Islands. The two-day hula festival honors Hawaiian monarch Prince Lot Kapuaiwa, who reigned as Kamehameha V from 1863 to 1872 and was enamored of hula. People traveling with children will enjoy the Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition (also in July), established to showcase the knowledge of Hawaii’s keiki (children) dancers in hula kahiko (traditional hula) and hula auana (modern hula).

Hula enthusiasts planning travel to Kauai in September should time their visit to coincide with the Kauai Mokihana Festival and its full week of Hawaiian cultural activities, including three days of solo and group hula competition in kahiko and auana styles; or hold off until October for the Eo E Emalani I Alakai Festival, which honors Hawaiian monarch Queen Emma’s visit to the island’s Kokee area and features a daylong showcase of performances from Hawaii and mainland U.S. halau hula in a grassy meadow in Kokee State Park.

Tickets to Hawaii’s most renowned hula competition, the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, (be sure to visit the photo galleries at this Merrie Monarch link) are extremely limited and often difficult to get. Travelers will need to plan far in advance to have a chance to witness this spectacular event. If you are headed to the island of Hawaii, check out other hula exhibitions held throughout the year, such as the He Lei Hiwa No Iolani Hula Luahine Hula Festival (January) or Hawaii Kapuna Hula Festival (September) in Kona. While exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you may also enjoy attending Hula Arts at Kilauea, a monthly hula showcase featuring halau from across Hawaii performing outdoors within view of active Kilauea volcano summit crater Halemaumau.

Travelers bound for Maui in September should attend Ku Mai Ka Hula, the island’s only adult hula competition, which features award-winning halau from Hawaii, Japan and the mainland U.S. in solo and group performances. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Hula O Na Keiki is a weekend-long annual event happening in March on Maui highlighted by a solo keiki hula competition for youth ages 5 to 17.

For more information about traveling to Hawaii, contact an experienced and knowledgeable Acendas Travel Advisor.

Content partially provided by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau