Waves crashing on lava rocks on the Big Island, Hawaii.
traveller insights

Haunted Hawaii: the land of Aloha and other spirits

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

Want to experience haunted Hawaii for yourself? Here are some popular tours:

With its gorgeous white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and “aloha” spirit of generosity, sincerity, and love, Hawaii provides the perfect backdrop for dreamy honeymoons and fun-filled vacations. The multi-island chain attracts millions of travelers each year, with a variety of adventures awaiting those who visit this central Pacific paradise.

There’s something essentially magical and mystical about Hawaii. Many people feel “called” or compelled to visit – an inexplicable pull. Once there, it’s impossible to ignore the underlying current of something enigmatic and alluring.

And, if you happen to be someone who loves spooky stories and haunted houses, you’ll be delighted to know that Hawaii is also a legendary “spiritually alive” place.

A dramatic sunset in Maui, Hawaii

Why is Hawaii so spooky?

Any gathering of Hawaiians around a campfire will inevitably include enthusiastic re-telling of firsthand spooky stories and urban legends, as Hawaiians relish their supernatural surroundings.

Each area lays claim to its own particular ghosties and hauntings, with a variety of paranormal memes recurring over years.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the island chain has so many ghostly sightings and creepy happenings. Some say it’s because of the electromagnetic frequencies that resonate throughout the highly volcanic land mass.

Others believe Hawaii functions as a large capacitor for subtle energies due to its placement in the middle of a vast amount of electrolyte-rich seawater.

Beginning as early as 400 BCE, Polynesian explorers traveled over thousands of sea miles in double-hulled or outrigger canoes to eventually populate the Hawaiian Islands. They were able to accomplish this incredible deed by using an ancient system of navigation, with only the stars, the winds, and the ocean currents as their guides,

Finding their way to the chain of small islands, these early settlers developed a deep connection to the land or “aina” as it is known in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the idyllic environment attracted continual groups of would-be colonists, resulting in a rather dark and turbulent history of warring factions and oppressive slavery, plus a monarchy that continually fought to maintain supremacy. With these events imprinted in the etheric memory of the atmosphere over centuries, Hawaii certainly has reason for unsettled spirits to roam its lands.

As additional immigrants arrived to Hawaii, they carried with them their own diverse cultural beliefs and impressions. So, you have a widely varied accumulation of unsettled spirits, as the ghosts of previous South Pacific, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and mainland USA residents all share the relatively small island space.

And then, there are some who believe that Hawaii houses so many supernatural spirits because Hawaiians love their island home so much that, even upon death, they never, ever, want to leave.

The Hana Highway turns to cross a one lane bridge beside a waterfall on the north coast of Maui

Hawaii’s Calling Ghosts

When we first came to Hawaii, my husband and I immersed ourselves in the local culture, so, of course, we heard about the esoteric aspects of Hawaii. We lived on the Big Island, so we studied the history of the area and its revered volcano goddess, Madame Pele, who is known as a lively interactive force on the island.

One of our friends, a respected kupuna (elder) on the island, told us stories from his childhood, when his auntie used to rid her kitchen of ants by inviting them to leave, via chanting. More than once, he saw her open the back door and hold it ajar, while the ants filed out in a single line, as she requested through her song.

But it wasn’t until we visited Maui, that we had our own small brush with the ghostly side of Hawaii.

Although Maui is most popular for its lively, bright, touristic hot spot of Lahaina on the western coast of the island, we traveled to Maui’s Hana district for a one month business consultation. The Hana coast of Maui lies on the eastern side of the island, and is a less inhabited area, notorious for its mystical elements.

We enjoyed a brief tour of the several-acre tropical plantation that faced a windy, rocky cliff-side, several hundred feet above the churning ocean. The bulk of the estate was a dense tropical wonderland, abundant with flourishing gardens and luxuriant foliage.

Star fruit, banana, papaya, and other tropical fruit trees appeared throughout the property, with wood frame cottages and bamboo tree houses tucked in the midst of the jungle overgrowth. The supernatural aspect of Hawaii wasn’t on our minds that day, as we were caught up in appreciation of the natural beauty of the grounds.

We walked the property, and were introduced to a handful of staff members who resided across a small stream at the opposite side of the property from the impressive cliff-side. That evening, we visited with our new client, and he eventually left us at our suite, adjacent to his private house.

We had been asleep for several hours, when I suddenly awakened to the beautiful sound of a woman’s voice singing a haunting melody. Before I was fully alert, I found myself sitting upright in bed and my husband, who had also awakened, asked me what I was doing. “I don’t know,” I replied, as I slowly came into full consciousness.

“Do you hear that singing?” he asked me. I replied that I also heard the captivating refrain.

Noting that we were still in the full darkness of very early morning hours, both of us were intrigued by the tone and allure of the song, and a bit confused as to why our host was listening to music at that hour.

It took a while to get back to sleep, because the haunting tone was very unsettling. The next morning we asked our host about the music in the night, and he said he had not been playing music. When we asked him if he had another singing guest, he replied that we were the only three people on our side of the property.

We explained what we had heard, and then he reluctantly (I think he was wary of scaring us off) said, “Well… we do have a calling ghost.. She’s been inactive for some time now….”

Then he added. “Don’t ever look for her… I don’t think she’s a very nice ghost.”

He asked us from which direction we had heard the voice. We pointed…. and it was right over the steep cliff side.

“Yep,” he nodded. She’ll try to lead you off the cliff, and it’s really foggy at night, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

Yikes. Apparently, calling ghosts are a “thing” in Hawaii, and comprise a group of unhappy spirits (usually female) who try to lure a person to their death. He told us about several incidences of individual male hikers encountering a beautiful woman while on a lonely path.

The man would either hear his name called from behind, or a beautiful woman would approach him, attempting to lead him along a path, following her.

According to reports, some stopped just short of walking off of solid land and into the ocean, with something, or someone, stopping them at the last minute from falling to their death.

Curiously, we both recalled that when we consciously focused on the singing – in that exact minute, it stopped. But, I have to say, that was the most persuasive sound I have ever heard… calling ghost, indeed!

Light shining through the bamboo forest on the Road to Hana

Hawaiian Spirit Healer

Later that day, we related the story to one of the staff members, and she responded, “Oh! This place has crazy, wild stuff going on! Let me tell you what happened to me!”

Her story went like this: One day she had an upset stomach and a fever, so she told her husband to just go ahead to work, and she would join him later if/when she felt better.

In the early afternoon, she was resting on the sofa when the screen door opened and an impressively large Hawaiian man appeared in the room. He was dressed in the old-fashioned attire of a traditional Hawaiian medicinal healer.

Known as a Kahuna La’au Lapa’au – one who uses the power of native herbs, plants, and spirituality to heal body, mind, and spirit – these healers are trained in a familial lineage succession, with only a few remaining to actively continue that work on the islands today.

She said he approached her and knelt down beside her, proceeding to wave a ti leaf above her stomach and head, while chanting in Hawaiian. After several minutes, he nodded to her, turned around and left the house.

Almost immediately she felt better, so she walked over to where her husband was working about 20 minutes away. Assuming he had arranged for the treatment, she thanked him for sending the healer.

He was surprised to see her up and well, but had to admit that he hadn’t sent the healer, nor had he told anyone else that she was not well!

She later mentioned her encounter to a Hawaiian neighbor, a life-long resident of the area. Shocked and delighted, the neighbor said that she had precisely described the ghostly spirit of a very respected healer from a bygone era on the Hana coast! Apparently, this venerable ancestral spirit-healer appears to the living only on very rare occasions, so it’s considered a blessing to gain his attention for a physical healing these days…

Most Hawaiians experience that the veil between the material realm of the living and the shadowy after-world is thinner on their little archipelago, and that every element is imbued with enduring, vital spirit. Therefore, when you visit the islands, be prepared to share elbow room with some of those who came before you…

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 28 September 2023

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