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Lana`i: Shipwreck Beach

For my next day on Lana`i, I reserved a rental vehicle. Lana`i has few roads, mostly within Lana`i City and down to Manele Bay or to the airport and the big harbor. With the excellent bus service, a car is simply a waste of money. However, for the more adventurous, 4WD Jeeps are available to explore the far ends of the island which can only be visited via dirt roads — many of which are bumpy and must be traversed slowly.

Unfortunately, there is only one rental agency and they charge $145 per day plus tax and you buy the gasoline (which is also quite expensive — as I recall well over $5 a gallon). Fortunately, the Hotel Lana`i has a special deal for their guests. If you rent a Jeep through the hotel, the rental rate is "only" $125 per day.

The weather on the previous day was beautiful — not so on this day — clouds and scattered rain. I tried to rent a Jeep on the previous day but none were available. Looking at the sky, I wondered if it might be better to wait for the following day. Unfortunately, the reservation is non-cancelable — they will charge you the full one-day rental rate if you change or cancel with 24 hours of the reservation time.

Further, because of the overnight rains, there were destinations that I wanted to visit that were off limits even in a 4WD. If you ignore their restrictions and get stuck — the charges to rescue you climb into the stratosphere. Well, I guess that gives me additional reasons to visit Lana`i again (in addition to wanting to visit my Lana`i friends, Larry and Darlene).

Trying to make lemonade out of the lemons that Mother Nature and a rental car monopoly had served me, I headed to Shipwreck Beach on the northeast side of the island. As you may have guessed, the name comes from the number of ships that have run aground on the rocky shoals just offshore.

This signpost is located way down a dirt road — fortunately, there was only one spot along the way that was a bit dicey to get through. There is even a sign warning people who rented a Jeep to park here — because the road ends shortly thereafter with no easy way to turn around.

As you can see, this does not look like the typical beach in Hawai`i with a beautiful broad expanse of sand, perhaps with dark lava framing the ends of the beach. It is rocky everywhere with a little sand dropped in between. They recommend that you do not swim here due to the powerful currents that can drag you over the numerous underwater reefs.

However, a visit can be rewarding just to view the flotsam and jetsam that wash ashore here. It is no surprise to find nets and other fishing debris. However, you might also find the remains of some of the shipwrecks. On a previous trip, I found a rusting boiler that had washed up and was partially buried in the sand.

Not unexpectedly, you will also encounter natural items such as these coconuts. With their fibrous husks, coconuts may even look like something else — I think the one in the foreground looks like a red-headed porcupine.

Surprisingly, some of the shoreline rocks were covered with algae. I would have expected that the wave action would have kept them clean. I guess I would have been wrong.

I hiked quite a way, enjoying the solitude, the beautiful view and interesting curiosities when I stopped to pause for a drink of water. I looked back and my footprints were the only ones on the beach at this point. How cool!

Only to be surprised by a tree wearing a sandal.

Wow! An interesting and artistic piece of driftwood. And beyond what looks like a ship.

On closer inspection, this appears to be a concrete ship. Some were constructed near the end of World War I and World War II due to the shortage of steel. If you look closely, you can see that much of the concrete has eroded away, leaving only rusting rebar.

A quick Google search tells me that the ship is WWII vintage and was intentionally grounded here to dispose of it. It reminds me of the WWI concrete ship that was scuttled in 1929 off Seacliff State Beach just south of Santa Cruz — as a tourist attraction. It is also decaying and breaking apart in the ocean waves there. It sits less than a mile from my old home in Rio Del Mar (my home during the early 1980's).

Another curiosity — a tree tunnel. You couldn't go very far — before you begin to feel like the forest is closing in on you.

However, one also finds the occasional beautiful flower — here is Lantana which is common in Arizona as a landscaping plant. In Hawai`i it is considered an invasive noxious weed (at least by the University of Hawaii). Pretty weed though.

Then I saw a crab — and I slowly approached taking multiple photos — not knowing when he would spot me and dart off. I found it odd that he allowed me to get within arms length — then I realized that it was dead — probably killed by a bird which must have eaten the soft parts and left the shell intact. Now that bird is a neat eater.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc.