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Hula is a uniquely Hawaiian dance accompanied by chants, songs that preserve and perpetuate the stories, traditions and culture of Hawaii, and percussion instruments such as the pahu or ipu (different types of drums). The island of Hawaii has the honor of hosting the most renowned Hula competition, the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. Held annually in Downtown Hilo (follows Easter Sunday in March-April), the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival was named after King David Kalakaua, who revived hula in the late 19th century after decades of disapproval by Christian missionaries. A quote from King Kalakaua has been adopted by the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival: “Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.”
Although getting tickets to the hula competitions can be tough, the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival includes a variety of free events that are open to the public. There are also many other hula competitions and exhibitions held throughout the year. Other events include: The Hula Arts at Kilauea Series, (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) Iolani Luahine Hula Festival and Hula Scholarship Competition (February, Kailua-Kona), Queen Liliuokalani Festival (September, Hilo), Moku o Keawe International Festival (November, Kohala Coast). You can often see live performances at historic sites like Hulihee Palace and the island of Hawaii’s hotels and resorts.
A luau is another fun and festive place to watch the hula and learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. Hula is taught by a kumu hula (hula teacher) in a halau hula (hula school) but visitors can sometimes get free lessons at select island of Hawaii hotels and resorts.