This is a story of the Starlit Hui, one of the evening activities at the Aulani resort on the island of Oahu.
As part of sharing our experience, I’ll offer this advice, skip booking a general luau anywhere else.
Just do this.
The Starlit Hui is a modern expression of traditional Hawaii wrapped up with a Disney bow.
Conveniently located on the back lawn of the resort, it is just a short walk from the rooms and restaurants.
We walked straight over after dinner, so we could participate in the pre-show activities.
Welcoming us into the Aulani ohana (family), we are given a mat to enjoy the show on. The lawn fills up early, but we have a good seat, close to the performers’ path.
We explore our surroundings and discover children and adults circling a large mat and covered with Hawaiian instruments. Ready for little hands to explore, to try, and to play. Our host is Uncle. A local term of respect and family, no blood ties required.
Uncle weaves intricate stories of Hawaii, his voice warm, but commanding, he deeply connects us to the culture. The girls listen intently.
Mia claps a pair of coconuts.
Ava strikes the Kala`au, two wooden sticks, to keep time.
I play the Uli’Uli, a gourd adorned with bright yellow and red feathers.
We trade again.
Gathered in our circle, we play. The music floats into air, lifted by the trade winds and pushed out across the vast Pacific ocean.
Then Uncle passes out a special flower to each of the mommies. It’s a Puakenekene, a native plant to the Pacific Islands. Fragrant delicate paper white petals adorn the tiny flower. He tells us we must only hold it by the stem and then place it in water. If we follow his rules, he promises it will turn orange by the end of the week. However, it smells heavenly and the girls want to touch it. They smell it deeply. I tuck it behind my ear.
Rules broken, we won’t see it turn orange, but enjoy it just the same.
Later, Uncle tells us the story of the skunk tree pods. Worn, brown, and shaped like a heart; he and Auntie lay out fresh flowers and bring the kids forward to make a bouquet in the heart pod. I make one too. Our heart pods decorate the kitchen counter for the remainder of the trip.
On the way to another activity, we meet some of the hula performers. The girls are in awe and ask all kinds of questions. A spontaneous hula lesson sparks from the conversation and the girls learn a few steps.
Graceful waving arms. Tiny swaying hips. Smiles wide. Faces glowing.
Excited from our encounter, we locate our last activity, we quickly make hair pins adorned with fresh flowers tied with rafia.
It is almost eight and the show is about to start, so we hurry over to our own mat. Tucked in soft blankets, the girls lay down on the aisle to watch.
We don’t sit for long because it’s an interactive show. The kids are called up to dance during various parts. More hula. More singing. More stories.
It’s cultural musical theater; music that teaches. Story after story flow into one another. Interpretive dances of birds and historical sea travel.
Behind us a warm glow appears. Crouching low, dancers sweep fire up and down, back and forth, choreographed into a slow dance. Haunting and surreal, we are mesmerized by the flames.
As the show winds down, they thank us for coming, but as with anything Disney… it’s never really over!!!!
As if out of nowhere, a line of Disney characters appear and start dancing up the aisle.
Normally, kids are excited for this and run on stage to dance with their favorite classic character.
For Mia, this does not equate a good thing. She is not a fan of Goofy or Stitch.
I’ll tell more of her story in another post, but let’s just say we had to make a quick get-a-way.
Walking back to our room, the the night is clear and warm, the sky painted with a brush of stars and night.
Ava shuffles along. I pick up Mia. She is heavy and my arms ache, but she snuggles close, breathing softly.
Ready to sleep. Ready for dreams full of hula, flowers, and fire dancers.