Celebrating the 4th of July the old fashioned way: Family, food, and fireworks!

Hanalei Bay was a perfect setting for celebrating America’s birthday this past 4th of July. We were invited by friends to join them in their traditional 4th of July party at Hanalei Bay. Hundreds of people spent the day enjoying one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was one of the best 4th of July celebrations I can remember because of the informal way in which it was done.

Most showed up early to pick out a desired area around the beach to set up their pop-ups and BBQ grills etc. All kinds of food was being prepared as well as beverages consumed. Beach games, swimming, surfing, and stand-up paddling were enjoyed. Everyone had a great time.

Dusk approaches 4th of July 2014
Dusk approaches 4th of July 2014
The celebration began without fanfare or notice

What was really different and special was that there wasn’t a big commercial fireworks production. Over the years on the mainland, I had tired of the excessive crowds, the orchestrated setting of displays (although they can be impressive), and the late starts. Dusk in July on Kauai begins about 7:15 P.M. Maybe it’s our age, but one appreciates that more the older we get.

So as dusk came, everyone grabbed their beach chairs and lined them up facing the water. On no particular notice to start, people began randomly lighting their fireworks up and down the 2 mile, semi-circle beach. It was crazy … in a very cool way. Within 5 minutes, fireworks were being set off continuously over the 2 miles of beach.

The fireworks begin at dusk!
The fireworks began at dusk!
Controlled mayhem!

For the next hour, we enjoyed a continuous array of pops, bangs, lights, colors, whistles, sparkles, and smoke both to our left, front, and right views. There weren’t any breaks. Fireworks just continued to light the beach and sky as we watched.

A family to our right had a mighty box of munitions! I think their stash took over 25 minutes to lite. While they lit off one fire work after another from a table they had brought, our group celebrated with sparklers. Embarrassingly, we had a hard time lighting them until our friend Bobby came in with some sort of lighter to get them lit.

Bobby gets our sparklers to light!
Bobby gets our sparklers to light!

What caught everyone’s attention were these soaring orange lights floating through the nights sky out over the bay toward the ocean. They drifted slowly and burned bright.

We later found that they are called sky lanterns. I had never seen them probably because they are banned in most places as they can be a fire hazard if they land before burning out.

A sky lantern about to lift off
A sky lantern about to lift off

These were being launched over by the pier and the sky lanterns were floating out over the bay. Most burned for a good 3-5 minutes and rose hundreds of feet in the air. They became small specs of light. My camera couldn’t capture how nice they looked in the sky. At one point, there were 5-6 floating over the bay.


As the mighty box of displays was wrapping up to the right of us (they were one of the last to go), the 2014 4th of July Celebration at Hanalei Bay came to its finale … it quietly stopped as it had quietly began. People started to pick up and pack up after a long day.

Our Grand Finale
Our Grand Finale
Kauai – Celebrating America’s birthday long after the rest of the country had gone to bed

I have found most people do not realize (consciously) that Hawaii is the most isolated population centers on the face of the earth. Kauai is the most isolated of all the islands. And obviously, we’re the farthest state west!

That being the case. our state celebrations are the LAST ones in the country. At 7-ish P.M. on the 4th, it was 1-ish on the East coast, after 10 P.M. on the West coast.

Celebrating the 4th of July in Hawaii on the island of Kauai at Hanalei Bay was a wonderful time. In one way it reminded us how many years ago, we would have a relative quiet time lighting sparklers in the back yard. Or go out to a display that was simply the firing of colorful bombs bursting in air, with everyone watching the show. There was that kind of feeling here. Hundreds of people sharing this time as a community.

Sitting on a Hawaiian beach for America’s birthday and bringing the birth-DAY to a close was nice.

**** The 13th Annual “After the Fireworks” Community Hanalei Bay Clean-up took place the next morning. It was and is sponsored each year by The St. Regis Princeville Resort and supported by The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, The Makai Golf Club, Hanalei Bay Resort, Wyndham Vacation Resort Kaua’i , Princeville Ranch Adventures, the County of Kauai, Malama Na `Apapa, and many caring individual Residents and visitors. (from Project Aware.Org) Awesome.