All of the Ka’anapali hotels are connected by a paved beach-walk, so it’s easy to stroll from one to the next. We took a morning lei-making class at the family friendly Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, voted by Travel & Leisure as Hawaii’s best value hotel and nicknamed Maui’s most Hawaiian hotel. Longtime KBH employee and island native, Malhini, taught us to make leis, Kui style, using a needle and thread and fresh carnations. It was like making a necklace. Each time we thought we were finished, Malhini instructed us to add more flowers.
While I continued to string pink, red, and white carnations on my lei, Malhini gave John special attention — I suspect because he was the only man in the class. We were scheduled to make leis in the Haku style with Ti leaves from the green Ti plant, but we ran out of time. So Malhini quickly made us Ti leaf bracelets by braiding the green plant around our wrists. This type of traditional lei, she explained, symbolizes protection.
Malhini also taught us to do the Hukilau, a hula about a fishing festival. The term Hukilau comes from Huki, meaning to pull, and lau, meaning leaves. Before we started our dance lesson, the proud Maui native showed us pictures of an actual Hukilau and fondly reminisced about her father, a revered fisherman in his village.
Hula dancing tells a story through movements called vamps where you gracefully shift your arms and body to the right and then left with your knees slightly bent. Four points were stressed during our lesson: the feet keep in time and move in short steps; the hips accentuate the rhythm of the music; the hands and arms interpret the words; and the face and eyes express the mood.
“Oh, we’re going on a hukilau, a huki, huki, huki, huki, hukilau.”
The evening’s overcast sky provided a dramatic setting for the cliff diving ceremony at the Sheraton Maui’s beachside Lagoon Bar. We sipped potent cocktails and watched the ceremony, which begins with a hula dance and concludes when a cliff diver climbs to the tip of Pu ‘u Keka’a (Black Rock) and dives into the ocean as the sun sets.
The ceremony reenacts the legend of Maui’s last chief, King Kahekili. Pu ‘u Keka’a (known as Black Rock) is the site of one of the last volcanic eruptions on Maui and divides the beautiful beaches of Ka’anapali and Kahekili, and is believed by natives to be a sacred place where the souls of the dead leaped from earth into the after life. Legend has it that King Kahekili, who lived in Ka’anapli for most of his 45-year reign, dispelled the myth by jumping from Black Rock — about 25’ from the shore — into the crashing waves below. He survived the jump and became known as “King of the Spirit Leap.”
Dinner was next on the agenda. At the Sheraton’s elegant Japanese restaurant, Teppan-yaki Dan (like an upscale BeNI-Hana), our chef prepared a sumptuous feast of lobster, scallops, shrimp and veggies on a scorching grill in front of us and our five other tablemates.