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As Josh and I walk along the grounds along Keauhou Bay, we see remnants of the ancient Hawaiian fishing village that was once here.  Fish ponds, stone structures, and monuments to kings that were born here so long ago.  This heritage may be overlooked at some resorts in Hawaii, but at the Sheraton in Kona, it is truly embraced.  And a visit to the Sheraton Kona Resort at Keauhou Bay gave us a unique opportunity to learn more about the traditions and ancient Hawaii culture, something that we were really looking forward to during our visit!

Embrace the Hawaii Culture at the Sheraton Kona Resort

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The Sheraton Kona Resort, Big Island of Hawaii

As mentioned in our overview post about staying at the Sheraton Kona Resort on the big island, the hotel is located atop black lava rock cliffs that overlook Keauhou Bay.  This historic area was once home to kings and important ancient Hawaiian villages.  And one of the things that we enjoyed most about our stay here was that they truly live the culture and embrace the history at the Sheraton Kona Resort.  In fact, they even have a director of culture who is a valuable member of their team and who makes sure that everything is done properly, or “pono” as the Hawaiians say.

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Matthew, the General Manager at the Sheraton Kona Resort in Hawaii, shows us a beautiful painting by one of the employees that depicts this very land that used to be a an ancient Hawaiian fishing village.

During our visit we were lucky to spend some time with the general manager at the Sheraton Kona, Matthew Grauso.  Immediately we could feel his passion about the culture and history of the area, and we could tell that he really enjoyed sharing it with us.  He even took us over to look at a painting that they had just recently hung.  Painted by one of their employees, a local artist, the picture is an interpretation about the life of the ancient Hawaiians on this very land on and around Keauhou Bay, which used to be an important fishing village.  Matt pointed out to us different scenes playing out in the painting, which would later get to see remnants of during our guided historical walk around the property later in the day.  This painting really brought the history to life for us!

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Ahupua’a – The Hawaiian Form of Sustainable Communities

For ancient Hawaiians, sustainability meant being able to live!  Being able to sustain their lives, as well as the lives of others in their community and their children in the future.  Separate communities were created, each with their own process for sustainable living based upon the capabilities of the land.  Typically, these communities were sliced in a way that went from the top of the mountains to the ocean shore, allowing each to have different climates and capabilities to grow various crops, drainage of fresh water, and access to the sea.

Read also our experience Walking in the Clouds at the Ho’ola Spa at Sheraton Kona

Everything worked in a carefully thought out system.  Their Hawaii culture valued the land very much, and constantly thanked the land for its gifts to them, which helped them to sustain their lives.  After all, without the land they would not be able to live.  Therefore, they also took great care to preserve the land for future generations and to only take what they needed, when they needed it.

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To a certain extent, the concept of the ahupuea’a still exists in Hawaii, only in a more modern form.  And the Sheraton Kona takes great pride in being a part of this system.  Their restaurants source most all of their ingredients locally, including getting their own special coffee from Aunty Lily, a well respected Kupuna (elder) who lives just up the mountain from the resort.  Aunty Lily also acts as a mentor for the director of culture at the Sheraton, so that they can continue to be sure everything is done “pono” – right down to renovations and making sure that they thank the land appropriately.

Cultural Walking Tour & Kini Kini Sail at the Sheraton Kona, Hawaii

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With so much history around the grounds of the Sheraton Kona Resort in Hawaii, we were looking forward to going on the historical walking tour.  There are signs that you can read along the way, but it was nice to have a guide to go more in-depth and share some of the legends and stories with us.  So after our ukulele, hula, and lei making classes, our guide picked us up to take us around the Sheraton Kona grounds.  We were lucky enough to have Nani on this day, who really made us feel like part of her Ohana (family).  She was so enthusiastic and represented everything that we love about the spirit of Hawaii!

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Nani explaining how the ancient Hawaiians fished in these waters.

Nani took us to the bay and explained that even as a child, she and her family came to Keauhou Bay to collect fish.  So really, the bay has provided her as a child and as an adult here with her work at the Sheraton!  She showed us the remnants of the ancient fishing village, where the canoe house and other buildings used to be.  She also pointed out some of the symbolic stones as well as “bowls” in the stones that were used to collect salt (by evaporating sea water).

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Nani’s chants of gratitude and love for the land of Hawaii brought us chills.

Hawaii Culture Includes a Deep Gratitude for the Land

One of the things that struck us about Nani was her gratitude for the land, which is shared by all Hawaiians.  She explained that the ancient people would only take the fish that they needed from the sea, no more.  And if there were little ones that were caught in the net, they would put them back for another time.  She also pointed out areas of stone where an old fishing pond was.  Since the ancient Hawaiians didn’t have refridgeration, they sometimes collected fish and put in these ponds to keep them alive for the future.  Sea water could get in to keep them fresh, but the fish could not get out.

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Nani announcing our arrival at the boat while greeting and thanking the ocean.

During our tour we also passed by an old pond where royalty used to bathe, and even told us the story of when King Kemehameha III was born here, and pointed out the stone where he was brought back to life after being still born.  Lastly, she took us to the dock where we boarded the Kini Kini, an authentic double-hulled Hawaiian canoe, which would take us around the bay for the water portion of the tour.  We had actually ridden the Kini Kini the night before during our swim with the manta rays, but were looking forward to riding it during the day!

Read about our experience eating at the famous Rays on the Bay at Sheraton Kona

But before turning us over to our water guide, Nani did the most wonderful Hawaiian chant!  It was so beautiful and moving, that it brought us all chills, and some of us had tears in our eyes.  It was as though we could FEEL her emotion.  Her chant was a beautiful form of music, her personal testimony to the land and sea of her love and gratitude for everything they have provided to her.

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Words cannot express how amazing this experience was, it was truly unforgettable.  So thank you so much to Nani for letting us experience this special moment with her.

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What a Way to End Our Visit on the Big Island of Hawaii!

We can’t tell you how much we enjoyed experiencing Hawaii culture our recent visit to the Big Island.  This is what we truly love about travel, being able to learn and connect with a culture; both in the present form as well as its past.  And the Sheraton Kona does a really great job of giving you the quintessential Hawaiian vacation that you want, while also giving you the opportunity to experience the culture in a unique way.  We were overcome with the Spirit of Aloha during our visit and absolutely cannot wait to return in the future!

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View of the Sheraton Resort in Kona Hawaii from the Kini Kini boat tour!

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