11 Feb One-of-a-Kind Honolulu: Punahou Carnival and Family Videos
If you ever get the chance to be on Oahu for the first weekend of February, you should try and go to the Punahou Carnival. At first glance, one would think it’s simply a smaller version of a state fair, yet this event – come rain or shine – brings in over 3 million dollars that goes towards scholarships and operations for Punahou, a K-12 school. They must be doing something special.
Here are the general things you can find at the Punahou Carnival:
- Eat awesome local favorite food
- Fair rides
- Fair games for adults and kids
- White Elephant sale
- Plants and local produce sale
- Jams and Jellies sale (super popular)
- Haku Lei (traditional Hawaiian head leis)
- Hawaiian food
- Art Sale/Gallery
- A variety show put on by the senior class
Same-Same, But Different
I have been to many Punahou Carnivals in my lifetime and many things have not changed over the 25 years I’ve been going. The ride, food, games, special events, and layout of the carnival have been virtually untouched. This makes the event extremely well organized, efficient, and preserves tradition. Most, if not all, of the people working at the carnival are current students, parents, staff, alumni, and even alumni parents. It’s a dedicated group of individuals that believe in the school and really make the event special.
Each year the Junior class of the high school is in charge of the theme and a wide range of the different aspects of the event. The theme is then built out into the various booths, games, and merchandise available. I’ve seen a diverse range of themes including, the 60’s, New York, and Dinosaurs. This year was “Island Style” which seems to be popular theme that gets recycled every couple years or so.
You exchange cash for $.50 scrip (sorry no cards accepted). The only exception is the auction and art sale.
In Hawaii, you cannot have a major event without food- and good food at that. It’s all about the food, and the Punahou Carnival is an excellent way to sample a lot of Hawaii favorites along with standard fair food such as burger, gyros, and nachos. You’ll find:
- Saimin (Hawaii’s better version of Top Ramen)
- Fried Saimin (stir fried version of above)
- Portugese Bean Soup
- Hawaiian plate lunch
- Chicken plate
- Teri cheese burger
- Roasted corn
But the one specialty item that Punahou Carnival is famous for is the Malasadas – fluffy, crunchy, sugary fried dough. So popular that they have two booths on either side of the carnival and long, long lines of people waiting for them. My advice is to just get a couple each time. They are best fresh and hot. Do not eat old or cold malasadas! Trust me, they don’t taste good at all.
Ross and Stacy know it’s all about the malasadas.
Rides and Games
Pretty standard fair stuff. You have to remember that Hawaii does not have a large theme park like Disneyland or Six Flags, so the rides at Punahou Carnival are pretty popular. If you don’t care for rides, best to avoid the lines and let the kids enjoy them. I loved them growing up and don’t care for them as much now.
The swings. My favorite ride.
The games are pretty fun and since I’m super competitive, they definitely appeal to me. However, it’s hard for me to justify spending money playing a game to win a stuffed animal that I don’t need or want. (I wish the younger version of me knew that.)
They have games for both kids, adults, and kid-like adults throughout the carnival. For the most part, it’s a lot of fun for kids and families. It’s great for people watching as well.
My brother failed at one game but eventually won a prize at another
Tips If You Go
Should you decide to go to the Punahou Carnival there are a couple of things you should know:
- Bring cash. They have an ATM at the carnival, but they do not accept credit or debit for any of the food or activities.
- Go early for parking or plan to spend time looking for parking. Finding parking for Punahou Carnival is a frustrating right of passage. Parking in Honolulu is bad already and Punahou Carnival is makes it worse. There are lots of Churches and neighboring schools where you can pay to park. There’s also a lot of side streets with free curb parking. Just make sure you look at the street signs to avoid tickets or getting towed.
- If you go early in the day, expect a more laid back experience. Early afternoon and evening crowds can be kind of crazy but still fun.
- Check the weather. February is notorious in Hawaii – particularly around Punahou Carnival time – for unpredictable, wet weather. Ask any local. No rain at Punahou Carnival is surprising.
As I said before, if you are on Oahu for the first week of February, it’s definitely an event worth checking out.
If you’d like to see more from Oahu, here are two videos from our many trips visiting family in Honolulu:
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