Polynesians have decorated their bodies with TATTOOS for centuries. In Hawai‘i, tattoos came in a variety of designs and symbols, each holding its own SIGNIFICANCE—social standing and rank, religious devotion, bravery in war, heritage and rites of passage. Even to this day, some tattoos are still passed on from family member to family member.
While the tattooing tradition both shocked and fascinated the European explorers who first encountered it in the early 1800s, it is now no longer an oddity in Western culture. In fact, in 2006, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology released poll results that showed 24 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 50 are tattooed.
It helps that the technique, pigments and artists have grown more sophisticated over the years.
Hundreds of years ago, POLYNESIANS were tattooed with “needles” made from sharpened bones or shells, which were tied to a stick and dipped in ink made from kukui nut. The point was then struck by a mallet and pounded into the skin. In fact, the “TAT, TAT, TAT” sound made by the mallet striking the stick is where the word “tattoo” comes from.
For those unsure about going under the needle, there is way to get a TEMPORARY TATTOO to mark your trip: The popular intricate body art called HENNA. This version is kid-friendly, lasts up to three weeks and can be chosen from a stock of selections or designed by you.
As for those with a desire for the most permanent of souvenirs, tattoo parlors are scattered throughout Maui. You choose from designs that run the gamut, from traditional sailor or Japanese images to Hawaiian-style or even portrait tattoos. Ask island residents or your concierge for the best places to “get inked” near you.