As if I needed another reason to love the Big Island of Hawaii… I just learned about HawaiiCon. The Big Island is not just full of palm trees, beaches, and resorts. It is home to Kilauea, one of the longest-erupting volcanoes in the world. And, it is one of the few places on earth where you can ski and surf in the same day. The Big Island has numerous cultural festivals – and HawaiiCon is one of them!
HawaiiCon caught this fangirl unprepared. We found out about it while vacationing on the Big Island, thanks to a featured article in Ke Ola Magazine. I had packed some Hot Topic tank tops, but not my wardrobe of Her Universe dresses. Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to see a new con.
Even though I’d been to many conventions including San Diego Comic-Con, Star Wars Celebration, and D23 Expo – I found many reasons to love HawaiiCon. Here are my Top 10 reasons why you should put HawaiiCon on your calendar for next year.
1. Opportunity to really get to know celebrity guests
Celebrity guest stars are scheduled at multiple panels and activities over the HawaiiCon weekend. This allowed a rare opportunity to really get to know them, and interact in a more informal setting.
It was personal ‘story time’ with your favorite celebrities. This was my first encounter with Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui, Moana / Jango Fett, Star Wars Ep. II). And Paul Blake (Greedo, Star Wars Ep. IV), who answered the question ‘Who Shot First?’ We enjoyed ‘solo’ time with Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett, Star Wars Ep. II). Q&A was amazing during these small panel sessions.
2. Attend uniquely Hawaiian panel sessions
Several sessions stood out as uniquely Hawaiian, offering great opportunities to learn about the local culture. Navigate like Moana highlighted wayfinding – sailing by the stars like Hōkūleʻa, the voyaging canoe, just did by just navigating 60,000 miles around the world.
Participate in a hula lesson on the beach. Feel the grass between your toes as you dance to music from Moana. Gaze past the white-sand beach onto the open ocean, alongside celebrity guests like Gina “GK” Bowes (voice actor and audiobook narrator for Disney’s Moana).
Bring your camera to the Night Photography session, and learn to capture your own astonishing Milky Way shots.
3. Attend a Luau with your favorite celebrity guests
As an additional-fee activity, HawaiiCon guests can sit at a table with their favorite celebrity at an exclusive luau. You choose which celebrity to sit with when you purchase the luau tickets.
The menu included a traditional luau buffet, and entertainment showcasing Hawaiian, Tahitian, Maori, and Samoan cultures. One of the highlights was when the luau ‘Maori chief’ made an offering, and New Zealand-native Temuera Morrison picked up the offering. That does not happen every day.
The fire-knife dancer (representing Samoa) is always a highlight of any luau.
4. Go adventure-seeking with celebrity guests
(These opportunities were separately-ticketed, sold-out events). What other convention allows you to go ziplining with the Guest Stars? Or snorkeling with them through coral reefs?
Hawaii Island has the best scuba diving in the state, with its Manta night dives ranked Top-10 in the world. What a unique opportunity to socialize with celebrities while manta night-diving or snorkeling!
5. Intimate setting means short lines
Imagine the luxury: short lines for autographs, photo-ops, panel sessions, registration – everything! Instead of camping out overnight for a seat, you can sleep comfortably in your hotel room, and simply arrive a few minutes early to your chosen panel. Here is the 2017 program schedule.
Walking from one panel to another took about two minutes, instead of twenty minutes. Of course, the venue is much smaller than SDCC. But smaller has its advantages. I also enjoyed sampling the many food trucks that provided ‘ono’ (delicious) local bites, with no wait time.
6. You’re supporting a non-profit that promotes science education
HawaiiCon is self-dubbed the “World’s First Sci-fi, Science, and Fantasy Tropical Vacation Convention.” And it is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that champions science education for the keiki (children) of Hawaii.
So, rest assured, the registration fees go to a worthy cause, bringing up the next generation of fans. There’s also a ‘Science Track,’ with panels like Maui, Demigod of Science, the ‘Ohana Planetarium Show, and SciFi Weather on Mars.
7. Incredible backdrops for cosplayer photo shoots
Are you a cosplayer in search of unique photo shoot locations? The Big Island of Hawaii – and Mauna Lani Bay Hotel – feature breathtaking vistas and sunsets to perfectly highlight your cosplay.
Hawaii Island has 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones. So, if you’re scouting for a specific type of location, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
HawaiiCon offers a unique opportunity to let your inner fan shine. Here were some of the great cosplays, including some from the cosplay contest.
8. Feel at home with perfect hospitality from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is a devoted supporter of Hawaiian culture. In addition to HawaiiCon, they support activities such as “Twilight,” a free monthly Hawaiian music concert series.
The resort also raises endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles in its saltwater ponds to give them a chance at survival. When the turtles are old enough, they are released into the ocean at the annual “Turtle Independence Day” celebration every 4th of July.
Mauna Lani Bay welcomes HawaiiCon attendees with special room rates. Booking early can get you an Oceanview room for $179/night at this four-star resort (regularly $400/night). Two-star hotels in San Diego can cost much more than that during SDCC!
9. Become part of the Hawaiian ‘ohana’ (family)
This was the most relaxed convention I’ve ever attended. Hawaiian locals welcome you with aloha. The ambience is casual. Flip flops are the dress code for Guest Stars as well as attendees. Bring your lightsaber for an impromptu lightsaber battle on the lawn.
Slow down, and enjoy the present. Treat everyone with respect. What a great way to enjoy the spirit of aloha.
10. Stay and explore the rest of the Big Island
You’re only scratching the surface when you see the northwest (aka: the sunny, dry) side of Big Island. Don’t forget about Kilauea, the live volcano, on the east side of Hawaii (best viewed by helicopter or hiking/biking onto lava fields to the ocean entry with a guide).
Did you know about the extraordinary stargazing and observatories atop Mauna Kea? Which is, by the way, the tallest mountain on earth when measured from its base on the ocean floor. Go horseback riding and experience the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) lifestyle. Explore black-sand and green-sand beaches, and countless hiking trails with dreamy waterfalls.
Take advantage of the breath-taking vistas of this tropical oasis, and mark your calendars for next year: HawaiiCon is September 13-16, 2018 at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Early registration for a four-day pass is $129, and proceeds benefit the HawaiiCon non-profit organization.
Mahalo (thank you) to HawaiiCon for hosting such a wonderful event! And May the Force Be with You.
Gloria Hasler is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She is a professional travel consultant, owner of Chrysalis Travel, and – together with her husband – co-founder of the Six Castles Club.