Exploring Kahoolawe: Experience the island’s spiritual, cultural pull

Many who visit Kahoolawe say the island has a strong spiritual component that often calls them back.

As a boat arrives to take them home, volunteers from Pacific Century Fellows chant:

‘O ‘awekuhi, ‘o kai uli
Kuhikau, kuhikau
E hō  mai i ‘a’ama, i ‘a’ama aha
I ‘a’ama ‘ia au
Pointing tentacle of the deep sea,
Direct, direct
Grant an ‘a’ama, ‘a’ama for what purpose?
For releasing me from my obligation as your guest


This chant, composed by the Edith Kanakaole Foundation, is for use only on Kahoolawe and banned, or kapu, elsewhere.

It’s asking the island to release its grip on their hearts and minds.

Volunteers have been here for four days, learning more about Hawaiian culture as well as themselves.

The experience included waking up pre-dawn to greet the sun from the summit, Moaulaiki.

“To see the sun come up and do it totally in silence was an incredible experience,” said volunteer David Walfish.

Another volunteer, Kalani Fronda, said, “One of the reasons I came here is for a time of cleaning, meditation. I feel not only the spirit but the mana, the power that’s in this place and of this place.”

kahoolawe (3)

The entire island is said to be a spiritual place, a wahi pana.

Mike Nahoopii, executive director of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, was 16 years old when he first visited the island. That was three decades ago and he keeps coming back.

“I came to learn more about myself here. That’s why I love it,” said Nahoopii, who is part Native Hawaiian.

In this rugged and remote beauty lies a connection between nature and self.

That’s a big part of the appeal to Nahoopii, who likes “to reconnect directly to land, which is what a lot of Hawaiian culture is about.”

Kahoolawe is a place without urban distractions, where the culture can shine as brightly as the stars in the night sky.

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