The Island of Lana'i
The early history of Lana'i is deeply rooted in folk tales and legends. According to island lore, the mischievous son of Chief Kaululuaau was banished to Lana'i, home to evil spirits. No match for the young prince, he was triumphant in chasing away the resident spirits, thereby making it suitable for habitation. Returning home to the island of Maui, he touted the beauty of Lana'i and so it first was inhabited around 1500 A.D.
In the last few centuries, great battles were fought on the island, as warrior chiefs sought power and control of territory. The Luahiwa Petroglyphs that can be seen today are remnants of the first Polynesian settlers, who can be thanked for generating the lush plant life including sugar cane, banana, bamboo and breadfruit. Some of the best-preserved petroglyph carvings can be seen at the ancient fishing village, Kaunolu. Known for an abundance of fish, King Kamehameha the Great even established a summer home on the island to partake in the sport.
In 1922 James D. Dole purchased the island of Lana'i for 1.1 million dollars to grow pineapples on this tropical land. At its peak, Lana'i produced 75 percent of the world’s pineapples. In 1961 the Dole Pineapple Company merged with Castle & Cooke and still this entity owns the majority of the island. Once known as the “Pineapple Isle”, today, only about 100 acres are devoted to pineapple growing.
Now aptly dubbed the "Private Island", Lana'i houses an estimated 3,000 full time residents and has the coziness of a small town. This quiet oasis has just 29 miles of paved roads, a single gas station (but not a stoplight) and miles upon miles of untouched, unspoiled valleys and beaches.
Hotel Lana'i History
Erected in 1923, Hotel Lana'i was constructed by pineapple pioneer James D. Dole as a retreat for his executives and important guests to dine merrily and sleep soundly. With 10 guestrooms and an adjacent caretaker cottage, Hotel Lana'i existed as the first hotel on the Island of Lana'i and for some time, it was the place where every early 20th century traveler resided. Centrally located in Lana'i City, the Hotel soon became a gathering place for visitors and locals alike to engage in important meetings, social happenings or dine and “talk story”.
Today, Hotel Lana'i rests in the heart of Lana'i City as historic gem. Sitting at an elevation of 1,700 feet and nestled amidst Norfolk Pines, this upcountry plantation-style abode wholeheartedly illuminates the preeminent attributes of the past while imparting the comforts of modern day. The Hotel is a magnet for guests in pursuit of that picture perfect “vintage Hawaii postcard” experience.
Points of Interest
- Munro Trail
Accessible on foot, mountain bike or four-wheel drive, the rustic Munro trail is a
seven-mile trek offering spectacular views of plunging canyons, scenic vistas, mountain
grasslands and on a cloudless day, six of the neighboring islands: Lana‘i, Maui,
Moloka‘i, Kaoho‘olawe, the Big Island of Hawai‘i and Oahu. The single-lane trail is
named after George Munro, a naturalist from New Zealand, who came to Lana‘i in
1890 and can be thanked for much of the lush vegetation of the island. Munro planted
rows of majestic Cook Pines on the mountain ridge with the foresight of the towering
trees wicking the moisture from passing clouds, in turn creating ample precipitation.
The water then seeps down the trees into underground aquaducts that provide
fresh water for the island.
After a 1,600-foot climb into a climate akin to a rainforest, visitors reach the apex of
the trail, Mt. Lana‘ihale, the highest point on Lana‘i at 3,368 feet. With a number of
lookouts adorning this trail, remember to bring your camera! Although only sevenmiles,
the rocky road makes this route approximately a three-hour tour.
Directions: Roughly ten minutes from Lana‘i City. Take Keomuku Highway (HI-
430) north and turn right on Cemetery Road. Follow signs to Munro Trail. A fourwheel
drive vehicle is required. Check road conditions before driving.
- Manele Harbor
Most private yachts and charter boats float at the small Manele Bay Harbor
because the surrounding sea-cliffs provide excellent shelter from storms and
strong currents. Also, those traveling to or from Maui, will find the “Lahaina to
Lana‘i Ferry” docked here. Donning a shaded area with grills, pavilion tables
and restroom facilities, this is a relaxing place to have a picnic while watching
the boats come and go.
Directions: Going south on Highway 440 from Lana‘i City, turn left at the end
of the highway onto New Manele Road. The Manele Bay Harbor is located at
the end of this road.
- Hulopo'e Beach
On the southern coast of Lana‘i, visitors will discover a crescent of golden sand
known as Hulopo‘e Beach. Embraced by striking cliffs and clear blue waters, it
is no mystery why this pristine location was chosen as one of America’s Best
Beaches. Protected as a Marine Life Conservation area, the waters are abundant
with colorful fish and unique corals, making it a haven for snorkeling and
SCUBA diving. From the beach it is common to spot acrobatic spinner dolphins,
endangered green sea turtles and in the winter, even humpback whales.
This is the ultimate destination for swimming, body boarding, surfing, sunbathing
or exploring the many tide pools created from the volcanic rock. The
area also has a beach park with picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms and
showers. Located just below Manele Bay Hotel, this is one of the few beaches
that can be reached with a two-wheel drive.
Directions: Take Highway 440 south from Lana‘i City approximately 13 miles.
The signs will direct you straight to Hulopo'e Beach Park.
- Kaumalapau Harbor
On the west side of Lana‘i is the harbor where pineapples were once loaded by
the hundreds and hundreds onto ships bound for Honolulu and the Dole
Cannery. Today this is a quiet, but working port where most of the island’s
supplies arrive from Honolulu every Thursday. It has a scenic overlook and a
reputation for good shore fishing.
Directions: Take Highway 440 west from Lana‘i City to the end of the road.
The harbor is approximately 7.5 miles out of town
- Kaunolu Village
Solitude fit for a king… at least that’s what King Kamehameha the Great thought, as
he came to Kaunolu Village to relax and fish in the summertime. This royal retreat is
now a windswept memory of ancient times with stone foundations of more than 100
Hawaiian homes, garden walls and storerooms scattered on the bluff. Registered as a
National Historic Landmark, this is the largest surviving example of a prehistoric
Hawaiian Village. Those with a thirst for knowledge about the ancient venue can
take the interpretive hike created by Bishop Museum. From the cliffs high above the
sea at Kahekili's deep leap, Kamehameha’s soldiers proved their courage by plunging
more than 60 feet into the ocean.
Directions: To find Kaunolu Village, drive on Highway 440 towards the airport.
When you pass the airport turnoff take the next left onto and unmarked dirt path
(Kaupili Road). From there, travel approximately 2.5 miles to a yellow standpipe. A
right turn here takes you down another 3 miles to Kaunolu Village. A four-wheel
drive vehicle is required. Check road conditions before driving.
One of the most popular visitor attractions is known as Keahiakawelo, a fascinating
canyon of wind carved sand and lava formations also known as Garden of the Gods. The
beautiful stacks of rock formations, in an otherwise barren landscape, create an eerie
mars-like topography. The site is most dynamic at early morning or at dusk, because this is when the warm lighting illuminates the rich colors of reds and purples.
Hawaiian lore says the lunar landscape is the result of a contest between two Hawaiian
priests, one from Lana‘i, and the other from Molokai. The challenge was to see who
could burn a fire the longest, with a prize of great abundance. Kewelo, the priest from
Lana‘i used every inch of vegetation there as a means to win the challenge. The name
“Garden of the Gods” comes from the tale that the gods tended to their gardens by dropping the rocks and boulders from the sky. They then made the fierce winds to sculpt their creations.
Directions: Take Highway 440 North out of Lana‘i City and pass the Lodge at Koele.
Turn left on Polihua Road (between the tennis courts and horse stables). Past the stables the road becomes dirt. Turn right at the next large “intersection” and continue northwest to the site. This site is located about 7 miles outside of Lana‘i City. The dirt road is well marked but only a four-wheel drive vehicle can manage the rutted and rugged trail. This road leads all the way to Ka‘ena Point and Polihua Beach.
- Polihua Beach
Just beyond the Keahiakawelo, down a few miles of windy roads, is a secluded and
dreamy beach with two-miles of white sands. The name Polihua, translated to “egg
nest”, comes from the sea turtles that used to come here to lay their eggs. Most often,
visitors have this beach all to themselves. It’s perfect for beachcombing, sunbathing
and known for good surfing. Swimmers are cautioned to be mindful of the powerful
current. Minus a few fishermen huts and driftwood sun-shades, there are no facilities
Directions: Approximately 11 miles north of Lana‘i City and about 5 miles past and
1600' down from the Gardens of the Gods lies Polihua Beach on Lana‘i’s west coast.
The last few miles of road to the beach is quite rough and steep. Frequently strong
trade winds along with the desertlike conditions.
- Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach)
On the northeast side of Lana‘i sits the base of an old lighthouse at a location also known as “Shipwreck Beach”. The lighthouse was no match for the combination of powerful currents and numerous reefs in the Kalohi Channel, because since the 19th century this place has been the location of a watery demise for many vessels, hence the fitting name. The British vessel “Alderman Wood” was the first documented shipwreck in 1824, followed by the American ship “London”. As if from a tale from an adventure book, it is said that the London was carrying a large load of gold and silver and it is uncertain how much was recovered in the crash.
The most famous resident here is a World War II Liberty Ship, a ferrous-concrete oil tanker built in the 1940’s. Unlike other unfortunate vessels, this ship does not live here by accident, but rather was placed here as an economical disposal method. With views of Molokai and Maui, the beach is a great area for beachcombing and exploring,
however swimming is not advised due to the strong currents. The strong trade winds constantly hit this direction, and at one time, fishermen used the debris that washed ashore from the beach to build an entire fishing village – Federation Camp. A remote hiking trail (Kaiolohia-Kahue) originates from the beach, and petroglyphs can be seen 100 yards inland from the parking area.
Directions: From Lana‘i City, take Highway 44 northeast approximately 7 miles to the end of the road. Turn left on the dirt road and continue for 1.6 miles to the parking area near the lighthouse ruins. Shipwreck Beach lies in front of the ruins and stretches for several miles to the north and east. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required.
- Keomoku Village
Once a thriving sugar settlement, Keomoku Village is a whisper of a village since mid
1950’s. The Maunalei Sugar Company began an extensive effort to cultivate sugar
cane along this coastline in the 1890’s, however the venture quickly failed in 1901
when the sweet water turned brackish and salty. This former ranching and fishing
village was home to 2,000 residents and was the first non-Hawaiian settlement on
Lana‘i. Local lore blames the village demise on the disruption of the heiau stones (an
ancient Hawaiian place of worship) by railroad builders.
The ghost town can be identified by Malamalama Church, a well preserved but
weathered wooded clapboard structure. In the same area are an overgrown graveyard,
Kah‘a heiau and some very empty beaches, perfect for picnicking.
Directions: Follow the paved portion of Highway 440 (Keomoku Road) for 8 miles to
the coast, turn right on the sandy road, and keep going for about six miles. A fourwheel
drive vehicle is required.
- Pu’upehe Rock (Sweetheart Rock)
The cliff on the left side of Hulapo’e Beach is the setting of a melancholic Hawaiian legend of
Pu’upehe Rock, also known as Sweetheart Rock. The tale is one of a maiden
named Pehe, who was so beautiful that her husband kept her locked in a sea cave, so
others would not steal her away from him. While fetching water in the mountains, a
storm erupted that caused ocean waves to gush into the cave and drown the young
wife. The husband Makakehau was so torn with grief that he called to the gods to help
him scale the offshore cliffs with Pehe’s body and bury her atop the rock island. He
then jumped to his own death – Pu’upehe is translated to Pehe’s Hill.
Directions: Take Highway 440 south from Lana‘i City and follow the signs to
Hulopoe Beach Park. A trail from the beach will lead you to a breathtaking overlook of
Pu’upehe. A number of tidepools, a sea arch and Sharks Cove are found along the trail.
A Taste of Lana'i City
Whether it’s a cup of Kona coffee, an authentic loco-moco or an opulent buffet that your heart desires, you can find it in Lana'i City. Listed below are a variety of restaurants to satisfy any craving…
- Blue Ginger Café (808) 565-6363
Mon, Thur, Fri: 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Tues & Wed: 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Sat & Sun: 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Popular with locals and visitors alike, this cozy eatery is abuzz in the morning with community members enjoying a filling breakfast of French toast and inexpensive omlets. Also open for lunch and dinner, residents rave about the fried saimin, mahimahi sandwiches and stir-fry.
- Café 565 (808) 565-6622
Mon, Thurs - Sun: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Tue, Wed: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The number of Lana'i’s area code, 565 features a diverse menu of legit pizzas, calzones and sub sandwiches. It’s also popular for for serving up excellent Filipino cuisine like Pancit noodles and traditional lumpia spring rolls.
- Coffee Works (808) 565-6962
Mon - Sat: 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Get your java fix at this charming café that was once a plantation home. A large outdoor lanai has ample seating with umbrellas, great for sipping a cup o’ joe and reading the Lana'i Times.
- Pele’s Other Garden (808) 565-9628
Lunch Mon - Fri 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Dinner: Mon-Sat 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Happy Hour: Mon-Sat 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Open for lunch and dinner, Pele’s serves gourment pizzas, organic salads, hearty soups and made-to-order sandwiches with island-fresh baked breads. Evenings are bistro style with dining by candlelight. Deli items are also available to take out and they feature some great cheeses and awesome desserts.
Shops & Galleries
- High Lights (808) 565-7207
A full-service salon with hair cuts, styling, highlighting, manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, and more. This is the place to purchase a wide selection of beauty products for hair and skin, and cosmetics.
- Lana'i Art Center- (808) 565-7503
Hours are Mon - Sat 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Closed on Sunday
Both store and classroom, this wonderful center not only sells art made by Lana'i residents but also offers classes and studio time in a whole range of artsy fields. Calligraphy, ceramics, drawing, glass, photography, silk and textile painting, watercolor, just to name a few! A host of guest instructors including make this center a real gem.
- Lana'i Cultural and Heritage Center (808) 565-7177
Hours are Mon-Fri 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sat 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Closed on Sunday
For a taste of the rich history of Lana'i, take a visit to the island’s Cultural and Heritage Center – celebrating the land, resources, people and history of Lana'i. Exhibits emphasize the 1,000 years of Hawaiian residency from early settlers through the plantation years. It also includes historic photos and cultural materials from some of the primary immigrants, the Filipino and Japanese; as well as Korean, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Western and of course Hawaiian residents all who contributed to the growth and evolution of Lana'i through the 20th century. Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
- Mike Carroll Gallery (808) 565-7122
Hours are Mon-Sat 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
“An unexpected find on the island of Lana'i” the gallery occupies a vintage plantation-era building. It is home to a wonderful selection of painted works from 20 artists as well as exquisite wood bowls and hand-crafted jewelry amid displays of Asian antiques and accessories.
- The Local Gentry (808) 565-9130
Mon-Fri 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sat 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sun 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Just off the main square, expect a wonderful selection of cool clothing and unique accessories at Jenna Gentry‘s boutique. The eclectic mix of trendy, urban and classic items makes this shop of chic sunglasses, sandals and silk shirts an unexpected treasure.
- Want some sunscreen, fruit, a bottle of water or wine? Find everything you need at the three local sundry shops:
International Food & Clothing (808) 565-6433
Pine Isle Market (808) 565-6488
Richards Market (808) 565-3780
Information and details subject to change without notice.