The Legend of Naupaka

Hawaii is not only known for its stunning beaches and breathtaking landscapes, but also for its rich cultural heritage and captivating legends. As Hawaiians, we grow up learning about the culture, Hawaiian history and many Hawaiian legends that provide insight into our flora/fauna, geography, customs and way of life.  One such legend is the story of Naupaka, a tale that has been passed down through generations.

What is the legend of Naupaka?

The legend of Naupaka is a tragic love story that takes place in ancient Hawaii. It tells the tale of a beautiful princess named Naupaka and a fisherman (some versions say he was a warrior) named Kaui. Their love was forbidden, as Naupaka was a royal princess and Kaui was a commoner.

How did the legend unfold?

Despite the societal constraints, Naupaka and Kaui could not deny their love for each other. They would often meet secretly in the lush valleys of Kauai, away from prying eyes. However, their happiness was short-lived.

Naupaka was the sister of the fire goddess Pele, and Kaui was a fisherman.  Pele became jealous of their affection and sought to kill the couple.  To escape Pele’s fury, Kaui bolted into the mountains while Naupaka fled into the sea.

Separated by the forces of nature, Naupaka and Kaui were devastated. Naupaka found solace in the mountains, where she discovered a beautiful white flower with half petals. Heartbroken, she tore the flower in half, discarding one set of petals.

Meanwhile, Kaui sought refuge by the sea. There, he stumbled upon a similar white flower, but with the other half of the petals missing. He, too, tore the flower in half, discarding one set of petals.

What is the significance of the Naupaka flower?

After they died, flowers began to grow near the seashore and in the mountains that were similar yet distinctive – the Naupaka Kahakai and the Kaupaka Kuahiwi.  The couple’s love is symbolized by the similarity of the blossoms, which resemble two halves of an whole blossom, but sadly the two are forever destined to live apart.  BUT… It is said that the lovers can be reunited when the flower of the Naupaka Kuaihiwi (or Ulaula) and the Naupaka Kahakai are joined together after they have been picked.

What can we learn from the legend of Naupaka?

The legend of Naupaka serves as a reminder of the power of love and the consequences of societal norms. It teaches us that love knows no boundaries and can transcend even the most challenging circumstances.

Furthermore, the Naupaka flower symbolizes the hope for love to be reunited and made whole. It reminds us to cherish and fight for love, even in the face of adversity.

So, the next time you visit the beautiful islands of Hawaii, keep an eye out for the Naupaka flower. And remember, true love is worth fighting for, just like the legendary love of Naupaka and Kaui.

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