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Perhaps the biggest draw on Lanai is the abundance of natural beauty, from the sandy beaches to the inland forest. You'll hit the highlights if you plan time for these five Lanai must-dos:
1. Visit Garden of the Gods. About a half-hour drive from Lanai City is Keahiakawelo, more commonly known as Garden of the Gods. It’s a strange, otherworldly rock garden on the island’s northwest side, with oddly placed volcanic boulders and windswept rocks in earthy tones of ocher, pick and brown that change with the sunlight. This landscape is best visited just after dawn or just before sunset.
2. Tour Kanepuu Preserve. This 590-acre dryland forest, located about 20 minutes northwest of Lanai City, is home to 48 species of native plants. The area, protected by the Nature Conservancy, boasts the largest remnants of olopua (native olive) and lama (native persmission) dryland forest in the state. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach this preserve, but from there, you can take a short tour through this rare ecosystem using maps made available at the forest entry.
3. Relax at Shipwreck Beach. It might be a little hard to find — it’s roughly 30 minutes from Lanai City along unmarked roads — but Kaiolohia, or Shipwreck Beach, is worth the effort. It’s a windy, 8-mile stretch of sand with numerous wrecked ships along its shallow, rocky channel. And just for effect, there’s a rusting World War II tanker just off this already spectacular beach that offers views of Molokai and Maui in the distance.
4. See Sweetheart Rock. Unique to Lanai is Puu Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock. It’s located on the southern coast of Lanai, rising between Hulopoe and Manele bays. Legend tells the story a beautiful Maui girl kidnapped by a young warrior from Lanai, who loved her so much he hid her in a sea cave at the base of Manele’s cliffs. The girl drowned during a storm and the brokenhearted warrior threw himself from the cliff. It’s a short hike from the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay to view this landmark. Sunsets here are especially romantic.
5. Surf at Lopa Beach. While Hulopoe Bay has better surf, first-timers should rent surfboards (or, even better, book lessons) from Lanai Surf School (808-565-9283) and hit the surf at the friendlier Lopa Beach. It’s a somewhat secluded area, and great for strolling, too.