Mission & History


The Hui o Wa’a Kaulua (“Assembly of the Double-Hull Canoe”) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization formed in 1975 on the island of Maui to practice, perpetuate and educate the community on Hawaiian canoe building, wayfinding and voyaging arts. In 1976 the Hui launched Mo’olele (The Leaping Lizard), solid wood hull 42-foot wa’a kaulua (Hawaiian double hull canoe) with single mast and traditional crab claw sail.

MISSION: In partnership with other groups, Hui O Wa’a Kaulua is committed to developing and conducting model educational programs using voyaging to excite and challenge students and their communities to learn about, respect, and care for the natural and social environment.  It is our vision to have a healthy, productive, safe Hawai’i and planet Earth.

Hui o Wa’a Kaulua uses Mo’olele as a living classroom to teach keiki and adults traditional Polynesian wayfinding and voyaging used by our Hawaiian Ancestors. Thousands have touched the canoe; second generation captains and navigators, taught by students of Mau Piailug, continue to teach Maui’s community using hands-on experience and a traditional system of mentoring.

The organization’s current focus is the 62-foot transoceanic voyaging canoe, Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani (Sacred Lizard of Maui), named for Kihawahine, the daughter of King Pi’ilani, Maui’s greatest ruler. After she died, Kihawahine became a spiritual mo’o goddess and protector of Mokuhinia Pond in Lahaina. In this pond was an island called Moku’ula, where many generations of Maui Kings lived, until the 1850s.

Seventeen years in the making, Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani will be Maui’s first modern day deep-sea voyaging canoe capable of navigating vast distances across the Pacific Ocean. A Hawaiian traditional canoe launch ceremony was celebrated on July 11, 2014.

Community Support and Collaboration

In June of 2013, the Hawaii Legislature provided all voyaging canoe organizations permanent docking in their homeports. Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani will have a permanent berth at Lahaina Harbor, and will become a cultural icon for the island of Maui.

In 2013, over 300 school children attended Hui o Wa’a educational programs on Maui.  We work closely with Friends of Moku’ula, ’Ao’ao o Na Loko I’a o Maui, the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, and all Maui paddle and canoe clubs. Our Keiki Crew Training students come from Maui Boys and Girls Club, paddling and canoe clubs, Hawaiian Immersion Schools, public and private schools.

Our Captain/Apprentice Navigator Kala Baybayan coordinates with University of Hawaii Maui Campus (UHMC) in developing their traveling planetarium program.

In 2013 Lahaina Restoration Foundation Hui o Wa’a was given a permanent interactive display on the history and future of voyaging at Heritage Museum.

Our 2014 Maiden Voyage Project included collaboration with Office of Hawaiian Affairs, The Hawaii State Library System, Hawai’i State Department of Education and Hawai’i Hotel and Lodging Association member hotels to publicize and implement 24 educational workshops on neighbor islands.