What Does ʻAi Love Nalo Mean Anyway?

Many people come to our restaurant/wellness center to enjoy the healthy food, our garden and laid back local-style ambiance.  There’s no doubt, our place is unique.  So, it’s no surprise when visitors come to us with questions about the menu, nutrition, the lomilomi and yoga opportunities, and our farm-to-fork philosophy.  However, among the many inquiries posed, the most common question asked is:  “What does ʻAi Love Nalo mean anyway?”  Well…the answer to that question is rather simple, but like most Hawaiian words and phrases there is kaona behind it (hidden meaning).  Often times a single Hawaiian word can have many meanings (both positive or negative). Perhaps this is why some of our customers are puzzled by our name, as some of the literal interpretations have negative connotations.  However, our kahu and beloved kumu explained to us that when using Hawaiian words, the most important aspect is the intentions behind it – and our intentions have and always will be to provide healthy food and a loving environment for our community.

According to Nā Puke Wehewehe ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, ʻai has an array of meanings.  For example, it can mean to consume by fire; to erode; to taste, or to rule and reign.  It can also refer to a dancing style or, to score points in a game.  However, its most relevant definition to us means food or to eat, particularly referring to fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, and most significantly, the word ʻai is used when specifically referring to poi – the most important source of sustenance among the Hawaiian people (as it represents the connection to Hāloa and our ancestors).  Being that we are a plant-based restaurant that offers Hawaiian food (vegan-style) and poi, we felt that that meaning of ʻai was the most fitting word that epitomized our menu and purpose.  Therefore, simply stated, we believe that ʻAi Love means food (poi, fruits, vegetables) that we provide with love.

Unlike ʻai, most of the literal definitions of Nalo are negative. For example, it can mean lost, hidden, forgotten, concealed, or a housefly.  But, in our name, Nalo, represents a place/location; thus, according to our kahu, it does not hold any of these literal meanings because its kaona is rooted in a place name.  Nalo is the shortened version of Waimānalo, which is commonly used by many local people who live and or originate in this community. The meaning of Waimānalo is potable water, and to the Hawaiian people, water represents life. It is believed that the first Hawaiians landed and settled in Waimānalo, and the abundance of fresh water and healthy vegetation helped them to thrive.  Waimānalo was and still is a very important and sacred place, but many people in our community are not thriving at all.  Many are suffering due to ailments, illnesses, and maladies such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease, which is often attributed and exacerbated by poor diets.  Consequently, this is precisely why we opened our restaurant here in Waimānlo because our primary purpose is to provide an abundance of healthy food and drink options so that we can all begin to thrive once more.  Ultimately, ʻAi Love Nalo is a unique restaurant in a very special place and community.  Not only does our name include a play on words where we are expressing our love for this community and place by saying, “I LOVE NALO”, but it also represents the aloha we share, and the loving food and fresh water one can enjoy here at, ʻAi Love Nalo restaurant.