Lanai History

Lanai Hawaii sits amid the Pacific Ocean, boasts only 30 miles of paved roadway and no traffic lights, has views of Maui, Oahu, and Kauai, and is accessible by air or ferry. Lanai's history is full of interesting and unusual information for visitors planning a trip to the smallest Hawaiian island that comprises approximately 140 square miles and is home to a local population of around 3,500 people.

An interesting fact about the history of Lanai is the belief by early inhabitants of the island that ancient spirits possessed the land. In order to dispel the spirits, Kaululaau, a local man in disfavor with his father, was exiled to Lanai to make it a safe place. However, some residents still believe that these spirits inhabit the island today.

Lanai history tells that many residents tried their hand at raising crops on the island, including sugar cane and beets, and sheep for wool, but the sparse fresh water supply made these attempts futile. In 1917, Harry Baldwin purchased the island and saw the immediate need for constructing a water pipeline to enable agriculture to occur on the island.

Another important date in Lanai history is 1922, when businessman James Dole purchased the entire island from Baldwin. His vision was to start a pineapple-growing business on the available fertile acres. During the time Dole's company produced pineapples, he also incorporated the process of canning the fresh fruit, which became very popular abroad.

Additional Lanai facts about the course of the island's history include the Dole pineapple business emerging as the largest exporter of pineapples in the world. At its peak, the Dole pineapple company exported approximately 75 percent of the fruit grown on the island. The pineapple fields covered thousands of acres and provided jobs for field workers both locally and internationally and played a major role in Lanai history.

The tiny island was given the title of Pineapple Island, naming it as the leading pineapple-producing location in the world. It retained this honor for many decades until the interest in the fruit lessened and the market declined, which set the stage for the history of Lanai to change and take on yet another avenue of interest.

Ideas about the island's future circulated, and historical Lanai facts reflect its transformation into a tourist destination with the construction of the Manele Bay Hotel and the Lodge at Koele, as well as two golf courses, the Experience at Koele and Challenge at Manele. Both of these resorts have undergone renovations and been renamed the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and Four Seasons Resort Lanai, the Lodge at Koele. These hotels aren't the only ones relevant to the history of Lanai, as another hotel is located in Lanai City. This third hotel dates back to 1923 and is named the Hotel Lanai. When guests of James Dole visited the island, they stayed in the eleven-room frame house.

More Lanai facts of interest include the purchase of Castle & Cooke, now owners of 98 percent of the island, by billionaire David Murdock in 1985. Recent history has Murdock and his company waiting for approval to begin placing windmills on Lanai to generate electricity for neighboring Oahu.

Today, Lanai is a significant part of the travel itinerary for those planning Hawaii vacations. Compared with the islands of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island, Lanai is much smaller, but it offers plenty of scenic beauty, wildlife, beaches, and opportunities for golfing and hiking, and it still retains a private and remote atmosphere.

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