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Cultural Significance of a Rainbow in Hawaii

Jenilee Reyes et al. looking at a phone

Rainbows play an important role in Hawaii. Undeniably, Hawaii is one of the best places on the planet to view rainbows. Below we highlight how these awe inspiring natural phenomena have become ingrained in the culture of Hawaii

History of Rainbows in Hawaiian Folklore

Ancient Hawaiians felt a profound connection with the aina (land), and utilized stories of their divine beings and goddesses to offer an explanation for the world around them. In Hawaiian folklore, the rainbow acts as the celestial path by which the Hawaiian Gods come down to earth; it also acts as the pathway for souls of the dead to travel to the heavenly realms. Additionally, the Rainbow Goddess, Anuenue, acts as a messenger of the Gods. 

Various tales highlight the significance of the rainbow to Hawaiian culture. The most popular is The Rainbow Maiden (also known as The Kahalaopuna). This tale tells the story of the Princess of Mānoa, a goddess born of wind and rain. Some say that Mānoa, the beautiful Rainbow Maiden, can still be seen playing whenever the light of the sun touches the mist of rain.

Read the full tale of The Rainbow Maiden here

The Preservation of History

Beautiful murals paying homage to Hawaiian folklore and ancestors can be found through out the islands. Local artists complete these works of art in order preserve Hawaiian Culture. Stunning portrayals like these keep stories like The Rainbow Maiden alive:

Other Modern Day Tributes to Rainbows:

  • Hawaii’s nickname is “The Rainbow State”
  • The state’s license plate depicts a rainbow
  • The University of Hawaii at Manoa football team are the Rainbow Warriors 
  • Rainbow shave ice is a popular treat in Hawaii.
  • The Rainbow Drive is an iconic lunch spot in Honolulu. It has been operating since 1961