When driving on the northeastern side of Oahu, you’ll be surprised to find a lion waiting at the edge of Kahana Valley. Look up toward the mountains, directly behind the Crouching Lion Inn, and you’ll see him. He’s lying down with his underside resting on the rocky landscape and his head raised toward the western skies. The lion goes by the name “Crouching Lion” and is actually a rock formation that closely resembles the animal.The lion raising its head toward the sun in Kaaawa.

It’s one of many natural landscapes in Hawaii that have helped to sculpt the culture’s collection of myths and legends into what it is today. Mountain ranges, rocks and trees have been entertaining the imaginations of locals and visitors for decades, some stories dating back to ancient Hawaii.

Hawaiians believed that this particular rock formation on the Windward coast was Tahitian demigod Kupua, a relative of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele. He had been caught in the middle of a jealous feud between Pele and her sister, Hiiaka. Kupua eventually chose to side with Hiiaka, which upset Pele so much that she turned him to stone and cemented him to the ridge. To protect himself from Pele’s fiery wrath, Kupua instantly went into a crouching position; hence, the crouching rock formation.

Hawaiians originally identified the rock as a large-headed dog since they weren’t familiar with lions. When westerners arrived, they renamed the rock the “Crouching Lion.” To see the lion for yourself, it’s best to pull over in the restaurant parking lot. The restaurant itself used to be a happening spot several years ago but has since played a more mellow part in the dining industry as one of the few eateries on that side of the island.

This is only one of many mythical landscape formations I’m hoping to feature. Otherwise, just look to the hills with a creative eye.

Photo Credit: Kristen Matsunaga

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