Lāna‘i Guide: 3 Gorgeous Places Where You Can Discover Hidden Treasures

These off-road adventures are Instagram-worthy.


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Puu Pehe Otherwise known as “Sweetheart Rock,” this iconic islet is obligatory for selfies.
Photos: Grant Kaye

 

For the adventurous, Lāna‘i possesses a wealth of treasures to discover: petroglyphs, private coves, ghost towns and ancient fishponds. Comb empty beaches for puka shells, interesting driftwood and—if the gods smile upon you—Japanese glass fishing floats. The four-wheel-drive roads are often impassable due to deep mud or boulders. Check before heading out. Bring water, layered clothing and snacks. Cell phone service is spotty. If you don’t want to drive, contact Rabaca’s Limousine Service for a guided tour in a comfy Suburban. (808) 565-6670

 

Polihua Beach and Keahiakawelo

 

Follow the red-dirt road to its end: the empty paradise of Polihua Beach. The currents are too strong for swimming and, when the wind blows, you’ll get sandblasted. But, when the breeze is light, this huge stretch of golden sand is gorgeous. 

 

On your way back, stop at Keahiakawelo to commune with the boulders and lichen. A journalist nicknamed this otherworldly landscape “the Garden of the Gods” in 1912, but its traditional name means “the fire of Kawelo.” According to one mo‘olelo, Kawelo was a powerful sorcerer who triumphed over his rival on Moloka‘i by burning the man’s excrement in a fire. Smoke from the enchanted fire turned the flowers on nearby ‘ōhi‘a trees permanently purple. 

 

Get there: From Keōmoku Highway, turn left past the Kō‘ele Stables onto Kānepu‘u Highway (unpaved). At the first fork, turn right, then continue straight.

 

East Side 

PHOTO: SHANNON WIANECKI

 

Take all day to explore the miles of empty beach and driftwood forts on the island’s untamed east side. Start at Shipwreck Beach and explore the nearby petroglyphs (at the road’s end, follow the signs into the gulch). Then head south. 

 

At Keōmoku, peek into Ka Lanakila Church, a beautifully restored sanctuary. Further on, investigate the deserted Club Lāna‘i playground with its funky lagoon and lonely pier. Continue south to Lōpā Beach and a historic fishpond that residents are reviving. 

 

Get there: Follow Keōmoku Highway (partially unpaved) to its end. Turn left for Shipwreck and right for Keōmoku.

 

Kaunolū Village 

 

You can feel the mana here, vibrating off the cliffs. This was once Kamehameha’s summer home and a pu‘uhonua (place of refuge). Numerous house sites, petroglyphs and the heiau dedicated to the bird god Halulu peek out of the dry grass. At the cliff’s edge, you can stare 70 feet down into the azure blue at Kahekili’s Leap, a notch in the rock where warriors dared one another to leap out beyond the reef. 

 

Get there: Head toward Kaumalapau Harbor on Kaumalapau Highway. Turn left on Kaupili Road (unpaved). After 2.5 miles, turn right. Continue 3 miles down a steep, rocky trail to park by a picnic bench. Afterward, you can continue on Kaupili Road back to Hulopo‘e Drive.

 

Click here to read more stories about Lāna‘i.

 

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