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Molokai Throughout the Year

Arrive when the community is celebrating - this is an excellent strategy for travelers who truly want to dig into and discover the culture they visit. This strategy is especially valuable when that culture is strongly distinct, deeply rooted, geographically unique, and full of people who are proud to belong. In other words, this is especially true on Moloka‘i.

Moloka‘i’s annual festivals celebrate two main themes - the healthy physical challenge of the island landscape, and the rich spiritual importance of its ancient traditions. However, to avoid sounding too high-brow about all this, let’s point out another theme - Moloka‘i people do love to party! Community gatherings usually involve lots of good food and live music by the island’s many talented musicians.

Visitors are always welcome. But don’t expect to be coddled. Join in. These events are not tourist attractions but down-home expressions of, by, and for the community. Just one caution is necessary: when this island celebrates, visitors from the other islands will throng the place. (After all, Moloka‘i is Hawai‘i’s heartland.) So you might have some trouble finding a rental car, and you might find that Moloka‘i’s limited accommodations are all booked. The wisest advice is to plan ahead by at least three months. A little long-range thinking can give you an authentic cultural experience that you will savor in memory for the rest of your life.

The following paragraphs describe most of the major annual events for the island. Others arise, and the details given here can change. The best way to keep track of Moloka‘i through the year is to check the website and stay in touch with the folks at molokaievents.com, Inc.

January

The Ka Moloka‘i Makahiki Festival takes place on the third Saturday of every January. From ancient times in Hawai‘i, the Makahiki season has always been the most festive period of the year - a post-harvest period of peace, games, and sporting competitions between the different island regions. This contemporary version, a one-day festival, preserves that tradition in the style of Moloka‘i. Lectures, land and ocean activities, sporting competitions, a song contest, and ceremonies take place at the Mitchell Pau‘ole Community Center in Kaunakakai.

April

April sees the annual Ho‘omau Concert, which benefits the Punana Leo o Moloka‘i program. Punana Leo is a Hawai‘i-wide program dedicated to keeping the native language alive by teaching the children to be fluent speakers. Without a living language, no culture can expect to have a future. So this all-day concert at One Ali‘i Beach Park helps finance a critical cultural program, gives a performance venue to the island’s many talented musicians, and brings the Moloka‘i people together for a darn good time.

April is also the month for Earth Day around the world. What better place to recognize the preservationist spirit of Earth Day than on one of the earthiest islands on the globe? The day is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy Hawai‘i.

May

May sees two formidable open-sea paddling races across the Kaiwi Channel, a 39-mile crossing between Moloka‘i and O‘ahu and one of the most grueling and challenging passages on Earth. The Kaiwi Challenge Relay draws people come from all over to make the crossing in one-person canoes, starting at west Moloka‘i’s Kaluako‘i Resort and ending at the Waikiki Outrigger Canoe Club. Later in the month, the Kanaka Ikaika (strong man) Kayak Race is the world championship kayak competition for both men and women.

May is also the month for a uniquely Molokaian celebration of hula. According to ancient tradition, the essential dance form of Hawai‘i first emerged on Moloka‘i. The Ka Hula Piko Festival - "a celebration of the birth of the hula" - features a free outdoor concert that lasts all day at Papohaku Beach Park in west Moloka‘i. Hula halau (schools) come here from throughout the state; so do electrified Hawaiian bands, comedians, food-sellers, and handcrafters. This is a great party!

July

In July the Moloka‘i Relay For Life raises funds to fight cancer and the benefit patient services and programs on island. Best of all, this musical celebration lasts all night and features song, comedy, and good food. In the same month, the Moloka‘i To O‘ahu Paddleboard Race establishes the world champion of long-distance paddleboard racing.

August

During August "Youth In Motion" are to be found all over Moloka‘i engaged in sports clinics and competitions to develop their mental, emotional, and physical skills. The Youth In Motion program was launched by a Moloka‘i woman and is one of the most exemplary such programs in the country. It includes a windsurfing race from Maui to Moloka‘i and a competition involving canoes powered by kites. August is also the month for the state tournament for bow hunters. Spectators are welcome to watch displays of high-level archery skills involving bows and arrows of various types.

September

September is the month for the annual Na Wahine o ke Kai outrigger canoe race. The title means "women of the sea," and the display of power from these highly trained all-female canoe teams will astound you. Visitors can catch sunrise and the race launch at remote Hale o Lono Harbor, Moloka‘i. Competitors work their way across the Kaiwi Channel, ending at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

September is also the month for Aloha Festivals, a major festival time throughout Hawai‘i. This week is a great time to be in and around Kaunakakai for an involved program of shows, parades, a ho‘olaule‘a (celebration) and a Royal Ball.

October

In October, the month after the women show their stamina in the outrigger team channel crossing, the men dig in. The Moloka‘i Hoe Outrigger Canoe Race is the top world event in the men’s division of this grueling team sport. The race takes off at dawn from Hale o Lono Harbor.

During the same month, Moloka‘i welcomes the top chefs from Maui County - and there are many! - to gather on island and perform their culinary magic with locally grown products. This event is the annual Business & Food Expo, sponsored by the Moloka‘i Chamber of Commerce.

November

November sees the Friendly Isle Ultra-Marathon, which attracts runners from around the world. Sponsored in part by the Kaihou Running Club of Japan, the event features a 100K (62-mile) run, a 42K (26-mile) run, and a 42K four-man relay. November is also the time for the island’s annual celebration of traditional Hawaiian performing arts. The He Makana Aloha Competition, held in Maunaloa town’s outdoor amphitheater, stages events in seven different categories of island performance, including dance, song, slack-key guitar, and ‘ukulele. Additional events involving lectures, crafts, and celebrity appearances make this fairly young event one of the signature annual moments in contemporary Hawaiian culture.

December

The Moloka‘i year closes with its December Festival of Lights, a lively event featuring an Electric Light Parade down the main street of Kaunakakai. The idea is to bring a chair and park along Ala Malama Avenue for this island’s answer to the Rose Parade. Good fun!



The much celebrated "aloha spirit" of Hawai‘i is not an abstract concept. It permeates the lives and customs of people who grow up close to the land, the kupuna (elders), and the old ways. Nowhere in the islands can you get closer to this spirit than by joining the independent-minded community of Moloka‘i.

Article Courtesy of the Molokai Visitors Association

See also:
- More Molokai Articles



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