Culture is Kaua‘i’s gem

One of my many rewarding experiences of living on this beautiful island came many years ago when I had the time to dance kahiko hula under Kumu Hula Willie Pulawa.

When I had done my homework practicing my kahea, knew which hand went where and my feet were going the right way, it was “chicken skin” for me. I no longer have the time to dance hula; instead, I watch as much of the Merrie Monarch Festival as I can each year and enjoy our very talented hula performers in the various shows Kaua‘i has to offer.

It is our host culture that sets us apart from many other sun-and-surf destinations. Organizations and programs that support and nurture Hawaiian programs are getting more attention, but could always use more support. The recently completed Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association’s annual conference Ho‘a Ka Lamaku (Keep the Torch Burning) was held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center on May 8 and 9. The Hawai‘i Visitors & Convention Center was a co-sponsor of the event, and we were able to enjoy the manao of those leaders of Hawaiian culture gathered in one place at one time.

In addition, the Keep It Hawai‘i Recognition Awards has released its 2008 invitation for proposals. Originally an initiative of Hawai‘i Visitors & Convention Center created in 1990, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority assumed the program in 2005 with a new focus and broader reach. The program’s Kahili Awards are selected in three categories (individual, organization and business). One recipient is given the Koa Award, which was created to recognize a long-term and exemplary commitment to perpetuating the preserving Hawai‘i’s host culture.

Our very own Limahuli Garden and Preserve won the Koa Award in 2007.

The deadline to submit proposals is July 1, so visit for more information.

I can’t list all the Hawaiian cultural programs here in this article, but I did want to acknowledge that the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority is also working closely with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to expand our depth, breadth and reach. You can find a list of 20 organizations that were selected to receive funding in 2008 through its “Kukulu Ola n HTA Living Hawaiian Culture Program” online at

Click on “What we do” and then click on “Product Development” and then on “Hawaiian Cultural Program” and find the list of those funded by HTA.

I encourage everyone to take the time to attend these events when they do occur, as it gives us a glimpse at Native Hawaiian traditions and practices still honored today. I always walk away from the conferences with some new “gift” of guidance or information that better connects me to the culture.

• Sue Kanoho is the executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at


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