May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

By Lacy Varner
Aunty Amelia Bailey creating a beautiful haku lei. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Aunty Amelia Bailey creating a beautiful haku lei. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

“May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii Nei.” This popular phrase in the islands prevents anyone from forgetting this special day. It was Don Blanding, a writer and poet, who first suggested that a holiday should be dedicated to the beautiful Hawaiian tradition of making and wearing lei. But it was Grace Tower Warren, also a writer, who came up with the idea that the holiday should coincide with May Day. And so since the first Lei Day on May 1, 1928, Hawaii has continued the annual celebration to this very day.

Celebrate May Day on Oahu

Winning lei at the Annual May Day lei competition. Photo: Joel.

Winning lei at the Annual May Day Lei Contest. Photo: Joel.

Oahu hosts the state’s largest May Day event. No matter what day of the week May 1 falls on, the Lei Day Celebration takes place at Queen Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. The event features live music, a lei contest exhibit, hula performances, demonstrations, craft and food vendors, and more. This event is free and open to the public. To check out our photos from previous years’ celebrations, click here.

Left: Maile lei. Center: Ashley Gatto who is originally from Canada, making a haku lei at the Lei day festival. Right: Samples of base materials used for making haku lei. Photos courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Left: Maile lei. Center: Ashley Gatto who is originally from Canada, making a haku lei at the Lei day festival. Right: Samples of base materials used for making haku lei. Photos courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Each year, the Lei Queen and her court reside over the festivities.  Lei Queen are selected based on their lei making skills, hula proficiency, and Hawaiian language fluency.

2015 Lei Day Queen Pomaikai Akiona (left) and Princess Whitney Miyahira (right). Photo courtesy of Pomaikai Akiona.

Expect to see the most beautiful lei in the world at the annual Lei Day lei competition held and displayed at the park.  Also expect excellent live music by some of Hawaiʻi’s top performers.  See the 2018 line up below.

May Day Waikiki

Keiki (children) dancing hula at May Day Waikīkī. Photo: May Day Waikīkī.

A great new May Day event is being held on Waikiki Beach, fronting The Royal Hawaiian: A Luxury Collection Resort and the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. May Day Waikiki, now in its 5th year, will take place on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, with free canoe rides and a program and live music concert beginning at 4 p.m. with a helicopter drop and an honoring of the Waikiki Beachboys. The event is free to the public and the @MayDayWaikiki Facebook page will be broadcasting live on the day of the event! Visit @MayDayWaikiki on Facebook for more information.

May Day Waikiki celebrates the colorful history and traditions of Waikiki, including surfing, canoe rides and Hawaiian music, hula and culture.

May Day on the Great Lawn


This year, Hawaii’s Finest Clothing will celebrate May Day by presenting a performance by Robert Cazimero and his Hālau Nā Kamalei o Līlīlehua on the Great Lawn of the Bishop Museum in beautiful Kalihi. Cazimero’s guests will include four additional hālau hula, Keauhou, Jerry Santos, Kapena and Ei Nei. Along with entertainment, there will be food, cocktails, local vendors and lei stands. A portion of proceeds will go towards Groove Child Charities and the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.

Celebrate May Day on Maui



The Lei Day Heritage Festival at Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House (formerly The Bailey House Museum) at 2375A Main St, Wailuku on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This is a free community event featuring a lei contest, food (at cost) and live music.

Celebrate May Day on Hawaii Island

On the Big Island, the annual Lei Day Festival is usually held in Hilo at the Kalakaua Park, 150 Kalakaua St., Hilo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  There are live lei making demonstrations at the historic site in downtown Hilo.

Celebrate May Day on Kauai


On Kauai, the annual Lei Day Festival has moved from the Kauai Museum to the Kauai Marriott.   The event takes place on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Enter your lei into the contest, learn to make a lei, or win a lei to take home. There will also be food vendors and live music.

Due to the heavy rains and flooding in April 2018, May Day by the Bay, a cultural celebration in beautiful Hanalei, has been cancelled.

Make Your Own Haku Lei

Click here to learn how to make your own lei.

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