Maui's Maunalei Arboretum Invokes Spirit Within

Maui's Maunalei Arboretum Invokes Spirit Within

What is spirituality? As with most things in life, it all depends on whom you ask. For some, it's a steady regimen of religious practice; for another, it may be a yoga class and a quiet meditation. For plenty of others, "spirituality" is a hippy-dippy concept they try to avoid in fear of attaching themselves to any movement or affiliation—understandably so. Yet everything in life is relative. Whether you want to call it spirituality or not, getting in touch with your inner spirit is something that can certainly benefit everyone. So why not do it somewhere spectacular, where the spirits of ancients surrounds you, and nature—which acts as a catalyst for reaching deep in to one's spirit in a number of cultures—prevails?

Nä `aumäkua mai ka lä hiki a ka lä kau 

 (Guardians spirits from the rise to the setting sun)

Recently, the Kapalua Resort in West Maui opened the Maunalei Arboretum, which was formerly closed to the public. The upper-most sliver of Maui Land and Pineapple's ahupua'a (a pie-shaped division of land that stretches from mountaintop to sea), a nature preserve called the Pu'u Kukui summit, is viewable from the highest point on the trail that leads through Maunalei. 

Mai ka ho`oku`i a ka halawai

  (From the zenith to the horizon)

A recent hike with naturalist and associate director of the Ritz Carlton at Kapalua's Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment Program (a mouthful, we know), Iokepa Na'eole began with his chanting (in Hawaiian) to ask permission from the forest for safe passage through it. 

Nä `aumähua iä ka hina kua, iä ka hina alo

   (Guardians spirits to my back, to my front)

Entering the preserve, Na'eole shared the unique nature of this area, as it had evolved throughout the century. In 1912, a teenage David Thomas Fleming was appointed the Honolua Ranch manager by Dr. Baldwin. The careful diversion of water to irrigate the crops as well as provide electricity was only topped by Fleming's decision to "test" the propagation of future fruit crops, as well as the introduction of trees that would strengthen the soil and replenish much of the devastation from earlier clear cutting. Sure, some were non-native species; yet Fleming took great care in researching the impact they would have on local flora. Additionally, he reforested much of the present day Arboretum with native Koa and Ohia trees, to name a few. 

Iä ka`a `äkau i ka lani

   (To those in the northern position of the heavens)

Today, through the Ambassador's Program (or a visit to the Kapalua Adventure Center), visitors are welcome to walk the trails that lead through the majestic Maunalei Arboretum with a guide, like Na'eole, or on their own. The decision is yours. But know this: While it isn't difficult to feel the presence of ancient spirits in the hills and bends of trail within the arboretum, it is an otherwise spiritually lifting experience to have someone who connects to these entities like Na'eole lead your party. Whether your spirit seeks answers to biological questions (such as, "Is that a coffee tree and what is it doing up here?" or "What kind of wildlife surrounds us?"), or historical data on the types of people that settled in the area, Na'eole is a wealth of knowledge. He will be the first to tell you that it's the forest that gives the answers, supplying us with what we need to hear. 

`O kïhä i ka lani, `Owë i ka lani

   (Whispering in the heavens, Murmuring in the heavens)

The directors of the Ambassador's Program at the Ritz Carlton are currently ramping up efforts to involve both the local community, as well as visitors to the hotel, and the area, in order to create manpower and necessary funding to assess the arboretum's needs—much as Fleming did when he was relocated there. Program director Ashley Carroll shared an experience that recently involved the participants of the Women's Billabong Pro Surf tournament, held at nearby Honolua Bay. 

Eia ka pulapula a `oukou, `o, E mälama `oukou ia`u 

   (Here is your offspring, Take care of me)

The women's tour donated funds to Maui Land & Pine's efforts to further restore the forests in the arboretum, and invited the women surfers to participate in reforestation plantings. The girls learned how the contents of that forest directly affect the land, which controls the runoff that ends up in Honolua Bay—which in turn changes the reef, and ultimately the waves that they surf. The girls were extremely committed to the project—just one example of a spiritual connection made through Maunalei. 

E ulu i ka honua, E hö mai ka `ike, ikaika, akamai, maopopo pono, `ikepäpälua

   (Allow growth upon the earth, Grant us the knowledge, strength, intelligence, understanding and foresight)

"We find a way to connect with the visitors, to have them really understand the impact and the benefits of keeping the preserve moving in the right direction," said Carroll. "There becomes an even greater respect for the land, by virtue of getting people of all ages involved with it."

In short: Whether at the Maunalei Arboretum in West Maui, or elsewhere in your vicinity, connecting with the trees and the 'aina is sure to boost the spirit within you. Get out there and explore.

E hö mai ka mana.

   (Empower us.)


The girls learned how the contents of that forest directly affect the land, which controls the runoff that ends up in Honolua Bay—which in turn changes the reef, and ultimately the waves that they surf.