A rock garden of many names, Keahiakawelo serves as the place to go for picturesque views of the windswept Lanai landscape. Also known as the ‘Garden of the Gods’ and ‘The Fire of Kawelo,’ this park features huge boulders, rock towers, and other fun formations in brilliant orange, red, and purple hues. Despite its name, there are no trees, shrubs, flowers, or even grass anywhere in the park.
All the epic scenery makes for an otherworldly feel, often seeming like a trip across Mars instead of Earth. The ultra-chill vibe helps, too, especially when you find yourself standing on your own amongst the rocks. And, although it’s a popular spot for Lanai tourists and locals to visit, that’ll happen more often than not since the park goes on for about 19,500 acres.
To have a chance to experience it for yourself, you’ll need a capable four-wheel drive vehicle and all your supplies for the day. A paper map is a must as well, because cell service is spotty well before you even get to the park. Beyond that, bring a picnic lunch, good hiking shoes, and whatever else you might need for the day. Don’t forget the garbage bags, so you can pack out your trash since there are no facilities onsite.
As a crow flies, the rock garden sits about 20 minutes outside of Lanai City. You’ll want to allow for much more time to get through the park, however, since the trail can prove rather difficult to navigate at times. To avoid damaging your 4×4, take your time going over and around the rocky areas, especially if it’s wet and muddy.
Once you get going down the rough road through Keahiakawelo, keep an eye out for spots to pull off on the side of the road. Once you park, feel free to explore to your heart’s content. Just be sure to avoid moving, stacking, or otherwise disturbing the rocks. Their natural placement in the landscape is a part of the island heritage, so it’s disrespectful to change that.
You can continue on down the road, stopping to explore wherever the land interests you – until you reach the beach. On clear days, you can usually see the many other Hawaiian Islands in your midst as you take in the views from the vistas along the way.
At a slow pace, you’re likely to spend about three hours getting to the beach and coming back to town. While at the beach, expect windy weather as you stroll along the golden sand and take in the phenomenal views. As with all of Lanai, there are no lifeguards on duty and not many visitors either, so you’re on your own if you get into trouble while in the water.
Every mile across Keahiakawelo offers endless photo opportunities you’ll definitely want to capture. Bring a good camera and consider putting it in a protective case that will keep dust and water at bay. You could even bring a waterproof bag to put it in, so you can get photos from the water’s edge without putting your camera at risk.
-If you’re up for the challenge and a full day’s trip, you can take a mountain bike through the rock garden instead of a 4×4 vehicle. Just remember that you’ll need to pack out what you bring in to help keep the park clean for generations.
-The winds tend to pick up here rather quickly, so bring a light jacket even if it’s sunny out.
-Even on cloudy days, you’ll want to bring non-aerosol, reef-safe sunscreen plus sunglasses or a nice sunhat.
-If you’re having trouble getting traction at Keahiakawelo, let a small amount of air out of your tires to improve their grip.