Your Ultimate Guide to the 2017 Punahou Carnival

This year’s Punahou Carnival takes place Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4. Here’s your guide to where to park, what to eat and everything in between.
Punahou carnival swings
Photos: Kelli Bullock


Whether it’s your first time going to the Punahou Carnival or you’re a carnival junkie and go every year (guilty!), here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the school’s annual carnival. 


SEE ALSO: HONOLULU Family’s Guide to the Punahou Carnival


What it is

With E.K. Fernandez rides, famously fresh malassadas and a highly anticipated white elephant sale, this local favorite is not your typical school fair. The Punahou Carnival is an O‘ahu tradition that originally started back in 1932 as a fundraiser for the school’s yearbook. Now in its 85th year, the two-day carnival brings together people of all ages from all over the island to raise money for Punahou’s student financial aid program.


SEE ALSO: Quote Unquote: What it’s Really Like Working for Hawai‘i’s Only Carnival


Each year’s carnival is sponsored by the school’s junior class. This time, it’s class of 2018, who, along with some parent volunteers, spend their free time planning and preparing it outside of school hours. Every year has a fun theme, with this year’s being “Back to the ’50s” (you are not required to dress up to match the theme, but we’re sure they wouldn’t complain if you did). 


Punahou carnival students


Where and When

The carnival is typically held during the first weekend in February. This year, it’s on Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Punahou’s lower campus in Mānoa (1601 Punahou St.). The main entrance is on the corner of Punahou Street and Wilder Avenue. You can’t miss it—driving by, you’ll see giant tents and swarms of happy people holding stuffed animals and glow sticks. 


Where to Park

Trying to find parking in Honolulu is bad enough without competing for spots with avid carnival-goers. Parking is limited on the school campus, but Punahou’s website recommends parking at Catholic Charities Hawai‘i (1822 Ke‘eaumoku St.) for $10. You can also find paid parking at Central Union Church, Shriners Hospital and Maryknoll School. If you don’t feel like stressing about parking, you can also catch TheBus routes 4, 5 or 18, all of which stop close to the campus.


How Much it Costs

Although some carnivals on the island charge you a fee just to walk in, entrance to the Punahou Carnival is free. That means you can take a look around first, then decide if you want to stay, leave and come back later, or just hang out and enjoy the atmosphere if you’re not in the mood for a food baby or an adrenaline rush.


Once inside the gate, you can purchase scrip from multiple booths on the carnival grounds, since Punahou’s game and food booths require payment in scrip. 


Punahou Carnival prices
Click on the image to enlarge the price list.


New in 2017

Fun Pass

Starting with last year’s 50th State Fair, E.K. Fernandez has started selling Fun Passes that can be used instead of scrip. Fun Passes are a type of debit card  you can load using carnival ATMs throughout the fairgrounds, with a minimum purchase of $20. Once purchased, the Fun Pass can be reloaded with any dollar amount. The ATMs accept both cash and cards, which is great news if you don’t have cash on you. There are also card readers scattered throughout so you can check your balance between rides. However, the Fun Pass can only be used with E.K. Fernandez rides, games and food (Punahou’s game and food booths will still need scrip).


What to Wear

We’re pretty sure it has rained every time we’ve gone to the Punahou Carnival. It’s winter here and the campus is right next to Mānoa, after all. The carnival is on grass/dirt for the most part, so bring light rain gear and wear shoes you won’t mind getting a little muddy.


What to Eat

One word: malassadas! Punahou makes its own signature malassadas with an original recipe that dates back to 1957. Another favorite is the carnival’s famous handmade mango chutney, but you have to go early to get some (meaning within the first couple of hours on opening day). You can also eat teri burgers, chicken plates, gyros, taco salad, corn on the cob, Portuguese bean soup and more.


Malassadas line



You can find bathrooms scattered throughout the campus. Use this handy map if you need help finding a bathroom and for a general idea of the carnival grounds. 


Punahou Carnival map 2017
Click on the image to enlarge the map.


Other Carnival Fun

The Carnival Art Gallery

The Art Gallery can be found in the Mamiya Science Center on campus from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and features more than 1,000 art pieces created by more than 300 Hawai‘i artists. Proceeds from each piece of art purchased are split between the artist and the carnival fundraiser.


The Silent Auction

The auction takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both carnival days in the Mamiya Science Center. Past auction items have included hotel stays, professional sports tickets and even mango chutney, for those who missed their chance to buy some.


Hawaiian Plate

Take a break from the main carnival area for some ‘ono Hawaiian food (lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, haupia and poi) and live music at Dole Hall.


The White Elephant Tent

This huge second-hand goods sale features clothes, toys, books, music and more. There’s even an entire section dedicated to books.


SEE ALSO: Punahou Carnival's Art Gallery to Showcase Work of 250+ Hawai‘i Artists


Pro Tips 

  • Tag your pics with #PunahouCarnival and they could show up on Punahou School’s live tagboard near the sound booth.

  • Don’t buy scrip from the first booth you see walking in. The scrip booths in the center of the carnival by Dillingham Hall and in the E.K. Fernandez tent always have shorter lines.

  • If you want to take malassadas home, ask for some without the sugar on them. You can reheat them later and roll them in your own sugar for a fresher taste.

  • Have fun!