Island Heritage

Touring the islands’ many ways of life

By: Karla Aronson

Visitors who sign up for Ekahi Tours’ Kahakuloa Valley Rustic Cultural Tours might simply be looking for someone to drive them around the curving, coastal road encircling west Maui. Considering its many hairpin, one-way turns, that could be a wise choice in order to enjoy the spectacular beauty. But the experience of this tour goes beyond simple sightseeing.

The full-day outing intimately introduces the half-dozen or so participants to the natural surroundings that distinguish the Hawaiian islands; the prominent families who have left their mark on Maui; and the ohana, or extended families, of the Kahakuloa Valley who live in accordance with the ancient Hawaiian values and culture.

“There are values you have to experience,” said Ray Hutaff, president of Ekahi Tours, to understand “what the culture was and is.”

The tour started with a 7 a.m. pickup at the Wailea Resort hotel in south Maui and continued north along pineapple fields and below towering bluffs, where we were told further resort development was planned.

We then pulled off the road to take in two gorgeous beaches, Moluleia Bay, often called Slaughterhouse Beach because it was a former slaughterhouse site for the once plentiful monk seals, and Honolua Bay, a marine reserve offering snorkeling.

From then on our guide, Lynn Pohaku Hue, continued to astound with her extraordinary knowledge of the environment and the people of Hawaii.

Down the Road

The road twisted along the coastline and cliffsides for the next 30 miles, and we stopped to see the ocean waves shoot through the lava break at the Nakalele Blowhole. We leaned against a crystallized volcanic boulder and thumped it with a rock to hear its hollow ring, created by a gaseous formation.

Drawing from her mother’s medicinal expertise, Hue spoke about how the red dirt along the roadside was used, not only to dye T-shirts for tourists, but for its iron content. She talked about the noni plant that had healed a serious shoulder injury she suffered and pointed out the tree leaves used to cure children’s thrush.

As a hunter herself, Hue spoke about the boar, deer, elk, pheasant and quail that had been introduced to the islands, as well as the ranching cattle, sheep and horses.

The heart of the tour began when we reached Kahakuloa Valley, turned onto a private road and drove across several streams back into the valley.

Eighty-one people live in the valley, Hue said, as she pointed out each family’s home.

Ways of Life

When our group entered the lands of one of the families, we walked over a swinging bridge to see the ancient terraces lined with stone walls, where taro had been cultivated for more than 1,000 years. Unfortunately, because the water is being extracted for other uses in many places, a way of life was almost lost.

“Water is the source of life. To let water flow freely is to let life flow freely,” Hue explained. “The way of Hawaiians was always a simple way. The way of life is striving to be continued.”

For residents, there is a need to be continuously self-sufficient, even in modern times, and maintain a family focus.

“The family unit is the main foundation,” Hue said.

Hue informed us that families in Hawaii are rooted in several different cultures. Large tracts of land are owned by prominent Portuguese families, including the Nobrigas, who secured the exclusive Coca-Cola distributorship for Maui, and the Mendes family, who operate a horseback-riding ranch on their 3,000 acres.

We stopped for lunch at the Kaukini Gallery, which represents more than 100 local artists, and had been started on the grounds of Eddie and Harriet Chang’s cattle ranch by their granddaughter. Finally, we visited the picturesque oceanfront Turnbull Studios & Sculpture Garden that functions as a working art colony.

It was a lot to absorb by our 3 p.m. return, but the main message was clear: There’s a spirit to Hawaii’s many people, and efforts are under way to preserve their legacy.

“This is our culture,” said Hue. “It should be seen.”


Ekahi Tours
Kahakuloa Valley Rustic Cultural Tours

Offered daily.
$80 adults; $75 seniors ages 60 and older; $60 children up to age 11
Commission: 20 percent
Additional tours to Hana and to Haleakala Volcano are available, as well as private and group charters.