By Kathryn Drury Wagner
Hawai‘i is famous for its sugar-soft beaches and warm ocean waters. But there’s a vibrant arts and culture scene, too, offering music, visual arts, dance and Native Hawaiian traditions. As you plan your trip to the Islands, here are but a few ways for you to experience Hawai‘i’s creativity:
HiSAM, the Hawai‘i State Art Museum, is the “People’s Museum,” in downtown Honolulu. You’ll find four galleries of art, as well as events like film screenings, art lunches and jazz nights—and admission is free. ARTafterDark is a hopping, monthly art party at the vital Honolulu Museum of Art. The event is held on the last Friday of each month, Jan. through Oct. Another fun monthly event, Art + Flea hosts artists, designers, up-and-coming bands and food trucks. Check it out the last Thursday of the month. By day, don’t miss the Bishop Museum, which has millions of artifacts about Hawai‘i and other Pacific Island cultures, and ‘Iolani Palace, a spectacular place to learn about Hawai‘i’s monarchy. You might even catch the Royal Hawaiian Band or a hula hālau performing there.
With sweeping landscapes and charming, historic towns, Maui attracts artists from all over the world. The island’s creative community comes together for Maui Friday Town Parties, held the first Friday of the month in Wailuku; the second Friday, in Lāhāina; third, in Makawao; and fourth, in Kīhei. Browse the galleries, interact with artisans, and enjoy music under the stars. Speaking of stars and music, you’ll find both at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. It has exhibits from Hawai‘i’s visual artists, as well as big-name musical performances (some ticketed, some free) including everything from slack-key guitar to Mozart.
Also known as “the Big Island,” Hawai‘i Island is especially rich in Native Hawaiian art forms. It’s home to the world’s most prestigious hula event, the Merrie Monarch Festival, held in Hilo each April. The nonprofit Volcano Art Center has a gallery featuring the works of 300 local artists, and hosts a hula performance series and other programs.
The lush climate inspires Garden Isle artisans to express themselves in ceramics, paint, glassware or wood. Friday night is Art Night in Hanapēpē. It’s the perfect time to stroll through the town’s many galleries and studios, and meet local craftspeople. The Kaua‘i Museum, in Līhuʻe, showcases Hawaiian culture via artifacts, live concerts, hula performances and craft demonstrations. There are also free hula lessons on Wednesdays.