Hula Implements Canoe Plants | Maui Ocean Center

Park Hours
9 AM - 5 PM

Park Hours 9 AM - 5 PM

Hawaiian Canoe Plants: Hula Implements

Canoe plants are plants brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian voyagers who arrived centuries ago. These plants played an important role in the survival and cultural development of the Hawaiian people.


Canoe plants can be found all across the Hawaiian islands, from botanical gardens, to cultural sites, and even along hiking trails. When you visit these locations, you as a visitor will appreciate the resourcefulness these Polynesian explorers brought with them to Hawai’i.


Interested in learning more about Maui’s plant life? Reserve your spot on our Hawaiian Culture and Botanical Tour and dive into our island’s flora today.


Candlenut (Kukui)

Kukui nuts are rich in oil (almost 80 percent) and serve as a vital source of fuel for traditional lamps. This very feature is what earned the tree its English nickname, “candlenut.” But the kukui’s uses extend far beyond lighting, including uses in medicine and dyes.


Candlenut Garland (Kukui lei)

Traditionally used for adornment, kukui (candlenut) garlands and leis come in various colors and patterns, adding beauty to lūʻaus, ceremonies, and greetings.


Knee Drum (Puniu)

Hawai’i’s puniu is traditionally made with a coconut shell and fish skin, and is often played alongside the larger pahu drum crafted from a coconut trunk.


Knee Drum Mallet (Ka)

Made from lauhala (hala tree fronds), the woven mallet is traditionally used to strike the puniu drum.


Hawaiian Hula Shakers (ʻUliʻuli)

ʻUliʻuli are used in traditional hula and are made from a gourd adorned with feathers and fabric. It emits a distinctive sound when shaken due to the small stones or ali’ipoe (seeds) inside. It is typically danced with in pairs today, although historically only one was used.


Hawaiian Hula Bamboo Rattles (Hawaiian puʻili)

The puʻili, a hand-carved bamboo rattle made of eight upright ohe (bamboo) strands, adds rhythm to hula dances. These are struck together or against the dancer’s body.


Hawaiian Hula Rhythm Sticks (Kalaʻau)

Kalaʻau (rhythm sticks) are used in pairs, and are identical in length and width. When hit together in either the standing or seated position, they create a percussive tone (kani) which adds to both the hula (dance) and the mele (song). Kala’au are traditionally made from hardwood, such as koa.


Gourds (Ipu)

In ancient Hawai’i, gourds weren’t just a vegetable. Harvested at different sizes, these gourds were dried and made into essential household items, including water containers and bowls, to even instruments.


Nose Flute (‘Ohe hano ihu)

The ‘ohe hano ihu is a traditional Hawaiian nose flute crafted from bamboo (10 to 21 inches long) with finger holes. It can be played solo, or accompany mele (songs) and hula (dances).

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