FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS: DEEPLY ROOTED, EVER EVOLVING
Experiencing the food, culture and scenery of the Hawaiian Islands the traditional way, with a modern twist, or somewhere
HONOLULU – Many of the cultural activities, outdoor adventuring and, especially, foods we hold dear in modern-day Hawaii reflect a respectful clashing of much-loved traditions of the past and creative evolution.
Mochi waffles and poi doughnuts, for example. The seemingly infinite interpretations of poke (literally means “cubed,” not raw fish) in Hawaii that somehow still manage to adhere to or at least respect traditional preparation. Hula festivals and competitions presenting kahiko (traditional) and auana (modern) style performances of the dance. The ever-increasing amount of opportunities available for residents and visitors to participate in the restoration of things historical rather than simply viewing artifacts of history in an exhibition.
That said we continue to enjoy keeping traditional ways of doing things close to us, too. Devouring kalua pig, laulau, saimin, loco moco, malasadas, manapua and Spam musubi, prepared simple and basic. Heading out for a weekend hike on the mountain ridge trails surrounding Honolulu or waterfall trails of east Maui. Relaxing on the grassy lawn of Iolani Palace for a day of performances by local halau hula (hula group).
The true markers of a vibrant culture are all the ways in which it is proudly and enthusiastically perpetuated, both traditionally and evolutionarily. You’ll see and experience this every day in Hawaii, where a wide variety of experiences await, spanning the spectrum from traditional to modern to somewhere in between the two.
Check out a handful of these experiences below, alongside mini-films featuring Hawaii residents actively assuring the roots of tradition remain vital components of our future.
HOMEGROWN COMFORT FOOD
THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE: Helena’s Hawaiian Food (Oahu). Go for the cuisine’s longtime favorites (laulau, imu-cooked kalua pig, lomi salmon, etc.) done right, and Helena’s famed smoky, tender, bone-in pipi kaula. Hamura Saimin (Kauai). Order the largest-size serving of one of the best bowls of the simple, savory Hawaii-born noodle soup and comfort food fave there is.
THE MODERN TAKE: The Pig and the Lady (Oahu). The menu here is ever creative and ever changing, serving owner-chef Andrew Le and his family’s inspired, boundless exploration of Vietnamese cuisine. Mud Hen Water (Oahu). Come for owner-chef Ed Kenney’s mischievously inventive and tasty modern interpretations of Hawaii comfort eats straight outta his youth.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: TINROOF (Maui). The bowl meals here are owner-chef Sheldon Simeon’s inspired, modern-traditional bridging of the kaukau-tin meals (“kaukau” is Hawaii pidgin for “food”) once devoured by sugar plantation field laborers. Suisan Fish Market (island of Hawaii). Go for its impressive menu of traditional and wisely experimental poke varieties.
SEE “HOMEGROWN COMFORT FOOD”: Watch chef Sheldon Simeon and heritage breed pig rancher Brandon Lee discuss the culinary and cultural importance of utilizing Hawaii-raised ingredients and traditional multicultural recipes to craft modern cuisine rooted in local culture.
THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE: Merrie Monarch Festival (island of Hawaii). The world’s longest-running hula competition is also its most prestigious – halau hula compete only by coveted invitation, and competition is streamed live worldwide. Prince Lot Hula Festival (Oahu). The world’s oldest and largest non-competitive hula showcase now takes place on the lawn of Iolani Palace.
THE MODERN TAKE: Ku Mai Ka Hula (Maui). Tickets for this 13-year-old contest are easier to get than Merrie Monarch Festival entry, but competition among invited halau hula is no less fierce and joyful to watch. Kauai Mokihana Festival. Kumu hula (hula teachers) with halau competing here are encouraged to use newer oli (chants) and non-traditional hula implements.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: Molokai Ka Hula Piko. This hula and community festival, honoring oral traditions calling Molokai the birthplace of hula, also hosts lectures, panels and excursions related to Hawaiian cultural topics. Eo E Emalani I Alakai (Kauai) honors, through hula and modern reenactment, the journey of Hawaii’s Queen Emma to Kauai’s forested Kokee area.
SEE “AUTHENTIC HULA”: Watch Kumu Hula Leinaala Jardin share why teaching and perpetuating the Hawaiian dance form with her haumana (students) are important kuleana (responsibilities) in modern Hawaiian culture.
CONNECTING WITH NATURE
THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE: Na Ala Hele Trail System (all islands). Hiking, plain and simple, legal and eco-friendly, is what this public trail and access system within state-owned natural areas is all about. National Park Service in Hawaii (Maui, Molokai, Oahu, island of Hawaii). Choose from eight diverse NPS-managed parks, monuments, sites and trails to explore on four islands.
THE MODERN TAKE: Rappel Maui (Maui). Guides from this outdoor adventure company will have you descending 30- to 50-foot rainforest waterfalls as cool, mountain-stream water rushes by. Kipu Ranch Adventures, Princeville Ranch Adventures & Outfitters Kauai (Kauai). Adventure awaits as you off-road through diverse trails while enjoying the sights and sounds of lush tropical forests and cascading waterfalls. Or, take the longest zipline ride with Outfitters Kauai.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: Paepae o Heeia (Oahu). Participate in this nonprofit’s volunteer preservation and restoration of Heeia Fishpond, constructed by Hawaiians more than 800 years ago. Hawaii Forest and Trail (island of Hawaii). Specializing in guided small-group nature tours into scenic, rarely visited or little-seen locations often closed to the public. And birding tours!
SEE “CONNECTING WITH NATURE”: Watch Native Hawaiian surfer and master craftsman Tom “Pohaku” Stone follow millennia-old protocol for crafting an all-wood surfboard as he explains his lifelong search for the essence of the Hawaiian art of surfing and a deep connection to the elements. Spoiler: It’s tradition.
THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE: Tasaka Guri Guri (Maui). Only a few people know the recipe for the beloved namesake cool treat of this century-old family snack shop. Is it sherbet? Is it gelato? No matter. It’s just good. Ko Bakery (Kauai). Our recommendation: Ko Crisps, extraordinarily delicate, but deliciously crispy cookies in tropical and traditional flavors, all infused with the aloha of Kauai.
THE MODERN TAKE: Wailua Shave Ice (Kauai). Take the iconic Hawaii cool treat for warm days and kick it up contemporary and creatively with killer fresh-fruit, fresh-ingredient syrups and toppings. That’s shave ice at Wailua. Kamehameha Bakery poi doughnuts (Oahu). You say you don’t like poi? You will as the lead ingredient of this doughy, chewy sugar-glazed revelation.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: Two Ladies Kitchen mochi (island of Hawaii). This Hilo shop deftly marries mochi tradition – an encasement of sweet, pillow-soft rice paste – with modern flair – interior fillings of brownie, peanut butter, whole strawberries and more. Mana Musubi (Oahu). Where the humble, handmade snack meets top-shelf ingredients, including premium Japan rice.
SEE “HAWAII-STYLE SNACKING”: Watch chef Brandon Baptiste explain why he moved back to Hawaii from one of America’s top kitchens to open a shave ice shop. One, he loves shave ice. Two, his desire to return it to its traditional flavor roots of real fruit juices and local ingredients.
THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE: Iolani Palace (Oahu). Guided tours of the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs, King Kalakaua and sister Queen Liliuokalani, share the stories and artifacts of their lives there. Kauai Museum. Housed in a century-old structure built as the island’s first library, artifacts here highlight the histories and cultures of Kauai and Niihau.
THE MODERN TAKE: Celebration of the Arts (Maui). A weekend of workshops, panels, demos, film screenings and more led by Hawaiian cultural practitioners, artisans and kumu (teachers) discuss the culture’s past, present and future. Hawaii International Film Festival (Oahu, island of Hawaii). Go for the largest annual slate of Hawaii-made films addressing local topics.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Its vast collection of historic and scientific Polynesian and Hawaiian cultural artifacts blends modern interactive and traditional exhibitions. Imiloa Astronomy Center (island of Hawaii). Hands-on displays connect early Hawaiian studies of the cosmos and modern astronomy conducted on Maunakea volcano.
SEE “LEARNING CULTURE”: Watch long-distance voyaging canoe navigator Kala Tanaka explain how ocean exploration utilizing traditional navigation techniques remains a vital part of the Hawaiian culture’s past, present and future.
Enjoyed viewing the mini-films linked here? Watch the complete Hawaii Rooted series of 10 films, each spotlighting an individual Hawaii resident aiming to assure traditional elements of local Hawaii and Native Hawaiian culture and customs remain vital, vibrant and perpetuated long into the future. Individually, these people are kumu, artisans, historians, chefs, surfers, navigators, ranchers, hula dancers and performers – a few, could even claim several of these titles. Together, they are practitioners of culture, with one foot deeply rooted in tradition and the other in the modern world. Watch their stories at www.hawaiirooted.com.