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Legends & History

The area surrounding Hanalei Colony is rich in history, culture, and legends—more so than most other resorts in Kauai. Three caves, created from lava tubes, are easily located from the two-lane highway as you make your way from the resort towards the end of the road. The Maniniholo Dry Cave, and two wet caves, Waikapala’e and Wakanaloa, are said to have been formed by the fire goddess Pele’s stick as she prodded the earth seeking an appropriate homesite. Instead of striking fire, she struck water, thus Pele moved on, eventually making her home on the island of Hawaii where she still resides–and regularly makes her presence known–in the fiery crater of the continually erupting Kilauea Volcano.

Just beyond the Dry Cave, the peaks of Pohaku-o-Kane and Makana are visible, two powerful mountains with strong mana, and the source of many legends and traditions. In ancient times, Makana served as “the fire cliff” from which flaming branches were hurled. Caught by the ocean winds, they were carried out to sea in a shower of sparks, creating a spectacle for miles around. Pohaku-o-Kane is shrouded in the mystique of a fascinating legend about three rocks–two brothers and a sister–who lived and breathed. After a long journey, one brother came to rest on the mountain peak, lifted there by the great god Kane and exhorted to watch over all within his view. The brother rock can be seen to this day, perched atop the mountain. It is said that if Pohaku-o-Kane, “the rock of Kane,” ever falls from the mountain, the island of Kauai will sink into the sea.

The end of the road in Ha’ena—not much past Hanalei Colony–brings you to Ke’e, site of one of the loveliest beaches imaginable and, above it, one of the most sacred spots in all the islands. A short pathway leads upwards to what remains of an ancient heiau (place of worship), dedicated to the practice of hula. This heiau, called Ka ulu a Paoa, was of great importance in ancient times and remains significant even today among Hawaiians. In old times, hula was ceremoniously taught at this heiau, and, as Hawaiians had no written language in those days, the dances and chants were relied upon to accurately record and communicate oral history through the generations. Students chosen to study hula at Ka ulu a Paoa were the finest in the land, and they lived by strict standards:  disturbing a ceremony at the heiau or changing a hula step was punishable by death. Today, thankfully, hula standards are not quite so stringent! However, the heiau is still considered sacred, and visitors to the site are asked to treat it respectfully.