When designing Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Imagineers worked closely with the community to learn about Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage. As a result, the resort is filled with authentic Hawaiian stories, artwork and tradition.

Complimentary to guests, “Maka‘ika‘i, The Art and Culture of Aulani” is a guided walking tour that showcases the artistic and cultural influences found at the resort — from the interior design and architectural details to the contemporary Hawaiian art pieces.

Maka‘ika‘i, The Art and Culture Tour of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

While there are so many stories to discover, I asked Aulani Cultural Advisor, Kahulu De Santos, to share the story behind one of her favorite cultural pieces you may encounter along the tour: the kahili, or royal feather standards, which are traditional symbols of ali‘i (chiefs).

Maka‘ika‘i, The Art and Culture Tour of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Located in the Maka‘ala lobby, the kahili are symbols of the power and status of Hawaii’s royalty. Kahili represent the presence of kupuna (ancestors) and endure today as hallmarks of artistry, technical skill and pride. Like any craft requiring feather work, the making of a kahili is time-intensive. The elegant kahili that grace the Maka‘ala Lobby are an example of our partnership with our community. Disney commissioned the Kapolei Hawaiian Civic Club to work with Aulani cast members to create the two large, standing kahili as well as a collection of kahili pa‘alima (hand-held or waving kahili). Formerly displayed at gatherings of special significance, kahili would be carried by favored attendants, called pa‘a kahili, to mark the presence of ali‘i so that those present would be reminded of their elders and speak with them in mind.

Be sure to check the Daily ‘Iwa for tour times.