For my regular blog readers, you know that we love to expose our kids to people and their cultures from around the world. My Mom lives on Kauai and I’ve been visiting the Hawaiian Islands since I was a kid. Maui is a fantastic blend of activities and gorgeous landscapes. Last year, we explored the Maui Ocean Center and did the Four Winds Maui snorkling boat ride and had a blast! Two years ago, I took my oldest on the Road to Hana, Haleakala, and I`ao Needle. As this was my 3.5-year-old’s third trip to Maui, I was looking for a deeper connection to Hawaiian culture than our previous activities. Thankfully, Maui Nei Native Expeditions offers authentic Hawaiian cultural tours and I knew that’s what we needed to do.
Discover Old Hawaii Tour
My family decided to try the Discover Old Hawaii Tour by Maui Nei because we feel the best way to understand a place is through its culture. This tour is 3.5 hours and incorporates a bit of history, geography, and hands-on cultural crafts. We immersed ourselves in Hawaiian cultural arts and skills while listening to stories of Lahaina’s sacred sites and learning a traditional way of life.
According to the official description of the Maui Nei Discover Old Hawaii Tour, “At each sacred site, a Maui Nei kumu (teacher/guide) will show you how to make a cultural item, using traditional methods of old Hawaii while explaining the background of his or her special skill and the history of its uses. You’ll also hear stories about significant places in Lahaina’s history as you’re guided from site to site.”
Our guide Keoki was fantastic! I like to think of him as the host of our tour, as he escorted us to each cultural educator throughout the morning. Not only was he knowledgeable about what he was talking about, but he was passionate about sharing that with us.
Hawaiian Cultural Activities
One of the major draws of this tour for families is all the hands-on activities. I was thoroughly impressed with how well each station was set up and featured a different guide who had extensive knowledge about each activity. It would be perfect for kids who have never-ending questions about everything they do!
My oldest is 3.5-years-old and he participated in each activity. We brought along some little toys to keep his hands occupied while the Maui Nei guides explained the activities. Our 10-month-old baby only participated in the activity involving food!
‘Ohe Kapala Bamboo Printing
After hearing a bit about how the Hawaiians used to make tapa cloth from bark, we got to try our hand at stamping our own prints. One of the most fascinating parts was to see how the ink was made. Our guide Maile scraped some bright red dirt from the mountain before our tour. She poured a bit into a porous stone bowl and ground up the dirt. Then Maile ground up some Hawaiian salt (to set the paint) and added some oil and a bit of water. After stirring it around, we were ready to stamp!
Each stamp was handmade and the shapes represented things like the sun, wind, mountains, family structures, and more. Maile encouraged us to choose a stamp (or two or three) that represented where we come from. So, I chose the stamp that looked like wind to represent how my life with two little kids feels like a whirlwind. However, my 3.5-year-old promptly painted over it with his brush, which is an even better representation of my life with little kids!
This was such a cool experience and my boys loved it! My family enjoys eating poi and I can say with authority that we’ve never had poi so fresh! I loved that our guide Wainani set up this station with a bench for us to straddle, water to wash our hands, and had all the tools we needed.
Wainani started with taro that had been steamed and peeled. We chopped it into small pieces and then mashed the taro with a stone pounder. My oldest thought that we were going to pound the taro with a hammer, so he was a bit confused when I started grinding with the stone tool.
Our favorite part was eating the poi! The taro we used was very mild and since it was so fresh, it wasn’t fermented. Our 10-month-old started eating it as my husband was still pounding it and couldn’t get enough! At the end, we were able to bag up what we made to take with us.
I thought this was the most relaxing of the activities. We sat in the shade of a hale as we watched our guide Kalapana show us a Hawaiian weapon he crafted out of lauhala. I had never seen anything like it before, but apparently it’s similar to what they used in biblical times.
Kalapana was very patient with us and he helped us individually twist the lauhala to make rope bracelets. Once we had enough for a bracelet, we were able to adorn it with a kukui nut or shell. Our guide told us that they repurpose these from kukui leis and shell decorations.
Overall Impressions of Maui Nei Native Expeditions
I highly, highly recommend these tours to families looking for a bit of culture in their Maui vacation. I’ve visited the Hawaiian Islands more than 30 times and have studied hula for more than 20 years. However, I was impressed with how much new information I learned. The activities reminded me a bit of the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, but with much more information and personalized attention.
Even if you don’t think you are interested in Hawaiian culture, meeting the Maui Nei guides might change your mind. They are so welcoming and present their information in a way that is easy for children and adults to understand. We felt less like a tourist and more like we were sitting in someone’s back yard just talking about life. Additionally, they seemed truly thankful that we dedicated part of our day to learning about the culture that makes Maui such a wonderful place to visit.
Maui Nei Native Expeditions provided us with a complimentary tour for my family. All opinions are my own.