Feel-good vibes of traditional Hawaiian healing

Hawaii can be a pretty relaxing place to visit, but in the rolling hills of upcountry Maui, relaxation reaches new heights as an ancient practice meets a modern spa experience.

  • Lachean Humphreys
  • May 2018

Sinking into a steaming bath, dried coconut milk and silky honey swirl around the surface, and a set of luxe towels and a robe are on hand.

The outdoor bathhouse at Ho’omana Spa is pristine: timber walls, rough concrete and stone floor, huge tub… My jar of water has fresh ginger floating inside and droplets beading the outside. I’ve also got my own passionfruit (lilikoi) and essential oils mist for refreshment while I soak.

There are two tubs, but I’ve got the bathhouse to myself. After 20 minutes I step out and robe up. Heading down the garden’s stepping-stone path and back to the main building means another chance to take in the beautiful property.

Getting here is part of the experience: driving inland from Maui’s north shore, Piiholo Road winds through grassy upcountry, until Ho’omana’s modest sign materialises around a bend. The main building is set into the easy slope of the hill, framed by a mix of native and introduced flora.

Inside, treatments start with sipping a tea blend. Vibrant cranberry-pink in colour, mine is full of passionfruit, eucalyptus and lemongrass – introducing some of the ingredients that will be used throughout my treatment.

All of Ho’omana’s products are made onsite, with flowers, herbs and fruits sourced from the property. My therapist Jocelyn is originally from Ohio. She made her way to the idyllic island, via California, eight years ago to begin her training in traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage. All the therapists at Ho’omana are trained by their Kumu (teacher), owner and director Jeana Iwalani Naluai, with a strong focus on traditional technique alongside ancient culture and history. Jocelyn found ohana (meaning family in the extended sense of the word) here and decided to stay.

In Hawaii, everything is done with aloha (while used as a greeting it also means love, affection and shared understanding). Healing prayers and chants are a staple of ancient Hawaiian healing, as are sharing stories and wisdom, and the use of medicinal herbs.

Relaxing after a massage

Fresh from my bath, I’m guided into one of the four treatment rooms for a sugar body-polish. After Jocelyn chants and we give gratitude together, forehead-to-forehead, I’m lusciously scrubbed from shoulders to toes for half an hour to the sounds of Hawaiian music.

Tingling all over, I’m ready for an hour-long traditional Lomi Lomi massage with homemade passionfruit body butter and hot stones. Lomi Lomi is about the alignment of body, mind and spirit. Hawaiian tradition says that the bones carry the spirit of our souls, and in the practice of Lomi Lomi, a message can be conveyed through the hands.

Hot stones for massage

The Lomi technique takes an alternatively gentle and firm approach, channelling the past, strong, female teachers who influenced the modern style. I’d requested extra work on my legs – a necessity after a long-distance run pre-holiday left me with some seriously unyielding muscles. Jocelyn combines stretches with massage, effectively (and thankfully) loosening my joints and muscles. I finish up with a tropical Hawaiian facial, complete with a scalp massage and oil treatment.

Glowing all over, I’m encouraged to have a look around the property and gather anything I find. The garden produces lemons, passionfruit and avocados. I’m also given a Ti leaf, which I can take as souvenir or to make a spiritual offering. This versatile leaf is an important and cherished item in Hawaiian culture – used in fishing, for rain capes, footwear and hula skirts, thatch for houses, to cook in, even as whistles – and I’m happy to offer it up.

Ho’omana means to empower, and the entire afternoon is steeped in ritual. I left feeling thoroughly pampered, but also with an increased understanding of ancient practice and plenty of feel-good spiritual vibes.

Lachean Humphreys was a guest of Ho’omana Spa Maui