DISCOVER LANA’I’S HERITAGE
From ancient times to the modern era of plantations and pineapples, Lana’i’s rich history weaves its fascinating spell at sites all around the island. The place to start? The Culture and Heritage Center in Lana’i City is not only a trove of information and artifacts but it also organizes insightful hikes, tours, and field seminars that recount the island’s story through the years. Or you can head out in a four-wheel-drive vehicle and follow Lana’i’s byways on your own discovery tour.
On the island’s southwest coast, the Kealia Kapu-Kaunolu Heritage Complex was once a political and social center and residence for Kamehameha I, who ruled Hawaii in the late 1700s. The village was also home to priests, artisans, and others who served the chiefs, and the area is rich with the sites of houses, storehouses, and ceremonial structures called heiau.
On Lana’i’s northeast, windward side of the island back roads lead to other remnants of the past. The abandoned village of Keomoku was a bustling sugar plantation community around the turn of the 20th century, and though the residents are long gone, their pretty wooden church, built in 1903 and abandoned in 1954, was restored in 2012. Not far away, the remains of the Maunalei Sugar Company mill are surrounded by groves of spiky kiawe trees, which had been planted to fuel the mill operation.
Up the coast are the centuries-old Poaiwa petroglyphs depicting enigmatic bird-man creatures, and beyond them is the Waia’opae Fishpond, an important feature of ancient islanders’ lives. Finally, you’ll come to the broad expanse of Shipwreck Beach, where the hull of a World War II freighter continues to be buffeted by the waves. The surf here is too rough for swimming, but the sands are perfect for beachcombing.
Hawaiian culture on Lana’i lives on in arts, crafts, and local lore. You can get a feel for it by spending an afternoon with island elders at the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, learning to play the ukulele, trying your hand at lei making or basket weaving, or simply “talking story.” Or take a Poke Class with one of the resort chefs, who will teach you to prepare this Hawaiian version of sashimi so you can savor a taste of the islands long after you return home.