Before visiting the Garden of the Gods — also known as Keahiakawelo — on Lanai, Hawaii, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even after looking at photos, I was still quite confused. Each shot looked quite different, and what they did have in common with the subjects seemed to very with the color, shape and location. All I understood was that there were round rocks, and there was orange dirt.
But I said to myself, if we just end up seeing rocks and dirt, so be it.
And I’m so glad I did, because those uncapturable round rocks and flecks of orange dirt created a location that was unlike any other place I’ve ever been.
The Legend of Keahiakawelo Goes…
Two priests from the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai decided to have a competition to see who could keep their respective fires burning longer. In the process of trying to win this competition, the priest from Lanai burned all of the vegetation in the area, leaving the boulders and dirt that make up the Garden of the Gods.
But Science Says…
In the late 1800, certain animals like goats, sheep, and deer were introduced to this area of the island. They soon ate all of the grassy or leafy foliage, leaving just the dirt and the rocks. It’s unclear if there are still any of these animals left, but we did come across a couple of the “watch for deer” signs on other parts of the island.
How to Get to Garden of the Gods, Lanai, Hawaii
Getting to the Garden of the Gods is a bit of a challenge. After getting to Lanai and renting a four-wheel drive, as I mentioned in my Ultimate Guide to Lanai, Hawaii,
Tip 1: Know the Hawaiian Name!
The itty-bitty signs that will help guide you to the Garden of the Gods after you’ve lost service won’t say “Garden of the Gods.” No. Instead, they’ll say, “Keahiakawelo,” the Hawaiian name. So either burn that name into your memory or screenshot this page, because that’ll make your journey a lot easier.
Tip 2: Take Your Time!
This trip to the Garden of the Gods was my first time off-roading. Never before had I realized how much a small hole or bump in the ground could impact a journey if you’re going too fast. When we nearly broke 20 miles per hour and hit a hole, we – and everything in the Jeep – became airborne for a couple of seconds. 12 miles per hour seemed like a pretty good cap to me, although I might be quite cautious.
Tip 3: Let Locals Pass!
You might be asking, “how will I know if it’s a local?” An easy answer to this question is another question: “are they driving a jeep?” If the answer is no, they are most likely a local. Try to find some area to pull off at so they can get ahead of you.
What Should I Do While I’m at the Garden of the Gods on Lanai?
At the Garden of the Gods, Lanai, there isn’t any sort of activity, hike, or visitor center. Instead, simply enjoy the quiet. Take a couple pictures (I’ll be honest, it doesn’t quite come out how it looks in person). Perhaps stand on the edge and feel the strong breeze.
More importantly, be respectful. Don’t try to move the rocks, and definitely do not stack or take them. These actions are either revered or forbidden in native Hawaiian culture.
Want to know what else to do on Lanai? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Lanai, Hawaii!
Would you visit the Garden of the Gods, Lanai, Hawaii? Let me know in the comments!
Did this other-worldly place catch your attention? Pin it for later!
30 Replies to “The Magical Landscape of the Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo), Lanai, Hawaii”
Looks like an amazing place to see.
It really is!
Aloha from Montreal! That looks so surreal, I never would’ve thought it’s in Hawaii. I’ve never been so I imagine it would be coastal beaches and volcano shields. I think those are Iron Oxide deposits and the rocks are shaped through weathering– pretty interesting stuff, I would really love to go someday!
It’s kind of the opposite of what you think of when you think of Hawaii. But don’t worry, we’ve still got our beaches and bamboo forests and volcanos too :).
What an interesting spot! It looks like the images of Mars surface :). I love such alien landscapes!
That’s what I thought too!
Oh my gosh, I love the Hawaiian Islands so much, but never visited Lanai. I love your tips so much! If it’s not a jeep – it’s a local hahaha
Lol I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Aw it’s such a lovely place! Thanks for writing this post, very useful 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it!
What a magical place and great tips for visiting. Always let the locals pass. Lol.
Lol it’s true! They were going at like 25 mph, and we’re crawling along at like 8 mph! They’d be so annoyed if we didn’t let them pass lol.
I had actually never heard of the Garden of the Gods before, so hearing the legend and the science version was super interesting! Not the side of Hawaii I imagned in my mind!
It’s kind of like the complete opposite of the landscapes you think of when you think of Hawaii.
What a cool spot. And it sounds like it was quite an adventure to get there!
It definitely was!
I’d love to go to The Garden of the Gods next time I visit Hawaii. The landscapes look out of this world! Your photos certainly make me want to get over to Lanai.
Aw thanks so much! Lanai is definitely worth a stop!
This looks beautiful! Isn’t Lanai only permitted for Hawaiian residents only? What island is it on?
No, actually the island of Lanai is open to everyone! Other islands like Kahoolawe and Niihau aren’t though; that may be what you are thinking of.
This is very cool! We recently went to Lanai but most of the roads were shut, so we didn;t get to see this
Ooh I love that you went to Lanai though! It’s unfortunate that the roads were closed, but at least you got to visit this beautiful island.
I love myths and legends- so this was all the more interesting for me! Had no idea about this place. Btw, nice website and layout 🙂
Thank you so much! This spot is pretty hidden, so I’m glad I got to share it.
I had no idea there was a Garden of the Gods in Hawaii too, I’ve been to the one in Colorado. What an interesting story behind the landscape as well. Am gonna add this to my Hawaii list, thanks for sharing 🙂
I went to see the Garden of the Gods in Colorado years ago, and I remember it being pretty cool. I have to say, I liked the one on Lanai better though :).
Amazing place and photos! Looks so eerie with the mist!
I totally agree!
Such an educational post to read! I would love to visit the Garden of the Gods and explore Lanai when in Hawaii. Thanks for whetting my appetite. Being respectful when being there is a great advice!
Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it :).