My first Halloween in Oahu came about when I flew up to Honolulu from Pago Pago for a meeting that happened to coincide with Halloween. Having just left ST Louis before moving to American Samoa, I had no clue about how Halloween was done out in the islands and thought it might just be a few clubs throwing costume parties. What I found was that when it comes to Halloween, you are not likely to find many places that celebrate it as big as Honolulu does.
Years later, I am still going back to celebrate Halloween, and thought I would offer a few tips for those traveling to Hawaii or for those who are new living on island on the fun things that are offered and where to go. When Halloween falls on a weekend – expect for there to be so much going on that you can miss somethings.
The best bet is to pack your own costume and bring it with you to island. If you were thinking you can find a costume in a store the day before, then you probably underestimated just how many locals and tourists are coming out in costume. The Japanese tourist will likely have gotten everything in walking distance of Waikiki – so if you need a costume – you might want to go to Hawaii Kai, where in the shopping center on the Cocohead side of the lagoon is a department store with lots of Men and Women’s costumes to be found and decent prices. It is a great stop if your on your way to see the Blowhole or to Sandy beach. Both Walmart and Kmart nearest to Waikiki may have a few items left – but last minute choices will be limited because a lot of people will have the same idea to go there.
Prior to Halloween night, you will find that Oahu has a haunted plantation (Hawaii's Plantation Village Indoor-Outdoor Museum in Waipahu) a haunted warehouse (on Ala Moana), and a haunted lagoon if you want to go to a fun scare place. Of those, the haunted lagoon is one that really is a unique island expereince. This is different in that you are taking a night time canoe ride at the Polynesian Cultural Center’s lagoon in seach of the Laie Lady. There are usually two versions, one family-friendly and the other that is not family oriented. The canoe rides were held each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 6:30 to 9 p.m throughout the month leading up to Halloween. There are also several ghost tours of the island, to a few places that most consider to be haunted.
One of the best pre-Halloween parties has been at Club Paparazzi at the Ward Warehouse. The pre-party there is usually done so that it is not in running with the bigger clubs and it gets a pretty good draw of people from both the local and tourists on island. It is a dance club with very good DJs and usually offers a discounted admission if early and in costume. You are likely to find a pre-Halloween party at Aloha Tower at well, but expect to have an admission charge. The upside is that usually it is also a large costumed crowd that shows up.
For Halloween Day, expect to find two huge block parties going on that you will want to go to. The biggest problem, as always – is parking. If you can take a shuttle or a taxi – that is the best way to get around on Halloween night. Traffic in both downtown and in Honolulu will be heavy – and just is an item that you have to adjust too. If you are staying in Waikiki – get back to Waikiki by 5pm and you are ok for traffic and parking. There are plenty of places to eat in Waikiki and surrounding it, so just plan ahead and know that the whole island is about to come join you for Halloween.
Honolulu Hallowbaloo Music Arts Festival is the huge block party that starts downtown in Chinatown and is centered on Nuuanu Ave, with about seven blocks being closed down to traffic and entrance points to walk in from about 5:30 to 1130pm. This year was the 3d year, and it has grown bigger and better each year in putting on a real music showcase with some great bands and showing off a unique aspect of Honolulu’s culture. Hallowbaloo is a massive street festival and pub crawl drawing 10-20,000 costumed revelers and features about 10 bands and 15 DJs on different stages set up at the ends of the blocked area. This year also included a mechanical bull – set up in the center of a street. There are plenty of food and beer stands, plus all the pubs and restaraunts are open. First place in the costume contest this year was $750, and you can expect to see some wild and some unique costumes. You can stop off at any of the bars here when the barriers come down and the street party is over and finish Halloween here. But chances are that you wont.
The cars will fill the streets heading to Waikiki as the tropical sun begins to set. The stretches of Kuhio and Kalakaua will soon be covered with people in the Halloween costumed best. I found the best time to actually go out and join the fun is to start abput 7:30-8pm. I recommend the Yard House as the best place to start off with a few drinks before wandring into the crowds. In Waikiki along the strip, costumed partygoers stroll down the coconut-palm-lined sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue past its high end stores and malls. On both sides of the street you will find tens of thousands of people in costume with camera in hand getting pictures with some of the best adult themed costumed characters you may see anywhere. You wont want to miss this, and all the bars surrounding Wakiki will be packed.
The crowds rally start getting heavy about 8pm and will stay that way until usually about 1am. Do make sure your camera batteries are fully charged be fore you go though! Wearing a great costume is one thing, making sure you got shoes or boots that are comfortable to walk a mile or two in is a whole nother thing. There are actually plenty of places to stop and take a seat at and rest up for a few minutes, the best being down on the grass area by the statue of Duke.
To close out the night means heading over to one of the night spots. My favorite for Halloween is Restaurant Row and the Row Bar/Oceans Halloween party. Expect to find a thousand folks there in costume and some great music and about a $15 cover charge. The fun goes until 2 or 3 in the morning. When it is all done – you wonder just how many folks wont be getting up early for work the next morning. Having been lucky enough to be one of those that did not make it in early for work a few times– can say there are quite a few – and that all the fun is definitely worth it. There really is not much like Halloween in Paradise - and if you get a chance to experience it - GO!