Summertime is an instigator for adventure, especially in Hawaii. For both visitors and locals alike, the longer days and warmer nights evoke a sense of freedom, and make you want to go out and enjoy the outdoors and have fun. Summer vacations are especially popular, and one of the top destinations of our country is Hawaii. Why? It’s tropical, luxurious, outdoorsy and the ultimate slice of relaxation! I love summertime in Hawaii because the north shores flatten out and become perfect for swimming, snorkeling and diving, whereas the south shores develop waves and you can surf gentler waves. There are also new fruits in bloom during summer and annual celebrations that take place, allowing for the ultimate Hawaii experience.
If you have a summer trip to the Islands coming up, be sure to follow our guidelines for maximizing your vacation. Since we live here year round, we have all the best recommendations for summer cocktails, activities, festivities and more.
Summer sunsets in Hawaii are at their latest between June 29th and July 10th. With the sun going down at 7:18pm during this time (and the sun rising before 6:00am), we have over 13 hours of daylight to enjoy the outdoors. With that being said, here’s a handful of my favorite ways to enjoy these long days.
- Late hikes & walks
- Why start your hike mid day like the rest of Hawaii’s vacationers? Opt for a 5:00pm start time and hike up Diamond Head to watch a spectacular sunset. Or trek to Manoa Falls around 3:00pm to beat the crowds on this popular hike. Walking Kaena’s coastline later in the day will give you a different perspective of the area, and strolling along Lanikai beach in the evening will allow for more seclusion.
- Grab a beach chair or blanket, fire wood and s’mores fixings and plan a bonfire at a nearby beach. During the summer months, the beaches are dotted with glowing campfires built by locals and vacationers, all just trying to enjoy the last light of the day. As the fire dies out, lie back and count the shooting stars. In Hawaii you’re guaranteed to see plenty!
- Ocean floating
- This is best for north shore beaches, since the waves have died out and many of the beaches resemble pools during the summer months. You can find fun floaties at the local grocery, department or ABC stores, and my favorite of the season is the sprinkled donut with a bite taken out of it. You can find dolphins, whales, noodles, lounge chairs and rafts to suit any floating style. It’s a great way to enjoy the ocean while relaxing at the same time, and is another one of Hawaii’s inexpensive (if not free!) outdoor activities.
- All-day beach day
s. Plan a day, pick a beach, and post up for the better part of the daylight hours. An all-day beach day encourages you to do as many beach activities as possible, such as a morning swim, afternoon volleyball, snorkeling or a picnic, mid day beach combing or reading, and an evening sunset. I bet you’ve never spent an entire day at the beach, so why not make it happen during this summer’s Hawaii vacation?
While you might think that fruit is in season year round in Hawaii, a few of the good ones are only ripe and fresh during summertime. Lychee and mango are only available in Hawaii for the fleeting summer months, usually from May to July. While you can find mango outside of these months, fresh lychee is the fruit jewel that symbolizes summer to many Hawaii locals and is rare even on grocery shelves during their peak season. Lilikoi and pineapple are also summer fruits, so it’s best to enjoy them fresh during these months. Again, it can be found during other seasons too, but is at an all time high during summer. Here are a few of my favorite summer Hawaii cocktails.
- Roy’s Hawaiian Martini
- This pineapple infused vodka martini is a specialty cocktail at Roy’s Waikiki and is served up with a pineapple wedge garnish. Dangerously delicious.
- Lychee Martini
- Most Hawaii bars have a version of this drink year round, but it is especially divine during the summer time! A mixture of vodka and lychee juice, and garnished with a speared lychee, it’s hard to beat the flavors of this fruit.
- Mango Margarita
- A spin off the classic cocktail, mango margaritas from Hawaii are fresh, tropical and taste like summer to me! Blended is usually best, or cut right to the chase and order it on the rocks. But I don’t recommend salt. Try a li hing mui rim instead!
- Lilikoi Wheat Ale
- Only in season during summer time, Kona Brewing Co. produces this amazingly refreshing beer only a few months out of the year. And it flies off the shelves. An America pale wheat ale with notes of lilikoi (a.k.a. passionfruit), if you like beer, I highly recommend this Hawaiian version.
There are certain festivals that only come around once a year. Some are in conjunction with national holidays, like 4th of July fireworks and parades, while others stand alone and represent Hawaii’s culture, lifestyle and heritage. Some festivities happen state-wide while others are unique to a particular island. Here are a few to get you started.
- Bon Dances
- From July till August, the Aloha state celebrates and commemorates their deceased family members through a Japanese cultural practice known as bon dances. Free and open to the public, no matter what religion or race, bon dances are lively and fun and a great way to experience the local culture. Dancing, music and food are the highlights of this festival, and they take place state wide at Hongwanji missions, temples and other public places.
- Sunset on the Beach
- A 30-foot screen is set up on the sands of Waikiki Beach, and each weekend a movie is shown for free. Families, friends, locals and tourists lay out beach blankets and chairs and enjoy a feature film in the warm outdoors of Hawaii. Prior to the screening, guests can enjoy free live music, and food vendors are on site with excellent cuisine for purchase.
- Koloa Plantation Days
- Celebrated on the sunny shores of Kauai’s south side, Koloa Plantation Days takes place every year and is a 10-day family-oriented event. Happening every year in July, this festivity boasts a parade, rodeo, outdoor BBQ’s, live music, trail walks, fishing, tennis, mini golf, traditional dancing and foods and more. If you’re staying near Poipu, be sure to check out the 29th Annual Koloa Plantation Days this year from July 18th through the 27th.
- Ukulele Festival Hawaii
- Celebrated around various parts of various islands in Hawaii, the Annual Ukulele Festival is dedicated to spreading the joy and love of the traditional Hawaiian instrument through lessons, festivals and community events. This year, it’s taking place at Kapiolani Park Bandstand in Waikiki on Sunday, July 20th, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului on Maui Sunday, October 12th, and already took place at the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Big Island this past March.
- Hawaii Fair
- The country fair comes to Hawaii every year during summer time and happens on all four main islands. With all the classic characteristics of your favorite county fair, Hawaii’s fairs have a few unique touches that make it local to the Islands. On Oahu, you can catch The 50th State Fair at the Aloha Stadium from May 23rd through July 6th. Kauai’s County Fair is at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue and is happening this year from August 21st through the 24th. The Hawaii Country Fair on the Big Island is taking place in Hilo from September 19th through the 22nd and Maui’s Fair is located at the War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku from October 2nd through the 5th.
- While these traditional Hawaiian parties take place year round, summer time is a great season to experience a luau. Because nothing screams summer more than an outdoor festivity with live music, dancing, good food, drinks and a tropical atmosphere at an authentic Hawaii luau.