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Attractions on Lanai

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Lanai’s only activities are hiking, snorkeling, and golf.

Those, after, all, are the most popular activities and the best way to explore the outdoors, but there are also a number of traditional attractions that are scattered across the island.

In the cool uplands of Lanai City, where old plantation homes with wooden front porches are shaded by Cook Island pines, you’ll find the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center across the street from Dole Park. Here in this small but informative center, visitors can learn the history of Lanai from settlement up through today, and peruse traditional Hawaiian artifacts and the collection of black and white photos.

In addition to being one of Lanai’s best attractions, the staff can point you in the right direction for what to see on your trip, whether it’s searching for shells on Shipwreck Beach or visiting the Luahiwa Petroglyphs. Or, for one of the best attractions on Lanai, experience a sunset at Keahiakawelo—also known as “Garden of the Gods”—where the deep red hues of the rocky landscape make it seem like the surface of Mars.

To visit a village site frozen in time, one of the best places to see on Lanai is ancient Kaunolu Village, where Hawaiian chiefs would spend their summers on the island’s southwestern coast. When strolling the dry and rock-strewn shoreline, you’ll see the imposing Halulu heiau that was constructed out on the point, and the notch in the cliff where King Kahekili would courageously leap towards the sea. The canoe house, or hale, still sits on the shore, and while reaching the site requires a couple miles of off road hiking, it’s one of the best Lanai attractions for Hawaiian history and culture.

On the completely opposite side of the island, or the east coast facing Maui, historic Ka Lanakila church has a hauntingly beautiful way of portraying the modern day Keomoku ghost town. Here on a coast that’s rung by palm groves and fronted by long stretches of sand, there was once a thriving, prosperous village and even a sugar plantation. All of that changed after 1900, when the plantation folded and pineapple was planted in the central Palawai Basin—which led to construction of Lanai City and Keomoku’s demise. Today, by hiring a rugged 4×4 Jeep, you can visit the historic Hawaiian church on a drive of the southeastern coast, continuing the journey to other Lanai attractions like Naha or Lopa Beach.

Finally, for one of the island’s most photo-worthy sights and a great way to end the trip, take the short hike to Puʻu Pehe Overlook—Lanai’s most popular attraction. This 80-foot sea stack sits just off the point from the busy Manele Small Boat Harbor, and is a site that’s steeped in Hawaiian legend of princesses, tragedy, and love. From the white sands of Hulopoʻe Bay, enjoy the short, five-minute walk on a narrow and rocky trail, which then emerges at a hidden cove and a sweeping view of the rock. Of the dozens of different attractions on Lanai there’s none more scenic or popular, and it’s a spot as storied in tourist brochures as it is in ancient lore.

The Garden of the Gods on Lanaʻi. Photo courtesy of Vadim Kurland.

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