Kauai Mythbusters

Kauai Mythbusters

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Night marchers and forest-dwelling little people, volcanic goddesses, and human sacrifice – in Kauai, myths and legends litter the landscape. There are traditional and ancient oral histories passed down and around the Hawaiian islands about creation, survival and love of the land – what's known as "aloha aina." Not everyone pays heed to these ancient tales, but Kauai mythbusters beware: upset Ku, the god of war or Kanaloa, god of the underworld and ruler of the dead, and you might awaken suddenly on a moonlit evening with a night marcher padding across your lanai. We have compiled some of the most pervasive of urban legend, Kauai-style.

1. Little people known as "Menehune" built massive structures across Kauai overnight.

FALSE. Sort of, depending on whom you ask and what you believe. The Menehune form an integral part of legends and lore here, and there are people who adhere to the Kauai urban myth that troops of these forest dwellers – from the same family tree as leprechauns, trolls and elves – performed inhuman feats of engineering overnight. On Kauai, these little people are said to have built the Menehune Fishpond along Huleia Stream and the Menehune Ditch, a watertight aqueduct of grand proportions, while the rest of Kauai slept. It's likely that legions of commoners were enslaved to build temples and monuments to Kauai's gods.

2. There's a beach in Kauai with shores of multicolored sea glass instead of sand.

TRUE. "Good things come in small packages" goes the old axiom, and it's proven true by diminutive but quirky Glass Beach. While the origins of these glass shores are less than inspiring (they drift over in currents from an abandoned dump near Port Allen), the results are spectacular. Instead of strolling along the powdery white sands Kauai is known for, you'll be ankle deep in brown, green, white, and blue pieces of sea glass smoothed over by years of waves, wind, and shifting tides.

3. Human sacrifice was practiced on Kauai.

TRUE. Kauai mythbusters will tell you traffic jams do exist on the garden isle, and once upon a time, so did human sacrifice. In order to placate Ku, the god of war, human creation and virility in the Hawaiian pantheon, human sacrifices were performed in temples constructed for this purpose (by the Menehune, perhaps?). These "luakini heiau" were usually built on or near the grounds of royal residences. In Kauai, Holoholoku Heiau and the nearby hilltop temple known as Poliahu Heiau are believed to have seen their share of human sacrifices. Both of these sights are a quick drive from Lihue, Kauai's gateway city, but take care not to tread on or otherwise disturb these sacred sites. That would be "kapu" (taboo), and risk incurring a god's wrath. Even if you don't believe in such Kauai urban myth, respecting these traditional sites of cultural importance is part and parcel of responsible travel here.

4. Kauai has the biggest coconut grove in Hawaii.

TRUE. Some 2,000 coconut palms (that's a lot of coconuts!) pepper the grounds of the famous Coco Palms Resort. In addition to hosting famous guests like Bing Crosby and the Von Trapp Family, the Coco Palms gained instant celebrity when Elvis Presley crooned and shimmied in the shade of its fronds in his 1961 film, Blue Hawaii. Shuttered since 1992 when Hurricane Iniki walloped Kauai, today the Coco Palms Resort is spooky with shredded roof shingles and the ghostly atmosphere of long-gone grandeur. A popular Kauai urban legend suggests that someday the Coco Palms Resort will reopen to guests. Developers have tried over the years, but simply can't get the resources to refurbish the historical hotel; current land title holders have asked for an extension until 2013 to develop the site. Note: the site is fenced off and visitors are not welcome.

5. Kauai, like all the other main Hawaiian Islands, was conquered by Kamehameha the Great.

FALSE. Kauai (that maverick holdout) was the one island that Kamehameha the Great failed to conquer at the dawn of the 18th century. According to traditional Hawaiian lore, it was the power of Kaumualii, Kauai's crafty chief, along with his allied royal priests that prevented Kamehameha from conquering the garden isle. Some just chalk it up to bad luck. Kamehameha made two failed attacks on Kauai. The first, in 1796, was foiled by bad weather, while the second, in 1804, was aborted when an epidemic swept through the would-be-conqueror's ranks.
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