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Nani Kupihe greets guests with an irresistible smile and warm hugs at the start of Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa’s cultural walking tour in Keauhou Bay, Hawaii. Her welcoming spirit of aloha sets the tone for the excursion, one of the hotel’s many activities designed to enrich the guest experience.
Moving with the grace of a hula dancer, Kupihe talks about the historical sites adjacent to the hotel. As she describes each stop along the way, she brings the region’s rich past to life for all of us on the tour.
“Many of the stories of the area have been passed down orally, and I am continuing that tradition today,” said Kupihe who, like all of the hotel’s cultural staff, comes from Hawaiian descent. “You don't have to be a hotel guest to go on the tour. It's our ‘kuleana’ (responsibility) to share these stories.”
Kupihe leads our group through an area next to the hotel that once housed a thriving fishing village and served as the birthplace of the late King Kamehameha III. Along the way, she points out such treasures as a bell stone, used by villagers to signal important news, and a stone altar, where villagers prayed and gave thanks for the day’s bounty of fish.
Next, we pass by and learn about the foundations of a cookhouse, a cattle pen and a canoe shed; and we see a fishing “heiau” (shrine), built to ensure a successful day at sea.
Kupihe also takes us to an opium tree, notable for its lumpy structure. Locals have nicknamed it the "Menehune Tree" in honor of Hawaii’s legendary race of mischievous and industrious people, the Menehune, who are comparable to Ireland’s leprechauns.
The tour culminates as Kupihe talks about the generosity of the land and sea, putting it all in perspective with a mesmerizing Hawaiian chant of thanks and aloha.
The outing ends as it started — with hugs — as our gracious host thanks each of us for taking the time to learn about the singular history surrounding Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa. Free for guests, the walking tour takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.