Your Ultimate Guide to the 2017 Greek Festival
Opa! The 36th annual celebration of Greek culture, food and music returns to McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park from noon to 9 p.m. on Aug. 26 and 27.
Photos: Odeelo Dayondon
Yassas! Now that you know how to say hello in Greek, practice pronouncing gyros (YEE-ros) and you’re all set for your weekend getaway to Greece … or, at least, to this weekend’s Greek Festival.
Here’s everything you need to know about eating, shopping and dancing at Hawai‘i’s annual celebration of Greek culture.
What It Is
Every year, the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Pacific hosts a popular festival celebrating Greek culture with more than 20 vendors selling delicious Greek food, drinks and imported goods. The event features authentic performances by the Nisiotes Dancers and the award-winning Aloha Youth Choir, and your chance to let loose and get down with live music by Mythos.
Where and When
This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27 from noon to 9 p.m. at the McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park.
Where to Park
Although you can drive around Ala Moana Beach Park with your fingers crossed, hoping to find parking, the Greek Festival website recommends taking public transportation (so that you don’t have to worry about getting home after drinking all that ouzo), carpooling/ride-sharing or parking at Ala Moana or Ward.
How Much It Costs
General admission to the festival is $3, with free admission for active military and children 11 and under. Once inside, everything you’ll want to eat, drink and buy will cost you—and it’s cash only. Expect to spend a minimum of $5 per food or drink item (unless it’s water, which only costs $1).
What to Wear
While some parts of the pavilion are covered, most of the fun takes place out in the open, where the sun, plus the proximity to the beach, means it gets super hot during the day. You may want to dress casually and apply sunscreen if you plan on attending in the afternoon, but bring a light sweater in case you stay past sunset. Most parts of the pavilion are paved, but there is a grassy area where some vendors set up shop, so flats or wedges are your safest bet for not getting your heels stuck in the grass (and for optimal dancing with minimal foot pain).
What to Eat
Everything! But, if you can’t eat everything due to long lines, a normal-size stomach and a responsible budget, here’s what you absolutely must try:
Gyros, $8: spiced beef and lamb roasted on a vertical spit and served in pita bread with tomato, onions and tzatziki (Greek yogurt) sauce. Location: main courtyard. You’ll recognize the gyros stand by the long line. But, don’t worry, it moves pretty fast and it’s definitely worth the wait.
Souvlaki or loukaniko, $5: Souvlaki is marinated pork on a skewer and loukaniko is sausage flavored with orange peel, fennel seed and various other secret Greek herbs that make this sausage delicious. Location: main courtyard.
Ouzo, $6: At least try it so you can tell your friends you drank authentic Greek liquor. Not a fan of the licorice taste? You can also order imported Greek beer and wine at the Taverna. Two locations: main courtyard and the Diamond Head courtyard.
Greek coffee, $3–$7: Looking for a different kind of buzz? Order a freshly brewed, strong cup of traditional coffee. You can order it iced or even as a frappe if you need some help beating the heat. Location: in the covered walkway near the bathrooms as you head toward the main courtyard.
Loukoumades, $3: Love malassadas? Then you’ll definitely want to give the Greek version from the Olive Tree Café a try. These mini doughnuts are fried to perfection, then covered in honey and nuts. While you’re there, you can also order ouzo or lemon sorbet made by La Gelateria for $3. Location: main courtyard.
Pastries, prices vary: So many to choose from! There are two types of baklava (traditional and chocolate), koulourakia (butter cookie), almond crescents, melomakarona (vegan spiced cookie) and tons more. Pair them with some Greek coffee for the full experience.
If you want to try a variety of items without spending too much money or standing in several lines, you can also head to The Greek Kitchen for plate dinners featuring mousakka (eggplant casserole) for $15, spanakopita (savory pastry filled with spinach) for $13, or lemon Greek chicken for $18. Each plate comes with salad, feta cheese, olives, rice pilaf, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), bread and a piece of baklava for dessert.
Dietary restrictions? A vegan plate comes with gigantes plaki (spiced baked beans) and includes one dolma, rice pilaf, salad, olives, bread and baklava. The Greek Kitchen is located on the Diamond Head side of the pavilion.
What to Buy
You can buy Greek fisherman hats, jewelry from Artlines, belly-dance accessories (perfect for dancing while Mythos performs), traditional pottery, clothing and more in the marketplace. Want to try your hand at Greek cooking? You can also find imported food products, including feta cheese, Kalamata olives, Greek honey, extra-virgin olive oil and even the Greek Festival Cookbook to help you get started.
Saturday and Sunday, in the (air-conditioned) auditorium:
1:30 p.m. – The Nisiotes Dancers (traditional Greek dances)
2:30 p.m. – Father Alexander Leong (presentation about Greek Orthodox worship)
4 p.m. – Aloha Youth Choir
4:30 p.m. – The Nisiotes Dancers
Mythos will perform on Saturday and Sunday throughout the day in the main courtyard.
Bathrooms are located near the walkway on the mauka side of the pavilion, across from the auditorium and next to the Greek coffee booth.
Wear a toga and get in for only $1!
Bring a water bottle, but you can purchase one at the Taverna for $1 if you forget.
The festival is cash and printed checks (with ID) only. There are ATMs on site.
Make sure to pick up a program on your way in: It has a site map and entertainment schedule.
Lose your phone or your wallet? (Blame the ouzo!) The lost-and-found booth is located at the main admission table by the makai entrance.
Go early if you want to buy pastries—they often sell out quickly.
The later you stay, the more people join in on the dancing.
Greek Festival, Aug. 26–27, McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park, $3 general admission; active military and children 11 and under are free, greekfestivalhawaii.com