Man reaches up with rope to lasso the sun within the crater
The moʻolelo of Maui plays a large role in this park being named Haleakalā- house of the sun.

Painting by Paul Rockwood

Māui Snaring the Sun

The Māui myths are known to many cultures throughout the pacific. His most famous deeds include fishing up islands, obtaining fire, and snaring the sun. The version told here in Hawaiʻi of Māui capturing and slowing ka lā (the sun) involves Hale-a-ka-lā, the house-of-the-sun. The natural phenomena of the sun’s movement across the sky is explained in the Hawaiian mo‘olelo of Māui snaring the sun.

Long ago the sun ran quickly across the sky. There was hardly any time to prepare and cook food, and even a prayer to the gods could not be finished before darkness fell. Māui’s mother Hina had trouble drying her kapa, the bark-cloth that was the only source of clothing and bedding in Hawaiʻi. Kapa is created from the bark of the wauke plant, beaten and processed. Before it can be worn it must be dried in the sun, and the sun passed over so quickly that by the time Hina had laid it all out, it was dark and she had to gather them back up again.

Māui decided to make the sun go slower, so he climbed to the top of the ridges of Iao valley to track the path of the sun. He saw that the sun came up the eastern side of Haleakalā, and crossing the plain and climbing the mountain he watched the sun come up from Koʻolau, and passed over the top of the mountain. After figuring out the path of the sun Māui returned to his mother Hina and told her of his plan to slow down the sun. She gave him fifteen strong cords and told him to find the place where a large wiliwili tree grows on Haleakalā, that is where his grandmother lives, and the sun stops there to eat bananas cooked by his grandmother. He must wait until the rooster crows three times, and when his grandmother comes out to prepare the bananas, he must steal them.

When she looks for them she will find him, and when he identifies himself as the son of Hina she will help him.Māui climbed back up Haleakalā to Kaupō and found the wiliwili tree. After the rooster crowed he saw his grandmother come out with a bunch of bananas. She laid them down as she went about her preparations, and Māui stole the bananas easily, as his grandmother was blind. When she reached for them and found them gone she cried out, and though blind she sniffed around and scented a man, asking who was there. Māui replied that he was the son of Hina, and he’d come to kill the sun for going too fast that the kapa Hina made did not have time to dry out.

His grandmother gave him another cord, and a stone for an adze, and gave him instructions for how to capture the sun. Māui hid by the wiliwili tree to wait for the sun to arrive. As the sun’s legs came into view Maui snared them one by one. When the sun realized what was happening it tried to go back down the mountain into the sea, but Māui tied the cords to the wiliwili tree and hauled the sun back up. Māui struck the sun with the adze until the sun begged for it’s life, promising to go slower.

woman with dark hair and red flower crown holds a flame

Pele- Ka wahine ‘ai honua (The earth-eating woman)

The rocks that you see here at Haleakalā are not just clusters of minerals created over millions of years by lava. To the Hawaiians, these rocks are the physical form of one of the most respected goddesses in the Hawaiian culture, the volcano goddess Pele. Pele is both praised and feared by the people of Hawai‘i. She may destroy everything in her path, but Pele is also a creator of lands. Pele has many kino lau (forms) and one of them is the lava that bleeds from the earth. You can see Pele in action today at Halema‘uma‘u crater on Kīlauea.

Pele is the creator and destroyer of lands and is respected and feared by many. Pele voyaged from the distant land of Kahiki southeast to the Hawaiian Islands in search of a permanent home.

Throughout her travel she faced many trials including conflict between her sister Namakaokahaʻi. Eventually Pele settled at the Halemaʻumaʻu crater on Kīlauea. Pele has many kino lau (forms) one being a woman and another being the lava that bleeds from the earth.

Every year many visitors take pieces of Pele from Hawai‘i, which to the Hawaiians is disrespectful. In honor of the Hawaiian culture, please do not take rocks or cinder from Haleakalā National Park. It is also against the law to remove anything from a National Park.

two men in traditional Hawaiian dress stand beside hand carved canoe on shore with palms in the background
Walter Pu and Kumu Tafa with a waʻa (canoe) carved by Tafa at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park on Hawaiʻi Island

NPS Photo

Menehune and Laka

One day a child Laka-a-wahieloa was born in Kīpahulu to a chief named Wahieloa and his wife Hinahawea. They adored their son, and some years later Wahieloa went to Hawaiʻi to acquire a toy for his son and was killed in a cave called Keana-a-Kaualehu.

Laka began asking for his father, and his mother sent him to his grandmother, who told him that his father went to Hawaiʻi, and was thought to be dead. Laka then asked how he could go and search for his father .His grandmother replied, "Go to the mountains and look for the tree that has leaves shaped like the moon on the night of Hilo, or Hoaka; such is the tree for a canoe." Laka followed this advice, and went to the mountains to find the tree for his canoe. Finding a good one, he cut in the morning, and by sundown he had felled it to the ground. This accomplished, he went home. The next day he could not find his fallen tree as it had been placed upright. So he cut down another, with the same result. Laka was thus tricked for several days. He went to the mountains again and found the desired tree, but before cutting it he dug a big hole on the side and upon cutting the tree it fell right into the hole or trench, as designed; then he jumped into it and lay in waiting for the person tricking him.

He sang a song to Akua and when it ended there was a hum and noise and the forest filled with a band of people, who tried to lift the tree; but it would not move. Laka then jumped out from his place of hiding and caught hold of two of the men and threatened to kill them. One of the men, Mokuhalii, told Laka that if they were killed, nobody would be able to make a canoe or hew it to the beach for him, but if they were spared they would willingly do so. In return Laka would build a big and long shed (halau) to hold the canoe, and prepare food for the men. Laka agreed, released them, and returned to his home and built the halau. When he went to the woods he saw the canoe complete. The Menehune told Laka that it would he brought to the halau that night. Late at night the hum of the voices of the Menehunes was heard; this was the commencement of the lifting of the canoe. It was not dragged, but held up by hand. At the third hum the canoe was carefully laid down in the halau. Food and fish were there spread out for the workers. At dawn the Menehune returned to their home. It is said that Laka’s hole remains.

Story adapted from “Laka’s Adventure” in Hawaiian Folk Tales, by Thomas G. Thrum.

dark wood canoe displayed in middle of visitor center
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Last updated: August 4, 2022

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Haleakalā National Park
PO Box 369

Makawao, HI 96768


808 572-4400

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