5 Things to Do on Memorial Day Weekend in Hawai‘i for 2021
Memorial Day is the quintessential signal for the start of summer. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, May 31. While annual events like the Memorial Day Parade, 50th State Fair, and performances at the Waikiki Shell are taking the year off, there are still ways to remember, pay tribute, and celebrate those who lost their lives in service to our country. Spend the long weekend in the home of sun, sand, and surf with these things to do on Memorial Day weekend in Hawai‘i for 2021.
Although we strive to provide the most current information, due to COVID-19, attractions and events mentioned may be closed or cancelled without notice. We recommend checking City and County of Honolulu or State of Hawai‘i mandates and individual websites for updates and social distancing measures before visiting. Please travel responsibly and follow mask requirements and social distancing procedures.
1. Participate in the Lantern Floating Ceremony
The annual Lantern Floating Ceremony held at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu brings together nearly 50,000 people from around the world each Memorial Day. In lieu of the event this year, organizers have invited the public to take part in a slew of virtual and in-person activities. Participants are encouraged to submit handwritten messages and images to become part of the Many Rivers, One Ocean interactive art experience which will be offered on the grounds of Shinnyo-en Hawai‘i, just north of Waikiki. There will also be a “Share Your Light” - A Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaiʻi Special television broadcast on May 31 at 6:30 p.m. HST.
2. Tour Pearl Harbor
Honor Hawai‘i’s military history by visiting Pearl Harbor. The active military base west of Honolulu is full of artifacts, vintage aircraft carriers, submarines, and battleships that fell victim to the 1941 attack. Visit main historic sites within the National Historic Landmark like the USS Arizona Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial.
3. Visit the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial
Constructed in the form of a salt water public swimming pool in Waikiki, the Natatorium was built as a memorial honoring the 10,000 citizens of Hawai‘i who served during World War I. Although the swimming pool is closed to the public, the memorial is still a fascinating place to visit. The entrance includes an arch featuring four stone eagles typical of the 1920s Hawaiian Beaux-Arts architectural style. A Memorial Day ceremony featuring a special hula performance and 21-gun salute is routinely held at the Natatorium honoring the fallen military members.
4. Stroll around the Punchbowl Cemetery
Swing by the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly referred to as Punchbowl Crater or Punchbowl Cemetery, to pay your respects to our country’s heroes. The Honolulu cemetery sitting atop the extinct volcanic tuff cone is the resting place of over 50,000 veterans and their families. Each year on Memorial Day, the Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony honors the men and women with a cannon salute, a U.S. Air Force and Hawai‘i Air National Guard flyover, and music from the Royal Hawaiian Band.
5. Explore O‘ahu’s War Memorials
There are a number of lesser known war memorials scattered across the island that are just as important as places like Pearl Harbor and the Punchbowl. While in Honolulu, stop by the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace. The memorials sit side-by-side among a lush landscape and contain beautifully carved black granite blocks with the names of the citizen soldiers who lost their lives. Not too far from the memorials is the Eternal Flame which lies outside the Hawai‘i State Capitol. The flame burns endlessly and is dedicated to the people of Hawai‘i that served in the United States Armed Forces. On the North Shore, you’ll find a beautiful war memorial at Hale‘iwa Beach Park. The large white obelisk honors those from the Waialua-Kahuku area "who gave their lives that the rest of the world may live in peace" during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
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