Uninhabited until the 1500s, Lanai was always a place of mystery, even to Native Hawaiians. Legends tell the story of a challenge between kahuna (priests) that scorched the earth of Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), explaining some of the otherworldly terrain of the island.
Lanai was a sovereign land until King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian islands into one royal monarchy in 1810. The ruins of Kamehameha’s favourite summer fishing retreat can still be seen in South Lanai. Called Kaunolu, this sacred site and fishing village has been registered as a National Historic Landmark. Home to Halulu heiau (religious temple), you can also find ancient petroglyphs carved into the stones here. This treasured cultural site can only be accessed by 4-wheel drive.
After contact with the west, Lanai was eventually purchased and converted into a cattle ranch. The Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, is now found in the area that was once the centre of the island’s ranching operations. As a former manager of this ranch, George Munro made an indelible mark on the landscape by planting the first of what became the island’s many Cook pine trees. The Munro Trail, named after Munro, leads to Lanaihale, Lanai’s highest point.
Later, under the leadership of James Dole, Lanai became the world’s foremost grower and exporter of pineapples – a title the former "Pineapple Isle" held for most of the 20th century. As the cost of business rose, pineapple production was moved overseas, but Dole’s legacy lives on today. Stay at the Hotel Lanai, a hotel Dole built for managers and VIPs who visited the island. This historic inn is conveniently located just above Dole Park in Lanai City.
Throughout its history, man’s impact on the island has been minimal. There are now two lavish resorts here yet only a scant 48 kilometres of paved road. The timeless landscape is largely as it was, offering a glimpse into the Lanai of another time, on an island unlike any other in Hawaii.
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