Makahiki Games Whittling

Makahiki Games at Timbers Kauaʻi

December 21, 2021

Excellence, appreciation and pride. These are three of the cornerstones of Makahiki, as explained by Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner, Kalani Flores. As you may have read in our previous blog, Makahiki calls for a season of rest, peace, and… games! Kalani has led the Timbers ‘ohana in experiencing Makahiki first-hand.

Kūlia i ka nu’u – Excellence

Kūlia i ka nu’u means to “strive for the summit” and lies at the heart of the Makahiki games. That sense of excellence is engrained deeply in Hawaiian culture, whether in a competitive environment, or within your own hale, Kalani explained. The attention to detail in the creation and playing of the Makahiki games speaks directly to kūlia i ka nu’u. To participate in the games, the intention is to play to the absolute best of your ability as a way to honor yourself, your culture, and the tradition of so many who have participated in Makahiki for generations.

Pilina – Appreciation

Pilina, or relationships, are a very important aspect of Makahiki.  The appreciation for others, and building of relationships is another intrical part of what makes Makahiki so special. These are not just games to be played and won. The Makahiki games offer an opportunity to connect and forge a deeper relationship with the people around you with a common goal in mind. Whether the games are played among your own ‘ohana, or with members of the community, they are intended to unite people despite their differences. The Makahiki games encourage participants to take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of human connection, without life’s distractions. From field games and water sports to storytelling and nane (riddles,) Makahiki is truly a return to simplicity.

Aloha ʻĀina – Pride

Aloha ʻāina represents love of the land and a pride of origin. In Hawaiian culture, great pride is derived from tradition, and the Makahiki games honor centuries of tradition on the islands.  Part of the spirit of the games is understanding that all things and people are interconnected in what creates our realm, or honua. The games encourage participants to engage in friendly rivalry and practice good sportsmanship, while enjoying each other’s company. The current Makahiki games are a tool to instill a sense of pride in culture more so than to demonstrate perfection as far as physical ability.

The Games at Timbers Kauaʻi

‘Ō’o ihe

‘Ō’o ihe, or spear throwing, was once a skill required for warriors in either combat or hunting.  Typically, a target is set up, in our case it was banana trunks. Participants stand 15 feet away and do their best to land their wooden spear on the target. 

Haka Moa

Haka Moa or the one-legged chicken fight, is always sure to entertain. Two participants enter a circle on the grass and hold their left leg with their left arm, while also grasping  their opponent’s right arm. From there, the game is simple…do your best to wrestle your opponent out of the circle! 


Kōnane, or Hawaiian checkers, is a more relaxing game. This is one often played in the evenings during Makahiki, when the outdoor games are over, and groups have gathered in the hale. “Kōnane is a Hawaiian game of strategy,” says  Uncle John Kaohelaulii, “Players jump over and remove their opponent’s pieces, but the winner is not the player who has the most pieces, it’s the player who is able to make the last move.” Uncle John is the owner of, which is a cultural-based educational company that uses the ancient Hawaiian strategy game of Kōnane as a training tool to teach leadership & management skills.

In this next year, we at Timbers Kauaʻi wish you kūlia i ka nu’u, pilina, and aloha ʻāina.