This event hosted at Moanalua Gardens every July, is a well-kept secret! Many locals don’t even know about this wonderful hula festival! The event lasts from 8:30AM (pre-ceremony) until 4PM and is completely free! The festival features hula halau (schools) from all over the Hawaiian Islands dancing on an ancient hula mound. On my visit this July I saw groups from Molokai, Kauai, Oahu and more. They danced both hula kahiko (ancient hula) and hula ‘auana (modern hula). There are art booths set up behind the main area where you can purchase authentic Hawaiian art, and booths for food as well!
Moanalua Gardens is tucked back behind the highway. It’s easiest to get to by car, but can also be reached by bus. If you take the bus in the morning at the beginning of the festival, you will see others carrying beach mats or blankets to go to the festival as well. You can easily follow others from the bus stop to the gardens which are a short walk away.
The hula mound is in front of a grassy area covered by a canopy of trees. It doesn’t get too hot, except right at noon when the sun peaks through. I arrived at 8:30AM in time to hear the Men’s Alumni Glee Club from Kamehameha Schools sing before the festival began. Definitely a unique experience is a beautiful forested area. I laid down a beach mat and wrap on top of it and plopped down in the center of the area to watch the performances. The only downside to the day was being bitten by a big black ant! It latched onto my forehead for a minute and I pulled it off. I didn’t see any for the rest of the afternoon, so maybe it was just a freak occurrence, but keep your eyes peeled!
- Grab a seat around the edge of the circular opening in the trees to miss the direct (and very hot) sun in the afternoon.
- Bring a beach mat and towel to save your spot on the grass! Feel free to bring picnic food as well to snack while you watch.
- Watch out for big black ants with red on their stomachs, I got bitten!
- There is a suggested donation of $3 if you buy a button from the festival. A very nice souvenir, but not a necessary cost.
- If you bring a chair you will have to sit back a little further in the “chair section,” I suggest bringing a towel to sit up closer.
Where: Moanalua Gardens, 1352 Pineapple Place, Honolulu, HI
When: 8:30AM-4PM (one weekend every July)
Cost: Free! *suggested donation of $3 by buying a button