Maui Canoe Club

The World's Largest Recreational Only Outrigger Canoe Paddling Club

Legend of the Naupaka Flower – Another Tragic Love Story…

By Coral Rick.

The Legend of the Naupaka flower is told differently throughout the Hawaiian Islands.  The Naupaka is the bush with glossy green leaves, found growing near the road at our southern-most water spigot.

Naupaka at MCC

According to sources, there were once 10 different kinds of Naupaka in Hawai’i, but the two most familiar to people are the Beach Naupaka, called Naupaka Kahakai, and the Mountain Naupaka, called Naupaka Hiwa.  It is the delicate white flower of the Naupaka that is unique and that makes up this story.  You see, only one side of the flower has petals, making it look as if the other half is missing.

After visiting the Limahuli Gardens on Kaua’i, I was sent down the road to Ha’ena Beach to see a Cave that is part of this Legend.


There was a famous hula school located at the base of Makana Mountain near the beach. The students of this school were expected to obey very strict kapu and protocols. Memorizing the long and complicated Hawaiian chants and dances demanded their complete attention. One night the head of the school, Kilioe, heard the splashes of someone crossing Limahuli stream. She left her bed to follow the sound of the footsteps. Much to her surprise and anger, two of her best students, Nanau and Kapaka, were together in defiance of the hula kapu. When she caught up to them near Lumaha’i beach, she called their names and demanded that they stop. Instead, they ran ahead. They were lovers and each was determined to protect the other’s life.

The young man, Nanau, hid Kapaka in a cave and tried to divert Kilioe’s attention by running up the mountain. But when Kilioe chased after Nanau, Kapaka stepped out of her cave to block the way. Blinded by her rage, Kilioe swung her staff at the girl and killed her. Kilioe then ran up the mountain after Nanau. When Nanau saw that Kapaka was dead, he turned toward Kilioe, accepting death as a way to rejoin his lover.

The next morning fishermen reported finding a new plant growing from the sand at the site of Kapaka’s death. It was a beautiful shrub, but the flowers formed only half a circle. That same day bird-catchers discovered a new plant growing in the mountains where Nanau died. The flowers of this new mountain plant formed only half a circle. The goddess of hula, Laka, had changed these lovers into two plants, the Beach Naupaka and the Mountain Naupaka, which are separated forever.


Photo Credits: Rick Long



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