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A Hawaiian demi-god created Sacred falls

by Greg Cleghorne


Tucked away in the lush, green depths of Kaluanui valley on O‘ahu’s windward coast, far from the hustle and noise of Honolulu, lies a place both tranquil and beautiful. Ancient Hawaiians named it Kaliuwa‘a, known today as Sacred Falls. The Hawaiian word Kaliuwa‘a is two words, “Kaliu,” and “wa‘a,” meaning, “leaking canoe.” The valley’s name comes from Hawaiian folklore about a mischievous Polynesian demigod called Kamapua‘a who can take the shape of a man, a pig, a giant pig, or a herd of pigs.

Legend has it that he would raid a local village at Haleaha near Kaliuwa‘a, help himself to their sweet potatoes, taro, sugar cane, and generally make a nuisance of himself. After a few years of this, the men in the village had had enough and planned to get rid of Kamapua‘a. So, they got together and decided to “wrap this pig,” as the local terminology goes.

The skillful hunters set a trap for Kamapua‘a, but as a demigod, he saw the trap before it could be sprung. The village men, seeing he didn’t get caught in their trap, began chasing him deeper and deeper into Kaluanui Valley along the winding path of the “mana ala,” or mountain trail hikers follow.

While running up the trail, Kamapua’a came upon a man and asked him to divert his pursuers by telling them he went along another path, hopefully giving him time to escape. The man agreed to do as he was asked.

Kamapua‘a left the man on the trail and continued running deeper into the valley. By this time Kamapua‘a must have been sweating like a ... well, you know. He nearly reached the end of the gorge where he hurried to hollow out his kauluawa‘a (double-hulled canoe) so he could escape by sea.

He finished one side and set it down. Legend says this is the dry waterfall that rises a few hundred feet from the valley floor. It’s on the left almost at the end of the gorge.

Kamapua‘a was hurring to hollow out the second hull when he heard the villagers approaching and had to abandon it, unfinished. His path cut off, he turned into a pig and scampered up the left face of the waterfall and escaped. The second canoe hull, not finished, was leaking water--the fall itself--and the valley was named Kaliuwa‘a, leaking canoe. Greg Cleghorne is assistant editor of Hawai‘i Navy News. Reprinted with permission from



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