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In Honolulu, Santa paddles an outrigger canoe — and doesn't always wear a heavy red suit

In Honolulu, Santa paddles an outrigger canoe — and doesn't always wear a heavy red suit
Hawaiian trolls, not elves, are Santa's helpers in the 50,000-pound sand sculpture at the Sheraton Waikiki, which is free and open to the public. (Sheraton Waikiki)

Honolulu has its own Christmas traditions that are nothing like what you find in the Lower 48. For one thing, Santa wears aloha shirts and sandals rather than a red velvet suit. For another, he favors an outrigger canoe over a reindeer-led sleigh.

If you’re spending the holidays on Oahu, here are four experiences not to miss.

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1. Sand-a Claus?

Stop by the Sheraton Waikiki to see how they’re been decorating — island-style — for years. Each fall, the hotel hires a Florida company to create giant sand sculptures with festive themes. This year’s present to visitors is a 25-ton sculpture of Santa and his helpers loading presents into the sleigh. In true Hawaiian style, St. Nick’s assistants are menehune, mythical island trolls, instead of elves.

Info: Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu

2. Paddling Santa

Santa Claus will swap his sleigh and reindeer for an outrigger canoe for a Saturday arrival at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.
Santa Claus will swap his sleigh and reindeer for an outrigger canoe for a Saturday arrival at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. (Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort)

Despite the lack of snow on Oahu, Santa makes the rounds at various venues island-wide. On Saturday, St. Nick will arrive at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort in — what else? — an outrigger canoe. Santa is scheduled to hit the beach at 9 a.m. Plan to arrive early to get a good spot for pictures.

Info: Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, 2335 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu,

3. Aloha Santa

Unlike mall Santas, the one at Honolulu's International Market Place greets children wearing an aloha shirt and a kukui nut necklace.
Unlike mall Santas, the one at Honolulu's International Market Place greets children wearing an aloha shirt and a kukui nut necklace. (International Market Place)

Mr. Claus goes Hawaiian for appearances at Honolulu’s International Market Place, leaving his warm red suit at the North Pole and instead wearing an aloha shirt, board shorts and slippers. Santa will stroll through the mall, greeting shoppers from 3 to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays until Dec. 23; and 3 to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Info: International Market Place, 2330 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu

4. Gelato and rum

The Ultimate Rum Cake costs $22 and is sold at the Ko Hana distillery and the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina.
The Ultimate Rum Cake costs $22 and is sold at the Ko Hana distillery and the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina. (Ola Collective)

Ko Hana Distillers in Kunia, about 25 miles northwest of Waikiki, is partnering with the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina to offer the Hawaiian version of the traditional fruitcake.

The Ultimate Rum Cake is handcrafted by Helen Hong, the West Oahu resort’s executive pastry chef. The key ingredient is rum, specifically the distillery’s KEA Hawaiian Agricole Rum made with hand-harvested heirloom sugarcane. Presented in a square tin, the cake is priced at $22 and available at the distillery and the resort.

Ko Hana Distillery on Oahu produces rum made from heirloom Hawaiian sugarcane.
Ko Hana Distillery on Oahu produces rum made from heirloom Hawaiian sugarcane. (Ko Hana Rum)

The distillery also offers tours — $25 for adults and $15 for children — in which the adults sample rum and youngsters try gelato.

Info: Book tours online at Ko Hana Distillers, 92-1770 Kunia Road #227, Kunia

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