Looking to see a different side of Lanai? Take a day off from soaking up the sun and head to the Kanepuu Preserve. Hawaii’s largest remaining dryland forest, this 590-acre preserve plays host to an amazing assortment of native Hawaiian plants. Whether you take a self-guided or guided tour, a visit to the Kanepuu Preserve is a wonderful way to discover and explore Hawaii’s rich natural history—for free!
When we think of Hawaii, we think of sunshine, surf, beaches, volcanoes, rich culture, and a laid-back lifestyle. However, these are far from the only things that make up this extraordinary place. Its remarkable geography, vibrant ecosystem, and unique natural history are also integral to Hawaii we know and love today. This is exactly what you’ll discover when you visit the Kanepuu Preserve.
Located slightly northwest of Lanai City, the Kanepuu Preserve will take you off the beaten path—both literally and figuratively—to experience a glimpse of rare plants that are only found in this fragile Hawaiian ecosystem. You’ll also learn about the ongoing conservation work to protect it. Admission to the Kanepuu Preserve is free.
Protected by the Nature Conservancy because of its cultural and historical importance, the Kanepuu Preserve contains the largest remnants of the rare dryland forest that once covered Hawaii’s lowland areas. It is home to more than 45 native plant species, many of which—such as the endangered Hawaiian gardenia—grow nowhere else in the world. It also lays claim to trees that have played a vital role in the lives and livelihoods of Hawaiians for centuries, including Hawaiian sandalwood, olive, ebony, and the rare aiea trees that yield the timber used to craft ancient fishing canoes.
You’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach the remote Kanepuu Preserve before setting off on foot on a short self-guided tour using a map available at the forest’s entrance. If you’re part of a group of five or more, you can also arrange for a guided tour courtesy of the Nature Conservancy.
Open daily to the public from sunrise to sunset, this short loop trail takes less than 30 minutes to complete and is marked by a series of beautiful signs illustrated by local artist Wendell Kahoohalahala depicting the significance of the preserve’s various natural and cultural aspects, along with the threats to their existence, such as rapid soil erosion, invasive plants and animals, and wildfires.
While the Kanepuu Preserve is worth the trip in and of itself, it’s also near other attractions, such as the Garden of the Gods, Hawaiian Church, and Halulu Heiau if you want to plan out a full day’s itinerary.
While there are many unforgettable things to see and do during your time in Hawaii, we promise you that there’s nothing quite like the Kanepuu Preserve. You’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for and understanding of Hawaiian lands—as well as of the extraordinary efforts underway to protect them.
The Kanepuu Preserve trail loop is short and beginner-friendly. Even non-hikers will be able to handle this easy terrain.