The history of Lanai, the so-called Pineapple Island, begins in Hawaiian legend. A prince of Maui named Kaulua’au was sent to Lanai by his father as a punishment. His father expected him to die due to the evil spirits that roamed the island and had the ability to destroy humans. However, the prince was smarter than the spirits and ended up banishing them from the island.
Before the rule of King Kamehameha I, not much is known of Lanai. There may have been some small fishing communities populated by former residents of Maui and Molokai during the late 1400s and possibly the early 1500s, but they were soon murdered by King Kamehameha when he took control of the Hawaiian Islands. The shoreline of Lanai was his favorite fishing spot, and even today tourists can visit Kaunolu Village, the king’s fishing retreat which still has the ruins of 86 house platforms and a religious temple. This ancient area is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Europeans first noted the island in the late 1700s when Captain Charles Clerke sailed by on his way north. Soon after, Lanai was bought by westerners and turned into a ranch for cattle. One of the managers, George Munro, supposedly planted the first pine trees from New Zealand for which the island is now recognized. There is even a trail up a 3,370 ft mountain which is named after him and is lined with lush pines.
Eventually in 1922 James Dole purchased Lanai and converted it into the largest pineapple plantation in the world. The exotic island became the biggest producer and exporter of pineapple in the world. Dole’s enterprise was named the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, and in later years the Dole Food Company. Over time, the costs necessary to run the business out of Lanai increased too much, and so the company became almost bankrupt and had to relocate to other areas.
In the ‘80s the Pineapple Isle ended up being owned by David H. Murdock when he bought the Hawaiian enterprise Castle and Cook, a company that owns the Dole Food Company and that nowadays, because of Murdock’s leadership, develops residential and commercial areas as well as retail and real estate.
To this day, Lanai is still sparsely populated and has only around 30 miles of paved roads. Four-wheel drive is necessary to travel around the island. There are two lavish resorts on Lanai, but don’t be deceived, the island is still full of natural beauty just waiting to be discovered.