Much of the ceremonies and traditions carried on today by people in Hawaii have strong historical and mystical roots, as does the Black Rock Cliff Dive Ceremony at the Sheraton Maui Resort.
The Sheraton Maui has been keeping this tradition alive since they opened in 1963, but the story behind the ceremony dates back to the days of King Kahekili, who ruled both Maui and Oahu for 45 years in the late 1700’s.
The ceremony itself usually begins about 5-10 minutes before sunset, which changes over the course of the year. Guests at the Sheraton enjoying dinner or an evening drink at one of the oceanfront bars get the experience of having the cliff diver run through the grounds of the resort, lighting all the torches and stopping to pose for pictures.
After heading out from the Sheraton, the Hawaiian warrior runs onto Ka’anapali Beach, where onlookers and sightseers from all along Ka’anapali Beach line up to watch the ceremony. He treks up Black Rock, known to ancient Hawaiians as Pu’u Keka’a, and lights the torches that rest upon it. He offers up high lei to the heavens above him, addressing the ancient Hawaiian gods, and takes a head first leap into the ocean below.
The ceremony itself only lasts about 10-15 minutes once the local Hawaiian music from the restaurants stop and the story begins to be told from the Sheraton. It’s free to the public and people usually line up along the beach with their blankets and loved ones to enjoy the show. Likely due to the cermony’s short duration, it’s not given too much attention in any of the major travel books you find at your local bookstore, but it’s still a nice little piece of Hawaiian history that you can take in any night you’re in Maui.
Since we’re big fans of the Sheraton and it’s our preferred hotel of choice when we vacation to Maui, we make a point of seeing the ceremony on our first night on the island after our long flight, usually enjoying our favorit local drinks. It is sort of the unofficial start of our Maui vacation, so to speak, and it definitely something we recommend to everyone to see at least once in the travels to Maui.