Christmas in Maui isn’t at all akin to the snow-covered, jingle belled type of Christmas imagery made famous by Burl Ives and hundred of “White Christmas” sorts of songs. But there is something magical and wonderful about Christmas in Maui, notwithstanding the lack of snow. The Christmas holiday season is Hawaii’s busiest travel season, and Maui is where many, many tourists return again and again to celebrate Christmas the Hawaiian way. My family has traveled to Maui for a few Christmas vacations already, and this year my younger daughter christened the Hawaiian island her “golden paradise.” High praise from a well-traveled tween!
There are plenty of annual concerts and activities in December befitting a Christmas in Maui. No sane traveler should attempt to do all of them on one trip, it would be nigh impossible (and please, a Hawaiian vacation should involve at least a modicum of relaxing down time). Each hotel and resort has Christmas dinner feasts that you’ll need to make reservations for — although most are still “resort casual,” so no need to get terribly dressed up — and cute on-property activities for the keiki. One craft option you’re likely to come across, for example, is that of children filling Christmas tree-shaped plastic bottles with colorful sand. There are other, more unique, things to do during Christmas in Maui, starting at the beginning of the holiday season and continuing to New Year’s Day. The actual annual activities have varying dates in December year to year; check their websites or call for specific dates each year.
- Maui Pops Orchestra Holiday Pops at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center — One day a year, typically in early December, the Maui Pops Orchestra performs classic holiday favorites. It’s a full-length concert, rounded out with performances of other popular classical favorites. Check the website mauiarts.org for performance dates and ticket prices.
- Maui Academy of Performing Arts’ (MCAA) Nutcracker Sweets in Kihei — The Castle Theater at MCAA hosts a child-friendly, accessible version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Who can resist the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy during the Christmas season? Introducing your kids to the holiday classic adds culture to a family Christmas in Maui. Mauiarts.org will, again, have the year’s performance schedule up, with ticket purchasing information as well.
- The Katinas in Concert — The Katinas are five brothers who sing contemporary Christian music all year. Originally from American Samoa, they have held benefit concerts and toured for 15 years now. They perform a Christmas shown Hawaii every year; check thekatinas.com for their touring schedule. In Maui, they perform at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
- Holiday Lighting of the Banyan Tree Celebration in Lahaina — Banyan Tree Square is spangled and lit with thousands of Christmas lights each year (2013 will be the 16th year) and to celebrate this amazing sight — it’s a huge tree, beautiful even without all the Christmas lights — there are 2-day celebrations that involve local choir performances, a photo opportunity with a “Hawaiian snowman,” and of course, Santa Claus himself makes a jolly appearance for meet-and-greets with excited children. The tree stays lit throughout the holiday season.
- Winter Holiday Concert in Kihei — The Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Maui Choral Arts Association performs a holiday concert every December. The concerts (usually a Saturday and a Sunday) are at the Kihei Baptist Church, but specific annual information can be found and ickets can be purchased through MCAA.
- Whalers Village free holiday shows — Whalers Village is an enormously popular tourist destination, with the t-shirt and refrigerator magnet stores that you’d expect from the destination. But fear not, it’s not all tacky! There are some fun non-chain restaurants (or at least, small local chain restaurants) here as well, and a Christmas in Maui finds free nightly entertainment. Check out the hula shows on Monday and Wednesday evenings!
- Holiday Jazz and Dances – Also in Whalers Village, there are holiday jazz shows featuring Benoit JazzWorks on Thursday evenings and Mele Kalikimaka Shows on Saturday evenings; this last features a Christmas twist on traditional Tahitian dances.
- Christmas Caroling — Whalers Village also has carolers strolling around the entire area every evening of the week leading up to Christmas eve, and tourists can sit with Santa Claus in a grounded outrigger canoe for a Hawaiian Christmas photo. For all Whalers Village Christmas events, look to its website whalersvillage.com for annual dates and times.
- Willie Kalikimaka — Willie Kalikimaka is a living legend in Maui; the real deal, a Maui-born native son who performs Christmas songs and holiday classics once a year, but has been famous in the music scene for years. He has reworked traditional Hawaiian music to make it more contemporary, winning several Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (considered the Hawaiian Grammys) along the way. For the Christmas season, expect to hear his version of Away in a Manger, O Holy Night, and more. His website, williek.com, has more information.
- Na Leo Lani O Maui’s Annual Holiday Concert in Wailuku — 2013 will mark the 5th annual concert of Na Leo Lani O Maui, at the Iao Theatre in Wailuku. There are typically two performances over one weekend in mid-December. This is a community choir, and their name means Heavenly Voices of Maui; over 80 choir members joyfully sing Christmas songs with reverence for the Hawaiian language. For ticket information, call Richard Castro (808)281-6547.
Those are ten of the annual events and concerts every Christmas in Maui. Anyone planning to spend their winter vacation in Maui need not worry about the tropics neglecting the most wonderful time of the year! In fact, as evidenced by the joy and friendly, outgoing nature of nearly everyone in Maui every Christmas, I’d wager that it’s one of the best places around to spend the holidays. The snow can wait until you get home.