Hu`a Lele – A fascinating natural feature in Makaīwa Bay, East Maui
Makaīwa Bay is located about three quarters of a mile northeast of the village of Kailua below Hāna Highway along the north coast of East Maui. `O`opuola Stream that flows into the bay is the boundary between the Moku of Hāmākualoa and Ko`olau. Makaīwa Bay is a deep, unusually narrow bay, whose depth is accentuated by two sharp prong-like points that jut out into the ocean, `O`opuola Point on the east side and Ka Puka a Māui Point on the west side. The name Ka Puka a Māui is descriptive in that the point has a large and very prominent, round hole through it whose creation, legend states, resulted when the demigod Māui cast his spear through it. This famed ana puka is a well-known landmark to mariners and fishermen.
I first hiked down into Makaīwa Bay in the 1980s to see the bay and Ka Puka a Māui. As I walked out along the western shoreline of the bay toward the point, I was stopped short when I encountered an indentation in the shoreline that recessed into a rounded pocket about forty feet across with sheer sixty-foot-high cliffs around it. Trade winds that travel westward along the coast drive currents and waves along with it. Wave energy is deflected off Ka Puka a Māui Point into Makaīwa Bay along its west side. A rocky shelf funnels most of the waves into this pocket where they crash and churn about, creating great amounts of foam (hu’a).
As I stood on the rocky shelf, near the opening into the pocket, taking in this dramatic scene, I noticed that the cliffs surrounding the pocket were spackled with white spots that intrigued me. Then as I stood there puzzling over the white spots, a gust of wind began to increase in velocity, and as it did, the foam in the pocket began to swirl around. As the gust intensified the swirling foam began to lift off and soon became a powerful whirlwind, lifting the foam to the top of the cliffs and spattering them. When the gust subsided, everything settled down again. I watched this exhilarating sequence play out several times.
When I later recalled this experience, I thought that this place must have been known and appreciated by the kama`āina and would have been given a name. I found an old map from the early 1900s that had the name Hu`alele (foam flying through the air) along this coastline. This made perfect sense to me. Hu`alele also shows up as a small ahupua`a name along the coast in eastern Kaupō Moku.