Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for hmmmm Mountains

M was a bit tricky. M could stand for Maui, then what about K for Kau’ai, another major island, or H for Hawaii (aka the Big Island)? It seemed like each island deserved its own spotlight, so maybe there could be another series in 8 parts for each major island. 

The mountains of Kauai. Overlook into Kalalau Valley and the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.  Photo by Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

So M will be for mountains.

A classic Hawaiian image, often the backdrop for lovely hula girls and grass shacks, is Diamond Head on Oahu. It’s actually a crater, but looks like a mountain. If you didn't know any better, you'd call this a mountain, albeit a small one, nothing like the Colorado Rockies or Swiss Alps. You’ll see this image of Diamond Head over and over again in vintage pictures of Hawaii. 
Vintage Pan Am advertising poster from the NY Public Library public domain image archive. Notice Diamond Head is the mountain in the upper left corner.

There are other well-known mountains like Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii and Haleakala Crater on Maui, but the iconic Hawaiian image of anything resembling a mountain is hands-down, Diamond Head Crater. Diamond Head, interestingly enough, has no diamonds! But from a distance, it sparkles in the light, and was named by a sailor who mistook the glitter of calcite crystals for diamonds.

Vintage public domain photo of Diamond Head via Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Tourists don't often say that they are going to Hawaii to visit the mountains. Go to Colorado or Switzerland for that. (You can even visit my twitter friend's nature blog in Colorado.)

But without mountains, how can you have waterfalls, which are part of the classic symbolic imagery of Hawaii?

Upper Waikani Falls on the legendary Road to Hana. Mountains are needed for waterfalls.
Read more about my crazy Road to Hana adventure.

Also, mountains are very important for directions in Hawaii. On a street or road, places are located mountain side, closer to the mountain (in Hawaiian, "mauka") or oceanside, toward the ocean ("makai"). It's easier than saying east or west or left or right.

One interesting thing: on the Big Island of Hawaii, on top of the summit, it can snow, and when the conditions are right, one can go skiing or snowboarding in the morning and then surfing in the afternoon!

One last thing: Hawaii mountains are volcanic in nature. Each island is really the top of one or more eroded volcanic mountains that arose from the ocean floor, the part that sticks above the water. So in a way, even on a beach anywhere in Hawaii, you're still on the side of a mountain that started under the ocean. 

Aloha and mahalo (thank you) for reading!

P.S. If you're blog hopping from the A to Z Challenge, please include a link if you comment. 


  1. Just stopping by from the A-Z Challenge list to say "Hi" :)
    Great post!
    Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

  2. Hmm, think my comment disappeared! Anyway, I'm not a skier but would love to try skiing in Hawaiian snow - just for bragging rights :) I'd also like to either hike or bike DOWN Diamond Head.

    Keep on blogging!

  3. Mahalo for stopping by! I will check it out! And good luck to you too and Jennifer. Hmm, not sure why the earlier comment disappeared.

  4. I've climbed Diamond Head! It was spectacular to view the island from so high up.

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  5. I love the mountains so this is one of my favorite posts. Diamond Head looks beautiful and the idea of skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon is crazy. Thanks so much for mentioning the nature blog in Colorado.

  6. I love the juxtaposition of the vintage picture and the new Hawaii Five-O to show Diamond Head. And skiing in the morning and then surfing in the afternoon sounds like it would be pretty awesome, but also very likely for me to end up injuring myself. :-)


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