Annual July 4th Turtle Independence Day

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A few Hawaiian green sea turtles (honu) found their independence as the Mauna Lani released four healthy honu into the pristine ocean fronting the hotel as the pinnacle of the property’s beloved 29th Annual July 4th Turtle Independence Day.

Turtle Independence Day is a free community event designed to raise awareness about honu, an identified threatened species, and educate the public about these important creatures that call our Hawaiian waters home.

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel has proudly released 225 honu into the ocean since the event’s inception. Honu are the only indigenous reptile of Hawai‘i, evolving some 180 million years ago and revered in Hawai’i as bearers of good luck and peace.

O‘ahu’s Sea Life Park gives the honu to Mauna Lani as juveniles, and they are diligently tended to in the saltwater ponds of the hotel by the Loko I‘a (Fishponds) Manager, Pi‘i Laeha, until they grow to a size and weight deemed appropriate for release into the wild. In the spirit of true independence, the release occurs every July 4th.


Māpu Ana (a fragrant breeze) was released by Ian Pihl and Pat Fitzgerald, both of DiamondHead Land Group, as a show of their continued commitment to the history and legacy of honu at Mauna Lani.

Ian Pihl and Pat Fitzgerald release Māpu Ana at the Mauna Lani on July 4, 2018. PC: Mauna Lani

Mo’ī Keha (named after a prominent ocean voyager and high chief in Hawai‘i) was released by Tyler Paikuli-Campbell and his ‘ohana.

Tyler Paikuli-Campbell and his ‘ohana release Mo’ī Keha at Mauna Lani on July 4, 2018. PC: Mauna Lani

It is Tyler’s kuleana, as a cultural resource manager at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, to preserve and restore the cultural landscape and natural resources found at the national fishpond.


Kā Lei Ānuenue (“Rainbow wreath,” a word used to honor a beloved kupuna) was released by Rick Gmirkin, and Aric and Lani Arakaki. Rick is the community archaeologist at the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail; Aric serves as superintendent. Both work to preserve natural resources and encourage West Hawai’i communities to mālama the trails and shorelines.

Pōhā Kā Lā I Ke Ao (“Burst of Sunlight” and “Dawn of Morning”) was released by the DeRosa ‘ohana, long-time guests of Mauna Lani who have learned about and cared for the honu for a decade.

DeRosa ‘ohana release Pōhā Kā Lā I Ke Ao at the Mauna Lani on July 4, 2018. PC: Mauna Lani

As part of the honu education program on property, Pi‘i Laeha hosts weekly “Fish Feeding Tours,” which have seen hundreds of students and guests experience the majesty of the honu at Mauna Lani.


A moving performance and oli by Hālau Malanai welcomed the community and opened the honu release parade. Live entertainment, educational displays, souvenirs, keiki arts and crafts and ono local food trucks featuring a taste of Hawai‘i’s summertime cuisine rounded out the celebratory day.

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