14th Annual Memorial Day Lantern Floating at Ala Moana Beach Park

I’ve never seen Ala Moana Beach park so packed with people. News reports mentioned that more than 40,000 people converged on Ala Moana Beach Park for the 14th annual Memorial Day lantern floating. The event, which is officiated by Shinnyo-en and presented by the Na Lei Aloha Foundation, started in 1999 as a way to remember and honor those who have died in service to their country. And the significance of the lanterns?

“Lantern floating ceremonies symbolically ferry the spirits of the deceased back to the spiritual realm to mark the completion of Obon, the Buddhist tradition of welcoming spirits of family members back to celebrate with and be honored by the living.”

While enjoying the day at Hanauma Bay, Ahnate mentioned the lantern floating event. I had never heard of it and therefore I was interested. We even passed on a night hike so that we could mingle with the 39,996 other people that would be there. I didn’t know what to expect and was surprisingly shocked when I crossed Ala Moana Boulevard, made my way to the sand, and saw rows upon rows of people.

Some of these people were holding lanterns, some were not. Most people were standing, while a few sat on their beach chairs. There was a large stage that was set up, equipped with large projector screens. This was a massive event with huge production value and I had no idea that it even existed.

Eventually, we made out way to the Ewa end of Magic Island. We tried our best to squeeze our way through the crowd and eventually we scored an awesome vantage point. Check out some photos of the event below.

Can you spot Joel? Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The view looking toward the main stage from Ala Moana Beach park. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ready to release lanterns. Photo by Flickr member Lantern Floating Hawaii.

The lanterns being prepared to be released. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The people in the canoes were there to collect the lanterns at the end of the event. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Once the sun set, the scene was amazing as the lanters began floating away. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Large lantern at Hawaiian boat style with many prayers. Photo by Flickr Member Lantern Floating Hawaii.

A lot of people taking pictures. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The city landscape. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

I started playing around with long exposure. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Message from lanternfloatinghawaii.com were also floated. Photo by Flickr member Lantern Floating Hawaii.

More long exposure. I love the red hues in the sky. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Looking toward the main stage. A lot of people stayed even after the lanters were released. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The large white light was used to film the event. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

You can see the lanterns lined up to the left. There were lines there used to catch the lanterns. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Joel, Mona, Ahnate, and Coty check out the lanterns. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Good time were had by all. Ahnate mentioned that a beer would have been great to have while we watched the lanterns. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.


    • Thanks Will, I aim to please! The mood was somber but the event was great. Were you there? Have you ever been to this event? This was my first time.

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