6 Things You Need to Know Before Attending Lantern Floating Hawai‘i

This year’s event is going to be larger than ever—here’s how to navigate the crowds and traffic.
Photo: Kelli Bullock 


Thousands of people will be converging on Ala Moana Beach Park on Memorial Day to take part in the annual Lantern Floating Hawai‘i ceremony. It’s the largest Memorial Day observance in the United States, and honors fallen service members and all who have laid a foundation for our lives. The theme for this year’s ceremony is “Many Rivers, One Ocean—Hope,” with the goal of generating hope and courage in the hearts of all who participate or view the ceremony. The event will be larger than ever this year, with more than 6,000 lanterns illuminating the shores of Ala Moana Beach. Here are a few things you need to know if you’re planning to attend:


1. Show up early.

If you’re hoping to send a prayer or remembrance floating out on the ocean, individual lanterns are available on a first-come, first-served basis at Ala Moana Beach on the ceremony day. There is no pre-reservation of lanterns. You also have the option of writing your remembrances on specially prepared paper that will be affixed to a Collective Remembrance Lantern and floated by volunteers. If you can’t physically attend the event, you can submit remembrances online by 11:59 p.m. on May 29.


The Lantern Request tent opens at 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., or until all the lanterns are handed out, and the pre-ceremony begins at 6:10 p.m.


2. You don’t have to fight for parking at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Free parking will be available on May 30 from 7 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. A complimentary shuttle, as well as special transport for the physically disabled, will be available from the Hawai‘i Convention Center to Ala Moana Beach from 3 p.m. through 6:15 p.m., then back to the Hawai‘i Convention Center after the ceremony until 9:30 p.m.


3. There’ll be plenty of spots to float your lantern.

Everyone wants to be front and center on the beach, but, honestly, there is no bad vantage point to view the ceremony or float a lantern. The floating area will span from near the first lifeguard tower on the Diamond Head end of the beach to inside the canoe landing area. Every person who has a lantern will have an opportunity to float it as others mindfully move aside after floating their own lanterns.


4. You don’t need to be a practicing Buddhist to join in.

The Lantern Floating Hawai‘i ceremony is unique because, although it is a Buddhist ceremony, it aims to be comfortable for any person of any background to participate. Although it’s one of the largest lantern floating ceremonies in the world, the organizers’ main focus is providing a positive and healing experience for each individual, whether on the beach or viewing it from afar.


5. Not to worry, floating a lantern is not littering.

All lanterns are retrieved from the ocean by volunteers after the ceremony. The lanterns are then cleaned and refurbished for use the following year. With that in mind, write your remembrances only on the paper top and not the foam base of the lantern, and be careful not to puncture the lantern base.


6. Bring your camera.

Hundreds of warm lights floating out on the dark-blue ocean, each with a deeply personal meaning attached—the Lantern Floating Hawai‘i ceremony is one of the most photogenic events around. Organizers welcome professional photogs and amateurs alike—just keep in mind the larger purpose of the event, and be respectful of those around you.