Amidst the Beaches, Rivers, Mountains and Waterfalls of Hanalei are Beautiful Rainbows

You see them in the morning, noon and evening, to the north, south, east and west. They appear out of nowhere causing everyone to gasp at their vibrant colors lighting up the sky.

A vivid rainbow over the Hanalei taro fields.

They may be very fleeting, disappearing in just minutes, or they may last more than a half-hour growing brighter by the minute until a grand arch frames the sky. Sometimes the end seems to come right down and touch the ground nearby enticing you to look for the pot of gold!

Hanalei is blessed with an abundance of rainbows due to the many passing rainshowers and abundant sunlight that creates the perfect recipe for an artistic creation that paints the heavens with colors. In ancient Hawai‘i the appearance of a rainbow, or ānuenue, symbolized the presence of a god or a chief.

Hawaiian warriors wore rainbow-colored feathered capes and helmets, and the saying “Ka wela o ka ua” translates to “Heated rain,” referring to warrior chiefs in feather capes and helmets who looked like rainbows heated by the sun.

What Creates A Rainbow?

Did you ever wonder what creates rainbows? Water droplets refracting a spectrum of course! More specifically, drops of water in the atmosphere cause light dispersion which separates the light into its different component colors.

As the light passes through the water droplets it separates according to  frequency because each frequency refracts (bends) slightly differently when passing through the transparent droplet.

If you see violet colored light from a particular water droplet then red light coming from the same droplet will fall below your eyes. You may see red light coming from a raindrop higher up in the rainbow. In other words, our eyes see different colors coming from raindrops at different heights in the sky.

Each individual water droplet refracts the full spectrum of colors but the observer only sees the colors that have bent from the droplet at just the right angle to reach where they are standing.

These angles are quite precise. For example, you see red at 42 degrees and violet is 40 degrees – both upwards and to each side, thus forming a continuous arc. The innermost arc of a rainbow is violet while the top is red since water droplets bend red light the least and violet the most.

Hanalei Visitors Also Know About Double Rainbows

Anyone who has had the joy of an extended stay in Hanalei will surely also have seen a “double rainbow” which is actually two completely separate rainbows one above the other.

The larger secondary rainbow of a double rainbow has its colors reversed with the red on the bottom or inside and the violet on the top or outside. A double reflection within each raindrop is what causes this enchanting dual rainbow.

Rainbows are always observed opposite the sun and most commonly seen in the morning and evening since the sun generally needs to be lower than 42 degrees above the horizon. In Hanalei a rainbow may appear at any time due to a passing rain shower in the tropical tradewinds.

Hanalei is Home of the Very First Rainbow

The first rainbow is said to have come to the Hawaiian Islands when the god Kāne threw a piece of kapa (tapa) barkcloth into a pool below the precipitous waterfall coming down the huge mountain called Nāmolokama which towers over Hanalei.

The goddess of rainbows, whose name was Ānuenue, was hiding on Kaua‘i and calling to the god Kāne through her dreams. Finally when Kāne arrived at the Wai‘oli rivermouth he met several women falsely claiming to be Ānuenue and each of these women gave him a piece of colored kapa cloth.

When Kāne came to the pool at the base of the waterfall he threw all of the pieces of kapa into the water where they joined together creating the very first rainbow. When this happened Ānuenue rose up from the water.

In 1931 Ethel Damon wrote, “Fall after fall of shining water hastens down green, abrupt slopes and across brief shore lands to the sea held within the broad curving arms of Hanalei bay. To the south of this green valley of Waioli stand its three peaks, Namolokama at the center, flanked on the west by Mamalahoa, on the east by Hihimanu. Eastward still further, wandering in wide bends to the sea, lies the more open valley of Hanalei, largest river of all the islands and drawing its source direct from Waialeale’s summit lake. Halalea, Place of Rainbows, the district was anciently called.”

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