Alamo rent a carHave you ever built a snowman made of sand? Or watched a New Year’s Eve fireworks show from the beach? Spending the holidays in Hawaii is a one-of- a-kind experience! I’ve spent many holiday seasons in Hawaii. I love the island-style twist for Christmas in the tropics. Here are my top picks for the most popular islands in Hawaii.

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OAHU

Honolulu City Lights is a must-see holiday event on Oahu
Honolulu City Lights

HONOLULU CITY LIGHTS

The holidays on Oahu kick off December 2 with the opening night of Honolulu City Lights. There’s a huge parade, tree lighting ceremony, food booths, children’s rides, a holiday concert and Santa. However, the festivities don’t stop there. On December 7, the 501 st Legion of Imperial Stormtroopers will be collecting Toys for Tots. Visitors can get a free photo with Santa on December 8. And be sure to experience Disney’s Moana outside on the Civic Center Grounds on December 16 for 7-Eleven’s free family movie night. For those looking for a cultural experience, enjoy a hula show by Halau O Kapunahala O Nu`uanu on December 17. And finally, bring the kids to the free Milk and Cookies Night on December 22. If you can’t visit during one of their special event days, hop on board an open-air trolley for a breezy and unobstructed tour of the festive light display.

CHRISTMAS AT THE HUKILAU MARKETPLACE

New this year is the Christmas at the Hukilau Marketplace holiday event. With train rides for kids, Santa Claus selfies and 12 tons of real SNOW, it’s a holiday event for your entire family! Plus, there will be food trucks, a Christmas scavenger hunt, a live nativity presentation, Christmas caroling, Hawaiian music and lots of shops. The event runs December 1 through December 23.

SANTA ARRIVES AT WAIKIKI

Bring the kids to Waikiki Beach to greet Santa as he arrives by canoe on December 9. Then, head over to the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort to take a free photo with Santa in the lobby. I mean, how often will you see Santa on Waikiki Beach? And while you’re in Waikiki, stop by the Sheraton Princess Ka`iulani for their annual Gingerbread Village.

MAGICAL CHRISTMAS AT “ROCK-A- HULA”

Let Rock-A- Hula put you in the Christmas spirit! Waikiki’s biggest show has a Christmas twist December 24 and 25. This brand new show for 2017 features a “Hawaiian Journey” from 1920s to today through music and powerful performances by Legends Artists, hula, fire knife dancers and amazing musicians. There are three ticket levels to suit your family. And they also have a Midnight New Year’s Eve Party in Waikiki with Elvis!

FUKUBUKURO 2018 AT ALA MOANA CENTER

Do you like scoring amazing deals on name brand items? Celebrate a Japanese New Year’s Day tradition by purchasing a happy grab bag filled with merchandise worth double the sales price. It’s a complete mystery, which is half the fun! On January 1, head to Ala Moana Center for their annual Fukubukuro event. I participated a few years ago and got some incredible items from Neiman Marcus.

MAUI

Santa arriving on Maui for Christmas
Santa arriving in Hawaii

SANTA VISITS

When Santa arrives in Hawaii on Christmas Eve, he trades in his sleigh for a canoe! Head to Wailea Beach at 9am to see Santa arrive by Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe! Then, meet Santa and take pictures on the Chapel Lawn. You can take your own picture or enjoy professional pictures by Pacific Dream Photography available for a low cost. The event itself is complimentary and open to the public.

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Want to see another Santa on Christmas Eve? You’re in luck! At Noon, head to Polo Beach and watch Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and a few of their elves arrive on Polo Beach by outrigger canoe to spread holiday cheer to South Maui! Santa will be available for photos following his arrival at the Fairmont Kea Lani.

SUGAR CANE TRAIN

If you’re traveling to Maui this holiday season with kids, the Maui Sugar Cane Train is a must-do event. This 45-minute ride starts at the Pu`ukoli`i Station and heads south for 4 miles. The train is decorated for the holidays. All guests receive milk and fresh baked cookies. And did I mention Santa himself will be on the train? He’ll be handing out free toys to all kids. This is a holiday event that will surely be a memorable one!

LET IT SNOW

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday December 2-23, head to Queen Ka`ahumanu Center for their annual Let It Snow event. Join them for a magical winter wonderland experience with snowfall on the island! Each snowfall show will last for ten minutes orchestrated to festive, holiday music with children’s snowflake wands and free Starbucks hot chocolate for early arrivals served by Jingle Ambassadors. Bring out the whole family for this island experience!

HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING AT MAUIWINE

The festivities of the Holiday Tree Lighting at MauiWine in Ulupalakua are guaranteed to be a
memorable experience with plenty of complimentary activities to enjoy. On December 9, there
will be a blessing and lighting of the holiday tree. Santa Claus will also arrive and take photos
with families in front of the tree. And there will be an outdoor showing of the classic holiday film
Home Alone! And for the adults in your group, enjoy wine tastings at the gorgeous estate.

KAUAI

Kauai's Festival of Lights is a Hawaiian Christmas tradition
Kauai’s Festival of Lights

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

One of the most popular holiday events on Kauai is the Festival of Lights. It was started 20 years ago by Auntie Josie and features elaborate “trash to treasure” displays. The grounds are lit up every night through the New Year. However, there’s so much more! On the weekends, head inside the Historic County Building to see Auntie Josie’s elaborate decorations and check out what Kauai’s artisans have created. While you’re there, snap a selfie with Santa and Mrs. Claus. It runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night December 1 through December 24. And the best part: It’s FREE!

SANTA CLAUS IN PRINCEVILLE

No holiday visit to Kauai is truly complete without seeing the man in red himself. On December 16, head to the Princeville Community Center. Santa Claus will be available from 10am-11am to take photos and hear your Christmas wishes. The event is free and they will provide the refreshments. Bring our own camera for photos.

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NATIONAL TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN HOLIDAY CRAFT FAIR

On December 9, experience a day of holiday shopping and entertainment featuring Kauai-made products, jewelry, clothing and more. The NTBG Holiday Craft Fair includes live music and local food trucks. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. And you can support the Kauai Branch of the Hawaii Food Bank by bringing non-perishable food items.

ANNUAL HOLIDAY CRAFT FAIR

Celebrate the holidays Kauai Style at the Annual Holiday Fair by the Kauai County Farm Bureau on December 16. This event features Kauai-made and Kauai-grown products. It’s a great opportunity to find coffee, honey, cheeses, jams, pies, spices, dressings and more! There are also carefully crafted Kauai-made gifts like jewelry, ornaments, leis and home décor. This is a great spot to pick up holiday gifts to bring home to friends and family. And while you’re there, enjoy delicious local foods and treats while you shop!

HOLIDAY BEACH CLEANUP AT KEALIA BEACH

So much of the holiday season is about giving back. What better way to celebrate this season of
giving on Kauai than by helping the community keep Kauai’s beaches beautiful. The Surfrider Foundation
welcomes visitors and locals of all ages to spend the morning of December 23 cleaning up Kealia Beach. They will provide gloves and refreshments. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and gain a sense of accomplishment! And if you’re unavailable that day, you and your family can still make a committed effort to clean up your favorite beach on your own.

NEW YEAR’S EVE FIREWORKS

This family-friendly Kauai Fireworks Event includes food trucks, food booths, kid activities, a movie showing at the beach park and fireworks. Fireworks are set to begin at 8:15pm. The holiday festivities run from 5:30pm to 9pm. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Head to Poipu Beach Park with your family and say “Hau`oli Makahiki Hou” to 2018 (Hawaiian for Happy New Year!).

BIG ISLAND

The Big Island's Jingle Bell Beach Run is fun for the whole family
Jingle Bell Beach Run

FAIRMONT ORCHID TREES OF HOPE

If gazing at beautifully decorated Christmas trees gets you in the holiday spirit, look no further than the Fairmont Orchid. Local businesses sponsor the lavishly decorated trees with all event proceeds supporting local charities. The Fairmont Orchid is also hosting festive feasts, grand galas and fun-filled activities for the whole family.

12th ANNUAL WAIKOLOA VILLAGE CHRISTMAS PARADE AND KEIKI FEST

On December 9, experience the Waikoloa Village Christmas Parade featuring The Snow King or Queen and several other dignitaries, local businesses and cars. The Parade begins at 10am at the corner of Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Road and will go down to Waikoloa School along Paniolo Road. And after the parade, stay for the Keiki Fest. There will be free food and games for kids, and vendors for adults. Kids who attend this event may enter a drawing for a bicycle and other prizes.

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13th ANNUAL JINGLE BELL BEACH RUN – KAILUA-KONA

Pack your festive workout gear! The Big Island’s largest and most anticipated 5k run/walk event is on December 17. The Jingle Bell Beach Run starts at 7:30am at the Coconut Grove Marketplace. This holiday-themed fun run is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!

CANDLELIGHT SERVICE AT STATE OF HAWAII’S OLDEST CHURCH – KAILUA-KONA

For those looking for a really special Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, look no further than Mokuaikaua Church on Ali`i Dr. in Kailua-Kona. This is Hawaii’s first Christian church and is almost 200 years old. You and your family can join the caroling at 7pm and then celebrate Christ’s birth inside at 8pm.

WAILEA VILLAGE 20th ANNUAL MOCHI POUNDING

For a delicious New Year’s treat, enjoy Wailea Village’s Mochi Pounding on December 30. This traditional Japanese mochi-pounding event started with 23 people but now welcomes between 600-700 people. Saturday is the Mochi Pounding celebration, making traditional rice cakes the “old-fashioned” way. Grab your family and take your turn at pounding the glutinous sticky rice for good luck. There will also be plate lunches, New Year’s crafts, fortune telling, massages, I Ching readings, floral arrangements, plantation stories, Okinawan taiko drumming, Hawaiian entertainment and more!

Mele Kalikimaka!

Spending the holidays in Hawaii is a great alternative to a White Christmas! With warm weather, golden beaches and relaxing ocean waves, Hawaii is a great place to connect with family and friends. And be sure to turn on the radio in your car to hear more Hawaiian style Christmas songs than you ever knew existed! For more holiday travel inspiration, visit Alamo Rent A Car’s Scenic Route – it’s full of travel stories, videos, guides and more! Alamo’s website designed to inspire travelers to make the most of their vacations.

Hawaii Unique Holiday Experiences on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island

Author

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

24 Comments

  1. There are so many super fun activities on this list! I have honestly never even thought about traveling to Hawaii during the Holidays, but this sounds SO fun. I would definitely want to see the Festival of Lights, and my kids would love the Sugar Cane Train!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’ve been wanting to do the Sugar Cane Train every time we go to Maui, but it has been closed. They reopened for the holidays!

  2. WOW! I bet it would be so different to celebrate Christmas in Hawaii versus at home. I would love to take my family on a “vacation” for the holidays, I’m sure it would be a Christmas to remember

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s definitely memorable! I hope you get the opportunity to explore Hawaii during Xmas!

  3. Julie Wirtz Reply

    What a wonderful overview of some of the holiday celebrations in the islands!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Thanks! I hope this helps families heading to Hawaii this holiday season and encourages others to start planning their 2018 Christmas vacation!

  4. Wow! I never thought Christmas could be so magical in Hawaii! I loved the whole Santa arriving by canoe thing! This seems like a LOT of fun! This now goes on my bucket list! 🙂

  5. This looks like the ultimate holiday getaway. I really like that you highlighted the holiday fun on each major Hawaiian location. Great post!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Thanks! I hope it’s a way for families to dream of Hawaii this holiday season!

  6. We just spent Thanksgiving in Kauai and had a great time. Reservations on holidays are a must! This is a super helpful list 🙂

    • marciecheung Reply

      Oh how lovely! It’s a great time of year to visit Kauai because it isn’t too hot or muggy! Happy holidays!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s so nice to not have to bundle up to go outside and play on Christmas!

  7. Wow I never knew there would be soo much to do!! This is great and visiting Hawaii is definitely something i’d love to do over Christmas, may need to add this to my list of places to visit!

    • marciecheung Reply

      So many fun things things to keep you in the Mele Kalikimaka spirit!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s such a festive place! Plus, you can surf on Christmas morning!

    • marciecheung Reply

      We went a few years ago and it so much more festive than I imagined!

  8. that sounds like so much fun! We’ll be in Mexico for Christmas this year and I’m hoping for similar beachy activities!

  9. Hawaii seems like the perfect place to spend Christmas at, Marcie. You must have had a great time there! Excellent ideas and tips which I definitely need to consider! 🙂

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