After 3 Years of Sailing Across the Globe, the Hōkūleʻa is Finally Coming Home to Hawaiʻi
Everything you need to know about the iconic voyaging canoe’s historic homecoming on June 17.
Photos: Polynesian Voyaging Society/ʻŌiwi TV
After three years of traversing the world’s oceans, braving challenging weather conditions from South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to Rapa Nui, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hōkūleʻa is homeward bound.
The traditional Polynesian double-hulled sailing canoe has logged more than 45,000 nautical miles, with the crew using only the night sky, ocean swells, the wind and birds as guides. Hōkūleʻa visited 23 countries and territories to share the voyage’s message of mālama honua, or caring for the earth and its oceans.
“One of the main missions for Mālama Honua was sailing toward the health and well-being of our environment and ourselves,” says Eric Co, Hōkūleʻa crewmember and senior program officer for marine conservation at the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation. “There’s a lot more that connects us than divides us.”
To close the final chapter of the journey, Hōkūleʻa and its escort vessel, Hikianalia, took off from Tahiti on May 18. The iconic wayfinding vessels will dock at Magic Island in Ala Moana Regional Park on June 17. The festivities kick off at 7 a.m. with a cultural welcoming ceremony, followed by music, food and other events for the entire ʻohana.
What to Expect
More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony, so get there early. Beginning at 7 a.m., four Hawaiian voyaging canoes will sail into the marina at Magic Island, followed by two traditional canoes from the Marshall Islands and Tahiti. At 9 a.m., Hikianalia will arrive, and the Hōkūleʻa— also known as the “Star of Gladness”— will trail right behind it to dock at Marker 7. At 10 a.m., Hale Mua will conduct the ancient Hawaiian spear-throwing Kāli‘i Rite, and the formal homecoming ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. Guests are invited to watch a 12:30 p.m. highlight reel of the 36-month trip, and, at 1 p.m., Olomana takes the stage to kick off the ho‘olaule‘a. Music and dance performances will last until 5:20. Then, Polynesian Voyaging Society president and pwo (master) navigator Nainoa Thompson will speak and close the ceremony.
Magic Island Access/Parking
You’ll definitely want to take the bus, bike or walk. There will be no general parking available at Magic Island and limited handicap parking for placard-holders. Ala Moana Park Drive may also be closed. However, off-site parking is available. McKinley High School will have free parking for early birds and will offer free shuttle service from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Paid parking will be available at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Pop-up tents are permitted only around the perimeter of the multipurpose field.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will offer free park-and-ride shuttle service from Māʻili Community Learning Center in Wai‘anae, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in Kapolei, Windward Community College in Kāneʻohe and Stevenson Middle School. Families may reserve up to five seats, and check-in begins at 6:30 a.m. at each location. Visit oha.org/hokuleahomecoming to reserve your place.
Who is Attending?
People from across Hawai‘i will convene to welcome Hōkūleʻa home. Thompson, his fellow captains and pwo navigators, 250 crew members, PVS employees and volunteers will be there. Musical guests include Olomana, Jon Osorio, Kapena, Keauhou, Auli‘i Cravalho of Disney’s Moana, Leon & Malia, Steve Grimes, Kainani Kahaunaele, John Cruz, Brother Noland and Paula Fuga. Don’t miss the Tahitian dance performance by O‘ahu’s own Tahiti Mana at 4:15.
What to Wear
The weather forecast for Saturday shows a high of 87 degrees with a chance of light showers, so dress lightly, bring a hat and don’t forget the sunscreen. The event will go on rain or shine.
Food and Drinks
There will be lots of food for purchase from vendors including ‘Ahi Ambassadors, Da Spot, Hale Kealoha, Il Gelato, L&L Hawaiian Barbeque, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers and Waimānalo Farms. In line with Hōkūleʻa’s mission of mālama honua, food will be served in compostable containers and there will be no single-use plastics. The Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation will provide coconut-filtered-water stations, so bring your own reusable water bottle.
Attendees are welcome to bring lei and, if you’d like to give a gift, PVS will accept presents and donations at a designated tent. Stepping on board the Hōkūleʻa to give lei and gifts will not be allowed.
Want to Help?
Volunteers are encouraged to sign up in advance at hokulea.com/kokua.
Not Ready for the Festivities to End?
The party’s not over yet. The month of June is jam-packed with more events to commemorate the historic voyage. On the evening of June 17, head over to Salt at Our Kaka‘ako for Honolulu Night Market, which will feature live entertainment, a fashion show, another screening of the voyage’s milestones, and a screening of Moana. From June 18 to 20, the Hawai‘i Convention Center will host the Mālama Honua Fair and Summit from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offer educational exhibits, special speakers, voyaging films and canoe tours. You'll even be able to test your traditional wayfinding skills at the summit with a University of Hawai‘i virtual reality simulation called Kilo Hōkū.
Later this month, if you’d like to talk story with the crew, head to Growler USA from 3 to 5 p.m. on June 25 for a free conversation with them. And beginning Nov. 4, Bishop Museum hosts the exhibit Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging, which will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until next summer.