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
Dive into Conservation at Mauna Lani's Turtle Sanctuary
Established in 1989, the Mālama Honu program creates an awareness of our endangered sea turtles through education and the practice of conservation. In partnership with Sea Life Park, a marine and wildlife center on Oahu, captive-reared hatchlings are sent to Mauna Lani to be cared for in the hotel's saltwater ponds. In two to three years, they grow to a size deemed appropriate for release into the wild.
During the honu's stay, guests from around the world get to visit and learn about the sea turtles. This relationship aids in the future survival of this endangered species. “Sea turtles are some of the most ancient animals,” Pi‘i says. They’ve navigated the world’s oceans for over 100 million years, before the dinosaur age, and are important indicators of healthy marine ecosystems. “You see sea turtles out there, you know you have a healthy reef, a healthy ocean.”
- 1 Hour | Complimentary | 10 guests maximum
- Location: Hale ‘I‘ike in the main lobby
For 30 years, Mālama Honu has celebrated releasing turtles on the 4th of July, also known as Turtle Independence Day! Each year, hundreds of visitors join us on our shoreline for this wonderful event. Each turtle receives a Hawaiian name and blessing. It’s just a little something extra to help them survive and thrive in the sea.
- Yearly on July 4th
- Location: Mauna Lani Beachfront
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.