story by Luci Yamamoto
photo by Chris McDonough
Barely clad in a sarong, I enter an octagonal wooden sauna, thick with swirling steam. The room is unisex, but the sweltering fog gives some privacy. I could have requested a unisex steam, but I'm not that shy. Soon I'm dripping from every pore and Malia, my masseuse, gives me a vigorous sea-salt scrub (whoa, sandpaper).
Fully exfoliated and wide awake, I rinse off, ready for my tandem lomilomi. Lying face down, I feel four hands soothing my back and limbs. From somewhere beyond, I hear voices spontaneously break into oli (Hawaiian chanting).
Angeline's Mu‘olaulani, a Hawaiian wellness center off a gravel road in rural Anahola, is not your typical spa experience. Here, you won't find plush towels, private rooms or marble floors. Angeline's is more like visiting a friend's no-frills bungalow, with a wooden backyard-style deck and sauna. This low-key favorite of locals (and adventurous tourists) is run by three generations of a Native Hawaiian family. "Lomilomi is unconditional loving touch," says Angeline Kaihalanaopuna Hopkins Locey, the center's 79-year-old founder and matriarch. "When I first started, many people seemed ashamed of their bodies, especially the Hawaiian kupuna (elders). They were filled with shame or grief or rage—a legacy of the missionaries. Lomilomi helped them to feel accepted, to learn to let go."
Locey grew up on O‘ahu but lived much of her adulthood in California, raising her four kids and working in geriatric nursing. In the 1970s, she returned to Hawai‘i and experienced a cultural homecoming. She embraced Hawaiian healing and studied with revered lomilomi kumu (teacher) Margaret Machado. In the 1980s, she established a homestead on Hawaiian Home Lands, where she and her children have settled.
Locey's signature treatment involves three steps over two hours: First, a thirty-minute steam followed by an in-sauna scrub with sea salt and Kaua‘i ‘alae, a cleansing clay used in traditional Hawaiian food and medicine. After a shower, you're ready for a forty-minute, four-handed (or seventy-five-minute, two-handed) lomilomi from Angeline's granddaughter Malia and son Michael. One more shower, and you can either relax on the deck or steam again. The $130 to $150 treatments aren't cheap, but they offer a unique experience of Anahola, of native Hawai‘i and of ‘ohana in a most non-spa-like spa.