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.
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 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 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!
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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
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