Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

With its year-round warm weather, tropical landscapes, and laidback aloha spirit, Hawaii offers a unique way to celebrate Thanksgiving unlike anywhere else in the US. If you’re looking to spice up your turkey day with some Hawaiian flair, you’ve come to the right place!

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Thanksgiving in Hawaii incorporates local culture like kalua turkey cooked in an underground oven, sweet potato casserole with macadamia nuts, pineapple cranberry sauce, tropical cocktails, beautiful ocean views, and most importantly the spirit of ohana (family).

In this comprehensive 3000 word guide, we will cover everything you need to know about celebrating Thanksgiving Hawaiian style – from the history behind it, traditional Hawaiian dishes to serve, where to find the best luaus and events, and even how to decorate your table with a tropical twist.

The History of Thanksgiving in Hawaii

Close of kids saying grace while having Thanksgiving dinner with their family at dining table.

Thanksgiving in Hawaii is a unique and vibrant celebration that blends Native Hawaiian traditions with the influence of the mainland United States.

To understand the history of Thanksgiving in Hawaii, we must explore its origins and the meaning this holiday holds for the Native Hawaiian people. We will also delve into how the mainland US tradition took hold in the islands, creating a multicultural celebration that is cherished by locals and visitors alike.

Origins and Meaning of the Holiday for Native Hawaiians

For Native Hawaiians, the concept of giving thanks is deeply rooted in their culture and spirituality. The traditional Hawaiian concept of gratitude, known as “mahalo,” encompasses appreciation for the land, the ocean, and all living beings. Native Hawaiians have long held ceremonies and rituals to express their gratitude for the abundance of the land and its resources.

Thanksgiving in Hawaii is an opportunity for Native Hawaiians to honor their ancestors, celebrate their cultural heritage, and express gratitude for the blessings they have received.

Many families gather to share traditional Hawaiian dishes, such as kalua pig, poi, and lomi-lomi salmon, while engaging in music, dance, and storytelling.

The holiday also provides a time for reflection on the challenges faced by Native Hawaiians throughout history, including the impact of colonization and the loss of land and cultural practices. It is an occasion to reconnect with their roots, preserve their traditions, and strengthen the sense of community.

Also read: Different Ways To Say Thank You In Hawaiian

How the Mainland US Tradition Took Hold in the Islands

The introduction of Thanksgiving to Hawaii as celebrated in the mainland United States can be traced back to the influence of American missionaries who arrived in the early 19th century. These missionaries sought to instill their own traditions and values in the Hawaiian people, and Thanksgiving was one such tradition they introduced.

Over time, Thanksgiving became more widely embraced by the local population and integrated with Native Hawaiian customs. The holiday took on a unique Hawaiian flavor, with traditional dishes and cultural practices incorporated into the celebrations. It is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Hawaiian people, who have blended their own rich heritage with the traditions of others.

Today, Thanksgiving in Hawaii is a reflection of the multicultural society that exists in the islands. It brings together people from various backgrounds, including Native Hawaiians, mainland Americans, and immigrants from around the world.

The celebration is a symbol of unity and gratitude, reminding us of the importance of embracing diversity and fostering a sense of belonging.

If you want to learn more about the history of Thanksgiving in Hawaii, you can visit the To-Hawaii website, which provides insightful information about the origins and traditions of this unique holiday in the Aloha State.

Traditional Hawaiian Thanksgiving Dishes

When it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving in Hawaii, you can expect a unique twist on the traditional holiday feast. Hawaiian cuisine is a fusion of different cultures, blending flavors from Polynesia, Asia, and the Americas. This diversity is reflected in the delicious dishes that grace the Thanksgiving table in the Aloha State.

Kalua Turkey and Side Dishes

One of the standout dishes of a Hawaiian Thanksgiving is the Kalua turkey. This succulent bird is slow-cooked in an underground oven called an imu, which infuses it with a smoky flavor and tender texture.

The process involves wrapping the turkey in banana leaves, seasoning it with Hawaiian sea salt, and then burying it in a pit filled with hot lava rocks. The result is a mouthwatering centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast.

In addition to the Kalua turkey, there are several traditional side dishes that accompany the meal. One popular dish is lomi-lomi salmon, a refreshing salad made with cured salmon, tomatoes, onions, and green onions.

Another must-have is the poi, a staple in Hawaiian cuisine made from mashed taro root. Don’t forget to try the sweet potato and pineapple casserole, which combines the natural sweetness of the local produce with a touch of savory flavors.

Local Twists on Mainland Favorites

Hawaiian Thanksgiving also incorporates local twists on classic mainland dishes. For instance, instead of traditional stuffing, many Hawaiians opt for a taro or sweet bread stuffing. This adds a unique Hawaiian flair to the meal, with the taro providing a subtle nutty flavor and the sweet bread adding a touch of sweetness.

Another popular local twist is the inclusion of macadamia nuts in various dishes. These buttery and crunchy nuts are often found in green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and even pumpkin pie. Their addition adds a delightful Hawaiian twist to these beloved Thanksgiving staples.

Desserts and Drinks

No Thanksgiving feast is complete without indulging in some delicious desserts and refreshing drinks. In Hawaii, you’ll find a wide array of tropical-inspired treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.

One popular dessert is haupia, a creamy coconut pudding often served with fresh fruit or atop a macadamia nut crust. Another favorite is the pineapple upside-down cake, which showcases the island’s iconic fruit.

As for drinks, don’t miss out on trying some unique Hawaiian concoctions. Treat your taste buds to a refreshing glass of lilikoi (passion fruit) or pineapple juice. For those looking for something a little stronger, the Mai Tai cocktail is a tropical favorite that combines rum, orange liqueur, lime juice, and a splash of grenadine.

So, this Thanksgiving, why not add a touch of Hawaiian flavor to your feast? Incorporating traditional Hawaiian dishes, local twists, and tropical desserts and drinks will surely make your celebration a memorable one.

Where to Find the Best Hawaiian Thanksgiving Events and Luaus

Thanksgiving is a time to come together with loved ones and express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. What better place to celebrate this holiday than in the beautiful islands of Hawaii? With its unique blend of cultures and breathtaking scenery, Hawaii offers a truly unforgettable Thanksgiving experience.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there are plenty of options for enjoying a Hawaiian-style Thanksgiving. In this article, we’ll guide you through the best places to find Hawaiian Thanksgiving events and luaus.

Hotels and Resorts Hosting Buffets and Holiday Meals

If you’re looking for a traditional Thanksgiving feast with a Hawaiian twist, many hotels and resorts in Hawaii offer special buffets and holiday meals. These establishments go above and beyond to create a festive atmosphere, complete with live music, hula dancers, and of course, mouthwatering food.

Some of the top hotels and resorts known for their Thanksgiving celebrations include The Royal Hawaiian, Turtle Bay Resort, and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

These venues provide an upscale dining experience where you can indulge in a wide array of delectable dishes inspired by both local and traditional Thanksgiving flavors.

Local Restaurants Offering Special Menus

If you prefer a more intimate dining experience, you’ll find no shortage of local restaurants in Hawaii that offer special Thanksgiving menus. From casual eateries to fine dining establishments, there’s something for everyone.

One highly recommended spot is Mama’s Fish House in Maui, known for its fresh seafood and farm-to-table ingredients. Another popular choice is Alan Wong’s in Honolulu, where you can savor innovative dishes that blend Hawaiian and Asian influences.

Be sure to make reservations in advance, as these restaurants tend to fill up quickly during the holiday season.

Annual Parades and Community Celebrations

Thanksgiving in Hawaii is not just about the food; it’s also about coming together as a community to celebrate. Many towns and cities in Hawaii host annual parades and community celebrations that are open to locals and visitors alike.

One example is the Waikiki Holiday Parade, which features floats, marching bands, and performers from all over the world.

Another popular event is the Kailua-Kona Community Thanksgiving Luncheon, where members of the community gather to enjoy a potluck-style meal and live entertainment.

These events are a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience the true spirit of Aloha.

No matter where you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving in Hawaii, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable and unique experience. So, gather your loved ones, put on your Hawaiian shirt or grass skirt, and get ready to create lifelong memories in paradise!

Decorating Your Table Hawaiian Style

Thanksgiving Table

When it comes to hosting a Thanksgiving feast with a Hawaiian twist, the right table decorations can really set the mood. Transform your dining area into a tropical paradise with these Hawaiian-inspired table decorating ideas.

Tropical Centerpieces

No Hawaiian-themed table is complete without a vibrant and eye-catching centerpiece. Opt for tropical flowers such as orchids, hibiscus, and plumeria to create a stunning focal point.

Arrange these flowers in a decorative vase or a hollowed-out pineapple for an extra touch of island charm. You can also add some greenery like palm leaves or ferns to create a lush and exotic ambiance.

Local Fruits and Florals

Incorporating local fruits and florals into your table decor is a great way to infuse the spirit of Hawaii into your Thanksgiving celebration.

Consider using pineapples, coconuts, and bananas as both decorative elements and delicious additions to your menu. Place them strategically around the table or use them as place card holders for a fun and tropical twist.

Aloha-Themed Place Settings

Enhance your Hawaiian-themed table with place settings that embrace the aloha spirit. Use colorful tropical-themed tablecloths, napkins, and placemats to create a festive atmosphere.

Incorporate elements of the Hawaiian culture by using seashells, leis, or mini surfboards as unique place card holders. Don’t forget to add a touch of elegance with some stylish silverware and glassware.

For more inspiration and ideas, check out Hawaii Magazine’s article on Hawaiian-style Thanksgiving decorations. They offer a variety of tips and tricks to help you create a memorable and visually stunning Hawaiian-themed table.

Also read: Is A Hawaiian Theme Cultural Appropriation?

Enjoying the Aloha Spirit and Island Activities

Thanksgiving in Hawaii is a truly unique experience that combines the warmth of the Aloha spirit with the breathtaking beauty of the islands.

While many people associate Thanksgiving with traditional feasts and cold weather, in Hawaii, you can celebrate the holiday in a whole new way. From spending time at the beach to exploring the stunning landscapes, there are plenty of activities to make your Thanksgiving in Hawaii unforgettable.

Spending Time at the Beach

One of the best ways to embrace the Hawaiian spirit during Thanksgiving is by spending time at the beach. With its golden sands, crystal-clear waters, and gentle waves, the beach provides the perfect backdrop for relaxation and fun.

Whether you choose to sunbathe, build sandcastles, or take a dip in the ocean, the beach is a great place to unwind and enjoy the holiday. And don’t forget to bring your Thanksgiving feast to the beach for a unique and memorable dining experience!

Getting Out On the Water

In addition to the beach, Hawaii offers a wide range of water activities that are perfect for Thanksgiving. From snorkeling and scuba diving to paddleboarding and kayaking, there are endless opportunities to explore the vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs.

You can also take a boat tour and go whale watching, as November marks the beginning of the humpback whale season in Hawaii. Getting out on the water allows you to truly connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the islands.

Hiking and Sightseeing

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Hawaii, hiking and sightseeing should be on your Thanksgiving itinerary. The islands are home to breathtaking landscapes, including lush rainforests, towering waterfalls, and volcanic craters.

You can hike to the top of Diamond Head in Oahu for panoramic views of Waikiki Beach, or explore the stunning Na Pali Coast in Kauai. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the awe-inspiring beauty of Hawaii’s natural scenery.

So, this Thanksgiving, why not trade your traditional turkey for a tropical paradise? Embrace the Aloha spirit, enjoy the beach, get out on the water, and explore the stunning landscapes of Hawaii. It’s a Thanksgiving experience like no other, and one that you’ll cherish for years to come. Mahalo!


Thanksgiving may look a bit different in Hawaii, but the spirit of coming together, showing gratitude, and celebrating community remains the same. The Hawaiian culture’s emphasis on family, or ohana, aligns perfectly with the meaning behind the holiday.

By incorporating local food, events, and ambiance into your turkey day plans, you can experience thanksgiving in true Hawaiian style. After reading this guide, you’ll be ready to celebrate an island-inspired holiday filled with aloha!

No matter where you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving surrounded by your loved ones. Happy turkey day!

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts