October 19, 2012 - Maka'ika'i: The Art And Culture Of The Aulani For Families

After meeting a couple of characters, I went to take another maka'ika'i (tour) of the resort before having to get ready for my cousins' wedding that afternoon.  This time, I took "Maka'ika'i: The Art and Culture of the Aulani for Families."

This time, the tour would focus on the cultural aspects of the resort through its architecture, layout and art. The same tour guide that took us on the nature and wildlife tour also took us on this tour and she reminded us of the Hawaiian proverb she had told us in the previous tour.  Just to remind you, the proverb is ʻAʻole pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi. Basically, what it means is that not all knowledge is learned in one school. So, what she might tell us might be different from what somebody else tells you and that we should take this knowledge not as definitive, but to enhance our learning.

The tour pretty much took place within the Maka'ala Lobby and, really, there was so much there that I didn't even notice we didn't leave.  LOL!

Anyway, first things first, at landscaping of the front of the hotel is a loi kalo, or taro terrace.  Taro (kalo) is a staple in Hawaii and it has spiritual importance in Hawaiian culture.  In fact, the well known word 'ohana (family), which many mainlanders were introduced to in Disney's own movie Lilo & Stitch, comes from the taro plant.  It comes from the word 'oha, which is the corm (or root) of the taro.  So, to have a loi kalo in the front of the hotel embodies the spiritual and cultural importance to the people of Hawaii.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a direct photo of the loi kalo, but you can see it on the right side of the photo.

Now, the actual architecture of the resort evokes a traditional Hawaiian canoe house...

When you walk into the Maka'ala Lobby, you get a sense of how much thought was put into incorporating Hawaiian culture and doing it with such respect and reverence.  The resort is based on an ancient system of land division called ahupua‘a which divides the land with all the resources that a community needs to survive. So, the front of the resort is Mauka or "toward the mountain."  Everything on that side of the resort represents the need for the land.  Again, the loi kalo in the front, as being toward the mountain, provides not only sustenance, but spiritual and cultural ties to the land and people.  If you look at the stained glass window below (and I wish I had taken a better picture of it), the patterns represent the mountain and earth.  You probably can't tell, as it looks blue in the photo, but the glass is actually shades of green, the color of the grass and vegetation on the mountains.

On the opposite side, it is Makai or "toward the ocean."  This is the side on which, obviously, the ocean and the beautiful Waikohole Valley reside.  The ocean represents the importance of fishing in Hawaiian culture as well as it being a resource for salt.  Thankfully, below, I managed to get a better picture of the stained glass window on the Makai side.  Notice it is in shades of blue with patterns that represent symbols of the ocean, such as waves and bubbles.  The patterns on both the Mauka and Makai sides, I should also mention, are based on kapa (a bark-cloth part of traditional culture) designs.

Now, not only does the hotel represent Mauka and Makai aspects, but it also represents feminine and masculine elements.  Toward the 'Ewa Tower, this is the feminine side of the resort.  As you enter the 'Ewa Tower wing, you see a painting of women doing traditional Hawaiian activities.

And, toward the Wai'anae Tower, it is the masculine side of the resort.  Again, as you enter the Wai'anae Tower, you see a painting of men doing traditional Hawaiian activities.

Not only this, but the respective sides of the resort feature feminine and masculine aspects.  For example, if you look at a fountain outside on the feminine side, notice the calm waters and soothing design with moon shaped water features.  In ancient times, the feminine cycle was linked with the phases of the moon.

On the masculine side of the resort, the fountain has more jagged features and the water is more aggressive on this side.

In the center of the Maka'ala lobby is a compass.  In the middle of the compass is the 'Iwa, a bird that is the mascot of the Aulani due to its flying great distances between mountain and sea.  The 'Iwa is surrounded by taro leaves, as we've established, a food source of cultural and spiritual importance to the Hawaiian people.  The points of the compass, which you might not be able to see well, are tiles made of stone representing either the ocean or mountains.

There is also a very cool 200-foot mural that surrounds the Maka'ala that, inexplicably, I never got closer pictures of.  But, it extends all around and was painted by the famed artist Martin Charlot.  The mural very much represents all sides of the resort.  If you are on the Mauka side facing the masculine side of the mural, you see men doing traditional activities that men did more inland.  However, if you look at the Makai side facing the feminine side of the mural, you see women doing traditional activities that women did near the ocean.  I could keep going on, but you get the point.  It's amazing!

Okay...a couple other things of note.  In the front of the Maka'ala Lobby, you see several kahili, the feathered Standard of Hawaiian Royalty.  Notice the colors?  Yup, they are the colors of Mickey Mouse.

But, in the Maka'ala, these are relatively small kahili.  The Big Cheese needs a kahili fit for a king.  And, so, on the Makai side, we see the much larger kahili which is meant to be the kahili for Mickey Mouse himself. :)

There is so much more I could go through, but, I think this is enough to keep your brain swimming.  While I loved the nature and wildlife tour, I have to say that this was my favorite of the two.  I absolutely love learning about different cultures and I'm extremely fascinated with Hawaiian culture.  Again, while we didn't really leave the Maka'ala Lobby, there was so much to learn and see.  It was just fantastic!  I highly recommend this tour and I recommend taking it early in your stay so you can really appreciate the vast amount of effort incorporating Hawaiian culture, history and art within the Aulani!


  1. I assume the tours are free? Can you just show up?

  2. Yes! Both this one and the nature and wildlife tour are free and you can just show it. They are wonderful!


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