It will come as no surprise to visitors to Hawaii that the islands are alive with arts and culture, expressed in a multitude of forms comprising language, music, art, theatre, dance, film, cuisine and a cavalcade of festivals across the entire archipelago.
Museums are always a great way to gain an insight to any destinations heritage, art and culture and Hawaii is no exception. On Oahu, it’s the Bishop Museum which is not only the largest museum in Hawaii, but also dedicated to the state’s history and considered by many to be the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific.
Housed in an ornate classic building in Honolulu, the Bishop Museum was originally created to display the extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, but has since been expanded to include millions of artifacts, documents and photos about Hawaii and other Pacific cultures. There are daily programs to help you explore the vast collection.
Honolulu Museum of Art
Also on Oahu is the Honolulu Museum of Art, billed as the largest private presenter of visual arts programs in Hawaii with its huge collection containing more than 50,000 works spanning 5000 years. There is always an exciting new exhibition to bring repeat visitors back and those looking for classy souvenirs can find publications, stationery, prints, and posters from both international and Hawaii artisans and designers unique to the islands.
With so many visitors on Oahu at any given time, there is a comprehensive art scene ranging from the large institutions mentioned above to tiny boutique locations all through Honolulu and the island. If theatre is your passion, be sure to visit the exquisitely renovated Hawaii Theatre, where you can take in travelling shows from all over the world in a heritage setting. Top notch local Hawaiian entertainers are there year-round too. Tours are offered most Tuesdays.
The Big Island
Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
On the Big Island, you can learn about the link between ancient Hawaiian culture and the stars through a variety of exciting displays and interactive exhibits at the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii in Hilo. Opened in 2006, the $28 million, 40,000-square-foot exhibition and planetarium complex is located on nine acres in the University of Hawaii's Science and Technology Park. Be sure to see a screening in their big screen theatre.
If you get over to Kauai, be sure to see the Kauai Museum in the historical heart of the island, Lihue. Not only are there travelling and permanent exhibits, you can immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture through workshops on lei making and hula dancing to Hawaiian quilting and coconut frond weaving.
Lahaina Whale & Ocean Arts Festival
Not forgetting Maui, the local Lahaina Town Action Committee is busy promoting their own island’s cultural attractions. The popular and quirky town is an attraction in itself with always something going on in and around the business district which is virtually a museum in itself. Each year on the first weekend of March, Lahaina celebrates the annual migration of Pacific Humpback whales with the Lahaina Whale & Ocean Arts Festival when local artists display and sell their best marine-themed art, while musicians and hula troupes entertain.
Outside of festival time, Friday night always has extensive art display.