lanai garden of the gods sign

Lanai, a small island forming part of Maui County, Hawaii, I was excited to be visiting here and had heard so much about it. Especially the variety after the visits to some of the other islands in the county.

Lanai is the smallest island that is inhabited in Hawaii that can be visited. It is only 18 miles across at the longest point and the population is just over 3000.

view from the top of lanai

After adventures on Maui itself and then on the island of Molokai, this was going to be completely different again. Lots of adventures but also lots of calm and serene time with huge views. Not just along the coast but high up the top of it too.

From the coast and all the way up to the top, we had a fun way to travel, by UTV. Googles on, hit the dirt tracks, let’s go! so much to see and learn.

UTV drive on Lanai

Early History Of Lanai

There are 8 main Hawaiian islands and Lanai is one of the smallest in 6th place and one of the oldest.

Over 2000 years ago, when Polynesians took to the waters and found the Hawaiian islands, Lanai was still very volcanic. Smoke, fire and lava was still coming out of the ground. Sailors of ancient times let it be known as as the Island or Home of Demons.

This legend of these man eating spirits meant that people kept clear of what is now Lanai and settled on the other islands instead.

However legend has it that the Maui chief Kakaʻalaneo banished his son, Kauluāʻau, to Lanai for tearing up all the breadfruit trees on Maui. Kauluāʻau astounded everyone not just by surviving but by also getting rid of all the spirits on Lanai and thus allowing people to go there.

And thus, lanai was inhabited by a small population from around 1500 AD.

Garden of The Gods – Keahiakawelo

lanai garden of the gods

If you ever visit Lanai then a visit to the Garden of The Gods, also known as Keahiakawelo, is a must.

A spectacular landscape by the coast. The colours of yellow, orange, red and even purple are so striking. A barren land of colour except for the ancient rocks that look so purposely placed on top of it.

garden of gods rocks

The rocks are what is left after centuries of weathering lowered the top layers of the dry sediment and left parts still standing so that not all was even.

It is called Garden of The Gods because legend has it that the rocks fell from God’s garden in the heavens.

rock and sand in garden of the gods

Or that the priests of Lanai and Maui had a challenge against each other to whom could keep a fire burning the longest on their respective islands. The priest of Lanai used all the vegetation here and hence the land is just rocks.

As I walked the unique shoreline here I was treated to the sight of sea turtles swimming by the rocks.

sea turtle in the sea at lanai

Puupehe

Staying on the red stone of the coastline we visited Puupehe and it is worth it. Again a place that has gorgeous sights as well as legends.

It is one of the most recognised landmarks on Lanai, the little islet just off the red cliffs called Puupehe, also known as Sweetheart Rock.

Puʻupehe lanai sweetheart rock

The story goes that a princess on Maui called Pehe was captured by a warrior from Lanai. To stop others from seeing her, this warrior kept her in a cave. Whilst he was away a storm threw huge surf onto Lanai and Pehe perished. Heartbroken, the warrior summoned the Gods, climbed this rock with her body, buried her in a tomb and then took his own life by jumping off into the raging sea.

The Summit of Lanai

Back into the UTV, it was time to head inland and upward to the highest point of the island. I must point out here that there are virtually no ‘roads’ on Lanai, just dusty tracks, so a car won’t get you everywhere. Plus, there is not a single traffic light for info.

The top of Lanai is the summit of the now inactive volcano Mount Lānaʻihale. It stands at 3,366 feet (1,026 metres) above sea level.

Getting there is like travelling fast through all levels of vegetation. Starting at the greenless yet orange coast you go up through the grasses and bushes as you climb and then near the top you enter the height of the tall pines.

pine trees lanai

Winding round and up to the summit and some very impressive views.

Lanai is the only Hawaiian Island you can see every other Hawaiian Island from. And at the summit you are hit by it all.

Maui and Molokai are so close really, the high volcano tops of Maui rising out of the horizon and ocean.

view to maui from lanai

After the coast it was nice to take in this extremely different view in such a short time later.

Becoming The Pineapple Island

Back to the history. Now that humans had arrived in the 1500s, it was only really used as a few fishing villages at first.

Then in 1854 a group of Mormons came to settle and were granted a lease. A certain Walter M. Gibson came and effectively swindled them out of money to then buy the land in his own name. Of course he was soon excommunicated. But, that did not stop him owning the land. Which used for ranching.

The island’s population plummeted down to just about 200 by the end of the 19th century before Walter’s daughter tried setting up a sugar plantation.

view out to sea from the top of lanai

But in 1922, James Dole bought the island and saw the island’s fertile potential. He turned Lanai from basically nothing to being the largest producer of pineapples in the world. In fact in its prime, Lanai was producing 75% of the world’s pineapples.

Tourism Today

Lanai for me was one of the most unique yet quiet places I have been to. I could not believe that this was the quietest island here in terms of visitors, just 100,00 per year.

Having a drink by the pool of the Four Seasons Hotel, sun in the sky, surrounded by ocean and a mystical and magical island, had to be done, yes please.

four seasons hotel pool on lanai

If you visit Maui and love it and also visit Molokai, then you have no excuse not to explore Lanai, I promise you will enjoy it.

sunset at lanai

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3 Comments

  1. Laura, World Out There says:

    Spectacular views! Closer to home, I recently went to the Isle of Man and had a great time driving there – the roads are like a Scalextric track curling through hills, round Snaefell mountain, and edging along the precipitous coast. You should try it!

  2. Kathryn Bullock says:

    Hi Paul,
    Great photos and I love Hawaii too and have been trying to persuade a friend to go there for her honeymoon. When we went there everything ran like clockwork and I remember getting a questionnaire from the tourist board welcoming me home and asking if I'd had a good time. The quality and value of the hotels was amazing and each island is so different. It has so much more than beaches to offer and is so green (especially Maui) I loved the lush tropical vegetation of Kaui where I think they filmed Godzilla and seeing the volcano on the big island but few people know about these places so great that you can build awareness. I look forward to reading more. Kathryn

  3. Nate @ House of Annie says:

    Lanai is such a beautiful and special place. The people there are so friendly, too. I'm lucky to have visited there a few times.

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