Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hula, Leis, and a Lesson in Tourist Clichés

Before going to Hawai'i, I saw so many pictures of tourists in leis and heard so many stories of substandard luaus that neither held much appeal for me. They sounded so cliché, and we English majors know that clichés are to be avoided like the plague.

Ba, da, bump.

Besides, leis die pretty quickly, and no one I'd ever met who had tasted poi liked it, so common sense dictated we avoid leis and luaus during our limited time on Kaua'i.

Although...I was a tad disappointed when nobody in a grass skirt draped a lei over my head when I deplaned.

We did avoid the luau. Our fabulous dinner at Plantation Gardens gave us fresh, wonderful, local cuisine of the finest quality, and the ono fish tacos at the Fish Hut were sublime. But from the moment I saw the sign for free hula shows at the Coconut Marketplace, I wanted to go. Hula without the overpriced luau sounded perfect. If it wasn't a good show, we wouldn't feel cheated.

Besides, the timing worked out perfectly. We had to vacate our hotel by 11:00 on Saturday, but our flights didn't depart until evening. That meant a whole afternoon to kill, and the hula show was at 1:00. We ate fish tacos and wandered around the Coconut Marketplace until time for the show.

Turns out the hula performers were students, mostly teens, raising money for hula lessons and travel to hula competitions and shows all over the Pacific islands. The teacher played music in the band and sang while the girls danced.

We loved it.

Five younger students and two more experienced dancers
changed costumes multiple times and performed a wide variety
of island dances.

Leilani Rivera Low: dancer, musician, singer, teacher

This little girl was adorable!

At one point in the show, the girls invited four men from the audience to join them in a dance. Our very own Matt was chosen (two girls zeroed in on him first...muscles, cowboy boots, and a ripped t-shirt are apparently sexy across cultures). This had our group helpless with laughter at seeing big, tough, macho Matt making his hands move like a fish and wiggling his hips.

He did a great job for a first-timer. If he ever loses his job at Caterpillar repairing diesel engines, he can take up a career in hula!

The men started off rough...

but improved with excellent instruction.

I got the tail-end of Matt's performance on video and will post it on YouTube one day if he ever annoys me. That's not likely to happen because he is a swell person and a good sport to boot.

The dancers changed costumes multiple times in the 45-minute show, with the Tahitian costumes being the most dramatic in red and black.
This young woman was the best of the dancers. She was so graceful
and controlled in her movements and a delight to watch.

After the performance, the girls sold leis as their fundraiser. We simply couldn't say no, could we? It would have been rude in the extreme, and of course we had to show our gratitude to the dancers for such a wonderful show.

Barbara, George, and Angela

George and I, about as cliché as a couple can get

And that's how I learned that no matter how cliché a thing may be, sometimes it's entirely necessary and unavoidable.

Which is, of course, how it became a cliché in the first place.

Have you ever indulged in a tourist cliché that put a smile on your face?


  1. Wonderful story. Awesome photo of you and George.

  2. Two come to mind immediately, both in Alaska. We had reservations about doing them because they seemed so corny and typical tourist stuff, but we ended up thoroughly enjoying both events. The first was a lumberjack show that was not only entertaining, but educational and gold panning was the second. It was lots of fun and I could easily understand how it became an obsession with some miners! Thanks for sharing these stories of your trip to Kauai, Susan. It's a place I've also visited, but it's always fun to hear what other people choose to do!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your cliches. Thanks for sharing.


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