King Kamehameha Day 2023: Honoring the Legacy of Hawaii’s Great Leader on June 11

by | Jun 11, 2021


Hawaii is one of incredible culture and rich history. The history and culture of these Polynesian islands are often highlighted through public holidays that celebrate the phenomenal traditions of Hawaii.

One such holiday, celebrated annually on June 11th, King Kamehameha Day honors the first monarch who established the Kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha the Great. The holiday is celebrated across the eight major Hawaiian islands of Hawaii: O’ahu, Maui, Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Lāna’i, Kaho’olawe, and Hawai’i Island.

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When is King Kamehameha Day 2023?

King Kamehameha Day is celebrated annually in Hawaii on June 11th. Therefore, King Kamehameha Day in 2023 will be on Sunday, June 11th.

king kamehameha day 2023

Step into the colorful world of Hawaiian history and culture as we journey through the celebration of King Kamehameha Day. This vibrant public holiday, held every June 11th, honors King Kamehameha I – the monarch who united Hawaii’s major islands to establish a unified Kingdom.

From traditional floral parades with royal paʻu riders representing each island to the iconic lei draping ceremony embracing powerful statues, there is so much to be discovered on this remarkable day.

Key Takeaways


  • King Kamehameha Day is a public holiday in Hawaii celebrated every June 11th, honoring King Kamehameha I who united all eight major Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom.
  • The celebrations include floral parades featuring traditional pa’u riders representing each island and a draping ceremony of the Kamehameha statue with long strands of lei made from vibrant flowers native to Hawaii.
  • Visiting during this special time offers an opportunity to learn about native Hawaiian traditions, such as hula dancing, lei-making activities, and delicious local cuisine. It also provides insight into the history behind Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage.
  • King Kamehameha Day serves as an embodiment of unity among Hawaiians while connecting people from around the world with Hawaii’s fascinating history and traditions.

The History of King Kamehameha Day

Kamehameha I, the monarch who united the Hawaiian Islands, was honored with King Kamehameha Day, first proclaimed by his grandson in 1871 and later established as a public holiday in Hawaii.

king kamehameha day how to celebrate

King Kamehameha I

As a traveler to Hawaii, you can’t miss the incredible story of King Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great.

During your visit to Hawaii on King Kamehameha Day or any other time of year, you’ll likely come across one or more statues honoring this great king.

One interesting fact about him is that he founded the Kamehameha Schools as part of his enduring legacy—these schools still function today with a focus on educating Native Hawaiian youth while advocating for their cultural rights and maintaining faith-based approaches to education.

Traditions and Celebrations

The traditions and celebrations of King Kamehameha Day include a floral parade, draping ceremony, and cultural events.

king kamehameha day floral parade

2012 King Kamehameha Parade” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Floral Parade

Visiting Hawaii during King Kamehameha Day offers a unique opportunity to witness the stunning Floral Parade, a tradition that has been celebrated for years. As a traveler to Hawaii, you can look forward to:

  • Experiencing the colorful and artistically designed floats adorned with native flowers and plants.
  • Watching the Royal Pa’u riders representing a royal court led by a queen on horseback.
  • Admiring each princess who is attended by pa’u ladies in waiting, showcasing Hawaiian royalty and history.
  • Observing three floral parades held on Hawai’i Island specifically for this special day.
  • Participating and immersing yourself in Hawaiian culture while enjoying food, music, and performances taking place throughout the event.
  • Witnessing various community organizations like the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission working together to make this event possible.
  • Gaining an appreciation for King Kamehameha’s legacy as you learn more about how he united the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Draping Ceremony

The draping ceremony is one of the most significant traditions during King Kamehameha Day in Hawaii. This event takes place at the Kamehameha statue located in downtown Honolulu.

The draped lei not only symbolizes respect for Hawaiian tradition but also serves as a reminder of King Kamehameha’s ability to unite all Hawaiian islands into one kingdom.

The brightly colored lei presents a stunning backdrop for photos and a unique experience for travelers exploring Hawaii on June 11th.

Cultural Events and Performances

When celebrating King Kamehameha Day in Hawaii, you can expect to experience a range of cultural events and performances that showcase the history and traditions of Hawaii. Here are some examples:

  • The King Kamehameha Hula Competition: This annual competition brings together hula groups worldwide to compete in traditional and contemporary hula styles. Held at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, it is one of the largest hula competitions in Hawaii.
  • The Pa‘u Parade: This traditional parade features pa‘u riders dressed in elegant gowns on horseback, representing a royal court. The riders also carry lei and wear hats adorned with flowers.
  • Ho‘olaule‘a Festivities: These Hawaiian celebrations feature live music, food vendors serving local cuisine such as poke or kalua pork, cultural activities like lei-making demonstrations or lauhala weaving, and more.
  • Cultural Performances: You can witness various cultural performances throughout the celebration, including hula dancers, chants, and native Hawaiian music played by local musicians.

By attending these events, visitors can immerse themselves in Hawaii’s rich culture and history while enjoying a fun-filled celebration.

The Significance of King Kamehameha Day

King Kamehameha Day is a significant holiday in Hawaii as it honors Hawaiian history and culture, celebrates the unification of the Hawaiian Islands, and serves as a reminder to preserve cultural heritage.

king kamehameha day parade

2012 King Kamehameha Parade” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Honoring Hawaiian History and Culture

King Kamehameha Day is an important holiday in Hawaii that honors Hawaiian history and culture. The day celebrates King Kamehameha I, who is considered a great statesman for his mastery of diplomacy and unification of the Hawaiian Islands.

This holiday provides visitors with a unique opportunity to experience and learn about native Hawaiian traditions, such as hula dancing, lei-making activities, and delicious local cuisine.

The celebrations also offer insight into Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage through events like the Kamehameha statue’s draping ceremony with long lei strands. Additionally, community organizations organize traditional Pa‘u Parades featuring riders representing a royal court dressed in beautiful handmade garments.

Unification of the Hawaiian Islands

One of the most significant aspects of King Kamehameha Day is its celebration of the unification of the Hawaiian Islands. Before King Kamehameha I, individual chiefs ruled each island, and there was often conflict between them.

This achievement had far-reaching implications for Hawaii’s history and culture, as it allowed for greater political stability and opened up new opportunities for trade and cultural exchange.

Visiting Hawaii on King Kamehameha Day

Explore the six King Kamehameha statues, participate in lei-making activities, and enjoy Hawaiian food and music while immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of Hawaii on King Kamehameha Day.

Exploring the Four King Kamehameha Statues

If you’re visiting Hawaii on King Kamehameha Day, explore the four statues of the great king across the islands. Here’s where you can find them:


  1. The most famous statue of King Kamehameha is located in front of Aliʻiolani Hale and ʻIolani Palace on King Street in downtown Honolulu.
  2. Another well-known statue stands in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.
  3. On the island of Hawaii, you can find a statue in Kapaʻau town near his birthplace.
  4. The Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa Maui, you can visit a statue of King Kamehameha.
king kamehameha day statues

Each of these statues varies in size and material used for construction, but they all pay tribute to the unification of the Hawaiian Islands by King Kamehameha I. Visiting these sites offers an opportunity to learn more about his legacy and Hawaii’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Participating in Lei-making Activities

Learning how to make a lei is one of the most popular activities for visitors during King Kamehameha Day. Lei-making workshops can be found at cultural centers and lei-making schools throughout Hawaii, and provide an opportunity to learn about this traditional Hawaiian art form.

Participating in lei-making activities allows travelers to gain hands-on experience with this important part of Hawaiian culture and provides insight into the history behind King Kamehameha Day.

Lei have been used in Hawaii for centuries as a symbol of love, respect, and honor. By making a lei themselves, visitors can connect with the meaning and significance of this revered tradition.

Enjoying Hawaiian Food and Music

One of the best parts of celebrating King Kamehameha Day in Hawaii is getting to experience the delicious local cuisine and vibrant music. From traditional Hawaiian dishes like laulau and poi, to fresh seafood and shave ice, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

As you savor your meal, you’ll likely hear the sweet sounds of live Hawaiian music in the background. Music has always played a significant role in Hawaiian culture, from ancient hula chants to modern-day ukulele performances.

Video by Hawaii John

King Kamehameha Day’s Impact on Modern Hawaii

King Kamehameha Day has significantly impacted modern Hawaii, influencing its tourism industry and preserving its cultural heritage.

– The holiday draws thousands of visitors each year who come to witness the colorful parades, traditional ceremonies, and cultural performances.

– It also serves as an opportunity to educate the younger generation about Hawaiian history and traditions.

– Through events organized by community groups and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, King Kamehameha Day continues to enrich Hawaii’s vibrant culture and identity.

Influence on Hawaiian Tourism

King Kamehameha Day is a significant cultural event and a vital source of revenue for the local businesses and tourism industry in Hawaii.

The festivities draw visitors from all over the world interested in learning about Hawaiian history and traditions.

One example is how the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission works with various organizations to coordinate events that attract tourists while promoting cultural exchange and diversity.

These include art exhibitions featuring local artists at the Hawai’i State Art Museum as part of its “Art in Public Places” program. There are also Hawaiian music concerts showcasing emerging talents such as those organized by Kapahulu Music Club at Waikīkī, or prominent musicians like those performing in Royal Hawaiian Band concerts held across different venues throughout O’ahu during the celebration week.

Preservation of Cultural Heritage

As a traveler to Hawaii, one of the most important aspects of King Kamehameha Day is its emphasis on preserving the cultural heritage of Hawaii. This holiday celebrates the legacy of King Kamehameha I and his role in unifying the islands into a single kingdom.

Without this unification, Hawaiian culture might have been lost or diluted.

Today, organizations like the Kamehameha Schools are working tirelessly to preserve Hawaiian culture through education and support services. The schools provide resources that help young people learn about their heritage while also providing community-based programs that promote traditional practices such as hula dancing and lei-making.

Additionally, attending events like the floral parade or lei-drapping ceremony during King Kamehameha Day highlights just how important cultural preservation is to modern-day Hawaiians.

king kamehameha birthplace

Closing Thoughts About King Kamehameha Day

King Kamehameha Day is a beloved holiday in Hawaii that celebrates the history and traditions of the Hawaiian Islands. From the floral parades to the draping ceremony, this day is full of rich cultural significance that honors one of Hawaii’s most important figures, King Kamehameha I.

Visiting Hawaii on June 11th offers an opportunity to experience these incredible festivities firsthand and learn more about Hawaiian culture.


1. Who was King Kamehameha and why is he celebrated in Hawaii on his own holiday?

King Kamehameha was a Hawaiian monarch who successfully united the islands under one rule, creating the Kingdom of Hawaii. He is celebrated on June 11th each year to honor his leadership abilities and contributions to the Hawaiian people.

2. What are some traditional activities and events that take place during King Kamehameha Day celebrations?

King Kamehameha Day celebrations often include parades featuring colorful floats, marching bands, hula dancers, and other performers representing different aspects of Hawaiian culture.

There are also cultural demonstrations such as canoe races, native food tasting booths, lei-making contests or craft fairs celebrating traditional arts like carving wooden sculptures or weaving textiles using natural materials.

3. How do Hawaiians mark this special day in their personal lives?

Many Hawaiians will adorn their homes with banners or flags bearing King Kamehameha’s image (similar to how Americans display flags for Independence Day). In contrast, others may schedule gatherings with family and friends, enjoying outdoor BBQs or picnics at local parks where entertainment can be found nearby.

4. Are there any particular customs that non-Hawaiian visitors should know about when attending a King Kamehameha Day celebration?

Visitors should wear respectful clothing not too revealing but typical beach attire works fine.They can get involved by learning about various aspects of Hawaiian culture including rhythm dancing classes or sunset yoga sessions held around town near festival events!

Visitors can also learn about significance behind many symbols & traditions which are embedded within every aspect of these festivities to truly engage themselves with rich history of Hawaii’s past .

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Welcome to Hawaii's Best podcast where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences, businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host Brian Murphy.

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Welcome to a special aloha Friday episode. I'm your host Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best and today is a special day today is King Kamehameha day and I thought it'd be fitting to do a quick aloha Friday episode. I'm gonna sneak these in every once in a while maybe they'll become a thing but this will be a quicker than normal episode. So as you know, Hawaii is one of the most incredible places, cultures its rich in history. The history and culture of these Polynesian islands are often highlighted through public holidays that celebrate the phenomenal traditions of Hawaii and one of those holidays is celebrated annually on June 11, which honors the first monarch who established the kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha the great. And this holiday it's celebrated across all the islands. With the main celebrations happening on the island of Oahu. One of the first questions you may be asking yourself is what is king command may a day and after uniting the islands, Kamehameha the great became the first king of Hawaii and this day is a celebration in memorial of King Kamehameha King Kamehameha day as a beautiful celebration of not only Kamehameha the grave but also the protection and preservation of the Hawaiian culture. celebrated in a festival style King Kamehameha day is enjoyed by 1000s of Hawaiian locals and tourists on June 11. Every year the celebration features traditional Hawaiian song dance, along with delicious food of course arts and crafts. So the history of King Mamet day is that after years of strife and conflict across what is now known as the Hawaiian Islands, Kamehameha united the islands into one Kingdom in 1810. He became the first king of Hawaii, and was also known as a wise diplomat fierce warrior and was highly respected as a leader. 61 years later, King Kamehameha the fifth his great grandson declared by royal decree that June 11 Would Be King Kamehameha day in honor of his memory. The day was also implemented as a replacement for Hawaiian sovereignty restoration day that took place on July 31. a holiday which King command May the fifth disapproved of due to the association with the pilot affair and if you want to read more up on that, I would just encourage you to search pilot a fairing you can get what that is maybe we'll cover it on a future episode but right digress okay. The first celebration took place on June 11 1872. An early festivities were celebrated through grand Carnival that I can just imagine what those first few celebrations must have been like. However, during the years of 1893 and 1898 celebrations fell to the wayside after the overthrow of Hawaii. But the day continued to be recognized and was reestablished when Hawaii became a United States territory in 1898. The celebration has been an annual event ever since and was one of the first public holidays proclaimed on Hawaii State Legislature when the islands entered statehood in 1959. And that's a whole complicated other topic. But going back to King command a day, how it celebrated across the islands that I've kind of already mentioned it but each Hawaiian island has different traditions to celebrate King Kamehameha day However, they are celebrated. With festivals and parades across all the islands. There are five King Kamehameha statues that currently exist across the Hawaiian Islands that play an important role in festivities. On King Kamehameha day. The largest celebration like I mentioned, however, takes place on Oahu and the largest number of attendees across the islands and Oahu is also home to the original 15 foot statue of King Kamehameha and Honolulu is one of those most iconic images that you've probably You're saying we'll be sure we're going to put a picture of the statue on our Instagram account, you can find us on Instagram at Hawaii's Best. The celebration begins with a symbolic les draping ceremony in downtown Honolulu and every year dozens of volunteers so flowers to create a fresh lay that is then lifted by crane at the event to be dropped over the outstretched arm of the Honolulu King Kamehameha statue. As part of the day long event Honolulu also celebrates with the annual King Kamehameha celebration floral parade, a stunning parade that honors old Hawaiian pageantry through magnificent colors, flowers and people. So I hope that gives you an idea of a brief overview of what King Kamehameha day is all about. And be sure to follow along today and maybe do some of your own research. A little bit more in depth about King Kamehameha. So I hope you enjoyed this brief aloha Friday episode. If you did, I would love to hear about it. You can let me know if you're listening on Apple podcast, leave a rating and review below. And if you prefer our normal format of a longer podcast with the guest and a little bit more in depth, you can be sure to catch us next week when we bring a brand new full length episode to you and until then, have an amazing aloha Friday and an awesome weekend. And until next time, be well. Aloha.

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Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.