Travel

Actually Cool Things You Can Do in Honolulu This Winter

From festive light shows to forest bathing and chocolate making, we’ve got you covered.

You don’t have to spend these glorious warm and sunny days locked up indoors. Finding cool, safe things to do around Honolulu during the pandemic may be challenging, but it’s not impossible. With new activities popping up around the island this season, holiday traditions can still be enjoyed, albeit with strict social distancing guidelines in place. So read on for more details on all the fun things you can do this winter on Oahu.

Experience a drive-thru holiday light extravaganza

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Ongoing through January 9
Get ready to drive through a dazzling display of colorful LED lights choreographed to holiday music at "Show Aloha Land" at the Aloha Stadium. Over 1 million synchronized lights dance to holiday music favorites that play through your car radio as you enjoy a 15-20 minute leisurely drive through the light show. After the show, enjoy tasty eats from street food vendors conveniently stationed at the upper parking lot. Enjoy dinner and a show while you make memories watching the 50-foot Mega Christmas tree synchronized to 50 minutes of music. Open daily. Tickets are $50 per vehicle online, with proceeds going to charity. Use the promo code FHBHOLIDAY to receive 10% off Friday, Saturday, and Sunday shows after 9pm, and 20% off weekday shows (Monday-Thursday) after 9 pm. Guests must remain in their vehicles at all times and wear a face mask when interacting with staff. 

Learn Hula and lei making with Hawaii's own Kuana Torres

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Ongoing
Who said you have to fly all the way to Hawaii to learn how to Hula? As virtual workshops become the new norm, more local artists and educators can share their talents with the world. Renowned Hawaiian musician, songwriter, dancer, and producer Kuana Torres now teaches and shares his love for Hula, lei making, and Hawaiian crafts online. His sell-out Hula classes are offered through Zoom at $40 per class, with beginner classes starting in February 2021. Students can also learn how to make Ni'ihau earrings, Kupe'e shell necklaces, bracelets, or discover the ancient art of tying different Hawaiian cordage types. Order your kit online and have it mailed directly to your home.

Have a glamorous stay at the Queen Kapi'olani Hotel

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Ongoing

As mainland travelers gear up for their winter holidays in Hawaii, Waikiki is beginning to buzz all over again and the Queen Kapi’olani Hotel is reopening its doors with a fresh new look. Located across from the Honolulu Zoo, with spectacular views of Diamond Head and the famed Waikiki Beach Walls—this hotel is the ideal place for a romantic weekend or family staycation. Their Kama'aina (local) rates are affordable, starting at $133 per night, but hurry—these prices won't last long. Grab your swimsuit and book early! Note that out-of-state travelers must successfully complete a pre-travel test or be subject to the state’s 14-day quarantine program.

Learn to paint with nature artist Patrick Ching

Free
Every Wednesday through December 25
From now till Christmas, Hawaii's favorite nature artist will be hosting live Facebook Studio Art Shows every Wednesday at 5 pm. Patrick's art shows feature an art lesson, a bit of scenic beauty, project updates, and music from his Waimānalo Beach studio. Ching shares helpful technical tips on painting for those who want to improve their technique or just spend a relaxing afternoon doing something different.

Take a vegetarian Indian cooking class

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December 11, 18, and 25
Enjoy the lush green mountains of Manoa Valley while learning how to cook and create delicious dishes from India. At Koki's Kitchen, all cooking equipment is provided and you'll jump right into an entirely hands-on cooking experience with Chef Koki herself! The two-hour class is limited to five participants and comes with complimentary drinks. The best part: all the food prep is done before you arrive, so you can focus on learning and savoring your meal. Classes start at $75.
 

Drive-in to your favorite holiday movie

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December 10, 11, 17, and 18

The drive-in has returned in full force over the last few months, popping up in Kailua, Mililani, and now in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Center. Aloha Drive-In Movies screens your favorite Christmas flicks including Elf, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Die Hard. Select a showtime and buy your tickets online, then arrive early to get closer screen viewing. Snacks and drinks are available through pre-order, walk ups, or a QR code then delivered to your car. Pricing starts at $40 per vehicle, up to five people.
 

Make your own chocolate bar

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Classes every Thursday

Learn everything about chocolate bar making on a one-hour tour where a guide will explain the process from bean to bar in the islands and offer tastings of cacao, as well as a flight of five popular chocolate flavors. Then, try your hand at making your own, incorporating fun flavors like spicy chipotle pepper and caramelized ginger.

Celebrate 35 years of Honolulu City Lights

Free
Throughout December

Honolulu's stage will be set with all the season's warmth and nostalgia as its famed Honolulu City Lights illuminate this holiday season. This year, Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele will be donning their face masks at Honolulu Hale, along with the city's 50-foot, fully decorated Christmas tree. All activities at Honolulu City Lights will be modified, with picture taking in front of displays allowed only if practicing social distancing. Drive-by viewing experiences are encouraged for residents. Visit their website for weekly scheduled televised events.

Relax with a full moon crystal sound bath

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December 29

Close out 2020 with a relaxing guided meditation and crystal bowl sound healing session led by Mayu Kawasaki. It’s been a stressful year, so use this opportunity to release any lingering tension and take a moment to embrace all that you accomplished and are grateful for. Bring your yoga mat or any props that will help you relax and rest deeply during the sound journey. Enjoy a complimentary cup of coconut kava and bring a pen and journal to capture any meditative thoughts. The two-hour session begins at 6:30pm and tickets are $33.

Eat, drink, and be merry at Kailua Night Market

Free
December 12 and 19, January 9 and 16, February 6 and 13
Pet adoptions, art, shopping, and delicious ono food are what you can expect at the Kailua Night Market, which takes place two Saturdays each month at 340 Uluniu Street in Kailua from 5 to 9 pm. Over the last two and a half years, Kailua’s family- and pet-friendly popup has become an essential market for promoting the small local businesses on O'ahu's Windward side, showcasing local food vendors, retailers, and crafts from local entrepreneurs in a celebration of culture and connection. 

Celebrate A Charlie Brown Christmas with Jazz Musicians

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Friday, December 25
You can’t call it Christmas without the Peanuts and their classic holiday shenanigans. Native New Yorker trumpeter Mike Lewis returns to Blue Note Hawaii with A Charlie Brown Christmas, featuring some of Hawaii's best jazz musicians. The performance will showcase selections from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, as written by legendary composer and pianist Vince Guaraldi. Time slots are filling up quickly so don't miss the opportunity to book. Prices range from $25-$35 per person.
 

Run the Hawaii Kai Ultra Marathon

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December 19 and 20

Challenge yourself with the longest run of your life at the Hawaii Kai Ultra Run. Choose whether to run a half marathon, full marathon, 30K, 50K, 50 Mile, 100K, or 100 Miles. This semi-annual run is held on Oahu's far east end and designed to challenge new and advanced runners to take on further distances. Start times are flexible on either day with the run beginning at Kalama Valley Community Park. Regular entry is $30 with discounts available, but volunteers who commit to four hours or more will receive free registration and a free event t-shirt. Pre-registration is encouraged and same-day registration increases to $40, with no guarantee of event t-shirts still being available. Ice, drinks, and food are provided. 

Experience Virtual Forest Bathing

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Every Thursday and Sunday through January

Join a live online-facilitated nature therapy session from the comfort of your living room, led by a certified forest therapy guide based in Honolulu. The guide will dial in from a trail or green space on the island of Oʻahu, allowing guests to virtually experience Hawaiʻi's natural and healing beauty through their screens. Attendees will be invited to tune into their senses, slow down, and give their attention to the more-than-human world around them. Prices range from $15 to $25 and complimentary walks are available for first responders, healthcare, and essential workers by emailing forestbathinghi@gmail.com for a promo code.

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Wendy Awai-Dakroub is a Hawaii-based writer, restaurateur, franchise business consultant and founder of kid-friendly food and travel blog. Besides her love for travel and photography, she's also “momager" to her kid-foodies Leah and Jaffer. Follow her on Twitter.