The Polynesian word ‘mana’ is tough to translate. ‘Life force,’ ‘energy’ and other terms are usually bandied about. But if you really want to learn mana’s meaning, come to Puna, because everyone on this island agrees it is overflowing with the stuff.
Here, at Hawaiʻi’s eastern tip, the primal soul of the island manifests in an unrestrained display of eco-bravado. The rain blends with black volcanic soil to engender a fertility that is frankly astounding. Green bursts through the soil and weaves itself into thick forests of wood rooted in lava soil. The ocean beats like a hammer on the Big Island’s easternmost cliffs, and edges back as lava flows into the ocean.
Who lives here? Hippies, funky artists, alternative healers, Hawaiian sovereignty activists, pakalolo (marijuana) growers, organic farmers and off-the-grid survivalists. A nickname for all these folks, which they have adopted themselves, is Punatics. They exhibit a disconcerting blend of laid-back apathy to the world and intense emotions.