Maui Food and Dining

Celebrating our Island Tastes and Art in Kapalua

April 19, 2017, 7:54 AM HST
* Updated April 19, 9:48 AM
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“A big soup for the senses.”

That’s a pretty fitting way to describe one of the most creative annual events on Maui, the Celebration of the Arts at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

“People can come and whatever their ingredient is, they can satisfy it.”

Event chairman Clifford Nae’ole’s description is even more fitting when you learn about a unique dining event on Saturday, April 15, in its second year at the two-day festival. Known as the Celebration of Island Tastes, it showcased local food from local families, including poke, poi, kalua pig, lu‘au he’e, haupia, kulolo and more.


For instance, Auntie Pearl and her ‘ohana from Keanae provided the haupia and kulolo, which has been passed down for generations,


“The Kulolo, my daughter makes it now,” says Auntie Pearl. “It’s a lot of work. made with taro and coconut milk.”

People paid an entry fee of $25 for visitors, $15 for kama’ãina, then bought scripts, or tickets, to purchase food and drinks. Nae’ole calls it “the county fair comes to The Ritz-Carlton.” Hundreds of people showed up, so many that resort crews had to set up several extra tables.

Nae’ole has been involved with the festival since it began, 25 years ago!  He’s served in a leadership role for two decades.


“I’ve had the pleasure of watching the Celebration of the Arts Festival grow and evolve over the past 25 years since its inception in 1992,” says Nae’ole, who is also Cultural Advisor at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. “Now a quarter of century later, we are proud to be able to continue to honor our native Hawaiian culture and instill that same appreciation and respect in our resort guests and island locals.”

The festival convened Hawaii’s most reputable artisans, educators, cultural practitioners, speakers and entertainers between April 14 and 16, 2017.

The theme for the 2017 event was “Wahi Mahalo…A Universal Thank You” in honor of the milestone anniversary. The festival prides itself in giving both visitors and locals the opportunity to experience authentic Hawaiian culture through various creative activities and intellectual forums.

Along with culinary arts, festival participants enjoyed traditional Hawaiian oli (chants), music, hula, cultural ceremonies, hands-on art demonstrations, informative speaker panels, historic films and impromptu performances that reflect upon the spirit of Aloha that the islands are known for.

The “Celebration of Island Tastes” wrapped up all those festivities, bringing together the foods of traditional Hawai‘i and the contemporary cuisine of local families.

Nae’ole says what he loves most about the event, even after all these years, is hearing so many “Alohas” in the hallways.

“It is about the camaraderie; no matter where they’re from, they have smiles on their faces,” he explains. “To see everyone from all walks of life enjoying themselves.”

Make the most of your Maui vacation with these top-rated activities: Maui Top 20: Maui Visitor & Tourism Information
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