When the Lana’i Visitors Bureau invited me to the tiny Hawaiian island of Lana’i, I jumped at the chance. Over the years I had spent considerable time on O’ahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island, however I found these well known destinations so overrun with tourists that it was difficult to make a local connection. I yearned to visit Lana’i, one of the smallest of the islands, where it is said the authentic Hawai’i of 25 years ago still exists.
The old caretaker’s cottage at the Dole guest house has been converted to a charming cottage for guests at Lana’i Hotel
Appropriately, my sister, Nancy, and I began our six day stay at the Hotel Lana’i, a plantation style guest house built in 1923 by pineapple pioneer James D. Dole as a retreat for his executives and important guests. When pineapple farming ceased in 1992, it was converted into the first hotel on Lana’i, offering just ten rooms and one small cottage. As Mike Charles, one of the inn’s owners, led us to the beautifully appointed cottage, complete with queen size bed, bath, and separate living room with a giant big-screen TV, we peppered him with questions about the history of the hotel and the island. He set our luggage down and suggested our questions would best be answered with a visit to the Lana’i Cultural Heritage Center (LCHC), located just steps from the hotel.
The next morning, following a delicious breakfast of miniature quiche pies, fresh fruit and chocolate chip scones at the hotel, we made a beeline for the Cultural Center. We were met by Mikala, who explained a bit about the Hawaiian race.“Hawaiian folklore, if you listen to the chants, speaks of a homeland called Ka’hiki. That sounds very much like Tahiti, so many believe that the original inhabitants of Hawai’i sailed from Tahiti, or perhaps the Marquesas, and probably came from Asia before that.” Since most Hawaiians today are a mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Samoan, Anglo, and even Puerto Rican heritage, most consider themselves to be Hawaiian if they have even a drop of Hawaiian blood in their lineage. Mikala insisted that what defines a Hawaiian today is not blood or genetics, but “having a responsibility to this place.” Continue reading