Why Are There So Many Rainbows In Hawaii?

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Rainbows are commonplace on the Hawaiian islands. It can make for an incredibly majestic sight, something that Hawaii has in spades. But what causes all of these spectacular rainbows and what do rainbows mean to the Hawaiian people?

What Causes Rainbows?

Before we discuss rainbows in relation to the Hawaiian Islands, we need to address what they actually are.

A rainbow is an optical phenomenon, which means it’s not a physical object. It occurs following a rain shower when there are a lot of water droplets suspended in the air.

Sunlight shines through these droplets, refracts, bounces back off the droplet, and then arcs away in the direction from which it came. It creates an arc, and because sunlight is composed of a variety of colors that bend at varying speeds, these get separated when the light is reflected back.

To see a rainbow, there needs to be water droplets in the air and the sun must be behind you with no clouds blocking its path.

Why Are There So Many Rainbows In Hawaii?

In many ways, Hawaii has the perfect conditions for rainbow sightings. The cloud coverage, clean air, winds, and mountainous terrain all combine to make this a paradise for rainbow chases.

The high peaks force the trade winds to rise and rapidly cool, creating regular rain showers with lots of gaps in the clouds.

In other parts of the United States, polluted air obscures the rainbow formation and that’s only if they make it through the clouds.

What Does A Rainbow Mean In Hawaii?

Rainbows are beautiful, intangible, and they seem to form a transient bridge that connects the earth to the heavens. All things considered, it’s no wonder they have played such an integral role in many mythologies, including the mythology of Hawaii.

In Hawaiian culture, the rainbow is a bridge that allows the gods to come down to earth and the dead to rise to the heavens.

There is also a Rainbow Goddess by the name of Anuenue, who acts as a messenger of the gods. Interestingly, the ancient Greeks had a rainbow-based messenger of the gods, even though these cultures formed thousands of miles and centuries apart and in isolation of one another.

Where Is Best To See Rainbows In Hawaii?

Kauai is said to be one of the best places to see rainbows in Hawaii. The clean marine air in combination with regular rain showers means you can see many rainbows on the island.

Is There A Best Time Of Year To See Rainbows In HI?

The best rainbows appear during the winter. It’s rainy season, after all, and rainbows need rain. You can usually see them in the early hours of the morning or late at night when the sun is low.

If you’re doing a spot of rainbow chasing in the rainbow state, be sure to take your camera. You should snap the rainbows first and then focus on underexposing/editing them when you upload them to your computer.

FAQs About Rainbows

What Does Rainbow Mean In Greek?

In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow. Iris (ιρις) literally meant “rainbow” in ancient Greek and she was seen as a messenger of the gods, one who served to bridge the gap between humanity and the gods of Olympus.

Iris was the daughter of the sea god Thaumas and the water-nymph Electra.

Incidentally, the name “Iris” lent itself to the Iris genus of flowers due to its amazing colors. The iris in the human eye also gets its name from the ancient Greek messenger.

What Does Rainbow Mean In Hebrew?

In Hebrew, the word for rainbow, “qeshet”, is similar to the word for a “war bow”, not unlike the “bow” in the English version of this word.

What Does Rainbow Mean In Hawaiian Mythology?

As noted previously, rainbows play an important role in Hawaiian culture and Anuenue is central to that. Anuenue is the Rainbow Goddess, and much like Iris, her role is to serve as a messenger between the heavens and humanity.

How Do Double Rainbows Form?

In 2010, Paul Vasquez posted a video of a double rainbow on YouTube. It was filmed at Yosemite National Park and showcases the phenomena while Vasquez talks in the background, professing his awe and joy at the sight and then crying.

The video sat dormant for a while and was then picked up by Jimmy Kimmel, after which it went viral.

That was over a decade ago, but it’s still hard to talk about double rainbows without hearing those tearful words of joy.

The viral phenomenon may have thought that he was witnessing an incredibly rare sight, but double rainbows are not as rare as you might think. In fact, they are common, but highly visible ones are less common.

Double rainbows occur when light reflects twice as it moves through rain.

Bright double rainbow sightings are somewhat rare. Seeing a double rainbow without someone quoting Paul Vasquez is practically unheard of.

What Happens If You Go Under A Rainbow?

For rainbows to form, light has to pass through at the right angle. If you change your angle, you might not be able to see it. There is no “under” the rainbow, as it’s basically a trick of the light.

Why Is Hawaii Known As The Rainbow State?

Not only are rainbows commonplace in Hawaii, but they are also celebrated and can be seen throughout the state, including on the local license plates.

Where Else Can I See Rainbows?

Anywhere there is clean air, bright sunlight, and clear skies, you can find rainbows. Some of the best places to see them include Ireland, which is famous for its lush green grass, as well as its rainbows; Victoria Falls in Zambia, and Niagara Falls.

The best place to see a rainbow, however, is in Hawaii.