Celebrate Thanksgiving Hawaiian-Style in Honolulu

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to visit Honolulu, Hawaii. Enjoy the beaches, soak in the warm sunshine, hike through the lush green valleys, and relax away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Hawaii is known as “The Aloha State” and aloha is celebrated at Thanksgiving. Truly a time to give thanks, Thanksgiving in the islands is anything but traditional! The diverse cultural history of Hawaii is reflected in local-style Thanksgiving meals. You may wonder, what can visitors do in Hawaii during the Thanksgiving holiday? The answer is simple: Plenty!

A turkey is cooked in an underground imu in Honolulu, Hawaii

Cook a Turkey in the Ground
Wait, in the ground? Yep! You heard that right! Turkeys are often cooked in an underground oven called an “imu.” Should you drive around the island the day before Thanksgiving, you may be alarmed by huge clouds of smoke rising in the air. Rest assured, what you’re seeing is people coming together to build an imu. A large imu can hold as many as 500 turkeys and requires the full support of the community. The night before Thanksgiving, the imu is built, and people drop off their thawed, foil-covered turkeys. Once the red-hot lava rocks cool, turkeys are placed in the imu to cook overnight. Families arrive early Thanksgiving morning to pick up their tasty treats and give thanks for all who worked hard to prepare the meal. If you want to observe the process, feel free to visit The Key Project in Kahalu’u on the windward side of Oahu. Stop by around 3 PM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and be prepared to stay a few hours. It’s likely you can even lend a helping hand!

Palm trees in front of Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii

Many restaurants and hotels offer a traditional turkey dinner complete with all the classics. In addition, you may be surprised to find a few less-familiar options on the menu such as ahi poke, Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, kalua turkey, lumpia, pan-fried noodles, poi, rice, Lau Lau, and kalua pork.

Count on your Hawaiian Thanksgiving being a holiday to remember! You can take in the sights and sounds of a luau with your meal, dine aboard a dinner cruise, enjoy fine dining, or even get dinner to-go and eat at the beach with your toes in the sand! A few dining options include taking in the sights and sounds of the Thanksgiving Holiday Luau on the Great Lawn at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, spending an evening at the Diamond Head Beach Luau, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at House Without a Key at the Halekulani, or if you feel like cruising to the North Shore, you can dine at the Turtle Bay Resort Thanksgiving Buffet. For your best bet, ask around once you’re on the island. Who knows, you may even get an invite to someone’s house!

A beautiful Hawaiian rainbow

Giving Back
Encompassing the aloha spirit, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort has a 25-year tradition of team members volunteering to prepare and serve over 400 Thanksgiving meals for The Institute of Human Services.

Should you find yourself in the giving spirit and looking for a volunteer opportunity, you may want to consider volunteering with The Salvation Army to help serve 2,000+ meals on Thanksgiving Day.

A mural at the Pipe Masters surf contest in Honolulu Hawaii

Surf’s Up!
Winter means waves on the North Shore of Oahu! Scores of the world’s best surfers flock to Oahu to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing events running from October 28 – December 20, 2019. Of course, the Hawaiian Islands already host many of the best surfers who can literally ride the massive waves in their own backyards!

A colorful sunset over a beach in Honolulu Hawaii

Holiday Events
Waikiki Holiday Parade
Where can you find Santa Claus waving a friendly shaka to the crowd while he relaxes in slippers, an aloha shirt, and board shorts? At the Waikiki Holiday Parade, of course! The long-running parade serves as both a tribute to the heroes of Pearl Harbor as well as a kick-off to the holiday season. This year’s parade is on November 29, 2019.

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot
A great way to explore Waikiki is the Turkey Trot, a 10-mile training run through the heart of Waikiki. Work up a sweat and soak up some sunshine before the big meal!  The Turkey Trot has been running for 45 years. Literally!

Island’s Best Craft Fair
Jumpstart your holiday shopping by attending Oahu’s longest-running craft fair, a local favorite.

Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving
Whatever you choose to do over the Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to soak in warm aloha spirit while visiting Oahu. Aloha is the very best souvenir to take home. It’s free — you can give aloha to everyone you meet and it’s the gift that will always, always keep on giving. Aloha and a hui hou!

Know Before You Go

  • Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and The Big Island.
  • Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time). This time zone is 2 hours behind Pacific Standard Time. Hawaii also doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time!
  • It is considered rude to refuse to wear a Lei if someone offers it.
A woman with brown hair looking back and smiling with a beach and trees in the background

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Hannah S. Are you interested in traveling to Honolulu? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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