Winter is a fantastic time to be on Maui, starting off with celebrating the December holidays. Colorful lights enhance the island’s sparkle and there is a spirit of good cheer. Are you planning on celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah on Maui? Or simply making an escape to Maui to avoid bad winter weather elsewhere? No matter you’re your denomination or interest, there is an abundance of Aloha on Maui this holiday season, which extends well into the new year.
View Christmas lights Maui style
At least once during your winter Maui vacation you must experience the lit-up Banyan Tree in Lahaina. This landmark tree covers nearly an entire city block sending roots down periodically to support the sprawling canopy. During the holiday season, the Banyan Tree is wrapped in thousands of Christmas lights. After viewing sunset along the harbor, stroll over to Banyan Tree Park, and wander under the tree and absorb to vibe of the season. There is a free parking lot about a block away, off Prison street. The tree will be lit nightly throughout the holiday season.
Celebrate with Hawaiian traditions or worship services
Before faith-based holidays were introduced to native Hawaiians in the early 1800s, Hawaiians celebrated a winter holiday called Makahiki. Lasting about four months, it was a season of peace and goodwill, when all wars were forbidden.
Today, you may see these warm winter holiday feelings extended by local groups gathering at the beach, sharing a large meal, surfing, swimming, playing ukuleles or guitar and dancing hula. You may hear the phrase “Mele Kalikimaka” which translated is equivalent to Merry Christmas.
Church, synagogue or other worship services have gotten a bit creative due to COVID-19 safety precautions, including virtual services, smaller gatherings or outdoor events. Expect all members of the family to be required to wear masks indoors. For those that center holidays around faith, here are a few resources to check out:
The Jewish Congregation of Maui has a community Hanukkah celebration in Kihei on December 5th, which promises to be a “Whole Latke Fun.” Connect HERE to RSVP.
Hope Chapel in Kihei welcomes visitors for Christmas Candlelight services in their outdoor courtyard. These special Christmas services will be held on December 19, 20 and 21. Check their webpage for dates and times.
Our local newspaper will have more information about holiday events and services. Check out the Maui News HERE or pick up a copy on island.
See Santa’s arrival on the beach
Rumor has it Santa hangs loose on Maui during his off season, so if you see a jolly elf with a bushy white beard on the beach, let him relax and catch his rays- he’s got a long journey ahead. Santa always makes a public appearance on Maui before heading back to the North Pole to load up his sleigh. You can catch Santa arriving by outrigger canoe on Christmas Eve at Wailea Beach in South Maui. See this link for more information.
Enjoy a holiday feast
Restaurants across Maui will offer delicious holiday meals, but a special notice for this year: make reservations early! Covid-19 still restricts indoor occupancy, so places fill up fast. The best source to search for restaurant availability online is via OpenTable. Please don’t make multiple reservations for the same date.
If you can’t get a reservation, plan to get your meal to go and find your beach spot or dine on the lanai of your condo! The Maui News will have a list of restaurants that are offering special Christmas dinners, as well as those offering holiday meals to-go. Check this link for announcements.
There are many great shopping opportunities on Maui, but a few are extra special during the holiday season. Consider buying locally made crafts, artwork and gifts and skip the big box stores. You can also check out our art and souvenir buying guide.
Start out by venturing upcountry to the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of Makawao where you can browse through unique shops along a rustic sidewalk on Baldwin avenue.
Just a couple of miles down the road, and visit the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center. A historic estate turned art center, the Hui as locals call it, is not only decked out for Christmas with a beautiful tree and local artist made gifts for sale, there are hands-on workshops all year round that anyone can participate in.
Continue on down the mountain to the laid back surfer town of Paia for more unique boutique shopping.
Shopping malls on Maui often have a regular schedule of holiday entertainment. Check out Whalers Village in Kaanapali or the Shops at Wailea in on the South side. A more local experience is Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului. With a large center stage, you can often catch superb hula halau performances on the weekend, all for free!
Have an amazing holiday on Maui!
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays on Maui, you will be enjoying an island paradise. As the song composed by Robert Alex Anderson goes, “Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright, Hawaiian Christmas Day. That’s the island greeting that I send to you, from the land where palm trees sway.” Enjoy!