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The Magical Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo) – Lanai, Hawaii

Hoping to explore the Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo) on Lanai, Hawaii? This guide has everything you need to know!

foggy landscape with red dirt ground with boulders. Known as Lanai's Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo)

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 vary 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.

red dirt-filled landscape of the Garden of the Gods, Lanai with Jeep

How to Get to Garden of the Gods, Lanai, Hawaii

Getting to the Garden of the Gods is a bit of a challenge. 

Tip 1: Get a 4WD

Like many Lanai attractions, you’ll need a 4WD to get to Keahiakawelo. A good chunk of the road there is unpaved (after all, Lanai only has 30 miles of paved roads).

Odds are, you’ll need to rent a car. Lanai Cheap Jeeps and Lanai Car Rentals both have 4WDs available for rent.

Tip 2: Download Google Maps

Call service is spotty on Lanai. While you can likely navigate to Lanai’s Garden of the Gods without the help of Google Maps, it can be a nice sense of comfort to have it. To do so even without service, you can download to the Google Map of Lanai in advance by following these steps:

Step 1: Type “Lanai” into the Google Maps search bar

Step 2: Scroll the line that starts with the “Directions” button to the right

Step 3: Press “More” at the very end of that same line

Step 4: Select “Download offline map”

Step 5: Once you’re on WiFi for long enough, you’ll have the Lanai map downloaded onto your phone, even when you don’t have service.

boulder-dotted red sand landscape with a tiny amount of foliage at the Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo), Lanai, Hawaii

Tip 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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.

upclose view of boulders and red dirt at Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), Lanai, Hawaii

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. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, it’s without a doubt, one of the best things to do on Lanai.

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.

Did this other-worldly place catch your attention? Pin it for later!

Garden of the Gods, Lanai Pin #lanai #hawaii #gardenofthegods #gardenofthegodslanai

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30 Comments

  1. 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!

    1. 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 :).

  2. 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

    1. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. It’s kind of like the complete opposite of the landscapes you think of when you think of Hawaii.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

    1. 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 :).

  5. 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!

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