The tradition of ulana (weaving) lau hala (the leaves of the hala tree) is deeply entwined in the history of Hawaii — the first Hawaiians voyaged here with lau hala sails and continued to use lau hala for everything from sleeping mats to storage baskets to clothing. Today, modern makers perpetuate this treasured heritage in Hawaii, producing new creative designs and using their skills to teach the next generation of weavers. Here’s how you can get your own special lau hala piece.
The leaves of the hala (pandanus tree) are harvested and processed for weaving.
A tight-knit community of weavers
Lau hala practitioners are knowledgeable in every step of the process, from harvesting the leaves of the indigenous hala, or pandanus tree, to weaving strands into unique patterns. The craftsmanship of ulana lau hala requires dedicated patience and respect; one should be fully present and have good energy while weaving. Hawaii’s tight-knit community of weavers are bound to each other by their shared wisdom, and experts can often identify the maker of a local piece by recognizing their technique. Don’t be surprised if one weaver refers you to another — it's not about competition here.
Hawaii Island's Kimura Lauhala Shop showcases the work of dozens of local weavers.
Where to shop for local lau hala
On Hawaii Island, Kimura Lauhala Shop near Kona has every type of lau hala creation imaginable, including bags and ornaments, while Hana Hou Hilo specializes in elegant papale (hats). Exclusive items are also found at the annual conference Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona, where Alice Kawamoto and her daughters sell their pieces. Na Lala O Ka Puhala is a talented Oahu-based group of weavers that takes custom orders online. In Ward Village, Na Mea Hawaii has lau hala jewelry and books for sale as well as tools. Hawaiian-owned Honi Hala sells one-of-a-kind lau hala jewelry and accessories online and at local markets, plus, you can purchase a weaving kit with all the materials to make a lau hala jar cover. Maui’s Native Intelligence in Wailuku also sells a variety of lau hala products by KU + MOE and other local artists.
Hawaiian papale (hats) are often crownless and traditionally made from lau hala.
Try your hand at lau hala weaving
To preserve its heritage, the art of ulana lau hala is now taught outside of families and newcomers can learn the practice across the Islands. On Oahu, The Kahala has lau hala classes with Keoua Nelsen on Tuesdays, while the Royal Hawaiian Center holds basic weaving lessons every Wednesday. In Kakaako, Na Kupuna Makamae Center gives introductory classes on traditional weaving every Wednesday morning. The Puuhonua Society’s Keanahala community weaving program has workshops on moena (traditional mats), whereas Hawaii Handweavers hosts lau hala bracelet classes multiple times a year in downtown Honolulu. Hawaii Island's Donkey Mill Art Center teaches a variety of fiber arts like lau hala. Maui's lau hala conference, Kauluhiwaolele, celebrates traditional crafts with workshops and discussions, and lau hala events are also held at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului.