Waimea Town Festival: Nine Days of Culture and Celebration

Rachel Landis

Springtime on Kauai is one of the most wonderful seasons to experience. Rainy season has not yet begun, the weather is gorgeous and the island is in full bloom, and there are festivals and celebrations nearly every weekend. Kauai’s longest running, two-week festival, the Waimea Town Celebration, starts Presidents’ Day weekend, and continues until February 23. This 9-day festival has become a key feature of springtime celebrations, and you won’t want to miss the music, culture, food, and fun that are packed into the experience. 



The historic town of Waimea on the west side of Kauai is important to more than just Kauai locals. On January 20, 1778 Captain James Cook first made contact with the Hawaiian islands by sailing into Waimea Bay. Waimea then developed as a provisioning port for whalers and sandalwood traders, and operated a large sugar mill that was the economic mainstay of the area. The sugar mill has been preserved and the history can be explored at the Waimea Sugar Mill Camp Museum. The ruins of a Russian fort, Fort Elizabeth, from a futile attempt to takeover the island can also be seen from the highway that runs through Waimea. Mark Twain, who was a frequent visitor to the islands, and fond of Kauai in particular, dubbed Waimea Canyon, which towers over the town of Waimea, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The 1900 acre state park is open 24 hours and provides gorgeous scenic views of waterfalls, rainbows, and the nearby island of Niihau, which is only accessible to Hawaiian natives. 


Waimea Town Festival

The Waimea Town Festival, which is in its 43rd year, showcases and celebrates the Hawaiian culture that Captain Cook was first exposed to when he landed on Kauai. The parent organization, the Historic Waimea Theater and Cultural Arts Center, is responsible for the restoration of Fort Elizabeth, as well as the refurbishment and preservation of Historic Waimea Theater. HWTCAC is also undertaking a project to make Hofgaard Park, home to the monument to Captain Cook’s arrival, ADA accessible. Funds from the Town Festival make all these projects possible. Nonprofit and local organizations such as schools and club sports teams also have the opportunity to participate in the festival to raise funds for the year, so a trip to the Waimea Town Festival will have you getting deeply involved in the Kauai community!


Festival Events

Each year the festival has a full lineup of entertainment spanning 9 days. There is a large main stage with live music every day, as well as additional performances in locations such as Hofgaard Park and the Historic Waimea Theater. There is also an all day film festival on Monday, February 17th, that features international film favorites from the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu. If you want to indulge your competitive side there is a bike race, softball tournament, ice cream eating contest, ukulele contest, canoe race, and fun run.


The Waimea Town Festival is also home to the Paniolo Showdown Rodeo, the largest rodeo on all of the Hawaiian islands. You can also be immersed in the food and culture of Kauai with Kauai cocktails, dinner events, and luaus throughout the festival. Tickets are available for purchase for each individual event, and more information can be found at the Waimea Town Festival website, which is linked below. 


Important Information

As Waimea is located on the Westernmost part of the island, it will be a bit of a drive for most of our guests. Plan for about 1 ½ - 2 hours of driving time each way, and pack plenty of water as Waimea is the driest part of the island. We highly encourage you to see as much of the historic area as possible during your stay, especially the stunning Waimea Canyon, and the festival provides the perfect opportunity to do so. With construction on the highway underway there may be road closures or delays that could lengthen driving time, so keep an eye out for traffic updates as well.


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