Things are about to change on the Pineapple Island. Unlike many of the larger Hawaiian islands—with their resort-lined beaches and bumper-to-bumper traffic—Lānaʻi has always been considered a peaceful escape. But most of the island, 98 percent to be exact, was recently sold to a wealthy CEO. And his vision of the island probably isn’t the place about which you’ve been dreaming. So go now.
Lānaʻi is the sixth-largest Hawaiian island, and the smallest of the publicly accessible ones. Within the island’s 141 square miles, there are only 30 miles of paved roads. Four-wheel drive vehicles are necessary. And you shouldn’t be surprised to find only one gas station and no traffic lights.
The island was first settled by fishermen in the 15th century. Taro farmers, a Mormon colony, ranchers, and the world’s largest pineapple plantation followed. Eventually, two luxury resorts were built. But Lānaʻi remained quiet, peaceful, and breathtakingly beautiful. Especially on the rugged northern coast.
The northern coast is home to deserted beaches, a nature preserve, and a lunar-like rock garden. Start at Kaiolohia, which many call Shipwreck Beach. A rusted, ghostly tanker ship from the 1940s is lodged in the rocky water just offshore. Molokaʻi and Maui are in the distance. And on the trail to Kukui Point, you pass petroglyphs in the reddish boulders.
From Kaiolohia, drive to the Kanepuu Preserve. Follow the self-guided loop trail across part of the 600 acres to see native plants like Hawaiian sandalwood, Olopua that used to cover most of the islands, and Lama that was used for building canoes. Then visit Polihua Beach. The two-mile beach might be the most beautiful beach on the entire island. Green sea turtles lay their eggs here, and humpback whales cross the Kalohi Channel during the winter months. The current is strong, but there’s no one else on the vast stretch of sand.
You’re exhausted by late afternoon, but there’s one more spot you can’t miss: Keahiakawelo. The Garden of the Gods is a natural rock garden, with rock towers and spires, in a barren setting. As the sun begins to set, the rocks look like they’re changing colors from brown to red to purple. Add a view of Molokaʻi and Oʻahu, and you start praying to the Hawaiian gods that Lānaʻi doesn’t change too much. It’s stunning just the way it is.