As Lānaʻi cultural advisor Kepa Maly told me recently - "the okina in Lānaʻi is essential." Okinas are glottal stops marked by a backward apostrophes, which not only changes the pronunciation, but the meaning of the word. Having grown up on this rocky slice of paradise in the pacific, Maly knows Lānaʻi's people and history -and most importantly the stories behind both as told to him in Hawaiian by his adopted family. In order to preserve these stories he created the Lānaʻi Culture and Heritage Center in 2007, now a centerpiece and point of pride for the community. At the community center one will learn many more reasons why this 13 x 18-mile, pear shaped island is special.
Important Historical Notes
It’s hard to imagine that this verdant, island was nearly devastated by livestock grazing in the late 1800s. The island became so dry and dusty, Lānaʻi ranch manager, George Munro worried it would blow into the ocean. Listening to the drops of rain fall on his tin roof, he realized that the 125-foot Norfolk pine next to his home (now the Koele Lodge), trapped at least a 100 gallons of water a day from the morning fog. He planted 10,000, Norfolks, and saved the island from turning into a red dust bowl. These trees stand today. This is just one of the anecdotes from The Story of Lanai, a book published by Native press, of Munro’s meticulous notes during his decades on Lanai. After the cattle came the pineapple plantation giving the island it's name 'The Pineapple Island.'
Despite the population paucity, one-room delis like the family-run Lānaʻi Poke House serve up some of the best raw fish delicacies in the state. Those who appreciate the unpeopled quiet will be in for changes once Larry Ellison’s plans have taken shape. The entrepreneur, who purchased 98 percent of the island in 2011, has famously pledged to make Lānaʻi a model for sustainability; meanwhile, he’s invested in community infrastructure and made major renovations to the island’s two Four Seasons properties. He’s also hired locals vested in the preservation and celebration of the island to work in his company Pulama (which means “to care for”) Lānaʻi . One of them, the aforementioned Kepa Maly.
“Our island is not about flying in and just staying at a hotel, like any other resort,” says Maly. “I believe it’s our unique history and stories, the rare landscapes, that set us apart from anyplace else.” And he says, this extends to pronunciation of the island’s name: Lānaʻi (lah-nah-ee) which translates as “day of conquest” and refers to a long-ago king who was banished to the island as a boy, then made the island safe again after one long day of battle. But lanai (lanigh) is also a common word for porch. And, as Maly says, “We are not Maui’s back porch.”
1. Keahilkawelo, Garden of the Gods
5. Visit Shipwreck Beach (and the nearby petroglyphs)