Lāhainā Noon



Today, Lāhainā Noon occurred in Lahaina. Pretty cool yeah? At 12:33pm there were no shadows! (See Asa Ellison’s photo above) Allow me to explain…


Lāhainā Noon is a term used to describe the moment when the sun is directly overhead. This only happens in the tropics because the sun is never overhead anywhere else on earth. Even on Midway Island – it’s too far north to get the Lāhainā Noon! The date and time of Lāhainā Noon depends on how far south or north you are (in the tropics). Here in the Hawaiian Islands, the sun passes overhead twice a year. On that day, any upright objects like flag & telephone poles will have no shadow. At the Imiloa Astronomy center the skylight puts a perfect sun circle onto the artistic circle on the ground directly below it. It’s pretty cool!


According to the Bishop Museum: “Here in the islands a term we often use for zenith noon is “Lāhainā Noon.”  This is a modern term, selected by Bishop Museum in a 1990 contest held to select a name for the zenith noon phenomenon.  The term “Lā hainā” means ‘cruel sun’ in Hawaiian, and while the sun in the islands is almost never cruel, it can be pretty intense as it shines directly down from the zenith.”


There is also another phrase that refers to the zenith sun. Here in Hawaii that phrase is “kau ka lā i ka lolo,” which translates as “the sun rests on the brains.”  The Bishop Museum website states “this expression is discussed in the book 1972 book Nānā I Ke Kumu (Pukui et. al.) as being a phrase designating high noon; the time when ‘the sun is directly overhead and the shadow retreats into the body’… In view of all this, what we now call ‘high noon’ was though to be a time of great mana (spiritual power). While this passage has be cited by some writers to suggest that “kau ka lā i ka lolo”  is thus the traditional Hawaiian term for the ‘zenith sun,’ the phrase seems to refer to “high noon” on any day, and not specifically to those two days a year when the sun is exactly overhead.”


Unfortunately, I’m a bit late posting this about Lāhainā Noon – it’s already pau for most spots in the islands – however, the island of Hawaii still has one coming up on July 24th for Hilo (12:26pm) and Kailua-Kona (12:30pm). On July 28 at 12:28pm Lāhainā Noon will occur at South Point as well. I will be better next year! But for my friends on the BI – mark your calendars! Fun thing to do with the keiki :)


Nānā I Ke Kumu, V. 1. Mary Pukui, E.W. Haertig, Catherine E Lee; Honolulu, Hui Hānai Press, 1972 pp 123-4.




View all posts by