Maui News

Mt. Ka’ala Chant Gifted at Natural Area Reserve

March 5, 2018, 5:23 AM HST
* Updated March 5, 11:18 AM
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A mele and chant were gifted to the Natural Area Reserve System atop O‘ahu’s highest point, Mt. Ka‘ala.  At 4,025 feet above sea level, Mt. Ka’ala is most often shrouded in fog and mist and is recognized by Hawaiians as the sacred wao akua, realm of the gods.

The flat-top mountain in the Wai‘anae Mountain chain is host to numerous native and rare plants and animals and 1,100 acres of this rugged mountain terrain was protected under the State’s Natural Area Reserve System in 1981.

The entrance chant and song were gifted to the DLNR staff to honor place and people.  Department Chair Suzanne Case said these works link the natural and cultural worlds, which she said is in complete alignment with DLNR’s mission and goals.

The entrance chant, He Oli Kāhea no Kaʻala Ka Niʻo o Oʻahu, celebrates the signature tree of Ka‘ala; the Lapalapa, the fluttering tree of the summit. Composed by Nā Waʻa Lālani Kāhuna o Puʻu Koholā, the chant section of Hālau Mele under Kumu Sam ʻOhu Gon III, the chant recognizes Ka‘ala as home of Kaiona, who in Hawaiian culture is known as the beneficent goddess who guides travelers. She is referred to as ka wahine hele lā, the woman who goes by day. She, and the multitude of living denizens of Kaʻala provide inspiration and protection.


The hula, Haʻa Kaʻala i ka Moaʻe Kū, means Ka‘ala “dances in the strong tradewinds”. Gon describes it as, “a tempestuous mele, as befits Ka‘ala when strong trades blow and the plateau is marked by fast-moving cold mist and rain”. It notes lehua as one of the dominant trees on the mountain and makole, a common herb found on the summit, growing on the ground amidst mosses. The mele also recognizes Kaiona as the patron goddess of travelers guiding them on the mountain’s fog-bound trails.


The summit of the mountain has military communications and radar installations. However venture onto to the boardwalk trail and you can explore the native cloud forest and catch glimpses of the fragile community of Hawaiian plants and animals that have made Mt. Ka‘ala their home for countless generations.

Mt. Ka‘ala is one of about 20 natural area reserves located around the state.


Sam ʻOhu Gon III at Mt Kaʻala. PC: Hawaiʻi DLNR

Mt Kaʻala. PC: Hawaiʻi DLNR

Mt Kaʻala. PC: Hawaiʻi DLNR

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