Kauai's Legendary Giants | Go Hawaii

Hāʻupu: Kauaʻi’s Guardian

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Hāʻupu: Kauaʻi’s Guardian

Although Kauaʻi may not be the largest of the Hawaiian islands, many features of its landscape trace their roots to legendary giants.

On the southeast side of Kauaʻi is Hāʻupu, a peak with many stories attached to it. There’s the giant guardian who shared the name Hāʻupu with the peak on which he lived, whose responsibility was to watch for invaders coming in canoes from Oʻahu across Kaʻieʻiewaho Channel. He once saw the glow of torches on the horizon, saw many canoes and heard many voices. It was a fishing tournament off the western coast of Oʻahu organized by the chief Kaʻena, but Hāʻupu mistook this for a fleet of invaders and flung rocks at them. The chief was one of the unlucky ones who lost his life, and his people named Kaʻena Point in his memory. Pōhaku O Kauaʻi, one of the stones the size of a house that Hāʻupu threw across Kaʻieʻiewaho Channel, can still be found off Kaʻena Point.

Then there’s Hinaiuka, the profile of a beautiful woman found on Hāʻupu. The feature is sometimes known today as Queen Victoria’s profile, but legend tells another story. Chiefess Peleʻula from Oʻahu heard about the beauty of Kauaʻi women. Since her own royal court was known for its beauty, Peleʻula ventured across the channel to see if what she heard of Kauaʻi was true. Peleʻula was greeted by Hina, her Kauaʻi counterpart, who agreed to a friendly competition where a young, tall, handsome chief would be both judge and prize. Peleʻula, adorned in the lei ʻilima for which Oʻahu is known, was quite pleased with her performance. But when Hina emerged draped in kapa and decked with lei maile wrapped in the famous mokihana of Kauaʻi, Peleʻula conceded that Kauaʻi’s beauties are second to none. To memorialize this, Hina’s profile was carved into Hāʻupu.

Further north between majestic Waiʻaleʻale and Kauaʻi’s east shore is Nounou, a peak looking over the town of Wailua. One of the legends says that a gentle giant named Nunui created deep holes wherever he stepped, helping farmers with places to plant their crops. The chief of the area wanted to gather rocks and ʻōhiʻa logs from the uplands to build a heiau, and Nunui was happy to help. When it was completed, Kukui Heiau was notable for the huge stones used to build its walls, thanks to the help of Nunui. To thank him for his efforts, the people prepared a huge feast for Nunui. After he enjoyed the feast and the company of the people, he laid down to rest and has yet to awake. The peak is popularly known today as Sleeping Giant.