10 Best Things to Do During the Holidays on Oahu

Oahu may never experience a white Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the island doesn’t know how to get into the holiday spirit. And if you're looking to escape the dreary cold, but still want to celebrate, Honolulu offers a variety of holiday-themed events, from family centric parades, quality craft fairs to lively New Year’s Eve parties.  

An Oahu holiday can’t miss is the annual Honolulu City Lights featuring the lighting of the city’s 50-foot tree, a downtown parade and month-long displays, including the city's perennial favorites, the 21-foot Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele as well as other festive holiday displays throughout Santa's Enchanted Forest in the Honolulu Hale courtyard. 

New Year’s Eve on the island offers big city fun with an island twist. There’s the New Year’s Eve event at the iconic Aloha Tower to the upscale Night Circus party at the Sheraton Waikiki.  

Check out this list to make your Hawaii holiday merry and bright! 


Santa Paddles in to the Outrigger Waikiki Resort
Photo courtesy of Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort

No reindeers required! Watch this waterman Santa arrive to the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, on, what else, an outrigger. Santa and his outrigger helpers will paddle in on at 9 a.m. on December 12 where he will then be greeted on shore with hula and mele (song) by the children of the Halau O Pua Kahale. Santa will be then available for free photos in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort lobby. This is a fun holiday event for keiki, but be sure to get there early for a good spot on the beach to watch Santa paddle in to shore.

Season's Best Craft & Gift Fair
Photo courtesy of Cliff

Wrap up your holiday shopping--or get something a little something for yourself!--at the Season's Best Craft & Gift Fair at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall. This expansive craft fair happens twice a year, in October and in December. The craft fair features dozens of local vendors who make and sell everything from jewelry, handbags, clothing, chocolates, foods woodcrafts and more. There's something for everything at this expansive craft fair. Be sure to get there early, some goods will sell fast, and once they're gone, that's it! The Season's Best Craft & Gift Fair runs from December 18 through 20.

12 Days of Christmas at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Photo courtesy of Polynesian Cultural Center

Escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and head out to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie for the 12 Days of Polynesia from December 10 through 23. This holiday event features a 10-minute boat ride through the center's lagoon, live entertainment by award-winning Hawaiian artists, keiki train rides, photos with Santa and shopping discounts inside the center village. On December 19, the center will be in a flurry for its Snow Day as the Polynesian Cultural Center is trucking in tons of fresh snow for families can frolic in, make snow angels and build snowmen. Bring your scarf and gloves!

Pearl Harbor Memorial Anniversary Parade
Photo courtesy of Pearl Harbor Memorial Anniversary Parade

Honor the memory of those who served during the annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Anniversary Parade on December 7. The evening parade begins at 6 p.m. at Fort DeRussey in Waikiki then proceeds down Kalakaua Avenue and ends at the Waikiki Shell for a concert. This year's event is slated to feature 2,000 marchers and 10 bands. The parade committee is even working on incorporating replica battleships approximately 1/40th of the size of the original ships moored at Pearl Harbor. The first of the eight ships will be introduced during the 2016 parade to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

New Year's Eve Party with G. Love

Start 2016 right with an intimate New Year's Eve Party at Surfer, the Bar at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's beautiful North Shore. Surfer, the Bar--named for Surfer, the magazine--is Turtle Bay Resort's hippest hotel bar, and has both a food and drink menu. And it stays open until 2 a.m. This New Year's Eve party doubles as a concert as blues-rock musician, Garrett Dutton, better known as G. Love, takes the stage to sings his multiple hits. The night ends with a champagne toast as you and your new friends count down to midnight and the start of 2016.

“The Amy Hanaialii & Willie K Holiday Show”
Photo courtesy of Hawaii Theatre

Really get into the holiday spirit with a festive concert at the historic Hawaii Theatre. The Amy Hanaialii & Willie K Holiday Show features these two renown, award-winning artists--backed by a full band--as they perform holiday favorites with a local twist. For example, Willie K will sing his version of the popular "O Holy Night." They will also share songs from their recently released "Amy and Willie K Reunion" album. It's a concert that showcases the duo's versatility and wide-ranging talent as they highlight their diverse musical backgrounds. The show runs from December 18 through 20 and tickets range from $22 to $67.

New Year's Eve at Aloha Tower
Photo courtesy of Larry Loos

This New Year's Eve party has it all. There's live entertainment featuring some of Hawaii's best local band at several stages around the property grounds, mechanical bull rides, fire dancers and food trucks, in addition to specials inside the tower's tenants of Gordon Biersch and Hooters. It's the first time a big New Year's Eve is back at the iconic Aloha Tower since it underwent a major remodel to incorporate student housing for students attending Hawaii Pacific University. Even better, this is one of the best spots on the island to view the New Year's fireworks at midnight and kick off 2016.

"The Nutcracker"
Photo courtesy of Ballet Hawaii

Don't miss Ballet Hawaii's holiday tradition, its annual production of "The Nutcracker" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The performance features a stunning cast of local and international dancers, and each performance is accompanied by musicians of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. To make your night out even more special, have dinner at the award-winning restaurant, Chef Chai beforehand. Ballet Hawaii is offering special VIP packages, featuring dinner at the restaurant on December 18 before its opening showing of "The Nutcracker." (See the website for the details.) "The Nutcracker" runs from December 18 through 20 at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center Concert Hall.

Night Circus at RumFire

For an upscale, modern New Year's Eve event you and your friends will be talking about well after January 1, look no further than Night Circus at the Sheraton Waikiki. The annual event takes place at the hotel's popular restaurant/bar, RumFire, known for its specialty drinks, lively ambience and great views. Night Circus will be better, featuring four DJs spinning Top 40 hits, go-go dancers, fire dancers, aerialists and more. The New Year's Eve Night Circus takes place at the hotel's bar, RumFire, as well as near its two pools, providing a stellar view of the Waikiki fireworks at midnight.

Honolulu City Lights
Photo courtesy of Sky Slicer

Honolulu's festive holiday season officially kicks off with the annual Honolulu City Lights. It begins on December 6 with the lighting ceremony of the 50-foot pine tree fronting Honolulu Hale, the city hall, followed by a holiday concert and the Electric Light Parade, which proceeds down King Street. The Honolulu City Lights festival goes from December 5 through January 2 and features the city's perennial favorites, the 21-foot Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele and displays throughout Santa's Enchanted Forest in the Honolulu Hale courtyard. The festival, is organized each year by a hard working nonprofit organization, dedicated to ensuring Honolulu City Lights is a fun and free event for the whole family.


Meet Tiffany Hill

Tiffany Hill has lived on Oahu’s Leeward and Windward sides, but today she calls Honolulu home. She is a writer whose work is regularly published in regional and national publications,...  More About Tiffany Hill