Luahiwa Petroglyphs

After idling away hours relaxing on the Lanai beaches or snorkeling and diving in the water, making a visit to a historical site can be a great way to add some variety to your Lanai vacation. One intriguing historical attraction on Lanai that is well worth a visit is the Luahiwa petroglyphs. Located in south-central Lanai, just a fifteen-minute drive from Lanai City, these petroglyphs are a collection of drawings made on lava rocks by early inhabitants of the island. Of all the petroglyphs found on the Hawaiian islands, the petroglyphs in Lanai are some of the most interesting and significant, so be sure to add this site to your list of things to do on vacation.

Early Lanai history dates settlers coming to the island of Lanai as early as the fifteenth century. It is these early Lanai inhabitants who created the Luahiwa petroglyphs. Don't go to this site expecting just one or two carvings. There are literally hundreds of drawings on the hillside's boulders. The meaning of the petroglyphs is no longer known, but it can be fun to imagine what inspired them. You should be able to make out figures, including men, women, families, and warriors. You'll also see dogs, goats, bird heads, other animals, natives riding horses, canoes, and circle patterns. You might even find a petroglyph figure that's surfing—surfing was an activity for ancient Hawaiians too, but only if they were royalty.

One of the reasons these ancient carvings at Luahiwa have lasted for hundreds of years is because of the arid Hawaiian climate. The lack of rain helps preserve the carvings, whereas in wetter climates, the carvings would eventually erode. Their preservation has also been helped by the lack of visitors. To make these carvings at Luahiwa, the Hawaiians would have used two rocks. By placing a pointed rock against a boulder and hitting the pointed rock with a larger rock, etchings could be made in the boulder. Feel free to take pictures, but do not touch the petroglyphs or make rubbings of them, as contact and pressure will make them erode all the more quickly.

The petroglyphs in Lanai are not marked, and they can be difficult to find and reach. It is important to get clear directions before you start exploring, and be careful when trying to reach the petroglyphs as the hillside where you'll find them is quite slippery. Also, know that only cars with four-wheel-drive can drive on the road to reach the Luahiwa petroglyphs. Remember this when making your arrangements for car rentals or other transportation plans.

The carvings at Luahiwa are an amazing collection of ancient petroglyphs, and without question they deserve a visit. Luckily, these preserved petroglyphs are more concentrated in their location than those left on other Hawaiian islands. Here you'll find hundreds of carvings a short distance from one another, whereas on other islands you'll more likely find a few petroglyphs scattered far apart. If you want to see other petroglyphs in Lanai, you can also find a small group near Shipwreck Beach, which is easier to access.

Image: Hawaii Tourism Japan

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