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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 15, 2002

Tour travels beyond paradise

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

LAHAINA — George Kaimiola offers warm thanks to each and every tourist who goes on the walking tours he leads around town telling of the area's Hawaiian history.

Tour information

For information about the tour, call (808) 661-1676. Or check out the Maui Nei's Web site at www.mauinei.com.

It's not because they paid $34 a person — although that doesn't hurt. The primary reason, he says, is that he appreciates any tourist who takes the time to learn about his culture.

"Hawaiians get upset when visitors come here and go on snorkel cruises and bicycle tours. They go home and they don't even know there's a host culture here,'' Kaimiola said.

"By you folks being here today,'' he told a group of tourists following a recent tour, "you not only say 'hi' to me, but to my kupuna and ancestors. For that I thank you.''

Kaimiola is one of the guides for a small but growing company that is shining a spotlight on the town's native Hawaiian past.

The company's founders, who include J.J., Danielle and Chantel Elkin of Lahaina and Akoni Akana, got together three years ago with the idea of filling a void in Maui's tourism industry.

"We felt there wasn't enough information going out about pre-contact history," said Akana, who is also a founder and president of the Friends of Moku'ula, a nonprofit organization that aims to restore the one-time royal home of Moku'ula in Lahaina.

While there is a lot of history preserved and remembered in Lahaina Town, much of it is focused on the missionaries, the rowdy whaling era and the plantation days. There isn't much attention to the fact that Lahaina was once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom under Kamehameha I and location of the sacred Moku'ula.

The entrepreneurs have been successful in getting the word out, expanding their offerings to the historical walking tours, and creating custom tours and cultural experiences in Polynesian and Pacific Rim culinary arts, Hawaiian song and dance, and traditional arts and crafts.

This year the company was honored as one of four Kahili Winners of the 2002 Keep It Hawai'i awards coordinated by the Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau.

The company's most successful offering is the walking tour, known as Maka'ika'i Ma Loko O Lahaina. The tour got a boost this year with a contract to serve passengers from the Norwegian Star cruise ship, which calls here once a week.

With Hawaiians such as Kaimiola as guide, the tour journeys through the missionary and plantation eras of Lahaina Town and visits such places as the Hauola royal birthing stone, the Brick Palace of King Kamehameha I and the Waiola Church Cemetery, which holds the remains of Hawaiian royalty.

One of the highlights of the 90-minute tour is Moku'ula, the home to Maui chiefs and Hawaiian royalty and perhaps one of Hawai'i's most significant archaeological sites. Fifty percent of the tour's proceeds go to the restoration of the site, much of which is still buried beneath a baseball field.

The islet and surrounding Mokuhinia pond, where the goddess Kihawahine is said to have protected the royals, fell into disrepair after the capital of Hawai'i moved from Lahaina to Honolulu in the early 1850s. The Pioneer Mill Co. filled the pond in 1913.

Following a recent tour, visitors gave the presentation rave reviews.

"It was excellent," said Denning Davis of Dallas, who was accompanied by his wife, Sheila. "We really enjoy the history. My sister will be coming here next year, and I'll recommend it to her."

History Channel junkies Don and Kathleen Breneman of East Petersburg, Pa., also enjoyed the tour. "We've had enough of shopping,'' Don Breneman said.