Chinaman Hat’s Magic Trick

Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Chinaman Hat’s Magic Trick

While most magicians claim to have a trick or two up their sleeves, this famous Kualoa landmark has one under its hat.

Chinaman’s Hat is a 12.5-acre basalt island that sits right off the shore of Kualoa Regional Park on Oahu. Most say it looks like a straw hat used by Chinese immigrants, while others believe the island closely resembles a lizard’s tail.

But what about a magician’s hat? After all, this particular landmark specializes in an impressive Shrinking Act not known by many. It’s easiest to see this trick when driving eastbound on Kamehameha Highway (from the North Shore). Take notice of how Chinaman’s Hat appears to be getting smaller, as you get nearer to the island.

The exact opposite happens when driving toward the North Shore (northbound). Look back at the island – or if you’re driving, quickly glance into the rearview mirror – and watch the island grow before your eyes!

My dad always pointed this out to us whenever we went holoholo around the island as a family. He’d say, “Look! The island’s growing!” And each time, in pure amazement, my siblings and I would ooh and ahh at the wonders of magic. Years later, when I found out that this hat wasn’t as magical, it was like being told that Santa didn’t exist. I was devastated!

So what’s the real cause of this magic trick that continues to boggle minds? My guess is that it has something to do with the surrounding telephone poles. Both vantage points – whether driving toward or away from the island – will be viewed between two telephone poles along the highway. What’s your guess?


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