Experiencing Kupulau: Recognizing Spring the Local Way

by Keolu

Kupu means to sprout.  

Lau means leaf.

Kupulau is Spring Time

We are just finishing hoʻoilo (winter/rainy season) and transitioning into kupulau.  Kupulau is the time of year that roughly approximates to spring.

Hawaiian seasons (known as kau) are determined by the positions of stars, the phases of the moon, and prevailing weather patterns.  

The Gregorian calendar on your refrigerator is based on the Sun so the Hawaiian season of kupulau doesn’t precisely line up with spring but its pretty close.

Every island’s and even district’s seasonal timing is slightly different. 

Mango blossoms may begin blooming earlier in Kapaʻa than in Kona.  Or mahi mahi may begin biting in Kahului before Kīhei. 

Kupulau begins in every area precisely when it should.

How do you know when kupulau is here?  These are common signs kupulau and the spring season has come to Hawaiʻi.

You Will Know Kupulau is Arriving Because

The kōlea bird will be fat and strong.  They will double in weight and go from sandy brown to blue-ish black.  The plumage of the males will begin turning dark & handsome. 

They will begin to look like a different bird because they are undergoing their final changes before their summer trip to Alaska.

Lychee trees will begin to blossom and mango trees will already have flowers.  Mangoes are impatient and start flowering earlier than lychee.  Lychee waits for the right time and then give it all they’ve got. 

Either way, heavy spring rains typically knock many of their flowers to the ground.

Up ma uka, spring turkey season will begin.  Young gobblers will get louder and braver with every sunrise.

Mahi mahi will begin to gather and bite in larger and larger schools.

You Will Know Kupulau Has Arrived When

Juuust when you think the weather is finally getting drier, it will storm and rain.  April showers bring May flowers and all that.  Hanalei will buy extra Vienna sausage just in case.

Winter’s last hurrah.  The last of the winter swells arrive.  North Shore surfers will use their guns for the last time, then put them away and begin waxing their short boards.

For about two weeks, hula will be a common subject on every news channel.  Ever heard of Merrie Monarch?

Nehu (baby anchovy) will look for shelter and hide by the thousands in small bays.  Larger hungrier fish will follow. 

Mahi mahi are biting.  Every hotel is serving mahi using the same tired recipes from 2007 – macadamia nut panko coconut-crusted something or another.

Fisherman are now beginning to catch ono.

The whales are rested, the calves have grown strong enough to migrate, so they’re packing their bags for their summer feeding grounds up north.

Parents are booking graduation party venues.  And some… wish they were booking graduation party venues.

My Kupulau - Spring Time Video

You Will Know Kupulau is Coming to an End When

The weather is perfect.  Not too hot… not too cold… but JUST RIGHT AHH!  (← said with with an Aunty Maria-lani accent.  If you know, you know.  Thank you Rap, we love you.)

Ono is in peak season and the auction block is now saturated.  The price fishermen are getting for their catch has plummeted.  The price you are paying in the supermarket has not.

Mahi mahi season is tapering off.

Fishermen are coffee-gossiping about rumors the ahi are starting to bite in Kauaʻi. Each sentence begins with the phrase “I heard…”

You hear from a friend that someone fell out of a lychee tree.

A few last-minute parents are in a panic because all the good graduation lūʻau venues are booked.

Airline ticket prices to and from Hawaiʻi are low but no one can take advantage of it because their keiki are not out of school yet.

Mullet, moi, and lobster season come to an end.  Uhu have begin to spawn.

Tourist season begins.  Did it ever really end?

I Love Kupulau

When I think of kupulau, I think of people, plants, and creatures beginning to move again.  Rainy season is ending.  Flowers and leaves are sprouting.  The great ocean migrations are beginning.  People are welcoming the Sun.

Kupulau feels to me like the beginning of nature’s new year with hope and growth.

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