Scroll to Continue
Hula is Life
More than just a dance, more than just a way of life… Hula is life itself.
History of Hula in Hawaii
In ancient Hawaii, a time when a written language did not exist, hula and its chants played an important role in keeping history, genealogy, mythology and culture alive. With each movement – a hand gesture, step of foot, swaying of hips – a story would unfold. Through the hula, the Native Hawaiians were connected with their land and their gods.
Before the arrival of Western missionaries, the hula was danced for protocol and social enjoyment. The songs and chants of the hula preserved Hawaii’s history and culture. Many believe hula was born on the island of Molokai, but other legends tell of hula originating on Kauai. For many years following the arrival of missionaries, the hula as well as the Hawaiian language and music were suppressed. The hula, specifically, was even outlawed. It wasn’t until King David Kalakaua came to the throne in 1874 that Hawaiian cultural traditions were restored. Public performances of hula flourished and by the early 1900s, the hula had evolved with modern times.
Today, this unique art form, deeply rooted in culture, has become a worldwide symbol of Hawaiian culture, and one that you can experience on your trip to the islands.
The Art of Hula
There are two types of hula – Hula Kahiko and Hula Auana.
Hula Kahiko is the traditional or ancient style of hula tied to hula lineage with motions, voice and choreography that comes from an old place, patterned after ancient hula. It can also be ancient hula still being danced today. This unique style of hula is performed to chants and is accompanied by percussion instruments such as the pahu or ipu (different types of drums). Hula Kahiko requires much training and dedication and is regarded as being a dance of spiritual connection to ancient Hawaii.
Hula Auana is the modern style of hula, usually coming from a school of hula that has a geneology, but with new choreography and music. Influenced by contemporary times but with old knowledge, this style of hula is accompanied by modern instruments such as the ukulele, guitar, steel guitar, bass or piano.
Where Can I See Hula?
You can see hula throughout the Islands at a number of festivals and events as well as at hotels and resorts. If you want to see the best of the best in hula, head to Hilo on the island of Hawaii in the spring for the Merrie Monarch Festival. Dedicated to King David Kalakaua, known as the Merrie Monarch, the week-long festival features the world’s premier hula competition and includes art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, performances and a parade. Tickets for the festival can be tough to get so planning ahead is suggested.
The Prince Lot Hula Festival (July), as well as the Kauai Mokihana Festival (September) also showcase hula. Molokai, which is especially proud of its hula traditions, celebrates the artform every May at the Molokai Ka Hula Piko Festival.
Kahiko: ancient, long ago.
Auana: to wander, drift, go from place to place.
Halau Hula: Hula School
Kumu Hula: Hula Teacher
Hoomakaukau: To prepare, make ready.
Often used by the kumu hula (hula teacher) before the hula performance has begun to signal the halau to get ready.
Ae: yes; to say yes.
The halau’s response to the kumu hula, letting him/her know they are ready to begin.
Pa: a sound; to sound; beat; signal to begin a dance
Haina: the two or more last verses of a song.
You may hear this term used by the halau in the middle of the performance. This means the halau is nearing the end of the song, the end of the story.
Five thousand years of legend and lore are acted out in a rousing canoe pageant daily at 2:30 p.m. on the lagoon that meanders through the Polynesian Cultural Center's 42 tropical acres.
The background sound of ocean surf and a soulful steel guitar; a welcome lei and Mai Tai; tables laden with traditional island foods; this is The Mauna Kea Luau - everyone's dream Hawaii experience shared through music and food.
Waikiki’s only oceanfront dinner show is a culinary and sensory celebration, commemorating Hawaiian culture and transforming the traditional island experience in grand Royal Hawaiian style. The Royal Hawaiian’s ‘Aha‘aina is a lavish epicurean journey through time.
Enjoy a garden luau followed by Kauai's most spectacular international pageant at the lagoon amphitheater. The Golden People of Hawaii depicts dances and songs from Polynesia and Asia. Luau's are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Come visit the most authentic luau on the island. The Ali'i Luau offers melt-in-your-mouth Kalua Pork from the traditional firepit and other island cuisine. Not only do we take great pride in making our luau the most delicious, we also embrace Hawaiian culture to give you a fantastic experience.
As the sun sets across famed Kaanapali Beach, beating drums and the call of a conch shell signal the start of Maui's most exciting and longest running Polynesian luau. Enjoy a stunning celebration of music and dance that culminates with an amazing fire knife finale sure to dazzle the entire family.
Experience Polynesian culture at the Drums of the Pacific Luau located at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Enjoy song and dance from the islands of Polynesia, including an all-you-can-eat buffet with traditional island fare, authentic imu ceremony, and three-man Samoan fire-knife dance, all oceanside.
Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel extends their ho‘okipa by presenting The Legends of Kā‘anapali Lū‘au every Monday night in the heart of the hotel‘s Tiki Courtyard. You’ll be greeted with warm smiles by the friendly staff of the hotel, leading you to a scrumptious feast prepared by island-born chefs.