Lanai – Land of No Pineapples, But Lots of Fun

29 Jun

Uninhabited until the 1500’s, 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

Lanai and its relationship to the other Hawaiian Islands.

of Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), explaining some of the otherworldly terrain of the island. Lanai was a sovereign land until King Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands into one royal monarchy in 1810. The ruins of Kamehameha’s favorite summer fishing retreat can still be seen.  Called Kaunolu, this sacred spot 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. After contact with the west, Lanai was eventually purchased and converted into a cattle ranch. The Lodge at Koele now resides in the area that was once the center 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 and Lanai was eventually sold to David Murdock who did away with agriculture and built two lavish resorts in an effort to build tourism income.  He consistently lost millions. Recently, 98% of Lanai (State of Hawaii owns the other 2%)was sold to Larry Ellison, a billionaire who likes to make trophy real estate purchases.  So the course of Lanai might change again.  Who knows? Throughout its history, man’s impact on the Lanai has been minimal.  Even with the two resorts, only a scant 30 miles 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.   With some of this history in mind, it was that three intrepid explorers ventured over to Lanai, spending a glorious 3 ½ days.

Our cute little house right in downtown Lanai City

Jan, Dick and I enjoyed the voyage on the local Lahaina-Lanai ferry on a beautiful sunny day.  Upon landing, we found our

Calico Kitty posing with Dick

reserved jeep (from our house owner) and made our way to our new digs.  And were they nice!  A 2 bedroom modernized plantation style house that was just perfect.  It even came with a resident calico kitty.  She was such a nice kitty and greeted us every time we got near the door…inside or out.  Of course we got some food for her and fed her and her mom who also came by on occasion.  We left a note for the next tenants and some food to give to the kitties. We had lunch at the Blue Ginger (famous for its apple turnovers and tuna melts among other local plates), shopped for supplies at Richard’s Market and made a short trek over to the Lanai Cultural Center.

We found a total of 9 varieties of Spam in Richard’s Market and the Pine Isle Market!
(RDS Photo)

The Center has recently been remodeled and has a very nice museum displaying many photos and artifacts of the island.  Dick had contributed some of his photos taken over the years and, lo and behold!  Some of them were on display in cases outside the building and also on the inside with professionally done signs attributing the photos to him.  The volunteers in the building knew of him and were very happy to meet him in person.  It’s cool to know a celebrity!

Kalanakila O Ka Malamalama Church in God dust

After seeing Dick’s photos, we hopped into the jeep and took a ride to the north shore to see an old church being restored at Keomoku.  I found it to be very interesting because the rebuilders had to raise the church up out of the dust and basically rebuild the entire thing.  The grand re-opening was to be this month(June, 2012), I hope it went well and that it was very well attended.  Hidden in the surrounding underbrush (some of which is tricker than the briar patch that Bre’r Rabbit lived in)

Check out the surrounding brush. I half expected trolls to jump out at us.
(RDS Photo)

were the remnants of the Maunalei Sugar Company which operated from 1899 to 1901.  We were able to find a stone oven and a stone church (not part of the sugar company), but were unable to find a small locomotive.  We met two young men while looking around and they knew of Dick’s picture collection at the Cultural Center and had used them in some research they were doing with film production.  They were very impressed to meet Dick in person.  As I say, it’s cool to know a celebrity! Back in 1992, Dick found the wreck of a sailing canoe (that was once

Dick’s 1992 picture of the old sailing canoe wreck that is on display at the Cultural Center

near the ocean and now in the brush) and took pictures of it.  We found it again and took pictures of its demise in the last 20 years.  It’s amazing what the elements can do.

The same boat in 2012 (not the same quality of picture as what Dick took)

The rest of our adventure that day included visiting a Buddhist shrine honoring Japanese workers killed by a plague in 1900 and the remnants of the “Trilogy Club,” a sort of day camp that a tour group brought tourists from Maui to spend the day swimming, playing on the beach and eating treats. The next day, we treated ourselves to the Blue Ginger’s apple turnovers and rode out to Kaiolohia, aka Shipwreck Beach.  Strong trade winds are funneled between the island of

Jan adding to a sort of flotsam shrine built by passing hikers

Dick and Jan with the YOGN-42

Moloka’i and Maui, directly onto Lana’i’s north shore.  Vessels emerging from the wind shadow  in either direction encounter sudden gusts and rough seas.  The more than six mile stretch of coastline gives one an opportunity to see all kinds of flotsam and jetsam as well as actual wrecks still being pounded by the currents and waves.  We hiked about a four mile round trip and were tired from being constantly windblown.  But it was a great day and I enjoyed every minute of it!  The first actual wreck one sees is the YOGN-42, an old ferro-cement navy fuel barge, abandoned about 1950.  We don’t know the reasoning of letting it run aground in this location.  But it’s great for picture taking.  Later, we noticed a wind surfer spending a lot of time near the old barge, apparently having a great time.  We were entertained for a long time checking out old timbers, other wreckage, sea salt deposits, shells and critter tracks (such as deer and turkeys).

Dick peeking over the Blue Ginger sign

We had lunch at the Blue Ginger as it seemed to be our favorite place and, after some down time, took a drive out to

Looks surreal, doesn’t it? And you wouldn’t believe the wind was whipping around at 50 mph either. (RDS Photo)

Keahiakawelo, Lana’i’s version of Garden of the Gods.  We drove through an iron wood forest and some hills and dales to get there and found ourselves in the midst of a gale.  Jan and I didn’t even get out of the jeep, it was so strong.  But our intrepid guide/photographer did get some great shots of the collage of red rock formations that were once scorched by ancient eruptions and then carved by the elements.  Jan told me these rocks were formed by lava burps or “lava vomit.”  Whatever, it’s a unique moonscape biome right in Hawai’i.  I was impressed.

The next day, we bounced out to Kaunolu.  I say bounced because Dick had to put the jeep into 4 wheel drive when we drove down a very rugged old pineapple field road.  Man!  It was rough!  But it was worth

The very large Halulu Heiau was once a place a sacred place of refuge

it because we were able to see the ruins of King Kamehameha the Great’s favorite summer fishing retreat.  On the west bank of the valley, 200′ above the sea, stands Halulu heiau (place of worship).  It was still in use up to circa 1819.  Near the heiau was

Notice Jan and me hanging onto the rocks at Kakelili’s Leap. It was scary looking down! (RDS Photo)

Kahekili’s Leap (also known as the Warriors Leap.  It is a natural platform 63′ above the ocean and Kamehameha’s elite warriors would prove their bravery by leaping into the ocean.  Made my stomach turn to look over the edge.  But then, heights scare me.  Jan and Dick told me that Dick often gets his hair cut in novel places on some of their trips.  The new place on this trip looking out on the bay at Kaunolu with the “stacks” in the background (“stacks” being a unique volcanic structure).

Got scissors?

We left that rugged, primitive summer retreat and drove to the upscale Manele Bay Hotel/Resort that overlooks the gorgeous Hulopoe Bay to have a gourmet lunch.  For some

Hulopoe Bay
(RDS Photo)

reason, we didn’t have any problem adjusting to the cultural change.  Jan and Dick greeted Mike Carroll, a Lana’i artist they had previously met, who was painting in the lobby of the hotel.  It was fun to hear the chat.  Lunch was fantastic with a view to match.  It made the three of us feel like royalty.  We hiked around Hulopoe Bay and checked out where Bob and I had spent

Pu’upehe Cove with Sweetheart Rock in the background on the right. Technically, Pu’upehe is Sweetheart Rock, but also the name of the cove (RDS Photo)

several days basking in the sun and snorkeling when we were last there. The bay is a marine preserve and the snorkeling is excellent.  We also   went around the far point of Hulopoe to Pu’upehe Cove that is guarded by Sweetheart Rock.  It’s also a good place to snorkel.  That night, Craig, the owner of our house, came over and asked Dick to go with him on a flight around the island the next morning.  Of course, Dick said yes and was treated to Craig taking him in his own plane on a tour of Lana’i.  They flew over our house but I didn’t get a very good picture of the little Cessna.  Bummer.

The was the beginning of our last day on Lana’i.  We visited the Cultural Center to take more pictures and did some shopping in the little shops around Dole Park (the town square).  We had to have lunch one last time at the Blue Ginger to get that one last scrumptious tuna melt and then we drove back to Hulopoe Bay for more photos.  We drove over a little hill to Manele bay to return the jeep to its parking spot and then caught the ferry back to Lahaina.

Being in Lahaina for a short time and then going to Kahalui, was a culture shock for me.  It was so quiet at Kalaupapa and then on Lana’i, that it was not easy to adjust to the hustle and bustle of noise and traffic onMaui…and Maui is much slower than LA.  I knew I was back in LA in about 2 second when I heard horns blaring and kids having a melt down and saw a traffic jam at LAX.  It makes one very thankful for having the opportunity to experience the serenity of places like Lana’i and Kalaupapa and know that peace can be achieved.

Here are a few more pictures from Lana’i.

The only pineapples on Lana’i now are at the Cultural Center.

Sign from times past

Shipwreck trio
(RDS Photo)

Maintaining the workout routine with the weights!
(RDS Photo)

The tuna melts are fabulous at the Blue Ginger
(RDS Photo)

The wind surfer at Shipwreck Beach. Click on the picture to see him better

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