Friday, October 30, 2015

Hawaii with Kids: Luaus and Leis on the Big Island

Luaus are kind of cheezy, true, but they're one of those Hawaii tourist conventions that one simply must experience.

I mean, of course! You HAVE to go to a luau! No matter how you might try not to be just a dumb tourist during the rest of your vacation (Please, Friends--do not eat at Cheeseburger in Paradise), for one night, at least, you simply must own your status as tourist, drink many fruity drinks, eat roasted pig, and let yourself be entertained at a luau.

One evening, after a day of snorkeling at Two Step and earning Junior Ranger badges at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, my in-laws treated us to an evening at the Haleo Luau at the Sheraton in Kona. We were greeted with mai tais and shell leis, seated with a wonderful man from New Zealand and two sourpuss women from I know not where because they were the opposite of interested in communicating with us, and treated to a bevvy of pre-dinner activities such as Sharpie ink tattoos, Hawaiian body stamping, and a hula lesson. During our Hawaii study before the vacation we spent a lesson watching hula on YouTube (I highly recommend that you search for videos from the Merrie Monarch festival held each year in Hilo) and practicing it, ourselves, Will decided that she is a quick study with the hula, and she was SO down with dancing it here!

Seriously, how adorable is this kid?

I don't remember much about the feast, because I was very drunk, having mastered by then the technique of ordering a mai tai for each hand at the open bar, but I did manage to take some photos, so at least I made sure that everyone else was present and accounted for and smiling:

Will is smiling now, but later she experienced the most embarrassing moment in her young life when there was dancing, and her grandfather WANTED TO DANCE WITH HER. The horror on her face! The way that instead of simply refusing, she decided that the optimum defensive technique was to simply go boneless and slump over in her chair towards the ground! Even if I hadn't been super drunk, it would still have been the most hilarious thing ever. And yes, I often find my children's trauma amusing.
This man was pretty dang drunk, too.
This luau was indoors, unfortunately, because of the chance of rain, so the dancing was less picturesque on a conference room stage, although still lovely:

There were several numbers meant to represent the different dancing styles of the Polynesian Islands. I don't remember which one was the New Zealand dance, because I was drunk, but when those dancers came out we all excitedly turned to our table companion from New Zealand, as if this was something special just for him. He was a VERY patient man.
Fortunately, it didn't *actually* rain, so the final dance, the fire dance(!!!), could still take place outside:

It. Was. AWESOME!!!

(As if you can't tell that I thought so by the ridiculous number of photos that I took. I didn't take that many photos of my own children!)

As fun as the luau was, it was the best of luck on another day when we happened upon, on our way to a bookstore that Will had spotted and therefore simply must visit, a cultural event taking place in a nearby shopping center. In a central area, with many tables and a stage set up, a group of aunties were there to dance the hula and teach us how to make leis:

Can you tell that I was pretty excited?

Along with dancing a hula that, while not as showy as that at the luau, was undoubtedly far more authentic--

--the aunties helped us make leis--

--then tied them for us, put them around our necks, kissed our foreheads--

--and told us "aloha:"

Seriously, how adorable is this kid?

So there you have both the most touristy thing and the most authentic thing that you can do in Hawaii. In my opinion, for the best possible vacation?

Do them both!


Tina said...

Fun times!

You guys had so many awesome experiences. We had friends stationed in Hawaii, but we never took the opportunity to visit them and Hawaii. Now I am kicking myself for that.

julie said...

Odds are that you are totally going to have friends in Hawaii at some other point in your life, and when you do, you can invade them!