Naupaka is a shrub found in the mountains or near the shores of Hawaiʻi beaches that bears glossy green leaves and white flowers that resemble only half of a flower. The legend of these half-flowers come from Kauaʻi and honors the love between two young students, Nanau and Kapaka.
Nanau and Kapaka were haumāna, students, of a hula hālau who were expected to memorize long chants and dances as well as obey strict kapu (prohibitions) and protocols.
One night, Nanau and Kapaka were heard crossing the stream of Limahuli by their Kumu, Kilioe. Kilioe was outraged as Nanau and Kapaka had broke kapu and were caught with one another. Kilioe ran after the two lovers and caught up with them near Lumahaʻi beach where she demanded that they stop running. Instead, the two ran ahead and were determined to stay true to their love.
Nanau did the best he could to protect his love by hiding Kapaka in a cave and running up the mountain to divert Kilioe. However, when Kilioe pursued Nanau, Kapaka ran from her cave to block Kilioe’s way. In an outrage, Kilioe swung after Kapaka and killed her, then continued to pursue Nanau up the mountain. When Nanau saw his love plummet to her death, he faced Kilioe and accepted his fate of death to join his lover.
On the following morning, fisherman noticed a new plant growing from the sand near Kapaka’s death. The plant was beautiful, however the flowers only formed a half-circle. The same had happened in the mountains near Nanau’s death, a beautiful new plant with half-circled flowers had begun to bloom.
The story goes, that Laka, the goddess of hula, had changed the two lovers into the Naupaka that blooms on the beach and the Naupaka that blooms in the mountains, to be separated forever.