Wailua River

Top five Hawaiian cultural attractions

When Canadians are ready to trade in their snowsuits for swimsuits and winter boots for flip-flops, there are endless options for sun and sand getaways. But where can Snowbirds go when they’re looking for more out of their vacation?

Hawaii’s rich culture takes a beach holiday to the next level. Here are five of the best cultural adventures waiting for travellers across the islands of Aloha.

1. Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace

The challenge on Oahu for travellers who catch the Hawaii culture bug will be fitting in visits to all the cultural hotspots that pique their interest. With biggies like the Polynesian Cultural center and the USS Arizona Memorial (where the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is located) on island a trip to Iolani Palace may not make it to the top of the list – but it’s a must-visit. Why? Because it’s the only place in all of the United States that was the official residence of royalty. Located in Downtown Honolulu, the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs lived here in the late 1800s (King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani). Inside visitors will see it all — the throne room, private living quarters, ancient swords, precious jewels and the golden crowns of the last King and Queen. It isn’t just Iolani Palace itself though that makes a trip here a must. In the area visitors will also find Aliiolani Hale (currently home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court and once the place of government for the Kingdom of Hawaii). If that isn’t enough, in the courtyard of Aliiolani Hale visitors will come face-to-face with the gold-leaf statue of King Kamehameha I.

2. Petroglyphs at Volcanoes National Park

Petroglyphs at Volcanoes National Park

Yes, the park itself is an awe-inspiring cornerstone of Hawaii’s culture. Visitors will find two of the world’s most active and accessible volcanoes here (Mauna Loa and Kilauea) but another gem to be discovered at Volcanoes National Park will take visitors back to a time long ago, when Hawaii’s early inhabitants roamed these remote Pacific islands. Within the park at the end of Chain Craters Road travellers can feast their eyes on more than 23,000 ancient images carved into the lava rock.

3.  Art Night on Maui

Not that travellers will be at a loss for cultural heritage sites and activities on Maui, but those eager to view some of the best art the island has to offer, Art Night is the place to be. Every Friday from 7-10 p.m. Lahaina’s art galleries open their doors to Hawaii’s breezy trade winds and passersby for an art market that showcases the work of acclaimed local artists. With works on display that include ceramics, woodwork and even Lahaina’s famous scrimshaw — art carvings once attributed to the handiwork of whalers carving on ivory and bone. Tell your clients to head to Front Street in Downtown Lahaina to partake in the art and festivities.

4. Wailua River/Fern Grotto Cruise

Wailua River

Travellers can join the Smith Family as they take guests on a two-mile journey along Kauai’s Wailua River. Sharing the legends and history of the Wailua River and Fern Grotto for well over sixty years, the Smith Family Wailua River/Fern Grotto Cruise sets off at various times throughout the day. Along the cruise guests will enjoy listening to ancient Hawaiian songs and stories of Sacred Mount Kapu and The First Hau Tree. Once guests have made it up the river the Smith Family will lead them through rainforest up to the Fern Grotto, sharing their knowledge of the caves and the surrounding area before finishing up with a rendition of the traditional Hawaiian Wedding Song.

5. Kaunolu Fishing Village

It will take a special trip to get here, considering Kaunolu Fishing Village is located on the tiny island of Lanai, but a visit to the ancient fishing village Kaunolu takes the cake. Once a favourite fishing retreat of Kamehameha the Great, the remains of this National Historic Landmark are speckled around a bluff near Lanai’s southern cliffs. Also found at Kaunolu are the remains of Halulu heiau (a religious temple) and Kahekili’s Leap — the 60-foot cliff where Hawaiian warriors once dove off and into the ocean to prove their bravery.

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