Everyone loves the gorgeous sunsets, pretty beaches and lush tropical environment of the Hawaiian Islands. With so much to offer holiday-goers, it’s not surprising that Hawaii also offers many chilling options for those who fancy a good haunting.
It took a lot for Hawaii reach its current peaceful state, and, like most places around the world, the darker side of its ancient past includes battles, human sacrifice and other sordid practices. The result is a lot of unsettled spirits hanging around!
Hawaiians love to “talk story”, so anyone you meet will probably have a spooky experience or two to share. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of the most well-known spirits, haunted places and legends on the islands, so you can prepare for a spooky time.
There are many stories of spirits and ghosts in Hawaiian history and legends. Here are some of the most famous.
The most famous of all Hawaiian ghosts, the Hukai’po, or Night Marchers, are souls of dead Hawaiian warriors, who historically marched to protect their exalted high-ranking chieftains.
If you hear the din of drums beating, ominous chanting, and ear-splitting conch blowing, often accompanied by a foul odour (they’re dead, you know) leave the area ASAP!
The spectres of these fierce phantom armies pass through physical structures on their way. When you encounter Night Marchers, between full moon and new moon nights, immediately lie flat on the ground, face down, and, whatever you do, don’t look at them!
It wouldn’t hurt to think a few prayerful and submissive thoughts, either. More than likely, they will pass over you without incident.
Some areas famous for Night Marcher encounters include:
Oahu – Pali Highway, Mākaha Valley Plantation, Ka’ena Point
Maui – La Pérouse Bay
Big Island – Waipio Valley, Hilo, MacKenzie State Park
Moloka‘i – the entire town of Kaunakakai
Kauai – Hanapepe town
Lanai – Hokunui
A direct descendant of the gods, Pele is a sacred embodiment of the natural fire element – a true fire goddess. She’s credited with volcanic eruptions and lava flows throughout Hawaii.
Exiled from Tahiti due to her fiery temperament, she was followed by her jealous sister. They fought, Pele died, then healed her wounds (‘cause she’s a goddess), taking refuge in volcanoes and craters that she created on the islands.
Today she appears on lonely highways, as an attractive young woman with long hair, or as an older woman with long, flowing gray hair. She tests the kindness of strangers, so if you see her, you should always offer a ride. If you refuse, bad luck can follow you.
Drivers report picking up a woman who asks for a cigarette, then lights it with fire from her fingertips. She also suddenly disappears from the car at will.
Her tempestuous nature is evident in her curses, which brings us to the next legend of the islands…
As much as people like souvenirs, it’s seriously advised to never take a lava rock from Hawaii. To Madame Pele, every rock and piece of lava is one of her children, and if you remove one, you’ll be cursed with many years of bad luck.
Wacky as it might seem, hundreds of lava rocks are returned to Hawaii each year, as people regret their actions when the bad luck curse kicks in. Some say the myth was created by Hawaii park rangers to keep people from taking rocks (and sand, also) but too many real-life experiences indicate otherwise.
And don’t think you can outsmart Pele… with a mother’s sixth sense, she’s aware of every itty-bitty rock and handful of sand, and will know if you take something! Don’t say you weren’t warned….
Legendary menehune are small, dwarf-like people, who inhabited the island chain before Tahitians arrived. Reputed to be master builders, these peaceful people happily lived on the islands, making giant fishponds and building bridges – often in a single night!
They are credited with magical feats, like creating the Menehune Ditch, an ancient aqueduct on Kauai, that surpasses modern capabilities, although it predates Western interaction in the areas.
Sadly, the menehune were subjugated by the large, warlike Tahitian newcomers. To escape slavery and abuse, they retreated into forests, jungles, and valleys. As legend goes, there are very few of them remaining today, and they are shy, not usually appearing to anyone outside their race.
Residents report seeing little people around 3 ft. (0.91 m) high, peeking from behind lush greenery, or hiding in cave systems in remote areas. If you frequent secluded stretches on any of the islands, you might just catch a glimpse of one…
Another species of phantasm in Hawaii is the choking ghost that assaults sleeping people by sitting on their chests, pressing air from their lungs. While it is panic inducing, and it’s not possible to even scream while it’s happening, those who experience the pressing sensation report that the ghosts don’t appear to be trying to harm them.
The sensation is more like a spirit trying very hard to get the attention of the living. Just when you think you might suffocate, the ghost suddenly leaves.
One ultra-creepy phenomenon in Hawaii is a calling ghost, that is, a disembodied presence who attempts to lure victims to their deaths or a beautiful woman who tries to lead you astray.
Be on guard if a stranger calls your name, and don’t acknowledge it. Calling ghosts might also lure you with a compelling song that you follow to locate its source, leading you to your death.
If you hear someone calling your name from behind, know that facing the calling ghost invites misfortune or death.
Some phantoms keep to specific supernatural hot-spots on the islands, but you could be anywhere in Hawaii and come upon the restless spirit of one who had an unexpected, or tragic death!
Pearl Harbor, state penitentiaries and sacred sacrificial heiaus have lots of restless spirits haunting them for obvious reasons. Along with these famous sites, some of the more random creepy haunted spots on the Hawaiian Islands include:
Driving the Pali Highway is one of the most beautiful experiences on Oahu, however, it’s haunted due to a spat between Pele and one of her lovers, Kamapua’a, a half man/half pig demigod.
As a result, Pele won’t allow anyone to bring pork across the island, from the wet side (his) to the dry side (hers). If you’re carrying pork over the Pali highway, she may appear, demanding you feed the pork to her dog. Then you’ll be free to pass.
Enjoy the stunning panoramic views from the high Koʻolau cliffs at the Pali Lookout in Nu’uanu State Park by daylight, but avoid going there at night! Unless you want to see the ghosts of hundreds of warriors who were pushed off those cliffs during King Kamehameha’s fight to unify the islands…
Ghostly apparitions of the warriors appear on lonely nights, and visitors also see a lady in white who enters their cars (without opening a door), so beware!
Although it’s a bustling airport that sees thousands of travelers each day, the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is also known for its paranormal activity.
The airport’s most active ghost is a fair-haired woman wearing a white dress, who regularly appears at an incoming passenger gate. Dubbed “the Lady In Waiting” she also shows up in restricted areas. According to the legend, her fiancé got on an international flight, but never returned.
Devastated, she took her life. Airport security repeatedly gets calls about a woman in white waiting at arrival gates, searching for him. When not at the gates, she roams hallways and restrooms, flushing toilets and unrolling toilet paper rolls.
Other airport phantoms ride the airport shuttle, frightening people late at night, and choking ghosts terrorize sleepy travelers passing lonely nights at the airport.
From 1850 to 1950, this sugar cane plantation housed thousands of laborers, but due to miserable working conditions, the property saw countless accidents, unhappy deaths, even murders. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most haunted places on the islands.
Now a functional museum and proper haunted village, the plantation has restless souls haunting at least half of its 25 houses and buildings. School and tourist groups visit the museum daily, but employees couldn’t ask for a more spooky place to work. In fact, they’re not allowed to work alone, because of the many supernatural experiences that occur.
From spirit children who cry for attention, to objects that move on their own, cold spots and phantom touches, the creepy happenings are real and continue over time. Not much is needed to prepare the plantation as a Halloween attraction each year… it’s (super) natural state is always spooky enough for plenty “chicken skin” reactions.
One of the oldest hotels in Hawaii, began as a small house that had numerous add-ons over the years and was rebuilt after a fire. Previous owners of the property (before it became a hotel) reported regular sightings of a ghostly old woman walking the hallways.
She still appears to hotel guests, plus, a small white dog sometimes appears in the entrance and disappears in front of viewers.
And for something completely different, this botanical garden is said to be haunted by a woman known as “The Green Lady” who lost one of her daughters in the gulch, years ago. Apparently, when she asked for help to find the child and no one came to her aid, she returned to the gulch with her other daughter and none of them were ever seen again.
Today, she is said to haunt the gardens, and appears as a green woman, with seaweed for hair, jagged fish teeth and fish scales covering her body. She smells of rotting plant matter and is said to snatch children who come too close.
There are literally hundreds more haunted places on the Hawaiian Islands, plus there are often UFO sightings at South Point on the Big Island, and fireballs and glowing orbs in the skies, just to add to the supernatural mix.
Numerous tours are on offer in Hawaii, if you enjoy being spooked. If you’ll be there over Halloween, check out this comprehensive list of Halloween events on all the islands. You can also consider one of the below ghost tours:
Another option is this haunted road trip on Oahu that you can do yourself, anytime.
The most noteworthy thing to remember is that Hawaiians take their history seriously, and all visitors should give deference to the local beliefs and customs.
It’s especially important to respect the importance of ceremonial heiaus, and not to disturb the memory of the spirits there. That includes never partying, drinking or dancing at or near these sacred sites.
Enjoy all aspects of Hawaii, even the spooky spots! Just be careful and respectful, and you’ll have a wonderful time in the unique atmosphere of the islands.
Last Updated 28 September 2023