Pele's Curse

Marriott program helps former island visitors change their luck

By: Marty Wentzel

KOHALA COAST, Big Island Each year, some 2,000 pounds of rocks from the Big Island are pocketed by souvenir-happy tourists, according to figures from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Over the past year, Waikoloa Beach Marriott, an Outrigger Resort on the Kohala Coast, has been doing its part to bring those rocks back home.

Locals say that, according to ancient legend, the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele puts a curse on people who take lava rocks as souvenirs. The unwitting thieves sometimes find that bad luck follows them home. While the belief may have been concocted simply as a way of discouraging the removal of property, people in the Hawaii travel industry often receive lava rocks in the mail from visitors who want to put an end to their bad luck.

Last year, the kupuna (cultural elders) of Waikoloa Beach Marriott introduced a program intended to remove the supposed curse. Called Hoaka Hoomalu (protecting crescent), it encourages visitors to mail their Big Island rocks back to the resort.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott spokeswoman Noelani Whittington said the resort has collected 75 pounds of rocks since the program started one year ago. “Some people feel they have disrespected the land by taking the rocks, and for that purpose they have returned them to us,” said Whittington. “We continue receiving rocks all the time. We feel we are providing a great service for visitors.”

Waikoloa Beach Marriott staff coordinates delivery of the rocks to the property from locations around the state, including those that have been received by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau on Oahu.

When looking for an appropriate spot for the returned rocks, the hotel’s grounds crew chose a place considered spiritually powerful, in a large outcrop of ancient lava surrounded by a garden of native plants.

Hotel guests are invited to witness the rock ceremony, which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month at noon. A kupuna offers a chant to the surrounding volcanoes as he lays the rocks in their resting place. Following the ceremony, the resort’s cultural staff writes a personal letter to each sender, saying the rocks have been respectfully returned to the land. In other news from the Waikoloa Beach Marriott:

" Clients staying five nights or more receive one free admission per room to the Kohala Country Falls Adventure. Additional tickets for the five-hour eco-tour, hosted by Hawaii Forest & Trail, can be purchased for $89 per adult and $69 per child ages 12 and under. The offer applies to visits through Nov. 15, 2003.

" Couples can book the hotel’s Romance and Relax package for $1,560, good on visits through Dec. 21. Rates include three nights in a cabana room, champagne and chocolates on arrival, daily buffet breakfast, sunset massage for two each day and a sunset catamaran ride for two.

" The resort’s Golf Fore Ever package provides a garden-view room and unlimited golf on Waikoloa Resort’s Beach and Kings’ courses. The rate of $308 per couple per night is good on stays through Dec. 18.