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Types of Lei

May Day is Lei Day: Exploring the Different Types of Lei

Types of Lei: A young couple embrace while wearing newly adorned lei.

Few symbols are as iconic and beloved as the lei in the vibrant tapestry of Hawaiian culture. These intricately crafted garlands hold deep significance, symbolizing love and respect. Throughout the islands, various types of lei are created using traditional methods passed down through generations, each with its unique style and symbolism. In celebration of Lei Day, Chase ‘N Rainbows wants to showcase the different kinds of lei.

How May Day Became Lei Day

In the early 20th century, Lei Day in Hawaii began when poet Don Blanding proposed honoring the lei’s cultural significance. The first Lei Day was celebrated in 1927 in Honolulu, featuring lei-making contests, music, hula performances, and cultural demonstrations. Over the years, Lei Day grew in popularity and became an annual tradition, officially recognized by the state legislature in 1929. Held on May 1st to coincide with May Day, Lei Day serves as a celebration of Hawaiian traditions, the spirit of aloha, and the beauty of the lei. Today, we celebrate throughout Hawaii with various cultural events and festivities. Now, on to the different types of lei!


Among the most common types of lei, kui involves stringing flowers or materials onto a thread using a needle, resulting in a necklace-like adornment. This method showcases the beauty of flowers like plumerias, with each material individually pierced and strung onto the thread to create stunning floral arrangements.


The hili style features braiding a single type of material throughout the entire lei, resulting in a consistent and uniform appearance. Often made with ferns or vines, this method creates a sturdy and durable design, perfect for adorning special occasions or honoring loved ones.


Knotting stems or materials together in a chain-like fashion characterizes the hipu’u style. Each stem is knotted to the next, creating a continuous string of materials that vary depending on the desired look. This method offers versatility in design and materials, making it a popular choice for lei-making enthusiasts.


The haku style mounts chosen materials onto the strands, creating a decorative and visually appealing design. Long leaves or tree bark are often braided together to form the base, with materials added into each braid wrap to create an eye-catching lei that celebrates nature’s beauty.


Twisting short lengths of material and securing them with a coil or wrap characterizes wili leis. Common materials include leaves, flowers, or fabric strips, which are twisted together for a twisted and layered appearance. This method offers a dynamic and contemporary twist on traditional lei-making techniques.


The hilo style utilizes long, flexible materials like ti leaves. It involves twisting them together to form a rope, which is then used to create the lei. Two strands of ti leaves are twisted together to create various patterns and designs, making this style a timeless symbol of Hawaiian culture.

West Maui Condos and Vacation Rentals on the Beach

Exploring different types of lei is just one example of the various customs and traditions you’ll discover when you visit West Maui. As many of our guests will tell you, most locals are delighted to teach visitors the ways of the islands. Not only does this foster an appreciation for the culture, but it also helps create a sense of community among travelers and Hawaii’s inhabitants. To start planning your Maui getaway, visit our vacation rentals or condo resort pages and find your favorite spot on the beach with Chase ‘N Rainbows!

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