Hawaii is a tropical destination that showcases gorgeous beaches, breathtaking views, perfect temperatures, and an open canvas of activities. It is also rich in history and off-the-beaten-path landmarks to explore. One place, in particular, is very interesting but not for the faint of heart. If you are a fan of abandoned villages and ghost towns that are rich in folklore and history, you’re going to love Keomuku. Keomuku is an old-abandoned village located on the east shore of Lanai. First, a little history so you understand what happened. It’s truly amazing and scary at the same time.
At one time, this area of Hawaii was flourishing until something eerie happened that can’t be explained. Back in the 1890s, sugar cane was a huge industry in Hawaii. Workers were shipped from Japan and other places to work in the sugar fields. Maunalei Sugar Company was a major player in this agricultural industry and attempted to grow sugarcane on Lanai’s lush coastline. Word spread about that Maunalei and the population quickly grew from 200 to 900! Everything was going great and life was good for the local economy. Then something happened that would change Keomuku forever.
Maunalei Sugar Company needed a railroad to transport materials to and from the area to meet the demands of their growing business. When they started building the railroad tracks, it is said that the workers disturbed sacred stones of a nearby Hawaiian temple called a heiau. Folklore explains that this angered the gods. Mysteriously, soon after the freshwater that irrigated the sugar fields turned salty and black. Villagers became sick and many died in this unforeseen epidemic. Not long after, the Maunalei Sugar Company closed its doors.
To this day, Keomuku Village remains abandoned and is referred to as a ghost town. It is overgrown with little evidence that it was once a thriving community. What does remain are some buildings, structures, wooden houses, and the Ka Lanakila o Ka Malamalama Church which was built back in 1903. Palm trees tower over the abandoned structure that was once a house of worship. If the walls could talk they would have stories to tell! There is also a small rail car and railroad tracks that lead into the village.
If you are daring and brave enough to visit this amazing place, it’s a winding off-the-beaten path journey along Highway 440 to its eastern terminus, turn right onto a dirt road, and continue south for about five miles or so. You’ll see the spectacular church on your right in the midst of palm trees, coconut trees, and the crystal blue sky. Rumor has it that volunteers rebuilt the church for old time’s sake. When you arrive at this historical destination, you will probably be alone with your thoughts. Not many people visit here. Take plenty of pictures to memorialize your visit, an accomplishment to be proud of, for sure. Now on to how to get there.
The views are spectacular but keep your eyes on the narrow, dirt road. You’ll need a four-wheel drive and hiking gear to get you safely there. Look for signs on rocks with arrows pointing you in the right direction. You can expect six miles of water along the very narrow and black sandy beach. Many folks steer clear of this area, but it features breathtaking beauty, amazing ocean life, and lush foliage, and is perfect for fishing and relaxing on the beach. Here’s something to think about. To honor the gods, visitors to this ghost town often leave a small shell or lei as an offering. For good luck and safe travels back home, maybe? Pack one in your gear, just in case.
Upon arrival to Keomuku, please stay on the trails and do not remove any rocks from the area.