Rain, or “ua” in Hawaiian, is a near-daily occurrence in the islands. For residents, these passing showers are business as usual, if not a welcome respite. For malahini (visitors), an unexpected downpour may be perceived as an unfair occurrence, a damper on one’s pre-planned itinerary. But taking a closer look at how these rains are honored in Hawaiian culture can help those in the islands see the beauty and familial nature of their aqueous arrivals.
Hawaiians value rain, and all its intricacies—the intensity with which it falls, the angles it forms when swooping around a cliff, its many iridescent colors, the places where different types manifest and to which they are linked. This is evident in the Hawaiian language, which has more than 200 known terms for the rains found across the archipelago. This specific extension of the culture’s vocabulary was collected most recently in Hānau Ka Ua: Hawaiian Rain Names, an encyclopedic record of descriptors sourced from mele (songs), oli (chants), mo‘olelo (legends), ‘ōlelo no‘eau (proverbs), and the broader oral tradition. By recognizing them, author Collette Leimomi Akana and her co-researcher, Kiele Gonzalez, affirm the incredibly nuanced kinship the native culture has with this enduring element.
So the next time you’re enjoying the vista from your hotel lānai and notice a cluster of rainclouds looming in a nearby valley, or you’re walking the streets of Waikīkī and find yourself greeted by a gentle drizzle, contemplate the names of the regular Honolulu rains you may encounter in the island’s kona (leeward) district. Because when you know a rain’s name—or how to greet a Hawaiian rain as it greets you—you’re all the more likely to welcome it with open arms.