Awaken and Arise with the Perfect Start to the Day
Want to get the most out of your time in paradise during your stay at Grand Wailea? Here’s our advice: set an early alarm and head to Wailea Beach before sunrise, where you’ll find Kalei ʻUwēkoʻolani in front of the Seaside Chapel, ready to lead one of our regular e ala e (awaken/arise) ceremonies—a rejuvenating and inspiring wellness experience.
Kalei, Grand Wailea's Cultural Programming Manager and Leadership Educator, will guide you in the pre-dawn light onto the soft sands of Wailea Beach, with the steady rhythm of the surf providing the only sound. You’ll find yourself in the company of a few other intrepid travelers, and each of you will begin to feel the electricity of this moment, the feeling that anything can happen.
This is the magic of Grand Wailea’s e ala e experience, which, as Kalei explains, involves greeting the rising sun with a rousing oli (chant) as the mana (energy) of the ocean flows through you, cleansing and purifying body and mind.
“When I was little, my grandparents always pushed us to go to the ocean for every little problem, even a small cut!” says Kalei. “The ocean is where we cleanse our bodies, our minds, our spirit, our souls. There’s something almost magical about starting your day off in this calm, peaceful, serene environment. This can change your outlook for the entire day—whatever is going on in your mind, you can leave it here, you simply let it go.”
E ala e at Grand Wailea is as much educational as it is experiential, so Kalei begins each morning session with an explanation of its origins and purpose. Participants gather in a semicircle while Kalei explains the lyrics and meaning of the chant itself, which goes like this
E ala e, ka lā i ka hikina,
Awaken/Arise, the sun in the east,
I ka moana, ka moana hohonu,
From the ocean, the deep ocean,
Pi‘i ka lewa, ka lewa nu‘u,
Climbing to heaven, the highest heaven,
I ka hikina, aia ka lā, e ala e!
In the east, there is the sun, arise!
“This chant was composed by the Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation for the August 1992 healing ceremony on Kahoʻolawe Island,” says Kalei. “It’s not just a chant, though. We’re not just saying words. This chant, like other Hawaiian chants, is layered. It has elements that connect the elements together—and with us—and it contains a lot of kaona (hidden meaning).
“In essence, what it’s saying is that there’s a light in us that seeks to come from the darkness,” she continues. “In every situation, there’s darkness, but there’s always a way to go toward the light. That’s what this chant symbolizes.”
Once participants have familiarized themselves with the chant and the accompanying rhythmic clapping that’s done to coincide with the rising of the sun, Kalei explains the next portion of the experience, kapu kai, which is a ceremonial Hawaiian cleansing of the body and the spirit in the ocean.
“Kapu kai is a way for us to allow our guests to understand the deeper connections within themselves and with the natural world around them,” she explains. “We want them to be able to understand that when they’re walking into this day, they’re honoring this light that’s coming out of the dark.
“With the combination of the e ala e chant and kapu kai, you’re leaving all your negative energy and thoughts in the past. Salt water is a purifier, so as you wade in, you’re shedding all your past fears and limitations into the water, and the ocean sweeps all that negativity away to make room for something new. And as sun rises and fills the day with light and energy, we fill our bodies with this same positive energy. It’s a great way to start the day!”
Once Kalei has shown guests how the e ala e experience works, she likes to stand back and observe the various ways guests perform the ceremony themselves. There’s always a seriousness to it, she notes, as if the act of chanting in itself evokes a deep respect for the process. And while some guests only dip their toes in the water during kapu kai, others submerge their entire bodies, giving themselves entirely over to the purifying power of the ocean.
“Sometimes I’ll notice a guest standing there, just gazing,” Kalei says, drawing the scene in her mind. “Then…bam! They’ll just drop in the ocean. Like a baptism. And when they turn around and return to the beach, it’s almost a sigh a relief. They leave that weight in the ocean. They look free.”
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