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Culture and Heritage at Mauna Lani

Stories of the past meet the people of the present


Wander amongst cherished lands once reserved for the greatest of Hawaiian royalty within the scenic and storied pockets of Mauna Lani’s 32 acre oceanfront property. Embrace stillness and serenity at the fabled fishpond, Kalāhuipua‘a, or visit the Eva Parker Woods Cottage, where famed golfer and senator, Francis H. I’i Brown, entertained icons of the past with a warm sense of ho’okipa, or hospitality. Step inside Hale ‘I’ike, the Hawaiian phrase for “House of Knowledge,” to talk story with resident historian, Uncle Danny Akaka, who will enlighten you with age-old wisdom and the occasional strum of a ukulele. Ruminate on the knowledge you’ve gained at the edge of Mauna Lani’s saltwater ponds, where caretaker, Pi’i, nurtures endangered Green Sea Turtle hatchlings for their safe return to the Pacific Ocean.

  • Daily complimentary cultural activities

  • Explore Mauna Lani as you absorb ancient Hawaiian history and timeless traditions

A Sense of Place | Hale'I'ike

Our House of Knowledge

Step inside our "House of Knowledge" to experience the distinct and charming spirit of Hawaii's indigenous living culture. A cultural center and museum located in the heart of the lobby, Hale 'I'ike is home to Kōnane checker sets, traditional works of art and historical books enlivening the eras of kings, cowboys and celestial navigators. Talk story with Mauna Lani's dear Kahu Hānai, Danny Akaka, about Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, or try your hand at the ukulele. String your own lei as the scents of puakenikeni are carried with the trade winds, or simply observe the everlasting beauty of Hawai'i through its symbols and stories.

Mālama Honu, Mālama Honua

When we care for the turtles, we care for the world.

Turtle Talk

For more than thirty years, Mauna Lani has raised and nurtured hundreds of green sea turtles in partnership with Oahu-based marine and wildlife center, Sea Life Park, on the contingency of education and conservation. Listen as the end of the Honu Pond as self-proclaimed "turtle man," Pi'i La'eha, conveys the environmental, historical and cultural importance of Green sea turtles in Hawai'i. As turtles have inhabited the planet for millions of years, Turtle Talk is infused with themes of sustainability and resilience.

Turtle Indepdendence Day

As our Green sea turtles grow, thousands of researchers, students and guests from around the world visit Mauna Lani to observe and learn through programs such as Turtle Talk. Within two to three years, our cherished honu reach a size deemed appropriate for release, which is commemorated by their annual release along our oceanfront. A celebratory day infused with cultural, educational and environmental nuances, Turtle Independence Day represents the rebirth of our honu as they head back home to the Pacific Ocean.

Learn Culture through Adventure

Take a hands-on approach to travel when you learn the chords, steps and skills that weave generations together in the spirit of Aloha.

Cultural Workshops

Hawaiian artisans and storytellers carry precious threads of knowledge passed down through generations. Whether you pound poi or play a song on the ‘ukulele, connect with the people and practices that make this place so enthralling. Available classes Include:
  • Lei Making | The lei is Hawai‘i’s gift to the world. More than a mere flower garland, it’s a tangible symbol of aloha. Discover different lei styles and practice stringing your own. Of all the souvenirs you can take home from the Islands, the one you make yourself might be the sweetest. | 1 hour, age 10+ years

Music & Dance

When early Portuguese immigrants brought a small stringed instrument to Hawai‘i, the Hawaiians made it their own. Born out of cultural collaboration, the ‘ukulele is now one of the world’s most popular musical instruments—an instant antidote to the doldrums. Music and dance allow us to tell the story of Hawai'i in a mesmerizing and inspiring way.
  • Basic ‘Ukelele Lessons | During the lesson, you can easily learn ‘ukulele basics: chords, strumming, finger placement, and perhaps a tune. | 1 hour, ages 10+ years

  • Hula Basics | Hula is the storytelling dance of the Hawaiian Islands. We invite you to experience and share the true spirit of Aloha through hula; join us to learn the steps. | 1 hour, ages 10+ years

Walk through History at Mauna Lani

Kalāhuipua‘a is a raw and potent paradise, the piko (center) of Hawaii's five great volcanoes, and the point where volcanic plains meet the shimmering sea. Mauna Lani sits within Kalāhuipua‘a, a sacred realm whose astonishing natural beauty is equaled only by its primal, magnetic power. To walk this storied coastline, breathe the salt air, and swim in the crystalline waters is to feel the same mana—spiritual energy—that first drew people here centuries ago.

Petroglyph Hikes along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail

Follow the coastline over ancient fishermen's trails and historical Hawaiian Kingdom roads on this self-guided adventure. The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trails have been connected through generations of use to form a single continuous route. The 223-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve boasts more than 3,000 ancient petroglyphs. Explore lava rock carvings etched into stone, dating back to 1200 AD.

  • Hikes include: Mauna Lani to Honoka'ope Bay hike and Mauna Lani to Puako Petroglyph field hike
  • Available on and off-property, year-round, weather permitting
Danny Akaka

Talk Story

Pull up a chair and let Danny Akaka, the resort’s Kahu Hanai, regale you with mo‘olelo (stories)—tales drawn from the ancient past and his own colorful life. Start with any question: what did the Polynesian voyagers eat while sailing across the world’s biggest ocean? What does the name “Kalāhuipua‘a” mean? The answers are guaranteed to stir your imagination and enrich your experience of the Islands. Don’t be surprised if ten minutes here turns into an hour.

Kalāhuipua'a Historic Walking Tour

An oasis within an oasis, Kalāhuipua‘a Fishponds – located on Mauna Lani’s grounds, are the essence and spiritual center of the resort. Predating even the earliest Western contact, the Loko (ponds), I‘a (fish) are a tangible reminder of the days when the land and sea supported the Ali‘i (royalty) and fishermen who were the original inhabitants of the land that is now known as Mauna Lani. Daniel Akaka, the resort’s Kahu Hānai and renowned Hawaiian historian, offers interactive guided tours throughout the fishponds.

  • 1.5 hours
  • Self-guided walking tours are also available

Read the Stories

Go Connecting with the Spirit of Hawaii

Hiking through Kalāhuipua‘a Historic Park, we stopped along the trail to appreciate the variety of petroglyphs that depict primitive life symbols and provide a view into Hawaiʻi’s rich and ancient history. The area also offers around 40 natural caves composed of lava tubes and partially collapsed lava bubbles that are perfect for exploring, and we were in search of one cave in particular – the mythical “spirit cave”. A short hike from our retreat at Mauna Lani, I was tipped off about the park’s unusual cave during a discussion with Uncle Danny, the resort’s resident expert in Hawaiian history and culture. 

Soaking it all in
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Celebrate Hawaiian Stars Under the Full Moon

The last time I attended the Twilight at Kalāhuipua‘a concert series, a beautiful Hawaiian woman jumped up from the audience to dance the hula. Barefoot, with a bright red hibiscus tucked behind her ear, she knew every step by heart. The crowd showered her with applause as she swayed in perfect time to the lilting melodies of old Hawaii.

Music Lover
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Do How an Ancient Fishpond Breathes

Fat silver fish turn figure eights beneath the surface of Lāhuipua‘a fishpond. Every now and then I catch the flash of an eel’s tail disappearing into the shadows. A slender rock wall encircles the five-acre coastal pond. It’s one of seven ancient fishponds at Mauna Lani—waters once cherished by Hawaiian kings and fishermen alike. Watching ripples spread across the surface of Lāhuipua‘a, I imagine the hands that built its wall eight hundred years ago.

Lana Smith
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Learn Talk Story With Uncle Danny

Danny Akaka, the resort’s resident expert in Hawaiian history and culture, is in high demand. No matter how many people file into the Hale I‘ike cultural center, each one of them receives the full benefit of his beaming smile and gracious attention. Akaka is the embodiment of aloha: generous, unhurried, and brimming with love for Hawai‘i and her people. Diplomacy runs in Akaka’s genes. His father was a respected U.S. Senator, his uncle coined the phrase “aloha spirit,” and his grandmother couldn’t let a tired taro farmer pass by her house without offering refreshment and a shady place to rest.

Music Lover
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Experiences at Mauna Lani