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Cultural Immersion in the Halawa Valley


The air is thick with smells of salt and plumeria as the balmy breeze sweeps over the deck. It’s been almost nine months since I was back on the island I call home.

Initially, I was a little wary about my first week as a guide for the UnCruise Hawai`i season. It was difficult to imagine myself so close to home, and yet never really be able to be home. Like an adult looking through the windows of their childhood house, I thought I may feel nostalgic and a little outside of the community. However, I was pleased to find that my original expectations couldn’t be farther from the truth.

It’s incredible what the guests and crew experience in just a short period of time, but what struck me the most was the opportunity for true cultural immersion. Today was the first day I had ever stepped foot onto Molokai.

I’ll never forget the winding roads leading us to the unforgettable valley of Halawa. The valley itself bestows a sense of calm amongst all who enter. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Uncle Pilipo and Greg with the blowing of the pu (conch), the act of the ho`okupu (gift giving), and the last piece of our introduction, the honi (the exchange of hā ‘the breath’). The time spent in the valley learning, experiencing and “talking story” was an experience embodied with aloha. The Solatorio’s family motto is that their culture is “sacred not secret”, and they provide an insight into their world that is so special and so rare to come by. It was a privilege to have spent the day in the valley, and is a memory not to be forgotten.

From a guide’s perspective, I am so happy to be a part of something that presents an opportunity for an authentic experience not only for enjoyment, but also to give people a reason to care about this beautiful place called Hawai`i.

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