Mauka and Makai

Learn to navigate like a local by replacing the words “left” and “right” with either “mauka” or “makai” when giving directions. Mauka (pronounced mow-kah) means on the mountain side and makai (pronounced mah-kigh) means on the ocean side.

These directions are easy to use as the island is circled by the ocean so wherever you are there will always be a makai or mauka side to reference! For example: The vacation home is located on the makai side of the street, meaning it is on the ocean side. This eliminates the confusion of north, south, east and west, which is very hard to determine when you are on an island.

Leeward and windward are also terms frequently used by island residents as geographical reference points when giving directions. “Windward” is the side of an island where the trade winds travel from the sea onto the island. “Leeward” is the side where the wind moves from the land to the sea, i.e. if you are standing on the beach, looking towards the shore, and the wind is blowing in your face then you are facing windward! If you are standing on the beach, looking towards the shore, and the wind is blowing on your back, you are facing leeward!

The trade winds blow from the northeast of the Hawaiian islands to the southwest and the trade winds bring moist air; thus, the north and east sides of each island typically get more rainfall. As a result, the windward side is lush and green and is also referred to as the wet side.

In contrast, the south and west sides are leeward and are typically the dry, arid sides of each island.

If you hear the weather report predict “cloudy weather with windward and mauka showers,” it most likely means that it will be raining on the North Shore. If you are planning a beach day, you will still find sunny weather in Poipu or on the leeward side.