Big Island Visitors Bureau
101 Aupuni Street #238
Hilo, HI, 96720
68-1330 Mauna Lani Dr. #109B
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
Lavalicious at Big Island Chocolate Festival Gala
Indulge, sip and savor
Big Island Chocolate Festival hails Hawaii Island’s emerging chocolate industry with two days of delicious, decadent activities. Does chocolate grow on trees? Not exactly—but you’ll find out what does.
The two-day chocolate extravaganza kicks off with a working plantation tour at Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory in Kona and moves to the Kohala Coast for a college culinary competition and public foodie and agriculture-themed seminars—learn about everything from planting to plating. Activities culminate 5:30-9 p.m. May 14 with the indoor-outdoor festival gala—enjoy a host of sweet and savory taste sensations presented by top isle chefs, chocolatiers and confectioners.
In 2016, culinary booths will be decorated to the theme, “Lavalicious-A Chocolate Salute to the 100th Birthday of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.” Culinary stations also vie for awards in a variety of categories judged by a panel of celebrity chefs: “best” bonbon, savory, bean-to-bar, plated dessert and Hawaiian cacao. Attendees can cast a ballot for two People’s Choice Awards: Best Savory and Best Sweet.
Fun at the fifth annual festival includes fine wines and handcrafted ales, chocolate sculptures—including one of the largest volcanoes ever created using fine chocolate, chocolate body painting, live entertainment, dancing and a silent auction to benefit local schools.
Big Island Chocolate Festival
May 13-14, 2016
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
62-100 Kaunaoa Drive, Kohala Coast, HI
Multiple Events, Times Vary
Admission varies for activities
Java-jumping activities at Kau Coffee Festival
Showcasing the isle’s southern, rural district
Kau Coffee Festival spotlights everything that makes the rural district of Kau so special. Spread over 10 days at various venues, the eighth annual event offers a host of java-jumping activities and culinary fun, plus unique activities showcasing the Kau District.
Kau coffee burst into the specialty coffee scene by winning numerous coffee quality awards starting in 2007. All activities feature the exceptional flavor of Kau coffee; some events are free while others have a fee.
The lineup of fun starts with a Paina (dinner) & Open House at the historic Pahala Plantation House and continues with a recipe contest using Kau coffee, the Miss Kau Coffee Pageant, the new Lobsterpalooza at picturesque Punaluu Black Sand Beach, a historic water flume system hike in the Wood Valley rainforest, Coffee & Cattle Day with an all-you-can-eat buffet and star gazing atop Mt. Makanau.
Action culminates with a free hoolaulea (celebration) May 21—a full day of live music, hula, food booths, local crafts, keiki (children's) activities, educational displays, coffee tastings headquartered inside and out of the Pahala Community Center. It’s a great place to “talk story” with Kau coffee growers. Kau Coffee Experience offers Kau coffees prepared using a variety of methods by professionals. Farm/mill tours $20. The festival closes with a coffee college hosting visiting coffee experts.
Kau Coffee Festival
May 13-22, 2016
Multiple Venues, Times Vary
Both free and fee activities
Spirited competition at Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival
“Spirited” and friendly competitions
Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival touts the flavor of rum with two friendly competitions back dropped by the Pacific Ocean. It’s where you can wet your whistle with a frosty libation and dig into a hearty BBQ lunch while browsing among craft booths at the Mai Tai Marketplace.
In it’s eighth year, the event opens with the Battle of the BBQ 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the oceanfront lawn. A dozen local chefs vie for the best BBQ— culinarians are required to use Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum in the BBQ sauce or as a meat/seafood marinade. Attendees buy script for tastes and can vote for the People’s Choice. In addition, celebrity chefs judge BBQ entries for taste and presentation.
Grammy nominated and award-winning singer/guitarist Henry Kapono performs 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. at a fun “pool party,” followed by the 4-7 p.m. Mai Tai Mix-Off Contest.
Offering a $17,500 purse, the Mix-Off pits 20 bartenders in a timed competition at Don’s Mai Tai Bar. Watch and cheer for the competing mixologists as they create their own signature spin on the historic cocktail. Drinks are judged for presentation, taste, and creativity—and must include Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. The event closes with the presentation of awards and naming the “World’s Best Mai Tai.”
Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival
August 13, 2016
Royal Kona Resort
75-5852 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI
11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Hawaiian pageantry and food competition at Poke Contest
Sample Hawaii’s famous appetizer
Hawaii Island Festival-30 Days of Aloha Poke Contest is part of a month-long celebration honoring the state’s host culture. Festival events include a re-enactment of an ancient Hawaiian royal court that appears in full costume and is announced by feather standards and the blowing of the pu, or conch shell.
The Poke Contest begins with the royal court’s entry and dramatic hookupu (gift) presentation, followed by a culinary demonstration and announcement of contest winners.
Poke (po-KEH) is the Hawaiian word for slice or chop. The local-style, chunky-shaped pupu (appetizer) typically consists of marinated, fresh local fish that’s raw, seared or cooked. However, tofu and meat can be used to concoct poke and the ingredients and style of preparation depends on the creativity of the cook.
Contest competition is among amateurs and professionals in four categories: traditional, which uses the basic ingredients of raw fish, sea salt, seaweed, kukui nut, taro, breadfruit and coconut milk; poke with soy sauce, poke with limu (seaweed) and cooked poke. Winners earn cash and gift baskets.
Taste your choice of poke from 40 different contestants, who each prepared six pounds per entry. The contest is a great way to taste a favorite island snack prepared numerous ways.
Hawaii Island Festival Poke Contest
September Date TBA
Waikoloa Beach Marriott
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
$5 Door, plus $5 festival ribbon
Local agriculture stars at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range
Graze culinary stations, local product booths
Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range heralds Hawaii Island’s agriculture and the people behind locally produced food. Activities include a Cooking Pasture-Raised Beef 101 demonstration and sampling, plus the evening Taste gala that sprawls both inside and out.
Savor delectable dishes using pasture-raised beef, pork, lamb, goat, mutton and wild boar—plus a cornucopia of fresh island fruit, veggies, honey, spices and beverages. Culinary adventure seekers can taste all the cuts of pasture-raised beef—everything from tongue to tail—prepared expertly by over 30 Hawaii chefs. Enjoy familiar cuts like sirloin tip and ribs, plus beef cheek and the infamous “rocky mountain oysters” or bull testicles. Each chef is challenged to deliciously prepare a whopping 100 pounds of a certain cut while demonstrating that all forage-fed meat can be cooked to “taste good.”
While grazing among culinary stations, meet island food producers at decorated booths and talk story with ranchers and farmers. Browse exhibits presenting topics related to local agriculture and food sustainability, including the University of Hawai’i’s Mealani Research Station—where Taste began!
In its 21st year, Taste of the Hawaiian Range offers free parking and shuttle service from Anaehoomalu Bay; follow signs on Waikoloa Beach Drive. Come hungry!
Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range
September 9, 2016
Hilton Waikoloa Village
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, HI
Cooking Demo: 3-4 p.m.; Gala: 6-8 p.m.
Cooking Demo: $10; Gala: $45 presale, $60 door, keiki under 6 free
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Fun and food is perking at Roast & Roots
Where coffee, culinary and culture mix
Roast & Roots brings together Hawaii coffee and farmers; chefs and culinary students; locally produced meats and produce; value-added products made from local ingredients, island artisans and Hawaiian entertainment—all in one place to celebrate the concept of “Buy Local.”
Presented by catering and events company, The Feeding Leaf, the event puts local food and drink in the spotlight. Activities include a cooking challenge critiqued by judges followed with tastings by attendees. Ingredients used at culinary stations include pasture-raised beef, farm-raised lamb, local pork, freshly caught fish and an abundance of local produce—both soil- and aquaponically grown.
Sample a host of Hawaii coffees and meet the hard-working farmers who produce them. Find out about the challenges of growing island coffee and what’s the difference between 100 percent Hawaii coffees—and “blends.” Experience the many nuances of coffee flavors—like caramel, spice, almond and fruit—which come through thanks to the skills of expert roasters. Vote on your favorite brew in the People’s Choice competition.
Arts and crafts booths, plus top-notch Hawaiian entertainment, round out the mix of the “locally grown” fun. Proceeds for this year’s third annual event will benefit the ACF Kona Kohala Chefs Association.
Roast & Roots
September 17, 2016
Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay
78-128 Ehukai St., Keauhou-Kona, HI
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Find ceramics, food and music at Cool Fusion: Festival of 1000 Bowls
Art, food and music meld to raise funds
Cool Fusion: Festival of 1000 Bowls combines ceramic, culinary and musical arts to benefit Holualoa’s Donkey Mill Art Center. In the months prior to the event, talented Hawaii Island artists volunteer on weekends to create, fire and glaze 1000 unique somen noodle bowls.
At the event, the finished, beautiful, one-of-a-kind bowls are arranged on tabletops where guests can make a personal selection before indulging in a hearty lunch of thin noodles, homemade broth and an array of colorful chopped veggies—carrots, cucumber, shitake mushrooms and ginger. Refills are complimentary and wheat or gluten-free options are available. Live entertainment accompanies the slurping of tasty noodles.
Attendees take home their chosen bowls. Additional ceramic pieces go for as little as $10 each, including vases and cups. Repeat attendees have personal bowl collections gathered from years of supporting the festival—which marks its 10th anniversary in 2016.
The Donkey Mill’s ceramic department offers year-round classes for children and adults in pottery and sculpture, as well as special workshops taught by visiting artists from around the world. A former coffee mill, the art center functions as a gathering place where people can develop through art education and experience.
Cool Fusion: Festival of 1000 Bowls
September 24, 2016
Keauhou Shopping Center
78-6831 Alii Drive, Keauhou-Kona, HI
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
$20 presale, $25 door, $15 keiki
Fruity fun focuses on tropical passion fruit
Add some passion to your life!
The star of this annual festival is passion fruit—an egg-shaped, pulpy fruit that grows on a vine that’s also known as lilikoi in Hawaii. Mixologists favor the tangy-sweet juice from this yellow orb for tropical cocktails and beverages while chefs and home cooks can’t enough of it to concoct marinades, salad dressings, desserts, jellies and butters. The bright, orange-colored juice has a wonderful flavor all its own.
The fruity fun offers a recipe contest where contestants vie in desserts, entrees, sauces and sides; sweet and savory food booths; arts and crafts fair with 60 vendors; sales of lilikoi vines and the event’s “The Lilikoilicious Cookbook;” continuous live entertainment and a demonstration on how to extract juice from the fruit.
After the recipe contest judging and awards, entries are available for tasting…treats like lilikoi crème brulee, scallops with lilikoi sauce, lilikoi salsa, passion-marinated shrimp, lilikoi curd and the ever-popular lilikoi bars. The entries are as different as the contestants and all showcase the exotic flavor of passion fruit.
In its fourth year, the festival is presented by and as a fundraiser for The Center for Spiritual Living East Hawaii, an intra-denominational, new thought church that was founded in 1986.
Big Island Lilikoi Festival
October 15, 2016
15-2131 Keaau-Pahoa Road, Pahoa, HI 96778
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
$2 Door, keiki under 13 free
Taste of Hilo offers many local flavors all in one place
Foodie fun on a Sunday afternoon
Taste of Hilo showcases up to 40 of the island’s east side chefs, restaurants, patisseries and beverage purveyors in a casual, friendly format for a mid-day Sunday repast. Enjoy both savory and sweet creations by who’s who in Hilo’s culinary scene like Aloha Mondays, Liko Lehua Café, Hawaii Island Gourmet Products, Café Pesto, Kuhio Grille, Seaside Restaurant, Hamakua Mushrooms and Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. It’s a great way to taste many of Hawaii’s flavors all in one place—including locally crafted beer, wine and sake.
Each year, the event showcases a different local ingredient; in 2015 it was Big Island Abalone, which is farmed using nutrient-rich, deep seawater off the Kona Coast. Other local products featured at Taste of Hilo have included sturgeon, pasture-raised beef, kampachi (amberjack) and blue fin tuna.
Popular with local residents, the 18th annual event is presented by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawaii (JCCIH) as a fundraiser for Hawaii Community College’s (HCC) foodservice and business programs. Over the years, JCCIH has donated more than $170,000 for HCC facility improvements, development activities and student scholarships. Local college culinary students participate by offering a food station.
Dress for warm temps and pre-sale ticket sales are recommended as the event frequently sells out.
Taste of Hilo
October 16, 2016
Sangha Hall at Hilo Honpa Hongwanji
398 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, HI
$50 presale, $65 door, keiki under 2 free
Down the hatch at the 46th Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
Hawaii’s oldest food celebration
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival returns with a wide range of activities geared for people of all ages. Kona’s coffee’s unique cultural heritage is built on multi-generational tenant farmers, mainly of Japanese descent, native Hawaiians and established coffee plantations in the North and South Kona Districts.
A favorite on the festival itinerary are the guided Kona Coffee Living History Farm Tours and the prestigious Kona Coffee Cupping Competition that crowns the best tasting coffee grown and hand-picked from the more than 600 coffee farms found along the Kona Coffee Belt.
Find out what’s perking at the popular lantern parades; Holualoa Village Coffee & Art Stroll; coffee picking contests; coffee-themed art, lei, quilting and recipe contests; a beer, wine and coffee pairing; a hoolaulea and more…along with plenty of coffee sampling. Most events are free with the purchase of a $3 festival button; others have a fee.
In addition to touting gourmet Kona coffee, festival activities share the no-nonsense work ethic of Kona’s coffee pioneers. Coffee was brought to Kona by Reverend Samuel Ruggles in 1828 and by 1841, coffee plantations were established in the Kona District. Today, Kona coffee is considered a gourmet blend, savored for its flavor profile and aroma.
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
November 4-13, 2016
North and South Kona Districts
Multiple Venues, Times Vary
Both free and fee activities
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
October 22, 2016
Christmas with the Chefs
December 3, 2016
Kona Brewers Festival
March 11, 2017