Kauai is a small island located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, home to 65,000 people. Nearly 2,500 miles from the continental United States to the east, and almost 4,000 miles from Japan to the west, Kauai people tend to be independent, courageous and determined. They are also some of the kindest and most generous people on the planet.
Life on the Garden Island is relaxed, with a small-town friendliness everywhere you go. A visit to the grocery store often turns into an encounter with acquaintances, and with more than 1 million visitors to the island annually, there are always opportunities to make new friends.
Kauai is aptly nicknamed The Garden Island for its exquisite beauty, and is a jewel among gems, the smallest of the four most populated Hawaiian islands. Kauai is also the oldest of all the Hawaiian islands, birthed 5 million years ago by volcano. Molten lava, cooled for centuries after volcanoes extinguished, has been ground to bits by ocean waves and time, forming about 50 miles of white sand beaches that ring the island. Eons of weathering have carved Kauai's mountainous regions into steep ridges and deep, lush valleys.
Though the Garden Island's beauty is unsurpassed, it's the people of Kauai who make the island one of the most special places in the world.
Dramatic peaks on the Napali Coast are evidence of millions of years of erosion. (Photo by Pamela Varma Brown)
Sunrise over Lydgate Beach Park on Kauai's east side. (Photo by Pamela Varma Brown)
In its earliest forms, the hula was performed only by men, attired in leaves of ti plants or nothing at all, in a powerful, almost primal dance. Over time, women joined in and the dance was transformed into performances for pleasure.
In the 1820s, hula was almost lost entirely, when missionaries who arrived in Hawaii pushed heavily for the cultural dance to be prohibited. Hula was banned, deemed by at least one missionary society as a "public evil."
Under Hawaii's last king, David Kalakaua, hula began re-emerging in the 1870s. Known as "The Merrie Monarch" for his love of song, dance and parties, Kalakaua is the namesake for the world's most prestigious hula celebration, the Merrie Monarch Festival, that takes place annually on Hawaii Island.
Today, two forms of hula are performed by both men and women: kahiko (ancient) , in which dancers are attired in ti leaf skirts or natural fabrics, lei around their heads, fern bracelets around their wrists and ankles; and auana, meaning to wander or drift, a beautiful, flowing modern hula often set to contemporary music in which males wear long-sleeved blouses tucked into trousers and women wear long graceful dresses.
Keeping Hula Alive
Leinaala Pavao Jardin
Leinaala Pavao Jardin began dancing hula when she was three years old, continuing through high school and college, earning titles along the way including Miss Keiki (Child) Hula of Kauai, and winning the coveted Hawaiian Language Award at the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world's most prestigious hula celebration. Leinaala became a kumu (teacher) and started her own hula halau (school) on Kauai in 1997 named Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinaala. Her students continue to win numerous titles.
Leinaala's dark eyes shine brightly as she speaks enthusiastically and joyfully about hula, laughing heartily and often, hands intuitively forming hula movements as she illustrates stories. She shares her journey to becoming a kumu, hula history on Kauai and the responsibility of keeping Hawaii's traditional dance alive.
Hula Became Real
Hula is my passion. When I dance, I feel humbled but filled with pride. We are fortunate to be able to dance the hula because it was lost for so long.
I studied hula growing up on Kauai and that was my foundation, but when I went t