The Pull of History

For Iokepa Naeole, the ocean holds endless lessons in Hawaiian culture and tradition. Take a seat.

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canoe adventures

It is believed that in ancient times, a heiau (temple) perched atop Pu‘u Keka‘a’s summit. To this day, it is revered as “ka leina a ka ‘uhane”—a sacred spot from which a soul leaps into eternity. Hawaiians held that when a person died, their soul left the body and wandered until it found a doorway into the spirit world. For a living person to jump from Pu‘u Keka‘a was to risk not only physical injury, but the possibility of leaping straight into the hereafter.

We propel ourselves further along the coastline, and Iokepa turns our attention mauka (toward the mountain). He explains how early Hawaiians devised land divisions known as ahupua‘a to care for their environment. These wedge-shaped sections spanned from the upper elevations to the sea. Each ahupua‘a contained the resources its community required, and everyone within it shared in the ahupua‘a’s wealth.

As our paddle comes to a close, and we point the wa‘a towards shore, I recall the Hawaiian proverb “Ma ka hana ka ‘ike,” “Through doing one learns.” It aptly describes today’s experience. With every stroke, we connect with those before us, and every roused sense opens a path for understanding.

“For us, success isn’t just about leaving guests with pretty pictures,” says Iokepa. “Our goal is for them to leave with the emotional connection to this place.”

For details about Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel’s Wa‘a Paddle Tour, visit KBHMaui.com. The public is welcome. Group and private tours available daily, weather permitting.

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