santa in hawaiian canoe

Photo courtesy of Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

When Maui experiences a white Christmas, it could be from the rare occurrence of snow atop Haleakala. However, it’s more likely because of the ocean foam from waves breaking out on the reefs, or the color of sand that clings to your toes during morning walks in the sun.

Christmas on Maui is a bit different than in other parts of the world, but just because Santa is missing his sleigh and instead, arrives by outrigger canoe, doesn’t mean Maui is any less festive of a place to spend the holiday.

The Christmas spirit kicks off on Maui with the lighting of the Banyan Tree in Lahaina, where 6,500 colorful lights are wrapped around its 12 trunks. The tree was planted in 1873 and covers nearly an acre, and the ceremony takes place at 6:30pm on the first Saturday in December.

palm tree xmas mauiFor a more traditional Christmas tree to place in the corner of your condo, there are numerous Christmas tree farms in Kula that offer the chance to cut down a tree that was grown right here on the island. If you’re in the spirit to volunteer—and are on the island before Christmas—the Friends of Haleakala host a Christmas tree pull to remove invasive species of pines that are threatening the national park. The event takes place toward the beginning of December, and is a great way to help out the island community and take home a tree or some boughs.

In the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, Maui is packed with evening activities, festivals, fairs, and events—including everything from Christmas-themed orchestra at historic Iao Theater, to carolers wandering Whalers Village on the Kaanapali strip.

Arguably the most popular event, however, in the days leading up to Christmas, is when Kanakaloka, or Santa Claus, arrives at the beach in his outrigger canoe to ring in the Christmastime cheer. In Kaanapali for 2016, Santa arrives on December 18 at approximately 4pm, and makes another appearance in Wailea on December 24 at noon.

If you’d like to attend a church service, numerous churches across the island welcome visitors on Christmas Eve. For visitors staying near Kapalua, Kumulani Chapel often has multiple services on Christmas Eve, as do Maria Lanakila in Lahaina, and Hope Chapel in Kihei.

When Christmas Day has finally arrived, a festive mood surrounds the island and families flood the outdoors, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and beaches we’re so blessed to share. For a proper, filling, Christmas meal, many resorts offer Christmas buffets that are open to guests and the public, and there’s no better way to cap off the holiday than eating good food in an oceanfront setting while sharing the day with loved ones.

Mele Kalikimaka! (Merry Christmas!)