Hā‘ena is bordered by Hanakapiʻai on the west and Wainiha on the east. Hā‘ena means Red hot.
Hā‘ena: Red hot
This literal translation may refer to the strong taboos that surrounded this ahupuaʻa and the schools that were located here.
Lit: Red stem
This translation may refer to the reddish stem of the uhi-kalakoa, a variety of sweet potato grown here.
Lit: Sun heat
Hāʻena is the westernmost ahupuaʻa of the Haleleʻa district. It is bordered by Hanakapiʻai on the west and Wainiha on the east. Hāʻena is dominated by cliffs broken by a deep valley, Limahuli, and a shallow valley, Mānoa. In front of the cliffs lie a flat sandy plain with dunes along the beach. A reef extends almost the entire length of the ahupuaʻa and forms one large lagoon and a bay, Makua, and a small bay and lagoon at Kēʻē.
Carbon dating in 1989 made from a site in Limahuli indicated that there was a settlement here by 300 A.D. (Sei) This figure has been disputed and will need to be refigured.
Hā’ena was always ruled by a chiefess and remained politically independent from the Ali’i Nui (Ruling Chief) of Kaua’i. The chiefess was in place for life, unlike other ahupua’a chiefs who lost their position when a new ruler was named.
After his second failed attempt to invade Kaua’i, Kamehameha sent several envoys, one after the other, to persuade Kaumuali’i, the Ruling Chief, to submit to Kamehameha’s sovereignty. The first few envoys were greeted warmly and given land and material wealth. One of these envoys was the high chiefess Kekela who was offered Hā’ena, which she took, never returning to Kamehameha. She was still alive in 1848 and directed the people here to file their claims for land.
Monk seals were often seen here and were called ‘ilio, perhaps because the bark of seal and dog are similar. Hā’ena was noted for the quality of dog which was grown here as food for the chiefesses who were not permitted to eat pork.
The name hā’ena was given a variety of tapa which was used to clothe wooden images of the god Kū-nui-akua. This was the embodiment of the most powerful and senior god worshipped on Kaua’i. [Kamakau: Na Po’e Kahiko, p 12]
Perhaps more than anything else, Hā’ena is most famous as the site of the legend of Pele, Lohi’au, Paoa, and Hi’iaka. This long legend is possibly based upon a real woman who came to Kaua’i about the year 1350 A.D. In those years of peace on Kaua’i, the haku mele (myth makers) wove a story much as Homer did the story of the war against Troy. This story is unique to the Hawaiian Islands. and has no counterpart on any other Polynesian islands.
Pele came to Kē’ē when she first sought a home and safety from her sister Namakaokaha’i. Here she met Lohi’au and fell in love with him. But each time she dug a cave to make a home for them, she met with water. She left Kaua’i to seek a home, promising Lohi’au she would return for him. Eventually she made her home at Kilauea on Hawai’i, then sent her sister Hi’iaka to fetch Lohi’au .
Meanwhile Lohi’au hung himself in despair. His body was placed in a cave above Kē’ē and was guarded by two mo’o sisters, Kilioe and Aka. Hi’iaka and her friend Wahine’ōma’o arrived to bring Lohi’au back to Pele. Hi’iaka killed the two guardian mo’o and, with herbs and prayers, restored Lohi’au to life.
The two then went back to Hawai’i, where Hi’iaka found Pele had broken her promises to her and in defiance, Hi’iaka embraced Lohi’au. This enraged Pele and she covered Lohi’au with lava. Hi’iaka then dug a tunnel from the sea to the fire pit but was persuaded by her brothers to spare Pele. Hi’iaka returned to Kaua’i and never saw Pele again. Meanwhile Hi’iaka’s brothers restored Lohi’au to life once again and took him to Kaua’i. There Hi’iaka and Lohi’au were reunited and spent the rest of their lives at Hā’ena.