This winter I spent time on Hawaii. Again. This was my fourth trip to the middle of the Pacific Ocean visiting Maui Island that I previously crossed back and forth taking photos.
But this time I had a chance to visit one of the secluded islands West of Maui called Lanai. Lanai is the sixth largest of the Hawaiian Islands and one of the least populated one. The population is just over 3,000, most clustered in the plantation homes that make up Lanai City, and the word "city" means a few buildings in the center of the island that can barely qualify as a "town". Lanai is largely undeveloped, the whole island has only three paved roads, the rest is crisscrossed with a largely unmapped network of red-dirt roads. One gas station and not a single traffic light. You get the idea.
Once Lanai was known as "Pineapple Island". In 1922, pineapple tycoon James Drummond Dole purchased 98% of Lanai and the island was exporting 65,000 tons of pineapples a year by 1930, which was about 75% of the world's pineapples. Dole pretty much owned an entire island for nearly 100 years as it was covered in plantations and the only people who lived there were Dole company employees. Much later, around 1985 its plantations were moved to less expensive places and a billionaire David Murdock took over the island by acquiring Dole Foods' holdings in Lanai. For 20 years, Lanai has struggled to reinvent itself and in 2012 Larry Ellison, a founder of Oracle, bought Lanai from Murdock. Now Larry plans multimillion-dollar renovations, building resorts and transform Lanai into an international model of an environmentally sustainable community. It still strikes me how nowadays you can still buy a whole island. And it's not like Hawaii has thousands of empty islands floating in the ocean, there are just 8 of them.
We are up at 4AM before the sunrise to prepare some coffee to-go and hit the road to make 6AM ferry that departs from Lahaina, a small historic town South-West of Maui. It's just a 45 minutes trip, so most people make a day trip getting to Lanai in the morning to stay in the Manele Bay (where ferry arrives) and then go back to Maui in the evening. Lanai has only two (or three) hotels, one in the same Manale Bay ($660 a night) by the ocean and the second in Lanai City. We are equipped with boxes full of food, drinks, gas lamps, tools, pots, sleeping bags, basically all the "comando" gear as are planning on camping this island in the jungle right by the beach, before it becomes extremely hard to visit probably in just a few years.
Lanai Island is super small and besides going around enjoying the nature without tourists doesn't have a lot of "unique" attractions. One of the most surreal views though is an image of WWII shipwreck resting in the Kalohi channel between Molokai and Lanai. But apparently this ship didn't actually crash there. After World War II, this vessel was given “residence” as an economical means of disposal. Fully made of concrete, which I have never even heard of, the ship was one of 22 ferrous-concrete oilers built between 1942 and 1944. None of these vessels were given names. According to my friend who went there (by surfing with kite) it is full of some kind of termites/insects. Anyway, the view in real life is completely breathtaking.
Keomuku is located on the east shore of Lanai. During ancient times, fishermen and farmers settled along the coastal portions of this area up to the valley of Maunalei. Keomuku was a small and sleepy fishing village up until 1899, when the Maunalei Sugar Company moved in, turning the village into a bustling sugar plantation. Today, Keomuku lies abandoned and is called a ghost town by some. Little remains of the village and there is little evidence that once a thriving sugar industry was located here. The only structures that are left standing are a few old wooden houses and the original structure of the Ka Lanakila o Ka Malamalama Church, which was completed in 1903.
Old Club Lanai. For many years on the East shore of Lanai Island was a luxury Club Lanai, closed in 1996 and now rests being completely abandoned. Guests were brought here from one or two resorts on the island as well as from Maui by boats to have drinks and party. Weirdly there's very little information online about what exactly Club Lanai was. I only managed to find some random Club Lanai Reunion Facebook page, where I took the photo to the right from illustrating the club in its full glory.
More than 60 miles from Lanai City and about a half-hour past Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), Polihua is a 2-mile stretch of beach across the channel from Molokai.
Garden of the Gods, or Keahiakawelo as it is known to locals is an insanely beautiful place with red rocks and lava formations carved by wind and weather in a spectrum of red, orange, purple and earthen colors. Legend says the rocks were dropped from the sky by gods tending their gardens. Just this place alone was worth the entire trip. As you may have noticed a lot of this landscape was used in one of my recent personal projects Misplaced Series.
After spending two days driving around the island we are on the way back to make the ferry back to Maui before sunset.
More photos to come! But if you search for "Hawaii" in this blog, there are tons of photos here from my previous trips.