By Beth Whitman, on November 21, 2014

Christmas in Kauai

I normally don't think of Kauai as a holiday-season destination, but plenty of other people do. While the island never will experience a white Christmas with its trade winds and palm trees and sandy beaches, Kauai is a fantastic place to spend the holidays. It also is a place that can charge up your holiday spirit, aloha-style.

From craft fairs to parades, the island offers an interesting blend of Hawaiian culture with what mainlanders would consider to be more traditional holiday activities. Here are some of my favorite things to do around Christmas on Kauai.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Holiday Craft Fair

Christmas means holiday craft fairs in many destinations around the world, and Kauai is no different. One fair not to miss is the Grand Hyatt Kauai's Holiday Craft Fair. The event draws more than 60 crafters and a decidedly Hawaiian flare. Among the things you'll find: crafts made from shells and locally sourced wood, woven items created from local materials, and traditional Hawaiian items. The fair is a great place to buy unique souvenirs (or holiday presents).

Holiday Hula Celebration at the Kauai Marriott Resort

The Kauai Marriott Resort starts the holiday season early with its Holiday Hula Celebration, a shindig that usually happens the first week of December. The resort goes all out with this one; not only does the show feature a full cast of dancers, but it also mixes in plenty of musicians, chants, and (of course) some holiday songs. The spectacle is a great way to experience authentic Hawaiian culture without feeling like you're missing out on the holidays. It's also a lot of fun.

Lights on Rice Parade

Though modest in size, Rice Street is one of the main thoroughfares in Lihue (which, in case you don't know, is the biggest city on Kauai). On the first Friday in December, the street is filled with Christmas cheer during the Lights on Rice Parade. This evening event attracts more than 60 lighted floats, about 2,000 performers, marching bands, and more. Arrive early (late afternoon) to get your spot on Rice—the street typically closes to traffic an hour ahead of start time.

Viewfinder Tip: To avoid expensive shipping charges from the mainland (or checking extra bags), consider shipping gifts to Kauai through the U.S. Postal Service's flat-rate Priority Mail option.

Festival of Lights

Usually in the hours before the Lights on Rice Parade, the Festival of Lights holds its Opening Night at the County Building (which also is right downtown). This unique event is filled with Christmas cheer, plenty of holiday lights, and Santa. It also sports a collection of folk art by Kauai artist “Auntie” Josie Chansky, who created so many pieces of Christmas folk art that she decorated her house—both inside and outside—with her quirky works. One of these pieces is a Christmas tree made of 7,500 green toothpicks. She then let tourists and residents inside to view the art.

Aloha Santa at Kauai Coffee

Aloha Santa is Kauai Coffee’s annual Christmas party and open house at the estate’s Visitor Center. The event usually takes place in mid-December, and is an ideal way to celebrate with the family, as there are plenty of activities for the little ones. At some point during the evening, visitors are treated to a visit from Old Saint Nick himself! For adults, another highlight is the food—Kauai Coffee brings in food trucks to cater this holiday happening. There's nothing better than celebrating Xmas with some tasty local street food.

How do you like to celebrate the holidays when traveling?