Top 10 things to do on Big Island plus 1: Hilo Cacao and Chocolate Expo, Celtic Electronic Dance Party, Kahilu Dance Night, Pokémon Day, Big Island Chocolate Festival and more

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If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth this weekend while learning about how chocolate is made on the Big Island, the East Hawai‘i Cacao Association has an event that’s sure to tickle your taste buds and more.

The 2024 Hilo Cacao and Chocolate Expo this weekend at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is a two-day chocolate celebration meant to enhance and promote the island’s reputation for chocolate excellence. It also seeks to increase interest in growing cacao and agritourism on the island.

Another chocolatey event coming up toward the end of this month is the 11th annual Big Island Chocolate Festival. The theme for this year’s festival is “Mystical Chocolate Masquerade.” Tickets are on sale now. Don’t wait. Get yours today.

Several other events and activities are planned around the island during the next week as well, including a swingin’ evening with Greg Shirley’s Big Swing at Kahilu Theatre in Waimea, a transcendent musical experience during a Celtic Electronic Dance Party at Kukuau Studio, a parody of the wizarding world of “Harry Potter,” celebrating Pokémon Day at Gam3Escape in Hilo and more.

Here are our 10 things to do on the Big Island for April 11-17. We also included a “Coming Soon” entry about the upcoming Big Island Chocolate Festival.

No. 1 — 2024 Hilo Cacao and Chocolate Expo (Hilo, April 13-14)

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Join the East Hawai‘i Cacao Association at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, located at 71 Banyan Drive, for this third annual two-day chocolate celebration and get a taste of the ‘āina while supporting the enhancement and promotion of the Big Island’s reputation for chocolate excellence and increasing interest in growing cacao and agritourism.

The first day is free to the public and runs 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Demonstrations and displays will show the complete chocolate-making process, from tree to bar. Attendees will receive a cacao seed to pot and take home with instructions for planting and growing, while supplies last. Local merchants will showcase their 100% Hawai’i-grown cacao, with chocolate to taste and purchase. Educational agricultural organizations will provide information and be available for questions. There also will be a silent auction and official expo merch will be available for purchase.

The second day features a workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those wanting more detailed information about cacao and chocolate processing and production. The cost to attend is just $22. A variety of presentations by local farmers, agricultural agencies and chocolate makers will cover several topics

For more information or to register for the workshop (space is limited), visit the expo website.

No. 2 — Kahilu Dance Night (Waimea, April 13)

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Kahilu Theatre, located at 67-1186 Lindsey Rd., invites you to blow your wig with Greg Shirley’s Big Swing at 7 p.m. Be prepared to boogie in your seat or put on your dancin’ shoes and enjoy a swingin’ evening of great music.

Greg Shirley’s Big Swing delivers a snappy, upbeat, swinging groove from the very first note. Featuring a 3-piece horn section and a full rhythm section, this 7-piece ensemble covers bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Brian Setzer Orchestra and more. The band offers listeners and dancers everything from Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing to salsa and cha-cha.

For more information or to purchase tickets, which are $25, click here.

No. 3 — Meet Artist-in-Residence San Nicolas (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, April 16)

Screenshot of image from the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park website

The ‘ahu ‘ula, or feather cloak, and mahiole, or feather helmet, symbolized the highest rank of the chiefly ali‘i class of ancient Hawai‘i. This month’s artist-in-residence Rick San Nicolas is a kumu hulu nui, a master of ancient Hawaiian featherwork.


San Nicolas will demonstrate the art of Hawaiian featherwork as it was done in old Hawai‘i, a long and painstaking process with breathtaking results, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Kīlauea Visitor Center as part of the park’s ongoing After Dark in the Park programs.

The program is free to attend, but park entrance fees apply.

No. 4 — Fold an Origami Plumeria (Kailua-Kona, April 13)

Screenshot of image from Big Island Now events calendar

Join designer and artist Shannon Nakaya from noon to 5 p.m. at the Kaillua Village Artists Gallery, located in Suite C-110 of the Kona Marketplace at 75-5729 Ali‘i Drive, for free one-on-one tutorials for making an origami plumeria that she designed. This is a 5-petal, 3-dimensional blossom folded from a single sheet of paper.

Nakaya thinks the best way to appreciate origami is to experience the transformation of the art. Over-the-top origami made by Nakaya is also featured this month at the gallery.

The tutorials are beginner-level origami for adults and should take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Participants can take their flowers with them. Reserve a time by calling the gallery at 808-329 6653. Walk-ins will be welcome, pending demand and supplies.

No. 5 — Celtic Electronic Dance Party (Hilo, April 13)

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Join Kukuau Studio, located at 43-D Kukuau St., from 6:30 to 9 p.m. for a danceable journey as live bagpipes, fiddle, beats and more are mixed on stage for a transcendent musical experience.

Elias Alexander is a multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter whose work swells from the intersection of traditional music, electronic production and songwriting. Using electronics, he alchemizes tradition into something healing, danceable, deeply personal and of this moment.

So if you like world music with an EDM twist, you’ll be amazed by RAMBLXR. Doors open at 6 p.m. Cost to attend is $15; all ages welcome. For more information, click here.

No. 6 — It’s a Soul Thing (Hilo, April 13)

Image from Facebook.

Plenty Productions presents this dance event for the funkin’, struttin’ and dancin’ pleasure for all you soul, Motown, funk and disco lovers out there. Pick out them afros and get ready for this event at 9 p.m. at Hilo Town Tavern, located at 168 Keawe St.

On the decks will be resident DJs Uplifter and Sapience. There also will be a raffle and door prizes worth up to $400.

So dress up and get down! Throw on your best soulful and funky threads and boogie on down to the party. Cost is just $5 to shake your booty. Must be 21 or older to attend.

No. 7 — Pokémon Day (Hilo, April 14)

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Come down to Gam3Escape, located at 57 Shipman St., beginning at 1 p.m. to check out the wonderful world of the Pokémon trading card game.

Start by learning how to play the card game from Pokémon professors Jim and Jonn, as well as building your deck. Each participant will receive a starter deck, a booster pack and a promo pack. At 2 p.m., play Pokémon Bingo. A card game tournament begins at 3 p.m. There will be special prizes and items for each portion of the event.

Entry fee is just $10 to learn how to play and participate in Pokémon Bingo. The tournament is another $6 to participate. This is a family-friendly event. Keiki younger than 13 years old must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, click here.

No. 8 — Bluegrass Jam (Kalapana, April 14)

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Howdy, neighbors! Join Bluegrass Hawai‘i for another fabulous jam from noon to 5 p.m. at The Oasis, located at 12-4575 Pāhoa-Kalapana Road.

Bring an acoustic stringed instrument (if you choose), a chair to sit on, lunch if you’ll be hungry, a beer if you’re old enough and can drink it responsibly, a jacket because it can get windy and friends. Listeners are welcome, too.

This is a great reason to get your taxes done early. Come play some bluegrass music. You’ll be glad you did. Admission is just $5 or free for keiki 12 and younger and paid members of Bluegrass Hawai‘i.

No. 9 — UNIVIBES (Hilo, April 13)

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Are you looking for a chance to relive the 2000s? Just want to cut loose? Stressed from college work? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, come on down to the Hilo Town Market, located at 69 Waianuenue Ave., from 8 p.m. to midnight to go back in time with DJ D-Cypher and DJ Peanut Brotha as they spin some classics from the 2000s.

This is one event you won’t want to miss. Bring the whole squad and enjoy the vibes. There also will be food available from Kourkie’s Kitchen and Sugar Dealer 808 and some games.

The event is alcohol-free and suitable for adults 18 and older. Admission is $5 at the door. College students with valid student IDs can bring a friend for free.

No. 10 — “Puffs” (Pāhoa, April 12-14)

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Join the Hawai’i Academy of Arts and Science, located at 15-1397 Post Office Road, and discover the story of 7 increasingly eventful years of magic at a certain school of magic.

Presented by the school’s Drama Club, this fast-paced “Harry Potter” parody is all about students growing up in a wizarding world. The comedy is perfect for all ages, so bring the whole family to enjoy this special performance. The final performances are set for 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with doors open at 5 p.m., and 1 p.m. Sunday, with doors for the matinee open at noon.

Concessions will be available, including Little Caesars and Bananarama. To purchase tickets, which are $10 for general admission and $5 for students, click here.

Coming Soon — 11th annual Big Island Chocolate Festival (Waikōloa, April 26-27)

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Enjoy glitz, glam and glorious fun during this two-day “Mystical Chocolate Masquerade” at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, located at 69-275 Waikōloa Beach Drive. Be sure to dress your best for the Saturday night gala; fancy costumes and masks are encouraged.

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, the festival features chocolate-themed culinary demonstrations, cacao growing and processing seminars, a farm tour and a festive evening gala with walkabout savory and sweet culinary booths, a chocolate fountain, entertainment, dancing, a silent auction and more.

During the gala, a panel of judges and attendees will again critique chef and confectionary offerings while culinary stations will vie in a contest for Best Booth decorated to this year’s raucous theme. A photo booth will stage fun, playful props for selfies.

Get your tickets today for the gala. General admission is $99. VIP tickets, which include two specially curated drinks paired with pupus, are $169. For more information, including a rundown of educational activities and prices, or to purchase tickets, click here.

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