Hawaiian culture, food, island entertainment, films and more at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners Lopaka Aiwohi (from left), The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua Cultural Advisor Clifford Nae‘ole and Kainoa Horcajo partake in an awa ceremony. • The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua photo

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua not only marks a quarter of a century in 2017 as a top destination resort on Maui, but its signature cultural event will return more inspiring than ever for the 25th consecutive year in a row.

The theme for the 2017 Celebration of the Arts event is “Wahi Mahalo . . . A Universal Thank You” in honor of this milestone anniversary.

The highly anticipated festival will flow throughout the Ritz from April 14 to 16 with Hawaii’s most revered and reputable artisans, educators, cultural practitioners, speakers and entertainers.

Many of the Celebration of the Arts’ events are free and open to the public, allowing visitors and residents alike the chance to experience authentic Hawaiian culture through various hands-on art and craft demonstrations, informative speaker and cultural panels, historic films, and traditional music and dance.

The Celebration of Island Tastes will be a Hawaiian feast for the palate and the senses Saturday evening, April 15. It used to be a one-admission-price luau in previous years, but it’s segued into being a more affordable affair with a cover charge and then you simply buy scrips for whatever food and beverage that you like.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua photo

“Back for a ‘hana hou,’ or ‘curtain call,’ from last year’s Celebration of the Arts festival, this feast is not to be missed,” says the resort’s Cultural Advisor Clifford Nae’ole. “Local families will prepare their Hawaiian specialties for everyone to enjoy.”

While you dine on kalua pork, laulau, luau hee of octopus in a stew of coconut milk and taro leaf, and chicken long rice, listen to the music of Ahumanu and be dazzled by the dance of Halau Hula Malani O Papeke.

“It will be a feast prepared by Hawaiian hands including the ingredient of ALOHA,” says Nae’ole. “Nothing short of a royal luau is left off the menu when the chefs of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua combine their talents with local families showcasing their favorite luau recipes.”

The Celebration of Island Tastes will also present poi, the staple starch of Polynesia, from Poi By The Pound restaurant in Kahului; poke and sashimi from Kaohu Store in Wailuku; opae, or freshwater shrimp; and opihi, or limpets; along with uala, or sweet potato, prepared by the culinary team of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

“The opae are sweet and tasty,” says Nae’ole. “The opihi are found only on the roughest shores of the island and are a prized and coveted dish.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua photo

As for desserts, the Pahukoa ohana, or family, will make kulolo from steamed or baked grated taro corms sweetened with coconut for a pudding-like consistency.

Speaking of coconuts, The Catered Coconut will open chilled and sweet nuts in front of you for drinking and Poi by The Pound will wow with taro sundaes topped with fruits such as Maui Gold pineapple.

Assorted cocktails, wines, beers and soft drinks will be sold by the Ritz.

“It’s a Maui County Fair concept with a Kapalua twist,” explains Nae’ole of the walkabout.

After-hours each night, the Ritz’s Alaloa Lounge will come alive with entertainment by the legendary John Cruz, Josh Tatofi, Josh Kahula and ‘Nuff Sedd band on April 14; and Kamakakehau Fernandez, Na Wai Eha, and Kamaka Kukona and the Leohone band in a CD Release party on the night of April 15.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua photo

Buy a cocktail, tap your feet and enjoy schmoozing the sea of Native Hawaiians who will flock there to enjoy.

“Never before has this event had such an extensive line up of musical talent. And yet, you never know what will be the next ‘wow’ factor with all the entertainers on and off the stage,” says Nae’ole. “No cover. But you must be 21 years and older. ID required for entry.”

Situated in one of Hawaii’s largest nature preserves, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua proudly maintains the Honokahua Preservation Site — a recognized “wahi pana,” or “sacred area,” adjacent to the resort. It serves as a destination where Native Hawaiians gather to conduct ceremonial rituals and honor their ancestors.

Upon the resort’s opening 25 years ago, Nae’ole was hired as cultural advisor and he co-created the Celebration of the Arts festival to further enrich and educate guests as well as locals about the resort’s deep Hawaiian cultural roots and historical surroundings.

“I’ve had the pleasure of watching the Celebration of the Arts festival grow and evolve over the past 25 years since its inception in 1992,” says Nae’ole. “Now a quarter of a century later, we are proud to be able to continue to honor our Native Hawaiian culture and instill that same appreciation and respect in our resort guests and island locals.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua photo

Throughout the weekend, festival participants will enjoy traditional Hawaiian oli, or chants, along with music, hula, cultural ceremonies and impromptu performances that all reflect upon the spirit of aloha for which the islands are so well known.

“A first for the Celebration of the Arts this year will be the Art of the Aina,” says Nae’ole. “Local families and farmers will share the harvest of their gardens with a Hawaiian-style co-op featuring fruits, veggies and medicinal potions. For instance, James Simpliciano of Simpli-Fresh Farms will be there and the people who make the Maui beef jerky will participate, too.”

A highlight for the whole family is the Art of You set up throughout the lobby and meandering hallways of the resort.

“Artists and practitioners will invite participants to challenge their artistic skills and create an heirloom,” says Nae’ole. “Learn Hawaiian drum carving from Keone Turalde, stone carving by Hoaka De Los Reyes, weaving by Sabra Kauka, Hawaiian patchwork quilting by Hi’ilei and Ku’ulei Martinson and more.”

Other practitioners are Kalei Roback, who will bring world-famous shell lei from the private Niihau Island; Cathy U’u, who will present sea shell and pearl jewelry; Sarai Stricklin will showcase Hawaiian prayer flags; Leihua Nae’ole will be there with Hawaiian proverb banners; Leo Pahukoa-Meyer will be the feather art expert; Kumu Kapono’ai Molitau will have an awa bar; Calvin Hoe will dazzle with Hawaiian nose flutes; and Sila Kaina with bamboo stamp art.

At the Celebration of Island Tastes event on Saturday, April 15, fresh poke and fish from the islands will be highlighted. There is a cover charge and scrip will be used for purchases. The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua photo

Other highlights are Ka Wai A Kane (Awa Ceremony) in which the participants gather to pledge support to all things Hawaiian by sipping the sacred and bitter waters. Public viewing is encouraged. Photography is not permitted.

A panel discussion on April 15 will be “Mahalo Defined” — a deeper look into the definition of the word that in contemporary Hawaii refers to the Western concept of “thank you.” Kumu Hula Hokulani Holt will lead the discussion.

Those who wish to partake in the annual Hiuwai and E Ala E native Hawaiian cleansing and sunrise protocol on April 14 should rise and shine early and bring swim wear and towels. You should also be a good swimmer as the ocean can be rough.

“Peace and poi to the world,” concludes Nae’ole.


Celebration of Island Tastes on April 15 will feature food, music, dance and arts. While most events April 14 to 16 are free and open to the public, the Celebration of Island Tastes has a cover charge of $25 for adults; and $12 for keiki 6 to 11, and you buy scrip for food and beverages. Kamaaina get discounted cover with valid Hawaii ID. For more details, call 669-6200.


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