Hawaiian cultural traditions and scientific theory together help us to understand how the Hawaiian Islands have formed and changed over time. Mo‘olelo of Papa and Wākea, and Māui describe the birth of our islands. Through mo‘olelo of Pele we discover how specific volcanic forms found throughout our islands were created. Science teaches us about the Hot Spot theory, the incredible and ever-changing life cycle of Hawaiian volcanoes, and more.
As one of the geologic stages in the formation of the Hawaiian Islands, rejuvenation volcanic eruptions formed some of our iconic landforms. Rejuvenation stage volcanoes are the last eruptions to occur after the main shield volcanoes have stopped erupting, and experienced significant erosion, landslides, and coral reef growth. Some of these puʻu (hills) inspired moʻolelo that explain their creation and connection to Hawaiian gods. Learn the traditional names of these famous puʻu in Hawaiʻi.
Hawai‘i is built on a firm physical foundation of volcanic rock and coral reefs. As time passes, erosion of land and formation of pōhaku have resulted. Each pōhaku, ‘ili‘ili, and ko‘a were once part of a larger mass. These pōhaku were used to create a foundation for hale (houses), kuapā (fishpond walls), and heiau (temples). Our kūpuna believed that there is mana (power, strength) in everything. Today we continue to use pōhaku as traditional tools to perpetuate our Hawaiian cultural practices.