Naupaka: The Separated Lovers
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
There are so many iconic flowers in Hawai`i's natural landscape. One flower so common, but has an amazing story behind it.
That plant is called the naupaka (now-pah-kah) and it’s found throughout Hawai`i beaches and in the mountainous areas in the islands.
According to legend, a handsome young man and a beautiful princess fell in love. Unfortunately, socially, they could not be together because she was of noble birth and he was a commoner, a maka'ainana (mah-kah-eye-nah-nah).
Determined to find a way to be together, they went up to the mountains to see a kahuna. Kahuna were the spiritual resources of Hawaiian society and, surely, the mauka (mountain) kahuna would be able to help them. After consulting with him, they were saddened with the news that they could not be together. However, he encouraged them to pray at the heiau where he served.
Upon praying, under the falling rain, the young man and his princess embraced one last time. Taking the flower from her hair, the princess tore the flower in half, giving her lover one of the halves and keeping the other. She remained in the mountains while he returned to the seashore.
Full of sorrow, the naupaka blooms with half flowers.
Today, you can find the naupaka kahakai (beach naupaka) growing by the ocean on all the major Hawaiian Islands, while the naupaka kuahiwi is found in the mauka, or mountainous, regions on O`ahu and Kaua`i. When you pick petals of each of these and put the halves together, you are uniting the lovers and making them whole.
Hawai`i’s rich history of legends and cultures makes it one of the most unique places in the world.
Next time you’re on O`ahu or Kaua`i and are at the beach, check out the naupaka kahakai--you’ll see the half flower. If you’re also able to visit the Pali and find the naupaka kuahiwi; you never know--you may be able to "unite the lovers."