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HVNP 31st Annual Cultural Festival (July 9)


The 31st annual Cultural Festival is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Kahuku Unit, in the Ka‘u District. The event is free and is a wonderful way to celebrate Hawaiian culture with top Hawaiian entertainment, hands-on cultural demonstrations, local food, crafts and much more.

The Kahuku unit is located south of the main entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the mauka side of Highway 11, between mile markers 70 and 71. There is no admission fee at Kahuku or the main park July 9.

“Join us at Kahuku, a dynamic, young volcanic landscape, steeped in history and a rainbow of land and life. This festival is our gift to the local communities that support Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and its programs, and to our visitors, so we can share the culture and aloha of our island and this special place,” Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said.

This year’s theme, He alii ka aina. He kauwa ke kanaka (The land is the chief. Man is its servant) is visualized in artist Dietrich Varez’s rendering of the uau, the endemic Hawaiian petrel. This endangered Hawaiian seabird nests in the subalpine region of Mauna Loa, where Park resource managers monitor their habitat in hopes of increasing the small population within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Kahuku Unit.

Varez’s artwork on festival T-shirts this year depicts the uau and its compelling lifecycle, including a lone chick in a pahoehoe pit nest awaiting its parents’ arrival, a pair of soaring uau, the marine life they feed upon, the pukiawe shrub (which grows in the area), and an active volcano.

T-shirts will be available for sale at the festival.

Hawaiian entertainment will include hula performances by Halau Ulumamo o Hilo Paliku and Haunani’s Hula Expressions, and notable Hawaiian musicians Joseph Nahale, Kenneth Makuakāne, falsetto singer Kai Hoopii, and Aunty Diana Aki and friends.

Learn how Hawaiians lived, played and created, and use those skills today, through numerous cultural demonstrations by skilled Hawaiian practitioners. Lei making (feather and plant), Hawaiian canoe building, ukulele lessons, ulana lauhala (pandanus weaving), na paani (Hawaiian games), na mea mala (native plant gardening), and laau lapaau (how to identify and use local medicinal plants), are just a few of the interactive demonstrations participants can learn about.

Wear sunscreen and a hat. Bring water, rain jacket, and ground mat or chair. No pets.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established Aug. 1, 1916 as a public park for the enjoyment of the people. An important purpose of the 333,086-acre park is to perpetuate Hawaiian culture. Since 1980, the park’s annual cultural festival has provided an ideal occasion for young and old, for kamaaina (native born) and malihini (newcomers), to come together for a fun and exciting day of sharing of traditional customs and values.

Co-sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii Natural History Association, Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kilauea Military Camp.

Linger longer

You know what breaks our heart? Hearing about visitors to Hawaii Island who are staying in Kona, and who drive two or three hours over to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, then drive around the park for a couple of hours, dashing through the visitors center, taking a snapshot of the steaming summit crater, maybe a quick walk through Nahuku Lava Tube, then off they go again all the way back to Kona.

This breaks our heart because we know that this amazing park – a 333,000-acre UNESCO World Heritage and World Biosphere Site – is a wonderland of active volcanoes, lush rainforests, rare native flora and fauna, and Hawaiian culture.

How long do visitors need to really experience the park? Well, it depends on their interests, but the $10 vehicle pass is good for a whole week.

If they’re intrigued by the earth-shaping force and beauty of an erupting volcano (and who isn’t?), visitors will want at least a couple of days just to gape in awe at the steaming summit crater, to hike the still-steaming floor of Kilauea Iki, where a record-breaking 1900-foot lava fountain lit the sky in 1959, and to stroll through a lava tube or two.

They’ll also want to take the short hike to the top of Puu Huluhulu to peer into the lush crater alive with native birds, and gaze across the slopes of neighboring Mauna Ulu, with its multi-colored exquisite ropy pahoehoe lava rock.

But it’s not just about geology at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The sprawling wilderness is full of rare native flora and fauna, endemic tree ferns, mosses, insects and birds found only in Hawaii and some, like hau kuahiwi, (hibascadelphus giffardianus), a flowering tree, are found ONLY in the park, and nowhere else on earth!

Visitors can see these plants and animals and identify them thanks to the many interpretive signs throughout the park, and the guidebooks available in the Kilauea Visitor Center and Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.

The park is about natural history and human history, and it is profoundly important in Hawaiian culture. Halemaumau crater atop Kilauea volcano is the traditional home of Pele, the volcano goddess.

This is why hula hālau (schools) from around the island, the state, and the world make pilgrimage to Kilauea to pay respects to the goddess who seems so present in the voluptuous plumes of steam arising like a potent hula. This presence is acknowledged in the park with hula performances and festivals celebrating traditional Hawaiian crafts.

Meanwhile, the ancient power of this place is literally carved in stone on the lava rock plains down Chain of Craters Road where thousands of petroglyphs hundreds of years old are a window into life here long ago.

Kilauea also has historical importance as the place where Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar developed the early scientific principles and techniques of volcanology. His work lives on at the museum named for him at the edge of Halemaumau, where you can see real-time seismograph readings of our living planet that is still giving birth.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also a hiker’s paradise. Trail hounds can spend a day or a month exploring the park’s 150-plus miles of trails that curve through lush forests and rocky deserts. They go to the sea and to the top of 13,250-foot Maunaloa. They range from short, easy strolls to demanding back-country treks.

Avid hikers will want at least two full days to explore Kilauea Iki, Mauna Ulu, Puu Huluhulu, Kipukapuaulu (also called “Bird Park,” this is where you can spot hau kuahiwi) and the Ka’u Desert trail where ancient footsteps are still stamped into the volcanic clay. For serious back-country trekkers there are camping trips to places like seaside Halape or even up to the icy summit of Maunaloa.

You can also see much of the park as you drive along Crater Rim Drive and down Chain of Craters Road to where lava flows have covered the asphalt. Or go up into the beautiful native koa tree forests along Mauna Loa Strip Road to see native birds, and beyond to where the tree line ends and the trail to the remote summit of the volcano begins.

The park also has good camping. Besides the back-country sites for serious trekkers down at the seashore and up in the cold, thin air at the summit of Maunaloa, there are sites for car campers. They can pull up at Namakanipaio and set up their tent where there are bathrooms and fresh water. Or there’s primitive drive-in camping at Kulanaokuaiki.

But you definitely don’t have to rough it to spend the night in around the park. The park’s venerable Volcano House Hotel is closed for now, undergoing renovation, but there are excellent inns, B&Bs and vacation homes around Volcano village, just outside the park. And the park is only 45 minutes or less from the many lodging choices in Hilo, and Puna.

Which brings us back to our question: How long do visitors need to really experience this park that’s open every day, 24/7? We’re going to go out on a limb here. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park countless adventures await from mauka to makai (from the mountains to the sea), so a curious visitor will want somewhere between three days and … the rest of their life.

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