Valentine’s Day is coming up – and I just can’t help but think about all the star-crossed lovers who grace the pages of Hawaiian history and legend. Around Hawaii, nearly all our natural wonders and beautiful flowers have a legend attached to them, and many of these legends are about lovers who are embroiled in scandal.

Here, I’ve put together a short-list of my favorite lovers and romantic legends in Hawaii — just in time for Valentine’s Day!

1. The legend behind the red lehua blossom: According to the Huffington Post, the Ohia tree is often the first plant to grow on new lava flows, but don’t even think of picking it’s beautiful, red Lehua blossom as a souvenir. Both the tree and flower are rooted in Hawaiian legend. “Ohia and Lehua were young lovers: he was a handsome trickster and she was the most beautiful and gentle girl on the island. But, one day Pele came across Ohia and wanted him for herself. When he refused her, she turned him into a twisted, ugly tree. Pele ignored Lehua’s pleas to change him back, but the other gods felt sorry for the young girl. They couldn’t reverse Pele’s magic, but they did turn Lehua into a beautiful red flower and placed her on the tree so that the two young lovers would never again be apart. It is said that as long as the flowers remain on the tree, the weather is sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, rain falls like tears since Lehua still cannot bear to be separated from her beloved husband Ohia.”

The naupaka flower looks like a flower that's been torn in half. It's uniquely tied to an ancient Hawaiian legend.

    2. Why you should put two naupaka flowers together: When my family and I lived in Waikoloa on the Big Island, naupaka was everywhere — and, as I strolled my baby daughter, I would often tell her about the legend behind this unusually-shaped flower (the flowers appear to have been torn in half). According to Hawaiian legend, Naupaka was a beautiful princess who fell in love with a commoner named Kaui. The star-crossed lovers could never marry and so Naupaka vowed to stay in the mountains while Kaui remained along the ocean. Before parting for the very last time, however, Naupaka took the flower from her hair and tore it in half, giving it to Kaui. Even the nearby plants were saddened by the scene, and the very next day they began to bloom only half flowers in honor of the separated lovers.

3. The legend of Sweetheart Rock: Like my experience with the naupaka flower, anytime I gaze upon Sweetheart Rock on Lanai, I can’t help but let my mind wander to the romantic legend behind the natural wonder. The logical part of me understands that ancient people will often make-up stories about unexplained fascinations of nature. But, the romantic side of me wants to believe in the legend. You can make up your own mind, but here’s the legend behind Sweetheart Rock: According to MauiTime, Pehe, the maiden from Lanai, fell in love with Makakehau, the warrior from Lanai. In fact, Makakehau translates as “misty eyes,” expressing just how smitten he was with Pehe. Anyway, Makakehau–though romantic and dashing–was also a tad bit jealous. So much so that he imprisoned Pehe in a cave right on the peninsula shore between Manele Bay and Hulopoe. Then one day, a fierce storm rose while he was away, drowning Pehe before he could return and rescue her. Stricken with grief, Makakehau is said to have carried Pehe’s body to the top of the sea stack that towers over the peninsula, entombed her within it and then leaped to his death.

sweetheart rock on lanai

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Dana Edmunds

Stricken with grief, Makakehau is said to have carried Pehe’s body to the top of the sea stack that towers over the peninsula, entombed her within it and then leaped to his death.

Next time you book a Maui Hiking Tour, a Kauai Guided Hiking Tour, or a Haleakala Crater Hike, make sure you ask your guide about the stories BEHIND the natural wonders. You never know what romantic legends in Hawaii lurk underneath our beautiful scenery!


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