The visitor’s guide to hula in Maui

Welcome to the Sunny Maui Condos guide to hula! Please take a few minutes to read and refresh yourself on one of Hawaii’s most ancient and celebrated art forms.

hula dancers performing on the beach in Hawaii at sunset

Hula, if you didn’t know, is a sacred art in Hawaii. Throughout the islands (and even abroad), dance troupes known as hula halau gather to learn and practice under the guidance of a kumu hula — a teacher who has been deemed qualified by another kumu to teach the traditions and techniques of the dance.

beautiful Hawaiian hula girlThe two types of hula

Hula is split into two categories:

Hula ‘auana — contemporary, Western-influenced

  • Hula ‘auana tells a story or describes a place through graceful, flowing movements of the limbs and hips
  • Performers dress in floral prints, including long muumuu for women
  • You’ll mostly see hula ‘auana at hula shows and luaus, and it’s almost always accompanied by an ukulele or steel guitar

Hula kahiko — ancient, pre-Western contact

  • Hula kahiko is based on traditional hula, which is more austere and less ornate than ‘auana
  • Performers chant and use ancient instruments such as calabash gourds, split bamboo sticks and pahu drums
  • Characterized by traditional costumes such as ʻū (wrapped skirts for women) and malo (loincloths for men)

Where to Watch Hula on Maui

Hula dancers at the Old Lahaina Luau

Hula dancers at the Old Lahaina Luau

Like anywhere in Hawaii, hula is plentiful and catching a show is easy and usually free of charge. Here’s a partial list of some of Maui’s top hula shows:

  • beautiful Hawaiian hula girlKaanapali Beach Hotel – each night except Monday, the blowing of the conch shell at 6pm marks the start of the free nightly hula show in the Tiki Courtyard
  • Lahaina Cannery Mall – you can catch a show every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm, as well as a free keiki (children) hula show at 1om every Saturday and Sunday
  • Maui Mall – different halaus perform each Sunday at 11am
  • Napili Kai Beach Resort – The Napili Kai Foundation is a non-profit organization with the mission to “perpetuate the cultural legacy of Hawaii through the children of Maui.” Each Tuesday at 5:30pm, you can watch “The Show” — the longest running weekly keiki hula show in the State of Hawaii. Tickets $10.
  • The Outlets of Maui – every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month at 5pm features a traditional hula show with the keiki of Na Pua O Kapi’olani.
  • Whaler’s Village – Enjoy both Polynesian and Tahitian dance shows every Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 – 8pm

Enjoy hula while you feast

excellent hula show in Hawaii

If you book a luau (Hawaiian-style feast), then you’ll for sure get to watch some hula. The Old Lahaina Luau — consistently voted the best luau in Maui — not only boasts a fabulous menu, but a spectacular hula show as well. Says the New York Times:

The Old Lahaina Luau has reinvented itself authentically in a genre rife with cliché. At sunset, guests sit at tables or on lauhala fiber mats on the ground in front of a grass-mound stage. The program offers intelligent narration and excellent ancient hula. The food is authentic Hawaiian, and delicious.

Another highly coveted luau/hula show is the Feast at Lele. It’s smaller and more upscale (you get your own
table), and the entertainment has a slight twist. Instead of traditional hula, you’ll be treated to a Polynesian review, which means different dances from around Polynesia to match the variation of food.

Merrie Monarch male hula dancerMerrie Monarch Festival: Serious Hula

If you’re really into hula — as in world-class level — then the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo on the Big Island is the place to be for one week in April.

The annual tradition, which honors the legacy of King David Kalākaua (who himself was knows as “The Merrie Monarch”), features a spiritually-riveting hula competition, a Hawaiian arts fair, hula shows and a grand parade through Hilo town.

Merrie Monarch tickets can only be purchased by mail, with a maximum of two per person, so it’s best to request them when the time is right.

Photo credits: Peter Liu, Nicholas Bransberg, Makena Gadient, Andy Beal, Kanaka Menehune, Thomas Tunsch

Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo or rental home in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui.