EARLY SETTLERS to Hawaii brought a Polynesian tradition and lifestyle. But soon they adapted new survival skills, worshipping gods like Pele and developing techniques in fishing and surfing. The new culture adapted to the land -- the forests, coral reefs, steep valleys, high mountains and constantly changing volcanic events.
Their lifestyle included a spiritual nature that touched all aspects of everyday life, including ritualized worship by building stone "heiau" (raised platform shrines) to honor the gods. They made carved images of wood and held ceremonies for healing, funerals, harvests, fishing, dedications, and other important tribal life events. Tribal chiefs and their advisors, the big Kahuna, held positions of great power within their society and directed the building efforts.
The mild climate allowed Hawaiians to live mostly outdoors in warm sunshine and gentle breezes. Houses were used for storage and refuge against occasionally rough weather.
The common grass house, or "hale", consisted of wooden frames and thatch material of grass and leaves. Skilled natives also designed rock fish ponds, large heiaus, and community structures. Following Western contact in the 1800's, the grass hale gave way to adobe and block structures with glass windows and doors. And today, sadly, evidence of ancient Hawaiian culture is confined to the National and State Parks.
But you can still get a taste of the native Hawaiian charm when attending a luau, or street shopping, talking to the locals and sampling their wares. While visiting the islands, be sure you don't pass up the chance! Take leave of your modern beachfront hotel and explore the island...