Hawaiian Culture

The more you learn about Hawai‘i, the more you’ll appreciate the significance of its cultural traditions. You may be familiar with a lū‘au feast, hula show or even know how to make a lei, which are all rewarding experiences. But you can delve deeper into Native Hawaiian culture by connecting with Hawaiian cultural specialists in a variety of ways.

Explore a cultural immersion program with hands-on activities. Many resorts in West and South Māui provide an in-house Hawaiian cultural ambassador or guest cultural artists, who teach classes in the arts of Hawai‘i. You can learn Hawaiian language skills, how to share stories though hula, try your hand at weaving crafts or playing the ‘ukulele. Some of them talk about the foods that were grown in Hawai‘i and offer a tour of their resort’s ethnobotanical garden. Others will take you on a canoe paddling adventure and tell you how early Polynesians crossed the ocean using celestial navigation. 

Talk story with Native Hawaiian specialists and discover Māui’s rich history through the ages. Ask about trying cultural crafts that you may not easily experience:  ‘ohe hano ihu (bamboo nose flute making), weaving hau bark into cordage, ‘ohe kāpala, (bamboo stamp printmaking with natural dye), or even the knot tying art of kōkō (to make nets). 

Attend a festival or seasonal event that features Native Hawaiian games. Makahiki season in old Hawai‘i was a time for rest and peace, between October and January, when Hawaiians paid tribute to Lono, the god of rain, agriculture, harvest and fertility. They enjoyed a variety of games, not unlike modern Olympic games, in which warriors, chiefs and commoners would test their strength and skill. Today, you can find Makahiki games in public displays on Māui in the fall and Molokai in January. Some of the contests include:  ‘ulu maika (lawn bowling) with disc-shaped stones, ‘ō‘ō ihe, (spear throwing) with upright stalks of banana as targets, and pā uma (wrist wrestling) while standing in place. 

Visit an outdoor exhibit that showcases Native Hawaiian architecture and customs. On the grounds of Hana Cultural Center, you can see Kauhale Village, a replica of a chief’s compound as it would look in pre-contact Hawai‘i, including a cooking house, meeting house and canoe shed. The gardens are planted with kalo, tī and ‘ulu (breadfruit) trees. Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage Center shares the colorful history of Lāna‘i with guests in its museum and on outdoor field programs. Guests can help restore an ancient loko kuapā (fishpond wall) and tour the island’s historical sites. 
Don’t be shy about asking local people where you can go to experience the real Hawai‘i — we love sharing our mana‘o (thoughts and knowledge)!