The Cultural Scene in Kauai

The cultural attractions of Kauai is among the most unique of the Hawaiian islands, despite the fact that most of the Hawaiians islands already have a unique culture all on their own. The Garden Isle is a land with a rich and varied culture, as seen in its local theater performers, songs, dance, music, language, food, and native arts. Its unique culture also pervades the whole island with the ready and happy smiles of its locals who were born with and live in the spirit of aloha.

The spirit of aloha

A large part of the culture in Kauai is the spirit of aloha. This is the spirit that makes the Kauai natives one of the happiest and friendliest people among the inhabitants of the Hawaiian islands. While there is no doubt that living in paradise is one way to keep dissatisfied grumblings at bay, locals are happy and friendly because they have been raised in the spirit of aloha, the spirit that seeks to find good in everyone, whether one is a friend or a stranger.

The Hawaiian luau

A visit to any of the Hawaiian islands will not be complete without participating in a Hawaiian luau, which is a traditional Hawaiian feast that is celebrated as soon as the sun starts to go down. This is where tourists get to experience a rich facet of Kauai culture, from the food to the dancing to the entertainment, all in one night. The luau is where most tourists will get to see the aloha spirit in action. The center of any Kauai luau is the food. Every traditional luau has the kalua pork or roasted pig, which is prepared early in the morning of the luau. The pig is cooked on red hot coals on top of a bed of banana leaves. The pig is then covered in sand to cook, made soft by the steam created by the banana coverings and the fiery hot coals. Cooking the pig takes about 6 to 8 hours.

This is not the only gustatory offering in a traditional luau, however. Guests will also have the opportunity to sample other local dishes such as poi, chicken long rice, haupia, and many more. And of course, no luau will be complete without refreshments. Drinks with Hawaiian roots such as Mai Tais are also usually served during luaus. Luaus are outdoor affairs and are usually held at the beach, where everyone can enjoy the cool breeze that comes from the ocean as they listen to traditional Hawaiian music or watch a group of locals dance the hula. Fire dancing is also another popular entertainment option in most Hawaiian luaus.

Making of leis

The lei, just like the hula, is one of the most recognizable images of Hawaii and its islands. In the islands, leis are symbols for harmony, friendship, and the start of new things. Presentation of the lei was often done on special occasions such as when people would gather to celebrate events, tasks, and other joyous moments. Leis are garlands of flowers that are strung together and the ends tied together. Another version of the lei is the maile, which is a garland of vines and leaves known for their sweet-smelling scent. It is also an island tradition to drape leis on special visitors and those who have come for the first time on the island.

Making of kapa cloths

Kapa making is the process of making fabrics from kapa or bark. This process is a tradition of most Hawaiian women who have learned from their mothers and grandmothers the long and difficult task of fashioning cloth from the barks of specific types of plants. The bark is first treated with saltwater for several days to make it soft. They are then removed from the water, laid out on a flat surface and pounded flat with a round pounder, after which they are again soaked. As soon as the strips dry and the kapa is finished, it is decorated with hand paintings and coated with oil to protect it from the rain and dampness. Then it is stored with flowers and other scented items so that it can soak up the fragrance.

The hula dance

No visit to the island is complete without seeing a group of locals performing the hula. The hula dance is the traditional Hawaiian dance that probably originated from Polynesian settlers and is the subject of numerous legends told from generation to generation. It is said that Molokai was the first-ever island to witness the hula dance.

The hula dance is a series of graceful movements that are actually interpretations of the mele or the song or chanting that is sang along with the hula dance. Locals use the mele to tell of their island's history, culture, and ancient ceremonies as a way to orally pass down their traditions from one generation to the next.

The two major styles of the hula dance are the kahiko and the auana. The kahiko is the ancient hula, the traditional way of dancing before Westerners set foot on the island. The auana is the hula style that developed in the 19th and 20th century which evolved as a result of the island's exposure to Westerners and is performed along with the music of the ukulele, the double bass and the guitar. Other exotic dances from Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, and other Polynesian islands are also performed in most cultural gatherings, but none have the distinctive Hawaiian flair displayed by the hula. During the 1800s, visiting missionaries who saw the locals dance the hula thought that it was too suggestive and had it outlawed. Today, the hula is one of the most distinctive cultural attractions in the Hawaiian islands.


Art and theater buffs will find the rich cultural heritage in theater that the island has. Numerous theatrical productions are staged on the island every year to entertain locals and tourists alike. The Kauai International Theater is one of the major cultural draws of the island and is located in Wailua. The theater is the setting of varied and numerous theatrical acts, from local plays to international productions, done every year. Guests are often treated to a special performance when local native performers take their turn on the stage. The theater can get really crowded especially during tourist months, so it's best to book for seats in advance.

Another cultural hub that centers on theater is the Raddison Kauai Beach Resort which is the setting for Broadway productions such as A Nite of Broadway. The younger, theater-loving crowd may also be found at the Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center, where theater students often hold their performances.


The island has no shortage of art and music festivals, from the Annual Kauai Mokihana Festival which lasts for eight days, to the one-day May Day or Lei Day, where everyone in the island gets to wear a lei. The Annual Kauai Mokihana Festival is an eight-day festival that celebrates local art and artists, as well as local musicians. Local artists open their studios to the public and musicians test their mettle against each other with musical competitions. There are also workshops on healing, guitar playing, and arts and crafts. October is yet another month of festivals, among them the Aloha Week Festival which features the best in Hawaiian song, dance, music, food, and more.

Another festival is the Hawaii International Film Festival which showcases Pacific Rim films. The festival is held in November and draws tourists and local moviegoers.

In June, tourists will get to partake in the O-Bon season, a festival to celebrate the Japanese settlers in the island and their history. After a moment of dancing, the descendants of Japanese immigrants send out lighted lanterns inside paper boats out to sea. In July, the Koloa plantations become alive during the Koloa Plantation Days, a festival characterized by a lot of dancing and merry making. The celebration lasts for a week and ends with a festive parade.


The island also has a good collection of historical artifacts and historical sites. Among them is the Kukui Heiau on Alakukui Point. This historical structure is on the registry of Hawaii and National Historic Places. One can also make a stop at the Koloa history Center which houses a collection of photos of the island's past.

The Kauai Museum is another stop for those who want to know more about the island's history. Other places of interest include the Kokee Natural History Museum, historical towns such as Hanalei, Hanapepe, and Lihue, and the Waioli Mission House.

When looking for cultural attractions and sights to see in Kauai, you will never run out of options as this Hawaiian island boasts of plenty of monuments, museums, festivals, performances, and sacred grounds that tell the story of this island's rich Polynesian culture and history. To make the most out of your vacation in Kauai, make sure to include the abovementioned sights, performances, and cultural attractions in your itinerary.