Lahaina Noon: Lose your shadow in Hawaii

Lahaina Noon
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Lahaina Noon: Lose your shadow in Hawaii

Have you ever heard of a Lahaina Noon? This is a unique phenomenon found only in the tropics, and we’re talking all about it today!

A Rare Occurrence

You may think that at noon, the sun is always directly overhead. But having the sun directly overhead at a 90-degree angle is actually a rare occurrence. So rare that it occurs only in the tropics (areas within 23.5 degrees of the equator), and only twice per year. 

In Hawaii, the unique high noon occurs on one day in May and one day in July. Right around 12 PM (it varies by a few minutes based on where you are in the island chain), the sun will be directly overhead, offering no shadows. 

Why It’s Called a Lahaina Noon

The phenomenon behind Lahaina Noon is as old as the sun itself. But it only received its name in 1990, when Bishop Museum in Honolulu had a contest to name it. The winner was Lahaina Noon, as Lahaina translates to “cruel sun.”

But it had a name even before that contest. Its earlier name was “kau ka lā i ka lolo, ” meaning “the sun rests upon the brain.”

We like that translation, but Lahaina Noon has a catchy ring to it. 

When to Experience a Lahaina Noon

In Hawaii, this special time occurs twice a year, in May and July. The exact dates will vary, and it likely won’t happen right at noon. There’s about a 30-minute range between the time it occurs on Kauai and on Hawaii Island. 

Other areas of the tropics typically don’t call it a Lahaina Noon, but they do experience the phenomenon of having the sun directly overhead. However, the name is beginning to spread to other areas of the tropics. The dates range throughout the year, depending on where these areas are in relation to the equator. 

Hawaii’s Observances

Back in Hawaii, Lahaina Noon is mostly fun to observe as you’re out and about, but it has held value throughout history. Many prayers, medicinal treatments, and rituals were administered during this unique time.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Hawaii during a Lahaina Noon, be sure to take a minute and notice the shadows (or lack thereof) around you.