The stories behind the popular nicknames of the natural landmarks on the islands.
Photo: Kanaka Menehune / CC-NC
Hawaii has so many distinctive land formations with interesting backstories to their popular nicknames that we couldn’t just limit it to one post.
Here are eight other alluring natural landmarks …
1. DragonTeeth on Kapalua
Christopher Michel / Wikipedia Commons
Sink your feet into this unique rock formation at Makaluapuna Point in Maui, a result of one of the island’s last lava flows. As the lava poured out of the West Maui volcano, violent winds and waves swept up the river until it hardened from a massive jaw to jagged teeth, hence “dragon teeth.”
2. Treasure Rock (Puu Pehe)
One of Lanai’s most famous landmarks is what locals refer to as Sweetheart Rock, which sits off the island’s southern Manele Bay. The correct Hawaiian name is Puu Pehe, which takes its name from a beautiful Hawaiian girl of the same name. The ancient Hawaiian story behind it is one of the most dramatic and tragic you will hear. Basically, the 80-foot island is a tomb named for Puupehe as her final resting place.
According to legend, their love was won in a war in which Makakehau, a lanai warrior, was victorious. His name literally means “misty eyes” because it is said that he would tear apart the beauty of his lover Poupehe.
Fearing other warriors would try to take them away from him, the two lived in this remote area of Lanai. One day he hid her in the Malauea Cave at the foot of this land formation while he went to fetch fresh spring water. During his absence, however, a violent storm swept through and drowned Poupehe. When he returned, he built her a grave on top of the island (because of the steep overhang, those who watched Makakehau believed that an Akua or god heard him cry and helped lift him and her body up).
After he laid Puupehe to rest, a heartbroken macaque tit jumped off the rock to its death.
3. Mokes (Na Mokulua)
These two famous islands, less than a mile off Oahu’s windward coast, are best seen off Lanikai in Kailua. The nickname “Mokes” (pronounced like “Smokes”) is a shortened version of his Hawaiian proper name Na Mokulua, which literally means “two islands”.
The larger Moku Nui (“big island”) and the smaller Moku Iwi (“small island”) are individual.
4.Elephant rocks (Mokuhooniki)
Photo: Edwin Alvarado
Best seen from above, you can see why this rock formation north of Molokai gets its popular nickname. This visually amazing island resembles that of an elephant – trunk, ear, body, tail and everything.
Its old Hawaiian name is Mokuhooniki, which literally means “pinch of island”. The book “Place Names of Hawaii” clearly indicates that this pinch should not be mean, but playful – just like you would pinch a lover.
5. Barking Sands Beach (Keonekani o Nohili)
Mike Coots / HAWAI’I Magazine
On Kauai’s Polihale Beach, south of Queen’s Pond, is a beach often referred to as Barking Sands. This is because the grains of sand here have a unique quality: each individual grain has tiny, microscopic, porous holes that create a noise that supposedly sounds like a barking dog when rubbed. The friction causes this phenomenon, but only when the sand is dry.
While this was a nickname given by early English speakers, the ancient Hawaiians made a similar observation. This area is called Keonekani o Nohili – translation: “The Sounding Sands of Nohili” – in Hawaiian mele (song) and Oli (song).
6. skinChair (Kapaliokamoa)
You can find this land formation on Oahu’s Leeward Side near the Makapuu Lighthouse. It sits above Awawamalu Beach, or what the locals refer to simply as Alan Davis, after Alan Sanford Davis, a former Campbell Estate trustee who lived and owned 3,000 acres in the area in the 1930s and 40s.
The name Peles chair is a modern take on what the rock looks like – simply a chair that the goddess of fire and lava must have created. The Hawaiian name Kapaliokamoa means “the cliff of the chicken,” and from its profile you can see the resemblance of a chicken and the comb on top of its crown.
7. Eject the Horn of Poipu
As soon as you make your way to the Poipu district on the south coast of Kauai, you will immediately see how this gargoyle got its common name. Poipu, which means “crashing waves,” feeds this natural tube of surf with lava that shoots nearly 200 feet into the air, making this a popular spot on the island. There is no Hawaiian place name associated with this particular landmark. Hawaiians most likely just called it Puhi, which means blowhole.
8.Electric Beach (Kahe Point Beach)
When locals say they go to Electric Beach, they are talking about a narrow stretch of beach in Nanakuli on the west side of Oahu. It is also known as Kahe Point Beach and derives its nickname because it is across from an electricity company.
That doesn’t sound like picturesque, but because the plant drains clean water offshore, the plant warms the water in the area and attracts a variety of marine life, from butterfly fish to humuhumunukunukuapuaa. This makes them a favorite for snorkelers with intermediate and above experience. The warmer temperatures also make it a popular early morning haven for Hawaiian spinner dolphins.
, Dragon teeth on Kapalua, Electric Beach (Kahe Point Beach), Elephant Rock (Mokuhooniki), Hawaii, Hawaii story, Land formations, Mokes (Na Mokulua), Peles chair (Kapaliokamoa), Bubbling Horn of Poipu, Stories behind Hawaii places, Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe)Barking Sands Beach (Keonekani o Nohili)