The Historical Significance of Kaunolu, One of the Best Snorkeling Spots on Lanai

Snorkeling beneath the sea cliffs of Kaunolu one of the best snorkeling spots on Lanai

Snorkeling beneath the sea cliffs of Kaunolu one of the best snorkeling spots on Lanai

There aren't many places in the state of Hawai'i where you can snorkel at the home of a King.

Here at Kaunolu, however, this remote cove once housed the summer home of King Kamehameha, and in addition to the sea cliffs which explode from the shoreline like pinnacles reaching to the sky, the rocky bay and its azure waters create one of the best snorkeling spots on Lanai.

Never heard of Kaunolu?

That's ok—most visitor's haven't. Of the handful of visitors who are lucky enough to snorkel at this historic bay, the majority end up referring to the cove by its other, Westernized name:

Shark Fin Cove.

Trilogy compilation2

Trilogy compilation2

Before you go racing back to the boat, however, realize that the name is derived from the shape of a rock in the middle of the bay. Rising above a coral reef that is colonized by pyramid butterflyfish, the shape of the rock where it breaches the surface looks the dorsal of a swimming shark.

Shark Fin Cove is one of the best snorkeling spots on Lanai

Shark Fin Cove is one of the best snorkeling spots on Lanai

The scary name aside, however, there is far more to Kaunolu than shark-shaped rocks and pristine, tropical snorkeling. In fact, this isolated cove on Lanai's southern shoreline is one of the most culturally-rich places on Lanai, and there is no denying the powerful energy that the cove retains to this day.

King Kamehameha at Kaunolu

A petroglyph at Kaunolu Lanai

A petroglyph at Kaunolu Lanai

From 1790-1810, the great ruler, King Kamehemeha, would frequent Kaunolu as one of his favorite fishing grounds and a summer retreat from Lahaina. The waters off Kaunolu are exceptionally fertile with large, pelagic fish, and there is a small cove with a sandy shoreline for easily launching canoes.

Due its heavy historical significance, Kaunolu has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark. It's believed to be the best preserved example of an ancient Hawaiian village found on any of the Hawaiian Islands, and the foundation for King Kamehameha's house still stands just opposite the heiau (temple) which was rebuilt in the early 1800s. Known as Halulu Heiau, this was one of the last temples dedicated to Hawaiian gods before the monarchy embraced Christianity. It's believed that the heiau could have been a place where rule-breakers could seek permanent refuge, and if you found your way to this pu'uhonua then you could be forgiven for any of your sins. On the other end of the spectrum, it's also rumored that Halulu heiau could have been used in human sacrifice, and fishermen who frequent the coastline today tell of an inexplicable power in the night. Because the village is so inaccessible (only a 4WD road leads down to the village), and because Lanai snorkeling tours don't visit the village site itself, this area has remained nearly completely untouched since it was abandoned in the 1880s.

Halulu heiau at Kaunolu village lanai

Halulu heiau at Kaunolu village lanai

Kahekili's Leap

Kahekili's Leap on Lanai

Kahekili's Leap on Lanai

Kamehameha, it turns out, wasn't the only member of the Hawaiian royalty who was known to frequent Kaunolu. Kahekili—the fearsome king of Maui whose body was tattooed entirely black on one side—chose this spot as a favorite venue for the sport of lele kawa, or cliff jumping.

In ancient Hawaiian culture, it was believed that upon a person's death, the soul would depart from this world to the next by leaping into the sea. Certain spots were considered sacred, and not only was Kahekili revered as a courageous warrior, but the fact that he would leap from these sacred spots only contributed to his dominance and lore.

Here at Kaunolu, there is a noticeable notch at the top of a cliff where Kahekili would leap from. Though the height of the jump is only about 70 feet, one must jump out to clear the rocks and only land in about 10 feet of water. History says that he would use this spot to test the valor and courage of his warriors, and given the degree of difficulty of the jump, the 2000 Red Bull Cliff Diving Championships were held right here at Kaunolu.

Looking out from Kahekili's Leap on Lanai

Looking out from Kahekili's Leap on Lanai

Kaunolu Abandoned

snorkeling tours text

snorkeling tours text

At the height of its prominence, the village of Kaunolu housed a wholly-subsistent prehistoric society. Small caves in the steep cliff face where used for storing food, and blades of pili grass were gathered from the hillside to construct a village of pili grass shacks. Canoes were launched from the small beach, water was gathered from springs in the mountainside, and fresh fish sourced from the sea were preserved with salt from the tidepools.

Between invasion, disease, and European meddling, however, the population of Lanai rapidly dwindled over the course of the 19th century. By 1901, after a failed mission on the east shore of the island to bring a sugar plantation to Maunalei, the population of the entire island dropped to 125.

With few people to maintain the village and a sparse supply of water, the village at Kaunolu was finally abandoned at some point during the 1880's. Seeing as no one moved in afterwards, however, and the isolated spot has remained free of development and free of coastal erosion, taking a walk through Kaunolu today is like taking a walk back in time. Hand etched petroglyphs from ancient Hawaiians grace the rugged brown rocks, and stone tools such as adzes and fishing tools remain littered throughout the village. For over a century, the 1,000 ft. sea cliffs of the Pali Kaholo have silently presided over this abandoned village which now remains frozen in time.

Kaunolu

Kaunolu

Visiting Kaunolu Today

Snorkeling at Kaunolu on Lanai

Snorkeling at Kaunolu on Lanai

Today Kaunolu is only frequented by three types of visitors: Local fishermen who spend the night in one of the coastal fishing shacks, intrepid tourists in 4WD vehicles who walk the remains of the village, and those who visit Kaunolu cove as part of a snorkeling tour on Lanai.

Unlike a place like Hulopo'e Beach which has a shallow, sandy bottom, the cove at Kaunolu is a little bit deeper and has multiple spots for snorkeling. Along the southern end of the cove near the base of Kahekili's Leap, the rocky bottom is an average of depth of 10-25 ft. You can find large numbers of Hawaiian day octopus slinking outside of the rocks, and healthy populations of endemic reef fish and technicolor, coral-crunching parrotfish.

In the center of the bay, next to "the fin", there is a large population of Pyramid Butterflyfish which congregate around the rock. About 25 feet down, between the fin and the shoreline, you will also find an underwater arch which free divers will use as a swim through. Finally, because it is exposed to the deeper waters, Kaunolu is known for sightings of rare species such as manta rays, dolphins, and even the occasional whale shark.

Trilogy regularly visits Kaunolu on our Saturday

Lanai Seafari

, as well as on our

private Maui catamaran charters

from either Lahaina or Manele harbors. Between the fascinating history, the soaring cliffs, and the experience of having these teeming waters virtually all to yourself, it's easy to see why we consider Kaunolu to be one of the best snorkeling spots on Lanai.

Photo Credits: Shark Fin rock, Curt Smith on Flickr;  Kahekili's Leap, Chris Campbell on Flickr;

Trilogy's 20th Annual Lana'i Turkey Giveaway

It was 1993 when Captains Jim and Randy Coon decided to do more for the island of Lana'i. The population of the island was about 1,500 people, Trilogy had been running sailing trips to Lanai for the better part of 20 years, and even with the construction of the new resorts, the small community continued to tick along at about the same pace that a pineapple grows (which is very, very slowly).

20 years later, the island of Lana'i has seen many changes including a swap in ownership and a rise in population. Even though the island now houses close to 3,500 people, the Trilogy family is still dedicated to putting food on the table each Thanksgiving.

Partnering with the Maui Food and Lodging Association who provided over 900 bags of rice, Trilogy handed out over 1,000 turkeys for residents and families on Lana'i. To commemorate the 20th anniversary--as well as the 40th anniversary of Trilogy's sailing tours--the Governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, joined Captain Jim and Captain Rand in personally handing out the turkeys.

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Before the giveaway got underway, the Governor encouraged Lana'i residents to reach out with their concerns for the island.

"I may be short," quipped Abercrombie, "but I'm not slow, so I encourage the community to reach out."

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More than just a giveaway and gubernatorial appearance, the event has grown into a community fair where local non-profits can gain some exposure. The fire department was happy to provide free ID cards for the keiki (children), and barbless fishing hooks were handed out to locals in an effort to prevent the accidental hooking of green sea turtles. Staff were on hand from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and local halau of Tahitian hula dancers entertained the festive crowd.

The turkey giveaway always takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the community atmosphere and feeling of aloha was palpable throughout the morning. Neighbors smiled and hugged in the parking lot, and younger staff members helped assist older residents to carry the turkeys to their car.

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Even though the island has grown exponentially in the past 20 years, Trilogy remains committed to our  goal of providing for Thanksgiving dinner. On an island which has been in the national spotlight amidst numerous rumors of change, the turkey giveaway is an annual event that Lana'i can count on for the future.

For more information on the history of the event, you can also check out 

last year's writeup on the 19th annual giveaway

.

Investing In The Future Of Lana‘i With Maunalei Ahupua‘a Lawai‘a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua‘a Lawai‘a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua‘a Lawai‘a Camp

It's no secret that the island of Lana‘i has been in the national spotlight lately. Ever since Larry Ellison purchased 98% of the island in June 2012, there has been a lot of talk about the future of Lana‘i and the direction the island will take.

On an empty shoreline on the "backside" of Lana‘i, however, it seems that the core of the island's future is standing right here beside us.  As part of the Maunalei Ahupua‘a Lawai‘a Camp, over two dozen youth from the island of Lana‘i have come here for the weekend to become stewards of the land. Over the course of the three-day camp, students who range from 10-15 years old will help to plant trees to stop erosion and learn about ways to become sustainable fishers. For the snorkeling and ocean portion of the event, Trilogy was proud to provide the students with snorkeling equipment and supplies, as well as send a couple of crew to help out with the camp activities.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Whereas our snorkeling tours to Lana‘i visit the southwestern coastline by Hulopo‘e, if you've ever explored Lana'i by Jeep then you might have passed by Maunalei. This deep gulch on the northeastern side of the island was once home to a short-lived sugar plantation, and it's not far from the town of Keomoku which was the island's population center in the early 1900's. Offshore from Maunalei, a fringing reef runs along the northeastern coastline and houses a lagoon of limu, and these varieties of seaweed are also accompanied by numerous ocean critters and fish.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

In the days of ancient Hawai‘i, this shallow lagoon was healthy and clear and free from run-off or sediment. The residents of Lana‘i would sustain themselves on the bounty which was found along the reef, and the uplands above the shoreline housed a healthy population of native and introduced plants. Over the last century, however, introduced mammals such as deer and sheep have wreaked havoc on the higher slopes, and with fewer plants to block all of the rains the area has become susceptible to runoff. Each year, during strong winter storms, the thick red dirt on the upper slopes comes cascading down towards the shoreline. With little vegetation in the way to stop it, all of the sediment runs out to the reef and settles on the corals and critters.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Not only do the added amounts of runoff suffocate the polyps on the corals, but it makes it harder to harvest the limu which isused in a sustainable diet. More importantly, it's all too natural for complacency and difficulty to serve as unfortunate bedfellows, and if it becomes too difficult to access the reef then fishermen might simply stop trying. On an island where it's important to perpetuate the culture for future Lana‘i generations, the work to protect Maunalei is done both for the environment as well as the health of the culture.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

To combat the runoff, the group has taken to constructing a series of gabions which are made from branches of kiawe trees. Held in place with large metal spikes, the "dams" are created as a natural filter for water streaming down through the valley. When the winter rains come barreling down the valley and bring with them heavy red dirt, the kiawe wood barriers will capture the dirt and allow the natural fresh water to flow through. While it might seem like just a drop in the bucket to an island-wide problem of erosion, it's an important first step in raising awareness about protecting the health of the reef.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Perhaps most importantly, however, the aim of the camp is to help educate students that the land and the ocean are intrinsically mixed. In a concept encompassing both mauka (towards the mountain) and makai (towards the sea) the health of the reef and the life that it brings all begins on the slopes of the mountain. If we don't do our part to protect the mountain, and to care for the land that rises from the sea, then we are spinning our wheels in thinking that we can ever enact a meaningful change along the shoreline.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Watching the children perform limu presses with seaweed gathered from the lagoon, it's a poignant reminder that the Earth provides us with so much more than food. The two-hours spent gathering the limu served as the student's recreation, and it teaches them values of teamwork and togetherness and communing with nature around you.

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

Maunalei Ahupua'a Lawai'a Camp

From helping to protect the island's resources to learning the traditions of their ancestors, the Maunalei Ahupua‘a Lawai‘a camp is an investment in the future of Lana‘i. Trilogy is proud to have played a role in the success of this three-day camp, and we offer a big "mahalo" to Sol Kaho‘ohalahala and his dedicated volunteers for educating the island's youth.

Trilogy's 19th Annual Lanai Turkey Giveaway

As we approach 40 years of sailing and snorkeling around the island of Lana'i there have been many events which have shaped the role which Trilogy plays in the local Lana'i community.

Music provided by Oren Masserman

Decades ago when Trilogy was first beginning to operate on an island which was--at the time--the world's largest pineapple plantation, each Thanksgiving the company would provide a turkey to local Lana'i employees for their hard work and service. After a few years this movement also grew to include some of the company's most loyal passengers, and eventually Trilogy decided that as a means of giving back to the island community they would provide every family on the island with a Thanksgiving turkey as a way of showing their aloha and appreciation.

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

That was 19 years ago, and since that time the population of the island has swollen from 2,000 people to a little over 3,300. Nevertheless, Trilogy has stayed true to its original goal and handed out 1,150 turkeys this year to appreciative Lana'i citizens. With many residents arriving at the Lana'i City Service Center (aka the island's only gas station) well before the scheduled 8am start, by the time the turkeys began changing hands there was a line of residents wrapping all the way around the block.

Trilogy Lanai

Trilogy Lanai

Over these 19 years, however, the annual giveaway has grown into an event which brings together a number of island businesses and non-profits for what is one of Lanai's largest community gatherings of the year. Joining Trilogy in the food department was the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association who matched the 1,150 turkeys with 1,150 5lb. bags of rice. Also in attendance were representatives of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, the non-profit Na Pu'uwai (which aims to address health conditions among Native Hawaiians), as well as members of the local Lana'i fire department who were making complimentary safety ID badges for the island's kamali'i (young students).

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

On a somewhat brisk and blustery morning Captains Jim, Randy, and Riley Coon also personally met with the majority of the island's residents to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. Captains Jim and Randy admit it's hard to believe nearly 40 years have passed since they first started sailing with passengers to this isolated Hawaiian island, and during that time they have literally grown up with the Lana'i people as the island has changed hands from Dole, to David Murdock, to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Despite the growth and changes, however, the Coon Brothers firmly maintain their commitment to honoring the island's local people by providing not only turkeys, but also jobs to a number of the island's permanent residents. That being said, Captain Jim makes a point of acknowledging that new arrivals to the island of Lana'i (such as new Four Seasons hotel staff) are welcome members of the island community, and events such as the turkey giveaway are meant to foster relations amongst community members, businesses, and non-profits alike.

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Over time, the long-term impact of the turkey giveaway has actually stretched far beyond the usual tupperwares full of leftovers. With the success the event has seen over the past two decades the need which was highlighted amongst the community initially served as the catalyst for initiatives such as the Hawaii Rural Development Program which, since its founding, has helped train and educate over 75,000 rural community members in sustainable careers they can carry out into the community.

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

As a company we feel markedly blessed to be able to share the beauty of Lana'i with guests from all across the world, and given this fortunate set of circumstances also recognize the importance of giving back to a local community which has supported our growth for the better part of four decades. So during this season of giving and thanks Trilogy extends our warmest aloha to the island communities of Maui and Lana'i and to the the legions of loyal passengers we are blessed to share these islands with.

Mahalo for your support, and from everyone in the Trilogy 'ohana, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway

Trilogy Lanai Turkey Giveaway