For hiking, biking, and off-road driving enthusiasts, the Munro Trail Lanai is a must-see attraction on any island itinerary. Named for a naturalist, the Munro Trail offers spectacular views as it climbs up to Mount Lanaihale. Luckily, it's just a short trip from Lanai City, so it will be easy to fit a visit into your Lanai vacation or honeymoon.
Located just a quick ten-minute drive from Lanai City, the seven-mile Munro Trail Lanai is a rugged historic trail named for the naturalist George Munro. Munro arrived in Hawaii from New Zealand in 1890 and introduced the Cook pine trees that you'll see as you wind your way along the trail. They were planted in the early 1900s in order to collect water from the clouds that hang around the mountain. The condensation from the clouds trickles down the tall pines and seeps to the ground, providing natural freshwater irrigation to plants and island inhabitants below.
The dirt-road Munro Trail climbs 1,600 feet in elevation and will take you through forests up to the top of Mount Lanaihale, which, at 3,368 feet above sea level, is Lanai's highest peak. Along the Munro Trail you'll get stunning views, so take advantage of the various lookout points. About three miles into the drive you'll reach canyon views at Maunalei Gulch. Maunalei means mountain lei in Hawaiian, and it was so named because of the lei-like cloud rings that often hover around the mountains. Also look for views of nearby Maui. Once you've reached the top, scan the sea for other islands: On a clear day, you might be able to see six islands. After reaching the peak, the trail then winds back down to the Palawai basin. Hiking on Munro Trail is a great way to enjoy the island's views during your vacation.
This area, particularly the Maunalei Gulch, played a significant role in Lanai history. In 1778, Lanai was attacked from the Big Island by Kalaniopuu's forces. The Lanai warriors under siege put up their last stand in this valley. Look closely and you'll the Hookio notches carved in the gulch's middle ridge, evidence of the Lanai fighters' fortifications. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the island, the Lanai warriors under siege were ultimately starved out, and Kalaniopuu's forces massacred and ransacked the island.
If you want to drive the Munro Trail Lanai, a car rental is a must, as you need a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the trail. There is only one lane, and a few places are tricky to maneuver, so drive carefully. However, the rewards of the views are well worth the trouble of the rugged conditions. The drive will likely two to three hours in all, so bring plenty of gas and drinking water. Those who want to go hiking on the Munro Trail are in luck, as there are several trails that lead off the main trail.
Whether you decide to go biking, driving, or hiking on Munro Trail, the trip is sure to be stunning and memorable. Enjoy the climb to Lanai's highest peak, and scenic views of Lanai and neighboring islands. Don't forget to bring a camera!
Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority - Ron Dahlquist