Lanai Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions

Lāna‘i—The Private Isle

Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions

 

Lāna‘i City

Dole Park

Hawaiian Church

Northwest of Lāna‘i City

Kānepu‘u Forest Reserve

Garden of the Gods

South of Lāna‘i City

Lu‘ahiwa

Japanese Cemetery 

Kaunolū—An Ancient Fishing Village

Halulu Heiau

Kaumālapa‘u Harbor

Nānāhoa Islet

Kahekili’s Leap

Northeast Lāna‘i

Kahokunui South to Kahalepalaoa Landing

Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) and Keōmuku Beach

Awalua

Polihua

Maunalei

Keōmuku

Ka Lanakili o Ka Mālamalama Church

Kahe‘a Heiau

Lōpā

Kahalepalaoa Landing

Nāhā

Southeast Lāna‘i

Hulopo‘e Beach (Hulapōeo)

Mānele Bay

Pu‘u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)

Ka Lokahi Ka Mālamalama Church


 

Lāna‘i

Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions

Lāna‘i City

Beginning in the 1920s, Lāna‘i was dominated by a vast pineapple plantation that eventually became the largest pineapple plantation in the world. The island’s central population lived in Lāna‘i City, a company town situated at an elevation of about 1,700 feet (518 m) above sea level, and set beneath the hills of Lāna‘ihale.

Today Lāna‘i City remains the town’s central population area, and early 1900s era homes (many brightly painted) still line the streets. At the center of Lāna‘i is the grassy lawn of six-block-long Dole Park. Hawaiian Church is at the corner of Gay and 5th Streets. Very few of Lāna‘i’s residents live outside of Lāna‘i City.

Lāna‘i City was originally built by James Drummond Dole (1877-1958), a pioneer in the pineapple industry. Dole purchased Lāna‘i in 1922 for $1,100,000 and soon had more than 19,000 acres (7,700 ha) planted, producing almost one-third of the world’s pineapple crop.

Dole formed the Hawaiian Pineapple Company on December 4, 1901 and the first harvest took place in 1903. In 1906, Dole constructed a cannery in the Iwilei district on O‘ahu. At the time, Dole’s enterprise was the largest fruit factory in the world.

After Dole planted the first pineapples on Lāna‘i in 1922, the pineapple industry dominated Lāna‘i for the next 65 years, producing as many as 250 million of the tasty fruits per year.

Today pineapple is no longer king on Lāna‘i. The last major commercial pineapple harvest on Lāna‘i took place in 1992, though some pineapple “show fields” still adorn the landscape. A tourist oriented economy has now replaced the industrious company town that was once awakened each morning by the plantation whistle.

In 1985, 98% of Lāna‘i was purchased by businessman David H. Murdock, who closed the pineapple plantation. The 1990s saw a marked rise in tourism related activities, and Lāna‘i now has two luxury resorts, including the Mānele Bay Hotel on the beach, and the Lodge at Kō‘ele in the mountains.

Northwest of Lāna‘i City

Kānepu‘u Forest Reserve

Northwest of Lāna‘i City is Kānepu‘u Forest Reserve, which offers a self-guided nature trail through a rare Hawaiian lowland forest (the largest preserved native dryland forest in the Hawaiian Islands).

The 590-acre (239-ha) Reserve is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, and provides habitat for many native plants and trees. A fifteen-minute loop trail includes informative signs.

[Kānepu‘u Forest Reserve, 808-565-7430, 808-537-4508; Directions: Polihua Road, 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Lāna‘i City, Guided tours given by Nature Conservancy, Internet site: www.tnc-hawaii.org.]

Garden of the Gods

Also northwest of Lāna‘i City is a volcanic and eroded landscape known (in recent times) as Garden of the Gods. The area’s erosion is due largely to the overgrazing of the land by non-native animals, including deer, goats and cattle.

In recent times, this barren landscape was given the name, Garden of the Gods. The wind eroded boulders show changing reddish hues as the sun sets, and there are spectacular views of the ocean and Moloka‘i, and sometimes O‘ahu.

South of Lāna‘i City

Lu‘ahiwa

Lu‘ahiwa is located to the southeast of Lāna‘i City, and is rich in ancient petroglyphs. Lu‘ahiwa’s stone etchings are spread over at least 3 acres (1.2 ha).

Japanese Cemetery

Southeast of Shipwreck Beach is a Buddhist shrine that commemorates Japanese sugar plantation workers who died from disease in 1899. The plant once took up 2,400 acres (971 ha).

[Japanese Cemetery, Directions: Take Keōmuku Road (Hwy. 44) to Shipwreck Beach, go 6½ miles (10.5 km) southeast.]

 

Kaunolū—An Ancient Fishing Village

Kaunolū is an ancient fishing village and bay in southeast Lāna‘i. Registered as a National Historic Landmark, Kaunolū is reached by following Mānele Road (Highway 440) south for 4½ miles (7 km) to Kaupili Road. Old house foundations and terraces may be seen Kaunolū along with the remains of an ancient sacred area called Halulu Heiau.

Kaumālapa‘u Harbor

Kaumālapa‘u Harbor, Lāna‘i’s main seaport, is reached by following Kaumālapa‘u Highway (Hwy. 440) west to the end and then turning left and driving about 7 miles (11.3 km).

Kaumālapa‘u Harbor was developed in 1926 by James Drummond Dole and his Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later called Dole Company). Seacliffs along the western side of the harbor reach to 1,000 feet (305 m) high.

Nānāhoa Islet, north of Kaumālapa‘u Harbor on Lāna‘i’s west side, consists of two large pillar stones. According to legend a man named Nānāhoa and his wife were turned into these stones.

[Kaumālapa‘u Harbor, Kaumālapa‘u Highway, southwest Lāna‘i.]

Kahekili’s Leap

Near Kaumālapa‘u Harbor is Kahekili’s Leap (or Jump), a cliff that rises about 62 feet (19 m) above the ocean, and is said to have been a test for ancient warriors who would meet their death if they could not clear the ledge below.

The site’s name also originated from the fact that it was the spot from which torch signals were sent to Maui’s chief, Kahekilinui‘ahumanu [Kahekili]. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1713.)

In 1778, the young chief, Kamehameha (who would later become King Kamehameha I), went aboard Captain Cook’s ship anchored off Maui. Kamehameha was accompanying Kalani‘ōpu‘u, the ruler of Hawai‘i Island. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1778).

That same year, Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s forces (including Kamehameha) invaded Lāna‘i, resulting in the death of many of the island’s residents.

After King Kamehameha I achieved his own military victories and began his reign, Kaunolū was one of the ruler’s favorite fishing areas. The waters offshore of Kaunolū are still known to be plentiful in many fish species, particularly aku (Katsuwonus pelamis, skipjack tuna).

[Kahekili’s Leap, near Kaumālapa‘u Harbor, southwest Lāna‘i.]

Northeast Lāna‘i

Kahokunui South to Kahalepalaoa Landing

Along the route from Kahokunui south to Kahalepalaoa Landing is Keōmuku Beach. The shoreline road goes for a total of 15 miles (24 km), ending at the “old village” of Naha.

Kaiolohi‘a (Shipwreck Beach) and Keōmuku Beach

Kaiolohi‘a (Shipwreck Beach) on Lāna‘i’s northeast coast is about 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Lāna‘i City.

Since a British and an American ship wrecked on the offshore reef in the 1820s, Shipwreck Beach has been the site of the demise of hundreds of ships, including a massive World War II tanker now relegated to its restful rusting place there (though some say the ship was purposely abandoned).

Another shipwreck is located along the beach at Awalua. Across the 9-mile (14.5-km) Kalohi Channel is Moloka‘i.

Kaiolohi‘a (Shipwreck Beach) is known more as a beachcombing site than a swimming location due to the strong tradewinds and water conditions.

The beach spans for 9 miles (14.5 km) from Kahokunui to Polihua (“Eggs [in] bosom”[i]), the name referring to the eggs of sea turtles, which nest on the region’s beaches. Polihua is more for beachcombers than swimmers because the beach‘s steep sand drop-off and strong currents make it a dangerous place to swim. Nearby is a site rich in ancient petroglyphs.

[Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach), Directions: follow Keōmuku Road (Hwy. 44) north to the end at Kahokunui; also reached by going 11 miles (18 km) from Lāna‘i City on Polihua Road, past Garden of the Gods.]

Maunalei

About 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Kahokunui is Maunalei, the site of an ancient heiau. Unfortunately, the stones of the heiau were taken long ago for use in constructing a cattle pen, and this was said to have been one of the causes of the failure of the Maunalei Sugar Company (which took a swift downturn after the heiau stones were taken).

Maunalei Sugar Company operations (see below) were centered at Keōmuku, about 6 miles (9.7 km) from Keōmuku Road (Highway 44).

[Maunalei, 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Kahokunui, northeast Lāna‘i.]

Keōmuku

Keōmuku was a thriving sugar plantation community in the late 1800s when it was the headquarters of the Maunalei Sugar Company. Keōmuku was abandoned when the nearby sugar plantation failed (see above), and the area was used as ranchland until 1954.

Still standing in Keōmuku is Ka Lanakila o Ka Mālamalama Church, originally constructed of wood in 1903, and now partially reconstructed. In the early 1900s Keōmuku was the headquarters of the Gay family’s cattle and sheep ranch. This ended in 1951 when the area was abandoned and the town’s residents moved to Lāna‘i City.

[Ka Lanakila o Ka Mālamalama Church, 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Shipwreck Beach.]

Kahe‘a Heiau

Kahe‘a Heiau is located just south of Keōmuku. Use of the heiau’s stones by the Maunalei Sugar Company to construct a sugarcane railway was said to be a factor in the demise of the company’s plantation (see above). Right after the stones were used, the town’s water turned salty, and many of the workers died from a fever.

Kahe‘a means “The red stains,”[ii] and is likely a reference to Kahe‘a Heiau being a luakini, where human sacrifices were performed. This eastern coastline region was also the site of ancient loko ‘ia (fishponds), though these are now not easily recognized.

[Kahe‘a Heiau, 1½ miles (2.4 km) south of Keōmuku.]

Lōpā

Lōpā is the site of an ancient Hawaiian loko ‘ia (fishpond), and is also a popular local surf spot. Strong currents make swimming dangerous but the remote white-sand beach provides a nice picnic area.

[Lōpā, 7 miles (11 km) down dirt road at end of Keōmuku Highway.]

Kahalepalaoa Landing

Not far south of Ka‘hea Heiau is Kahalepalaoa Landing, a popular recreational beach. Kahalepalaoa Landing was also the site of a wharf where sugar cane was loaded on vessels and sent to Maui.

It is said that whale bones were often found along Lāna‘i’s eastern shoreline, including the Kahalepalaoa Landing area. Kahalepalaoa means “Storehouse for ivory.”

Nāhā

The old village of Nāhā, about 4 miles (6.4 km) down the road from Kahalepalaoa Landing, is a good fishing spot frequented by locals, but is not a good spot for swimming.

At low tide, the rock walls of an ancient Hawaiian fishpond are visible. This southeast coastal area is where Lāna‘i’s sandy shoreline ends, giving way to the rising palis (cliffs) that extend to the northern shore’s Polihua (see above).

[Nāhā, southeast Lāna‘i at the end of Keōmuku Highway (Hwy. 44) (follow dirt road along eastern shore).]

Southeast Lāna‘i

Hulopo‘e Beach

Hulopo‘e Beach, southeast of Lāna‘i City, is a great place to swim and snorkel. Spinner dolphins (Stenella longisrostris; Hawaiian name: nai‘a) are frequently seen. Tidepools are located one side of the white, sandy beach, which is known for its clear blue waters.

Hulopo‘e Beach provides a nice place for children to swim, and is fronted by grassy areas nice for picnics. There are also camping facilities. Hulopo‘e is designated a Marine Life Conservation District.

[Hulopo‘e Beach, 8 miles (13 km) south of Lāna‘i City, at the south end of Mānele Road (Highway 440), near the Mānele Bay Hotel.]

Mānele Bay

Lāna‘i’s only public boat harbor, Mānele Bay was the main harbor before Kaumālapa‘u Harbor was constructed by Dole and his pineapple operation (see above).

The harbor is now used by fishing boats as well as yachts and other pleasure craft. This is also where the ferry to Maui arrives and departs. Now designated as a Marine Life Conservation District, Mānele Bay is also the site of an ancient fishing village.

Pu‘u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)

Hulopo‘e Beach and Mānele Bay are part of a State of Hawai‘i Marine Life Conservation District. A trail to the top of the ancient spatter cone that separates Hulopo‘e from Mānele Bay provides a great view of the 80-foot (24-m) high offshore sea stack called Pu‘u Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock.

According to legend a young warrior of Lāna‘i, Makakehau, brought a girl, Pehe, from Maui to the rock and hid her there because she was so beautiful. When she was killed in a storm the distraught warrior retrieved her body from the cave at the base of the rock.

Makakehau then buried Pehe at the rock’s summit and leaped from the cliffs to his death. Pu‘u Pehe means “Pehe’s hill.”[iii]

Ka Lokahi Ka Mālamalama Church

Near the entrance to the Lodge at Kō‘ele is Ka Lokahi Ka Mālamalama Church, constructed in 1938. This church was moved to its current site when the Lodge at Kō‘ele was built.



[i] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[ii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[iii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.