This was an easy topic and it’s a question that comes up a lot. The last few days I’ve been sitting on my back lanai and enjoying coffee and surfing the net, just enjoying the peace of a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon. Then I looked up and BOOM! Rainbows of such brightness and beauty that it really surprised me. Today, I actually looked up and almost disregarded it as one of the beautiful pictures I often see of Hawaii and didn’t realize at first that it was reality.
Rainbows in Hawaii are called aneune in the native language and are very common in the Islands. I’ve only seen them on Oahu thus far, but like I said, they happen a lot. The greatest thing is that it’s not uncommon to see more than one rainbow at the same in different locations, especially if you’re at a high vantage point and have a good view in different directions of the island like on the Diamond Head Summit hike.
This is one of the great gifts of living in the Hawaiian paradise. Before I got to Hawaii I may have been able to count the number rainbows that I’ve seen in my lifetime on two hands. Since arriving (only 90 days ago) I’ve easily seen that many and more.
Hawaii is not the “Rainbow State” for nothing! Honolulu is actually the Rainbow Capital of the World. Oahu is the perfect location to see a rainbow, especially in Honolulu and Waikiki. The windward mountains of Oahu sit right next to the area and they often create brief periods of rain. If there is sun behind those rain showers that is creeping at a low level then light passes through the falling rain and creates the rainbow.
How Exactly is a Rainbow Formed?
Sunlight is actually a whole range of colors although it may be as a bright, intense white to the human eye. The rain droplets that are in the atmosphere during and after a rain shower catches sunlight and refracts and bends the light so that many of those colors become visible and form the rainbow effect.
Fun Fact: Rainbows will only be visible under three conditions.
The sun must be low in the sky.
The sun is at the back of the viewer.
There are water droplets in the sky.
That’s why my back lanai is such a perfect place to catch all of the rainbows. The rain often forms in the late afternoon on the windward mountains and the sun is setting behind me as I sit and work on the computer and sip coffee or water. Spectacular. Many of the photos in this post are from my cell phone.
So, as you can imagine, with Hawaii’s tropical weather climate of rain showers and bright sunlight the Rainbows in Hawaii happen often, last long and are intense. There are times when I can see the whole rainbow from my lanai.
And in Oahu, this has the possibility to happen twice per day as the sun is rising from behind the windward mountains and then again while it’s setting and the sun is coming at the water In the air from the opposite direction.
As you can imagine, with any ancient and deeply proud culture and people, the Hawaiian people had many beliefs and strong feelings about the rainbow.
The rainbow was the celestial path that Hawaiian Gods used to leave the cloud islands and come down to earth when needed or wanted. Aneune was the name of the Rainbow Goddess who was sister to Kane Kanaloa, two primal Gods. Aneune acted as a messenger between the Gods and the Earth.
On the reverse side, the rainbow was also the path that newly dead souls would traverse to reach the heavens. Actually, they would first need to pass through the floating island of Kuaihelani and then, finally, enter the sacred realm or land of Nu’umealani.
Hawaiian Gods and Their Rainbow Color Symbolism
It was the practice and teaching of Shamans that each color of the rainbow was designated to a particular Hawaiian Goddess. If a person meditated and concentrated on a certain color of the rainbow then they would be imbued with the attributes associated with that Goddess.