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7 Fun Things to Do in Hawaii in December
1. Enjoy the Festive Lights
The holiday season begins in Hawai’i at the annual Honolulu City Lights celebration when Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele have taken their spots fronting Honolulu Hale and the sky-high pine tree towering above them is lit. Families flock to Downtown Honolulu to get pictures in front of the oversized decorations scattered amongst the grounds, as well as the numerous Christmas trees inside Honolulu Hale, each with a different theme and decorated by the hard-working City and County of Honolulu employees. The grounds are open to visitors daily from 8:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. throughout the month of December, and experiencing the magic of the season is always free to all.
2. Countdown to Christmas at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Countdown to Christmas at the Polynesian Cultural Center is chock-full of fun-filled activities for the entire family. The kids will enjoy a scavenger hunt, train rides, and a designated snow day with inner tube rides. Local entertainers will serenade you as you take selfies with Santa and enjoy a live Nativity. The festivities take place over a 10 day period in December leading up to Christmas from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., excluding Sundays, and are completely free. It’s the perfect holiday activity after a day spent on O’ahu’s north shore.
3. Visit the Hawaiian Christmas Trees
Wander the grounds of Helemano Tree Farms in central O’ahu to pick out the perfect island Christmas tree. Choose from a few different varieties and watch as the skilled crew chops down the tree you lovingly selected. The Big Island offers a similar experience at Ho’oluana Tree Farm in Hilo. If you’re feeling up to the task, you have the option to cut down your own tree, or if you prefer to leave it to the professionals, a tree of your choice can be felled for you. Kula Botanical Garden grows and sells Monterey Pine Christmas trees, wreaths, and centerpieces in upcountry Maui. Once you’ve got your tree picked out, meander amongst the plants, rock formations, and koi ponds of this serene garden nestled along the slopes of Haleakala.
When weather conditions are just right, mother nature gifts the slopes of Mauna Kea on the Big Island with a soft, powdery layer of snow. There are no lodges or ski lifts on the mountain, so you’ll need to rent all of the necessary gear as well as a four-wheel-drive vehicle before heading to the summit. Snowboarders will need to be driven to the top and then picked up from the bottom of the run to head back up for another ride. While not necessarily the easiest snowboarding experience, many would argue that the unique location and stunning views are worth it.
5. Watch a Surfing Competition
Winter in Hawai’i means big waves on the north shore of O’ahu. The world’s best surfers will be on the island for two well-known surfing competitions. If you can’t make it to the beach during these competitions, many of the events can be viewed live online, so surfing fans around the world can take part in the spectacle.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing– Surfers compete at three of the most iconic surf spots in the world: Hale’iwa, Sunset Beach, and Pipeline.
The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational– Fifty-five surfers are invited to show off their skills at this historic surfing event. In order for the Eddie to run, waves must be consistently over 20 feet, which means the years that it does run are extra special, and everyone comes to watch.
Avid runners will want to register for the Honolulu Marathon, held annually on O’ahu in early December. The 26.2-mile course begins near Waikiki at Kapi’olani Park, then takes you past Diamond Head and through some of east Honolulu’s loveliest residential neighborhoods. At the finish line—which maintains a high-energy and festive atmosphere—you’ll pick up your well-earned medal and finisher shirt and munch on Leonard’s malasadas. If a marathon is a bit too ambitious, you could choose to compete in the Start to Park 10K or Kalakaua Merrie Mile instead.
7. Go Whale Watching
During the winter months, the warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands lure humpback whales to its coast, making it the best time to view these majestic mammals. While the whales are in Hawai’i specifically to breed and give birth, you’ll often find them breaching in one of their favorite spots, off the coast of Maui. The Pacific Whale Foundation not only offers whale watching eco-tours that depart from both Lahaina and Ma’alaea Harbor but also raises money for marine conservation and education so you can enjoy an awe-inspiring experience while also making a difference.