- Experiencing the Hula: For a real, authentic hula experience on Oahu, check out the Bishop Museum, which stages excellent performances on weekdays, or head to the Halekulani's House Without a Key at sunset to watch the enchanting Kanoelehua Miller dance beautiful hula under a century-old kiawe tree. The first week after Easter brings Hawaii's biggest and most prestigious hula extravaganza, the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, in Hilo on the Big Island; tickets sell out by January 30, so reserve early. In May, Molokai holds the Ka Hula Piko Festival at Papohaku Beach Park, a wonderful daylong affair that celebrates the hula on the island where it was born.
- Watching the Ancient Hawaiian Sport of Canoe Paddling (Oahu): From February to September, on weekday evenings and weekend days, hundreds of canoe paddlers gather at Ala Wai Canal and practice the Hawaiian sport of canoe paddling. Find a comfortable spot at Ala Wai Park, next to the canal, and watch this ancient sport come to life.
- Attending a Hawaiian-Language Church Service (Oahu): Kawaiahao Church (tel. 808/522-1333) is the Westminster Abbey of Hawaii. The vestibule is lined with portraits of the Hawaiian monarchy, many of whom were crowned in this very building. The coral church is a perfect setting in which to experience an all-Hawaiian service, held every Sunday at 9am, complete with Hawaiian song. Admission is free; let your conscience be your guide as to a donation.
- Buying a Lei in Chinatown (Oahu): There's actually a host of cultural sights and experiences to be had in Honolulu's Chinatown. Wander through this several-square-block area with its jumble of exotic shops selling herbs, Chinese groceries, and acupuncture services. Before you leave, be sure to check out the lei sellers on Maunakea Street (near N. Hotel St.), where Hawaii's finest leis go for as little as $12.
- Listening to Old-Fashioned "Talk Story" with Hawaiian Song & Dance (Big Island): Once a month, under a full moon, Twilight at Kalahuipua'a, a celebration of the Hawaiian culture that includes storytelling, singing, and dancing, takes place ocean-side at Mauna Lani Resort (tel. 808/885-6622). It hearkens back to another time in Hawaii, when family and neighbors would gather on back porches to sing, dance, and "talk story."
- Visiting Ancient Hawaii's Most Sacred Temple (Big Island): On the Kohala Coast, next to where King Kamehameha the Great was born, stands Hawaii's oldest, largest, and most sacred religious site: the 1,500-year-old Mookini Luakini Heiau, used by kings to pray and offer human sacrifices. This massive three-story stone temple, dedicated to Ku, the Hawaiian god of war, was erected in A.D. 480. It's said that each stone was passed from hand to hand from Pololu Valley, 14 miles away, by 18,000 men who worked from sunset to sunrise. The Best way to see this sacred site is to help out with the monthly cleanups when the kahuna nui (high priestess), Momi Mookini Lum, is on-site.
- Hunting for Petroglyphs (Big Island): Archaeologists are still uncertain exactly what these ancient rock carvings mean. The majority are found in the 233-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District, near Mauna Lani Resort on the Kohala Coast. The Best time to hunt for these intricate depictions of ancient life is either early in the morning or late afternoon, when the angle of the sun lets you see the forms clearly.
- Exploring Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (Big Island): This sacred site on the southern Kona Coast was once a place of refuge and a revered place of rejuvenation. You can walk the same consecrated grounds where priests once conducted holy ceremonies and glimpse the ancient way of life in precontact Hawaii in the re-created 180-acre village.
- Visiting the Most Hawaiian Isle (Molokai): A time capsule of old Hawaii, Molokai allows you to experience real Hawaiian life in its most unsullied form. The island's people have woven the cultural values of ancient times into modern life. In addition to this rich community, you'll find the magnificent natural wonders it so cherishes: Hawaii's highest waterfall, its greatest collection of fish ponds, and the world's tallest sea cliffs, as well as sand dunes, coral reefs, rainforests, and gloriously empty beaches. The island is pretty much the same Molokai of generations ago.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.