Hula: The hidden dance of Hawaii

May 20, 2021 2

Have you ever seen a hula show before? Do you know what hula is? Many people know that hula is a dance that comes from Hawaii. It is famous for its beautiful costumes. When you think of hula, you may think of a coconut bra, grass skirt and plumeria lei. There are many beautiful and intricate outfits that the hula dancers perform in. This beautiful dance is a very deep part of traditional Hawaiian culture. Let’s learn more about Hula: the hidden dance of Hawaii.

The History of Hula

This dance originates from the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians who originally settled here. Hula portrays the words of the oli (chanting) or mele (visual dance) form. There are many sub-styles of hula, the two main categories being Hula ‘Auana and Hula Kahiko. Hula is very important to the culture of Hawaii. Hula passed down preservation stories for generations, orally and visually. Before the people of Hawaii had a written language, they told stories through chants and dance.


The chants or oli would tell stories about birth, myths, deaths, love, prayers, rituals or battles. Many different styles of chanting was used for different purposes. The dancers would have simple movements that paired with the chants. The first Europeans came to Hawaii in 1778 and they took note of the hula.  This was the first written record of it. British explorer Capt. James Cook wrote about seeing women dancing on Kauai. Men danced, too, however. The strongest men dancers were trained as warriors.

The two forms of Hula


Traditional hula is called Hula Kahiko. This was accompanied by rhythm instruments like sticks and drums. Hula ‘Auana is a combination of hula choreography with more modern or Western styles of music and instruments such as the ukulele and steel guitar. These different sides of hula also affect the ways dancers dress, with Hula Kahiko using more traditional garments.


Where can I see hula performed?

Hula performances are extremely popular today, and something that is still a huge part of Hawaiian culture. Therefore, I would definitely recommend seeing a hula performance or a Hawaiian Luau while visiting Hawaii!

Luaus offered on the island of Maui:

Here are the locations and times of free hula shows. Most importantly, make sure to check that these are still currently operating and open at these times due to the pandemic.

  • Kā’anapali Beach Hotel. 2525 Kaʻanapali Pkwy, Lahaina, HI 96761. Daily, 6:00pm.
  • Lahaina Cannery Mall. 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy. Lahaina, HI 96761. Saturdays and Sundays, 1:00pm – 2:00pm.
  • Whalers Village. 2435 Kaanapali Pkwy, Lahaina, HI 96761.
  • Outlets of Maui. 900 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761.


Can I learn hula?

Hula lessons are offered in many different parts of the U.S. You just need to look for them! It is a small world, and I’m sure you will be able to find a group of hula dancers and lessons near where you live. Here are a few options in Maui for Hula Lessons:

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a week-long cultural event that’s held in Hilo, Hawaii each spring. This features Hawaiian culture and a premier hula competition. The Merrie Monarch is a domestic non-profit organization registered with the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The main purpose of the Festival is to preserve and promote the art of Hula and the Hawaiian Culture.

We hope that learning about Hula: the hidden dance of Hawaii made you excited to visit and see a luau or hula performance. Maybe you will be lucky enough to attend the Merrie Monarch Festival this year!


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