Cultural traditions remain steadfast in Hawai‘i. And nothing honors this sentiment more than the ceremonial tradition of torch lighting and cliff diving from Maui’s Pu‘u Keka‘a (more commonly known as Black Rock).
As the story goes, Hawaiians believe that Black Rock — which sits on Kā‘anapali Beach — is a place where souls of the dead leap from earth into their ancestral spirit land. However, only a person with great spiritual strength can return back to earth.
One person who demonstrated this feat was King Kahekili, who ruled over Maui and O‘ahu for 45 years until 1794. King Kahekili practiced the ancient Hawaiian sport of lele kawa, leaping from great heights into the ocean. He proved his bravery by jumping off the 15-foot Black Rock into the Pacific and returning to shore unscathed. This earned him much respect and admiration, as well as the nickname The Thunderer.
Nowadays, as the sun begins to set each night over west Maui, the story of King Kahekili’s infamous leap is reenacted through a Cliff Dive Ceremony at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, which is situated at the base of Black Rock itself, just two miles from the site of The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas.
Since 1963, the resort has hosted this popular evening ritual featuring a young warrior retracing King Kahekili’s ancient path up to Pu’u Keka’a. Holding a torch and dressed in the traditional malo (loincloth), the warrior effortlessly ascends the craggy cliff, lighting torches along the way. Upon reaching the crest he offers his torch and flower lei up to the sea before gracefully diving into the surrounding lagoon.
Check back here frequently to learn more about Maui’s fabled traditions. And experience them for yourself once The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas opens in 2017.