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The Legend of Naupaka

The Legend of Naupaka

It’s the Legend of Naupaka [nau-‘pa-ka], a beautiful Hawaiian Princess. Naupaka fell in love with a fisherman named Kaui [‘kau-i]. Over the years, the legend has been told in different ways, but the ending has always remained the same.

One version of the story goes like this.

Long ago in Hawaii, the beautiful Princess Naupaka, who lived high in the mountains, came down to walk along the beach. Many say she lived on the island of Kauaʻi [kau-‘a-i].

She had just reached the shore when she saw a handsome fisherman. He was throwing his fish net out into the lagoon when he saw Naupaka. It was love at first sight. Big time aloha [a-‘lo-ha] happened right there.

Legend of Naupaka - Princess Naupaka meets fisherman Kaui on the beach.
©HomeyHawaii.com, The Legend of Naupaka – First Meeting of Naupaka and Kaui.

They ran to each other on the beach and the princess learned the fisherman’s name was Kaui. But they both quickly realized that as she was a princess and he a lowly fisherman, their love could never be.

But like Romeo and Juliet, they tried to find a way. And the princess’ journey to seek permission for her love started a great adventure.

She ran to the kupuna [ku-‘pu-na], the wise elder, and begged for her blessing to marry Kaui. But the kupuna said no, that it was kapu [‘ka-pu] which means forbidden.

Legend of Naupaka - Naupaka and Kaui meet Kupuna, the wise elder.
©HomeyHawaii.com, The Legend of Naupaka – Meeting Kupuna.

However, the elder told the princess that she could travel to the high priest and ask him for permission, so she went back to her love Kaui and told him what they needed to do.

They both wandered for days through mountains and forests and eventually came to the high priest, known as a kahuna [ka-‘hu-na]. He was a wise and powerful person.

Legend of Naupaka - Naupaka and Kaui meet Kahuna, the high priest.
©HomeyHawaii.com, The Legend of Naupaka – Meeting the High Priest.

The high priest listened to Naupaka with great care, but the ancient custom was too strong; he had to forbid them to marry. Still wanting to give the young lovers hope, he told them to ask the Hawaiian gods for permission.

The lovers were fearful but prayed nonetheless.  But as their pleas reached the Heavens, a fierce rain fell, lightning struck the mountain, and thunder rolled through the skies. They knew then that the gods too had said no.

Legend of Naupaka - stormy weather, the gods said no to marriage of Naupaka and Kaui.
©HomeyHawaii.com, The Legend of Naupaka – Thunderstorm.

All hope was gone. The young lovers returned to the beach where they had met and prepared for their farewell. With their eyes filled with tears they hugged. Naupaka told Kaui that because even the gods had refused them, they must part.

She embraced him and said, “My love, I must return to my kingdom on the mountain and you must remain here by the sea, but let this flower remind us and everyone of our love.”

Legend of Naupaka - Farewell of Naupaka and Kaui.
©HomeyHawaii.com, The Legend of Naupaka – Farewell.

With that, she took a flower from her left ear. She tore the flower in half and gave one half to her lover, and kept the other.

She climbed up into the mountains, never to return, and Kaui remained by the shore, and they both lived out their lives apart.

To this day, the naupaka flower only blooms by half, signifying the lovers’ separation.

Legend of Naupaka - Two hands holding naupaka flowers: male hand holding beach naupaka and female hand holding mountain naupaka.
©HomeyHawaii.com, The Legend of Naupaka – Two Hands.

The naupaka kuahiwi [ku-a-‘hi-vi] variety of the flower grows in the mountains (kuahiwi means mountain), and is the flower held by Naupaka, the princess. Mountain naupaka is endemic to Hawaii.

The other kind, naupaka kahakai [ka-ha-‘ka-i] grows by the sea (kai means sea and kahakai means beach), and is the flower held by Kaui, the fisherman.

Whenever the naupaka kuahiwi flower of the mountains and the naupaka kahakai flower by the sea are picked and joined together, it is said that the two lovers are once again united.

Illustrations by Mariia Kudrina.

Hawaiian Words and Meanings

aloha [a-‘lo-ha]
Means love, used as a greeting or farewell.

kupuna [ku-‘pu-na]
An elder, grand parent or older person; also means ancestors.

kapu [‘ka-pu]
A ban or restriction. Today in Hawaii it means forbidden or no trespassing.

kahuna [ka-‘hu-na]
A Hawaiian shaman or priest, an important social class in old Hawaii.

kai [kai]

kahakai [ka-ha-‘kai]
Beach, seashore

kuahiwi [ku-a-‘hi-vi]

A Brief Guide to Hawaiian Pronunciation

Words in square brackets [ ] show the pronunciation of Hawaiian sounds and words. The words are broken in syllables by dashes, and there is an apostrophe in front of the stressed syllable. Disclaimer: our transcription is simplified and doesn’t cover all aspects of Hawaiian pronunciation.

Example: aloha [a-‘lo-ha].

[a] makes a short “ah” sound like in the word “but”
[e] makes a short “eh” sound like in the word “let”
[i] makes an “ee” sound, but short like in the word “tip”
[o] makes a short “oh” sound like in the word “top”
[u] makes an “oo” sound, but short like in the word “put”

To learn more about Hawaiian pronunciation and to listen to recordings of Hawaiian words, check out our Hawaiian Pronunciation Guide.

11 thoughts on “The Legend of Naupaka

  1. WOW WOW WOW! Fantastic….My story animated, I am so honored and excited. But we have to know the artist who brought this to life, so great. Thank you, Elena. You are so creative….

  2. Good story! Tell one about the missionaries who planted the nasty thorns on the beach to keep lovers from enjoying the ambiance by the shore.

  3. That was beautiful ♥️ Can I please get the contact information for the Artist? Mahalo for sharing this beautiful story🌺

  4. A month ago, I went to Kona and went to the beach and found the “naupaka” bush… thinking that someday I may be able to go to the Hawaiian mountains to see the other half… lovely story, but so sad that everyone was against all odds.

  5. Great story! I grew up on the beach in Kailua and we would put our towel and slippers next to the naupaka while we went surfing. Loved the naupaka on the beach!

  6. Aloha Chris, thank you for the nice words. Sounds like you really get into the beach and nature around you. Your comment is today! Fantastic, it’s still out there for people to read. Thanks again, Dennis

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