International Festival of Canoes

International Festival of Canoes
Maui’s Signature Cultural Heritage Event
featuring the traditional arts of
Polynesia and the Pacific
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 

The cultural adventure returns to Lahaina in a daily interactive showcase at Kamehameha Iki Park and Banyan Tree Park on Front Street. Well-known as “Maui’s Signature Cultural Heritage Event,” the International Festival of Canoes has also been recognized globally for its presentation to the public of the traditional arts of Polynesia. Last year, the art of tiki carving was introduced, which produced Tongan, Maori and Rarotongan statues. This year, the making of poi pounding boards and art of traditional tattoos will be featured. If you ever wanted to know how a thatched house was built, a wooden plank surfboard was shaped, or an ‘awa (kava) ceremony was performed, Lahaina is the place to see it. On opening day, May 18, Lahaina’s Hawaiian warrior group will offer an ancient greeting ceremony to the visiting carvers and their sponsors in Kamehameha Iki Park, where Hawaiian royalty once relaxed and feasted.

Carving will begin in full force on Monday, May 19 and continue through Friday, May 30 at Kamehameha Iki Park. Canoes from New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawai’i and the Marshall Islands will be created, along with a tiki and marine sculpture from Tonga, two Hawaiian drums and Hawaiian ki’i, a koa surfboard, and mango poi pounding board. Master carvers Hector Busby of New Zealand, Freddie Tauotaha of Tahiti, Alson Kelen of Majuro, and Jeremy Delos Reyes of Lahainaluna High School will lead their teams of master assistants and student carvers in creating full-size, functional canoes from tree logs. Master artist and carver to royalty, Steven Fe’ao Fehoko of Tonga, will lead two teams in carving a free form whale sculpture and traditional tiki statue this year. Native Hawaiian Bill Kapuni of Moloka’i will bring his art of carving and creating Hawaiian pahu, or drums, to the festival, and nationally-recognized surfboard shaper, Kenny Tilton of Maui and Hawai’i island, will be making a traditional koa longboard. Master builder Francis Sinenci of Hana will be sharing his ancient art of house thatching.

In the center of town at Banyan Tree Park, festival organizers have arranged for several canoes, surfboards and drums completed in previous years to be displayed so the visiting public can see what the finished logs will look like. Students from Maui Preparatory Academy will present educational displays about each island nation and master carver. Lahainaluna high school students will lead talks about the festival and walking tours to the carving site by appointment. Cultural workshops and demonstrations in Polynesian arts and skills will take place around Banyan Tree Park and The Wharf Cinema Center on select days throughout the festival. From May 19 through 25, an island-style arts and crafts fair will be held under the Banyan Tree between 9 am and 5 pm each day. Couples love the local musicians and dancers from Maui and other islands will be featured on stage once a day during the arts and crafts fair.

Beginning 10 am on Saturday, May 31, the popular Parade of Canoes will kick-off a full day of closing festivities and ceremony. The carvers and artisans with their families and friends, will proceed down Front Street proudly displaying the completed and decorated canoes, pahu drums, surfboard and tikis. In mid-afternoon at Kamehameha Iki Park, 525 Front Street, food booths by Maui nonprofit organizations will be set up in the parking lot, together with a festival souvenir t-shirt booth and an informational display booth by the Mayor’s Office for “Lucky We Live Maui County.” Wilmont Kahaialii has put together a continuous line-up of island bands, crowd-pleasing musicians and special guests who will perform on stage in the park between 4 and 10 pm. This is a fun day for families staying on Maui.

During the Closing Launch ceremony, festival-goers witness the birth of the newly-carved canoes, sculptures and surfboards. Hawaiian protocol specialist Ke’eaumoku Kapu will call the master carvers and their assistants to acknowledge their work, cut the symbolic umbilical cord, then pick up their canoes and carry them into the ocean. As the vessels lift up on a wave and are paddled out to sea, visitors, residents and festival participants celebrate the triumph together. The procession begins at 5:30 pm and the ceremony ends around sunset at 7 pm. The celebration of life and culture continues with more music and dance on stage until 10 pm. This is a excellent activity for couples on Maui.

The annual International Festival of Canoes was presented by Hawai’i Tourism Authority, County of Maui Office of Economic Development, Maui Visitors Bureau, LahainaTown Action Committee, Lahaina Cultural Heritage Programs and a host of Maui resorts and business sponsors.

For updates on the daily schedule of activities,
call the Lahaina Event Hotline or contact the Lahaina Visitor Center