Hiking Lanaʽi

30 Jul

Garden of the Gods

There are 430 miles of road on Lanaʽi, but only 30 of those miles are paved. There are 140 square miles of land, but only 3,000 people who live here. With so much undeveloped area, and so much room to explore, it should come as little surprise that the island of Lanaʽi is a fantastic place for hiking.

Throughout the network of dirt roads and trails, the hiking on Lanaʽi stretches from silent cloud forests to rocky shorelines which are frozen in time. Along the way are historic sites from battlefields to petroglyphs to places of worship, and you might even spot some of the island’s wildlife such as Rio Grande turkeys or mouflon sheep.
Of all of the island’s hiking tracks the most famous is Munro Trail, a seven mile jaunt which weaves its way to the summit of Lanaihale. Clear by morning and misty by afternoon, from the summit perch at 3,370 feet there can be six islands visible at once. In addition to ferns and towering pines, hikers will pass the ridge at Hoʽokio where Kahekili—King of Maui—was famously defeated by Kalaniopuʽu in the battle of 1778. Hikers will sometimes encounter Jeeps which are off-roading along the ridge, but for most of this hike expect to be surrounded by the refreshing sounds of silence.
Hike Lanai (1)
For a shorter hike which runs through the highlands and departs from the Lodge at Koele, the Koloiki Ridge Trail climbs its way towards the thickly-forested ridge. Joining for a moment with the Munro Trail, a spur trail leads to Koloiki Ridge where Maui, Molokaʽi, and the Maunalei Gulch create one of the island’s most dramatic panoramas.

Lanaʽi has more than just mountain trails, however, and various hikes can be found along the coast from the confines of Manele to the wilds   of Kaiolohia. Down on the shore at Hulopoʽe Beach Park, two short trails depart each end of the beach and highlight the beauty of this volcanic shoreline. On the southern end of Hulopoʽe, a ten-minute walk leads to secluded Shark’s Bay and the iconic sea stack of Pu’u Pehe. Commonly known as Sweetheart Rock, a heiau is visible from the top of the cliff and is evidence of the region’s rich ancient heritage. On the opposite side of Hulopoʽe, the Kapihaʽa Fisherman’s Trail weaves its way past ancient village sites and historic quarries where adzes were carved and sea salt was gathered in the rocks. When combined with the trail to Pu’u Pehe, this coastal track provides an intriguing glimpse into the history of the Manele shore. Hike Lanai2

Finally, on the “backside” of the island at the remote Kaiolohia, a coastal track parallels the water at the famous “Shipwreck Beach.” On this windswept, undeveloped coast, a thin stretch of sand runs for miles along the shoreline in an area devoid of any services or shade. Given the isolated and harsh conditions, most trekkers venture a mile towards the ship before eventually turning back in the direction they came. As a side trip, hikers can also view ancient petroglyphs which are tucked in a grove set inland from the coast and sit silently now as they did centuries ago.

These, of course, are only a sample of Lanaʽi’s trails, and from the ancient settlement of Kaunolu to the empty beaches of Polihua, dozens of corners lie waiting to be explored for those who set out on their own two feet.


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