The festival will be selling handmade apu like this used for drinking Kava.

Everyone travels for different reasons. For some, it’s a relaxing vacation sitting poolside and getting pampered; for others, it’s closing a promising business deal. But for most, I hope it is to experience something new. To have an adventure in a new place and experience its sights, culture, food and customs. To throw out the travel guides and take a leap of faith around each new corner that will lead to a scrapbook full of memories. You’re not a tourist but an adventurer, engaging all of your senses in every experience.

If this is your idea of a Hawaii vacation, then this weekend is a perfect opportunity to travel out of your comfort zone and spend the day at the Hawaii Pacific Islands Kava Festival. This annual festival is an event for the community to gather and learn about Kava, an integral component in Pacific culture that many visitors do not get to experience.

What is Kava?

Now you might be wondering to yourself, “What the heck is Kava? And why is there a festival for it?” Kava (or Awa in Hawaiian) is a plant indigenous to the Pacific (Piper methisticum) in which the roots are used to brew a narcotic beverage. It is used all over the Pacific – From Papua New Guinea to Hawaii – for ceremonial, medicinal and social purposes.

In Hawaii, all three are practiced today and Kava bars are starting to make a comeback for social drinking purposes. (Check back soon to find out more about these Kava bars.) The beverage is prepared by grinding the root then straining it in water or sometimes coconut water. A beautiful brown liquid that tastes like creamy Earth gives a tingling sensation on the tongue after the first couple of cups. The sedative and anesthetic properties of Kava creates a deep feeling of relaxation without disrupting mental clarity (so you can drink Kava and drive!) as well as loosening the tongue in social gatherings to discuss problems and come up with solutions (a traditional practice).

The heart-shaped Kava plants (Left) get stripped down to their roots (Right), which are then brewed into an ancient Hawaiian narcotic beverage.

Kava Fest

The Hawaii Pacific Islands Kava Festival is an annual event held by the Awa Development Council. The all-day festival will feature live local music, educational and cultural booths, Kava sampling, Kava plant sale, Kava preparation demonstrations, poi pounding, food booths, cultural and scientific talks in the on-site Kava garden. A traditional Hawaiian kapu (sacred) Kava ceremony will also take place, so you’ll get an authentic cultural experience.

If you would like to take home a souvenir, visit Kukini Suwa’s apu making workshop. An apu is a traditional coconut cup used for drinking Kava. T-shirts and posters featuring art by Native Hawaiian artist, Solomon Enos, will also be available for purchase. To round up the day, a film on Kava will be featured at sundown on the lawn.

I truly hope that you can participate in this community event and learn a little bit about Hawaii and the Pacific. Your adventuresome ways will lead you to a truly authentic and memorable experience – with apu in hand. Aloha.


• Saturday, Oct. 8, 9am-7pm • University of Hawaii at Manoa, McCarthy Mall • • Free • Paid & street parking available; Near bus route

We welcome Serena to the Hawaii Vacations ohana. She graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with an interdisciplinary degree in Environmental Studies and is very knowledgable and involved in the Hawaiian culture. She makes kava at home as well as other traditional dishes, like laulau. We look forward to hearing more about her experiences growing up in Hawaii!


  1. I used to take kava in capsule form years ago to help me sleep, Works great and no horrible groggy after-effects. I’ve never tried it brewed though; I think the color of it put me off. 🙂

  2. The ʻapu workshop has been canceled for tomorrows Kava Festival, but there will still be lots to see and do! Seems like there will be a lot more ʻawa (kava) samples this year, too!

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