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It was about 1.5 million years ago that the island of Lāna‘i first rose up from the sea, but it was only 800 or so years ago that Hawaiians settled the island, the sixth largest in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Since then it’s variously been King Kamehameha I’s favorite summer fishing spot, the source of most of the pineapple for the U.S. mainland, and now, a resort island featuring two Four Seasons hotels.
But it’s also home to Halulu heiau (a religious temple) with ancient petroglyphs carved into the stones, the otherworldly Garden of the Gods, the windswept and solitary Polihua beach, and Shipwreck beach, all accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle.
The legend says that priests scorched the earth in a battle, leaving behind the unearthly Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods). Rent a Jeep at Dollar in Lanai City (a misnomer as the island has a population of approximately 3,000), and head up past the horse stables, on uneven carved red dirt roads through a broad valley, then dense tree cover, then up on to the ridge to the stunning Garden of the Gods.
Photographs by Matthew Breen