Hawai‘i: Winter Escapes to The Islands of Aloha
This winter, warm up in Hawai‘i where one-of-a-kind festivals and special events enable you to experience the rich Hawaiian culture and breathtaking natural beauty right along with the locals. Watch PGA pros compete on emerald fairways edged with swaying palms, listen to the sweet sounds of ‘ukulele, marvel as whales frolic in the ocean, celebrate Hawaiian royalty, attend a rodeo, and do so much more across this magnificent archipelago.
It’s no surprise that the Big Island—nearly twice as large as all the other Hawaiian Islands combined—is bursting with superb events. Discover Hawai‘i Island’s rich paniolo (cowboy) heritage just outside Hilo at the 25th Annual Pana‘ewe Stampede Rodeo (hawaiirodeostampede.com) February 18-20, an amateur competition between local cowboys, cowgirls, keiki (children), and traveling rodeo contestants. The entertaining, educational weekend features such traditional rodeo events as team roping, barrel racing, bronco riding, and bull riding plus rodeo events unique to Hawai‘i. More than just a rodeo, Pana‘ewe Stampede Rodeo is a show with an award winning rodeo clown, a professional announcer, and entertaining skits that keep everyone engaged and smiling. A cultural and display tent featuring paniolo and Big Island history, crafts booths, leather and saddle making exhibits, plus great food all await.
Golf lovers can watch PGA pros tee off at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualālai (hualalairesort.com) January 19-21 featuring fan favorites such as Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Jimenez, and the 2016 champion Duffy Waldforf. The roster will include winners from the 2015 and 2016 seasons, winners of majors since 2012, and ten invited professionals with five or more career victories including one major. Proceeds from this golf tournament benefit the Hualālai ‘Ohana Foundation.
When you think ‘ukulele, you immediately think Hawai‘i. The state’s top ‘ukulele musicians will entertain audiences on dual stages at the 17th Annual Great Waikoloa ‘Ukulele Festival (ukulelefestivalhawaii.org) March 4 at Kings’ Shops and Queens’ MarketPlace in Waikoloa Beach Resort. A celebration of Hawai‘i’s beloved instrument, the day features performances by world-class ‘ukulele artists, workshops, giveaways, and lessons.
O‘ahu, also known as The Heart of Hawai‘i, welcomes one of the most anticipated PGA Tour events annually. The Sony Open in Hawai‘i (sonyopeninhawaii.com), the PGA’s first full-field PGA Tour tournament of the year, will bring 144 of the world’s greatest pros to the Wai‘alae Country Club January 9-15. A showcase of international golf talent and camaraderie, the Sony Open in Hawai‘i is the largest charity golf event in the islands and has raised over $16 million for over 350 local non-profits since 1999.
Active travelers can pack their running shoes for the 8.15-mile Great Aloha Run (greataloharun.com) February 20, a race recognized nationally as one of the top “100 Great Road Races” by Runner’s World Magazine. The run starts at Aloha Tower and ends at Aloha Stadium. With an inclusive philosophy that welcomes all, the Great Aloha Run features divisions for elites, age groups, wheelchair and hand-cycle competitors, Sounds of Freedom (military running in formation), and those who just want to walk with friends.
Join the festivities at the 23rd anniversary of the Honolulu Festival (honolulufestival.com) March 10-12 which celebrates the cultures of Hawai‘i, Asia, and the Pacific Islands with art, music, dance, and food. You’ll experience dance performances and traditional art demonstrations from Japan, Australia, Tahiti, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Hawai‘i, and the U.S. mainland. The three-day extravaganza culminates with a grand parade through Waikīkī.
This year, the PGA Tour starts their calendar on the Valley Isle. The Tournament of Champions (golfatkapalua.com) will take place January 4-8 at the Plantation Course at beautiful Kapalua Resort, led by defending 2016 champion Jordan Spieth. This upcoming tournament is shaping up to be especially exciting because so many fan favorites and newcomers won during 2016 PGA Tour year, making them eligible to play in this winners-only golf event.
Later in the month on January 15, runners compete amidst some of the world’s most gorgeous scenery during the Maui Oceanfront Marathon (mauioceanfrontmarathon.com) along a route from Wailea to Lahaina. In addition, there is an out and back half-marathon starting in Lahaina, a 15K, a 10K and a 5K, all finishing at Kamehameha Iki Park in Old Lahaina Town.
Humpback whales visit the waters surrounding Hawai‘i from December to May and the Maui Whale Festival (mauiwhalefestival.org), presented by Pacific Whale Foundation, raises awareness to protect these magnificent mammals and their ocean habitat with fun and inspiring events. If you’re in Maui in February, mark your calendar for the Run & Walk for the Whales (Feb 4), World Whale Day (Feb 18), and the Great Whale Count (Feb 25).
Explore Hawai‘i’s Island of Discovery during the Waimea Town Celebration (waimeatowncelebration.com) February 18-25. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, this tribute to one of Kaua‘i’s oldest settlements and history features eight days of hula and Hawaiian music; a Hawaiian rodeo; a celebration for King Kaumuali‘i; a film festival; cultural exhibits; softball; 3-on-3 basketball tournaments; the Kilohana Long Distance Canoe Race, and a two-day ho‘olaule‘a (block party/celebration).
The Prince Kūhiō Celebration (princekuhio.net) March 24-26 honors the life of one of Hawai‘i’s most beloved monarchs, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole, in his birthplace of Po‘ipū. Enjoy Hawaiian cultural demonstrations and hands-on learning sessions, the annual Prince Kūhiō Long Distance Canoe Race, a birthday celebration lū‘au, and more.