Waikiki's storied history includes tales of island royalty, decadent feasts, and inspiring settings. Every Monday, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, pays homage to Helumoa, the legendary playground of Hawaiian royalty and where the Royal Hawaiian now stands, with a modern interpretation of the traditional Hawaiian feast called 'Aha 'Aina, a Royal Celebration.
The Origins of Helumoa
Over 500 years ago, Ma'ilikukahi, the ruler of Oahu, moved his court from central O'ahu to Waikiki and established Waikiki as the royal seat of government. The area of Waikiki had an abundance of fresh water and was the perfect spot for the development of fish ponds as well as wetland farms of taro and other crops.
Years later his descendant, Kakuhihewa, also a ruler of Oahu, is said to have encountered the mythical rooster Ka‘auhelemoa who flew down to Waikiki from Palolo valley. As outlined in Veneeta Acson's book Waikiki Nine Walks Through Time, Kakuhihewa "was playing Hawaiian games here [in Waikiki] one day when Kakuhihewa suddenly landded in front of him and began to scratch the earth. Just as suddenly, the rooster disappeared. Kakuhihewa directed his men to plant a coconut in the exact spot where Ka‘auhelemoa had scratched. This coconut came to be known as Helumoa (chicken scratch), and in turn, supported a grove of several thousand coconut trees."
Today, Helumoa is home to Royal Hawaiian Center and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The remains of the coconut grove can be seen in the coconut grove between the two properties.
'Aha 'Aina, a Royal Celebration
'Aha 'Aina, a Royal Celebration is Waikiki's only oceanfront dinner and show. It is a culinary and sensory celebration, commemorating Hawaiian culture and transforming the traditional island luau experience in a style that only The Royal Hawaiian can do. Where most luaus offer only buffet lines and standard luau foods, 'Aha 'Aina is a fine dining experience with a superb after-dinner show produced by Hawaii's premier entertainment company, Tihati Productions. The closest thing to it that I have experienced in Hawaii is the Feast at Lele in Lahaina, Maui.
The Royal Hawaiian's General Manager, Kelly Hoen, explains the meaning of the name 'Aha 'Aina and why it was chosen for this weekly celebration at the resort. "Before luaus there were ‘aha ‘aina — a feast of food, mele (song) and hula. In ancient times the Hawaiian people came together to celebrate momentous occasions, these gatherings were called aha 'aina (which translates to gathering for a meal). The Royal Hawaiian is located on sacred grounds and we have created a modern, yet timeless aha 'aina to honor the land's majestic history through food, song, stories, hula, and culture — a true celebration of The Royal and its heritage."
Held at The Royal Hawaiian's Ocean Lawn with the breathtaking backdrop of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, 'Aaha 'Aina is composed of three spectacular acts.
Act I - Welcome to Ancient Waikiki
As they explained in the evening's program, "Long ago, Waikiki was home to a thriving and harmonious Hawaiian society. Its pristine shores were dotted with fishponds that teamed with fresh fish and other delicacies. Its fertile marshlands were cultivated with lush taro patches, sustaining thousands along the Waikiki shoreline. And its culture thrived - dramatically advancing Hawaiian arts, aquaculture, and agriculture."
As we entered the ocean lawn area we were drawn to demonstrations of the craft of kapa making (bark cloth), dye making, the steaming and pounding of fresh taro root, and the art of fishing. It was the time to find our seats, meet our dining companions and begin to share aloha.
Act II - The Royal Feast
Before the feast we were introduced to our evening's host, a master storyteller, who guided our journey through dinner and the evening's show where he took us on a journey through the 500+ year history of Helumoa and the Royal Hawaiian.
During dinner he entertained us with stories about the gathering and preparation of traditional Hawaiian cuisine.
The feast was amazing. While the menu may change for your visit, the quality will surely be the same. While initially offering some tastes of standard luau foods (lomi salmon on poi, kalua pig, ahi poke) on tasting spoons - all of which I loved - it then propelled itself into a sampling of some of the island's best cuisine with a pupu platter of bamboo skewered chicken with mango BBQ sauce, crab cakes with Kalamansi Lime-Chilli Sauce, and Soy Butterfish on Pickled Cucumbers.
This was followed by the salad course - a heart of palm ceviche with Chinese roasted duck and Hoisin vinaigrette.
Our main course was an island rock lobster trail with smoked port tenderloin medallion on smashed taro - delicious.
Deserts were an offering of creme brulee, fresh pineapple, haupia cake and cheese cake lollipops.
Next Page > The Evening Show and Pricing/Reservations