How to Connect with the Hawaiian Culture During Your Vacation
Reverence for Hawaii’s natural beauty is evident in the many oli (chants), mele (songs) and legends of the Islands. A deep respect for the environment remains strong in modern-day Hawaii. Among other daily occurrences, visitors can see that respect in a fisherman’s offering of his first catch to the gods in gratitude, or a hula halau (hula school) presenting a hookupu (offering) to a forest before gathering ferns and flowers to make lei. An effort that often involves entire communities, farming in Hawaii is still largely aligned with the values, traditions and beliefs of Hawaiian culture. The only-in-Hawaii experiences below invite visitors to learn about the host Hawaiian culture and gain newfound appreciation for the stunning landscapes around them.
- Oahu – Located on the island’s Windward Coast, Paepae o Heeia was established to malama the Heeia Fishpond and serve as its kiai (watchman), preserving the centuries-old architectural treasure and Hawaiian cultural resource. In Native Hawaiian culture, fishponds are symbolic of a community’s intellectual, physical and spiritual sustenance, and serve as a food resource to families. Encircling 88 acres of brackish water, the walls of Heeia Fishpond are 12 to 15 feet wide and more than 1.3 miles long. The completion of the fishpond’s modern reconstruction required the mostly volunteer help of thousands of residents and visitors over three years, passing and stacking rocks and coral. Presently, Heeia Fishpond visitors are invited to participate in community workdays to clear invasive plants, leaving Oahu just a little bit better than they found it.
- Island of Hawaii – As if its showcase of more than 1,100 acres of native plant, animal and marine life, as well as heiau (temples) and kii pohaku (petroglyphs), wasn’t enough of a sensory overload, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park and its scenic 3-mile oceanside trail also encompass centuries-old saltwater ponds and loko kuapa (lava rock seawalls) built for fish trapping. The park’s ponds offer protected wetlands for native birds, and its beach a natural sanctuary for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles). A walk along the white sands of the park’s Honokohau Beach might even include the rare sighting of a Hawaiian monk seal catching sunrays. Kaloko-Honokohau’s two fishponds, Aimakapa and Kaloko, and restored loko kuapa demonstrate the engineering acuity of the early Hawaiians who settled this rugged, lava-encrusted coastline north of Kona, found sustenance and created communities.
- Kauai – For more than 20 years, Waipa Foundation has worked with its nearby communities to manage the 1,600-acre Waipa ahupuaa, located on Kauai’s north shore. Dedicated to the cultivation of kalo (taro) and other fruits and vegetables within the ahupuaa, Waipa Foundation welcomes participants of all ages to experience how Native Hawaiian values and practices apply to modern life, offering activities that include a weekly community pounding of its kalo into poi and a local farmers market.
- Molokai – Embark on an adventure steeped in Hawaiian culture, values and tradition on the Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Hike. The hiking adventure offers guests a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the valley’s historical significance and discover cultural landmarks and countless ancient rock features. Guests will also find relaxation in the refreshing pond beneath Mooula Falls, which offers breathtaking views of the valley.
Written by Siera Duiser: Siera Duiser is a travel agent with Destinations in Hawaii. She loves helping plan incredible vacations at no cost to you. Contact Siera to book your next vacation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-771-1290. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.