Kaunolu Village

Historic, Scenic Site: Kaunolu Village
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

If finding a diamond in the rough is your idea of a fun day’s adventure, you will want to add Kaunolu Village to your itinerary. This site features the largest remnants of a prehistoric Hawaiian village. Add to this, the breathtaking views you will enjoy from this isolated location and it becomes clear why even kings designated this site as a favorite fishing locale.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Situated on the southern tip of Lanai, Kaunolu Village was an occupied fishing village until the 1880s. During the time when it was a fishing village primarily, it was a beloved fishing spot of King Kamehameha I. Interestingly enough, it was where the victorious King retreated to regroup himself after conquering Lanai, Molokai, and Maui. 

Today, Kanunolo Village is the most significant grouping of surviving ruins featuring a prehistoric Hawaiian village. In 1962, it earned the distinction of a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Later, in 1966, it became part of the National Register of Historic Places. However, beyond being a location of historic significance, it also features some amazingly beautiful views. 

At the Kaunolu Village, you will enjoy spectacular views of the southern sea cliffs at Lanai, and also be able to see the sacred temple remains of the Halulu Heiau. You can also see Kahekili’s Leap, which is where warriors back in the day would exhibit their bravery by diving off heart-stopping 60-foot cliffs. There are also petroglyphs and native birds. Overall, it’s important to remember that this is a sacred ground that demands respect. 

The sacred Kanunolo Village site is situated on the southern sea cliffs overlooking beautiful Kaunolu Bay. This area once served as a protected spot for fishing canoes to land, adding to its popularity as a fishing spot. The historic site actually features two village remains, both on the ridges of Kaunolu Gulch, one located on western Kealiakapu and one on the eastern. 

When visiting this site, along with the petroglyphs and sanctuary, which you can only access via four-wheel drive, you will see around 35 stone shelters, 86 house platforms, 30 detached pens, 9 stones marking graves, and 11 houses that were believed to be residences of chiefs. In addition, located just offshore is a lava rock outcropping called Kaneapua Island. This is also associated with Kanunolo Village. In fact, according to Hawaiian tradition, ancient Hawaiian gods, Kaneapua, Kanaloa, and Kane once resided at Kanaloa. Consequently, Kaneapua Island once featured a fishing shrine created to signify Kaneapua. 

Getting to the village is a trek of about 3 miles from the main road. Guests claim that it is a pretty steep and rocky ride and/or hike in places and that it takes about 30 minutes to move from the beginning of the journey at Kaupili Road to the ocean. You can self-guide and rent a jeep or go with a company for a guided tour.

Guests claim that the area is well marked so it’s easy to know where to go and which roads to take. When arriving, you will note a shaded picnic area, as well as beautiful tidepools. You can spend as little as an hour or as much as a day exploring all the sites and simply enjoying the beauty of the area. 

If you want to visit a site with historic significance that is isolated and its beauty untouched by the modern world, a visit to Kaunolu Village is worth adding to your vacation itinerary. While it isn’t the easiest location to access, due to Lanai’s somewhat primitive roads and the bumpy trail leading to it, this site is most certainly worth the effort. The sea cliff views, the tidepools, and the historic remnants all tell a wonderful story of a time gone by. The fact that there is now a convenient shaded picnic area designed for modern-day visitors also adds to its overall appeal. 

Insider Tips:
-Guests note that unlike trails in other Lanai spots, the trail to Kaunolu village is usually dry and accessible due to its southern location. 
-You can rent a jeep and make your way to Kaunolu Village or opt for a guided tour. You can also make the hike on foot but will still likely need a four-wheel drive to access the trailhead due to the conditions of Lanai roads. 
-Because of the beautiful views, the Kanunolo Village is an ideal spot for photography in the Lanai area.