After plenty of time soaking up the sun on Lanai's beaches, vacationers might consider taking the time to see another dimension of Lanai's natural landscape. A visit to the Kanepuu Nature Preserve is a wonderful opportunity to see the rare plant species that at one point in Lanai's history filled the island. Adding the Kanepuu Preserve Lanai to your list of things to do on the island is sure to make your Lanai vacation unique and interesting.
The Kanepuu Preserve Lanai is a 590-acre preserve of native Hawaiian plants located on the northwestern plateau of Lanai, just six miles northwest of Lanai City and not far from Keahiakawelo, also known as the Garden of the Gods. Protected by the Nature Conservancy, the Kanepuu Preserve Lanai contains a dryland forest environment that is typical of the forest that at one time covered the dry lowlands of all the Hawaiian islands. With olopua (a Hawaiian olive tree), sandalwood, and lama (a Hawaiian ebony tree), this native forest is the largest remaining dryland forest of its kind in Hawaii.
Of all the things to do in Lanai, visiting the Kanepuu Nature Preserve is one of the best ways to gain an appreciation for Hawaii's fragile ecosystems. Within the Kanepuu Preserve there are more than 45 native plant species, and some of these are very rare species that grow in no other ecosystem. For example, the preserve is home to the endangered Hawaiian gardenia. At the Kanepuu Preserve you can also see trees that played a significant role in the lives of Hawaiians centuries ago. One such tree is the aiea. The aiea was once used by native fishing villages for canoe building. Another significant tree in the Kanepuu Preserve is the lama tree, a native ebony tree that was used to build sacred structures.
If you like walking and hiking, you'll enjoy stretching your legs with a walk around the Kanepuu Nature Preserve. Depending on the size of the group you are traveling with, you can take a self-guided tour or a guided hike. The short self-guided tour is easy to do—just use the self-guiding maps available at the entrance to the forest. A short loop trail features eight signs, accompanied by artwork by a native Lanai resident and artist, that explain aspects of the preserve's natural and cultural significance. The loop only takes about fifteen minutes to complete, so even those with minimal interest in nature or hikes can handle this attraction. Large groups of five or more can arrange for guided hikes led by the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii.
Exploring the Kanepuu Nature Preserve is a great way to learn more about Hawaii's natural history. You'll find information on rare plants found nowhere else in the world and on the challenges the ecosystem faces. Even a short trip through the Kanepuu Preserve is sure to leave you with a better appreciation for the fragile Hawaiian environment and Hawaiian conservation efforts, and an understanding of the preserve's natural and cultural importance. Be sure to add this natural Lanai attraction to your must-see list!