Photo by Daniel Sullivan

While Summer days linger, offering long stretches of light and heat, it is Summer nights that offer an opportunity to both cool down and explore the magnificent and awe-inspiring starry skies. 

Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘0lelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings, (Bishop Museum Press 1983) shares the following proverb:

O na hōkū no na kiu o ka lani. 

The stars are the eyes of heaven.

From wherever you are in the world, you can look up and see the stars and those stars will be shining down on you. For the people of Polynesia, stars make for more than a pleasant sightseeing expedition. They are, in fact, an essential part of how they navigate through the waters on a voyaging canoe. 

Navigation for Polynesians is inextricably linked to the night sky, along with the clouds and patterns found in the ocean. A deep knowledge of the tapestry and placement of the stars is required to know which direction the canoe is headed.

This ancient art of navigation was nearly lost, but has found new life in recent years. Nainoa Thompson, master navigator of the voyaging canoe Hōkūle’a has become a prominent voice in the importance of preserving this ancient form of navigation. Thompson and others have shared the mana’o (knowledge) that was taught to them, and an entire generation of navigators is coming into their own.

One of this new generation of wayfinders on Maui is Kala Tanaka. She is the education director for Hui O Wa’a Kaulua (, is a kumu (teacher) for their junior voyaging program, and she offers star navigation presentations around the island. She is a vibrant source of knowledge so keep an eye out for ways to learn from her. 

Stars and planets connect us both to the natural world and our sense of place, a sense of where we are headed.

How to connect with the stars this Summer:

  • Get as far as you can from artificial light sources. The darker the area, the more stars you can see.
  • Get closer to the stars. Head upcountry for a stargazing expedition. See if you can identify some of the major constellations, and notice how they shift in the night sky over the course of the Summer.
  • Keep an eye out for the Perseid Meteor Shower July 14 – August 24. Peak viewing can be expected around August 12-13, 2024.

Kalia Kelmenson helps female leaders live with purpose and passion without losing themselves along the way. She grew up on Maui and returned home to raise her keiki, who are now young adults. She is the creator of The Salt in Us and founder of Maui Mind and Body. Follow her on Instagram at @thesaltinus