Under the Waimea Rainbows

by | Sep 22, 2023 | Featured, Hawai'i Weather, Hawaii Island Communities, Waimea (Kamuela)

Today, “anuenue” is the Hawaiian word most often used for “rainbow,” but there are many different words for rainbows—rainbows in fog, rainbows around the sun or moon, partial, whole and double rainbows, and a “rainbow sparkling rain” called “uakoko.”

The beautiful song, “Hawaiian Lullaby,” by Peter Moon and Hector Venegas, 1974, describes the way I feel every time I see anuenue. And where I live, in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, there are rainbows across the sky almost every day. Take a few minutes to enjoy the video of this version by Josh Tatofi and ‘ohana.

Where I live there are rainbows,
with life in the laughter of morning
and starry nights.
Where I live there are rainbows,
with flowers full of color
and birds filled with song.
I can smile when it’s raining
and touch the warmth of the sun.
I hear children laughing
in this place that I love.

waimea double rainbow

Waimea is a perfect location for rainbows, at about 2,500 ft. above sea level, where warm air from the coast climbs the slopes of Mauna Kea and releases moisture into the sky. Our community is blessed with 58 inches of precipitation each year (on the “wet side”), some in the form of cold sideways rain, and some gentle like the inside of a cloud. On those days, Waimea’s beautiful blue-green landscape can be brilliant in the cloudless sunshine. And yet, there’s an almost-invisible sprinkle of water vapor, the perfect recipe for the breathtaking rainbows that paint the town with colorful light. At those times, folks who live here stop and appreciate the vision, thinking “only in Waimea!”

waimea fog rainbowThe scientists at our very own W.M. Keck Observatory Headquarters, who know more about light than just about anyone in town, might explain a rainbow in terms of refraction and spectroscopy. That is, as sunlight strikes water particles in front of your eyes (or your camera) at exactly 42 degrees, that light bends and separates into its individual color wavelengths before it exits on the other side: red, orange, yellow, green, indigo and violet. The result, on a giant scale, is a rainbow.

I’d rather think of my Waimea rainbows more poetically. After all, a rainbow is an important symbol in many cultures, from the Book of Genesis to the Legend of the Leprechaun’s Pot of Gold. In Hawaiian culture, there is a legend about the Princess of Mānoa, a goddess born of wind and rain, so beautiful that anuenue followed her wherever she went.

Waimea is also the hometown of Ethan Tweedie, a friend of mine and one of Hawaii’s very best photographers. Ethan is a bit of a rainbow specialist, able to capture the exceptional joy and glory of our Waimea rainbows with his remarkable photography. Ethan was voted North Hawaii’s Photographer of the Year in 2012, and to top it off, he was then voted Best of the Best in Photography For Real Estate’s Photographer of the Year in 2013.

waimea moonbow by ethan tweedie

Waimea Moonbow by photographer Ethan Tweedie

I am sure Ethan would agree with me when I say that living in Waimea is like the good fortune found at the end of the rainbow. Lucky we live Hawai‘i!