Kānepu‘u Preserve

Island of Lānaʻi

Why You Should Visit

Kānepu‘u Preserve represents the best remaining example of native dryland forest that once covered vast areas of Hawaii‘s lowlands. The preserve protects remnants of a rare of native ebony (lama) and olive (olopua) dryland forest, along with several unique plant species, including the endangered native sandalwood (‘iliahi) and Hawaiian gardenia (nā‘ū). Major threats to the preserve’s native wildlife are introduced game animals (axis deer and mouflon sheep), rapid soil erosion, wildfire and a variety of invasive weeds, including Christmas berry, lantana, scarlet sage and molasses grass.  


Plateau of western Lānaʻi.


590 acres. (The preserve is comprised of seven disjunct sections that range in size from 13 to 368 acres.)

Public Access

A self-guided interpretive trail with beautifully illustrated and informative signs is open to public daily from sunrise to sunset. The trail has a self-closing gate and is located in the 368-acre Kānepuʻu unit of the preserve along the road to Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods). 

What to See: Plants

The dryland native forest at Kanepuu is dominated by lama and olopua trees, along with native plants species such as ʻohe makai, ʻahakea, ʻālaʻa  and ʻaiea. The four endangered plant species within the preserve are the nāʻū, a native gardenia; sandalwood or ʻiliahi; Bonamia menziesii; and the maʻo hau hele, a native hibiscus.

What to See: Animals

Two native birds frequent Kānepuʻu Preserve: the pueo, or short-eared owl, and the kōlea, or Pacific golden-plover. Eleven non-native birds are also found here, along with numerous native land snails and insects.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Kānepuʻu Preserve was established in 1991 through a permanent conservation easement from then landowner Castle & Cooke. The preserve was created to protect and enhance the olopua/lama dryland forest that once covered large portions of the lowlands on Maui, Molokaʻi, Kahoʻolawe and Lānaʻi. Today, Kānepuʻu Preserve contains the last major remnants of this rare dryland forest community.

What the Conservancy Is Doing

For more than two decades, The Nature Conservancy has been working with local residents and volunteers to protect and restore the unique dryland forests at Kānepu‘u. Today, the Conservancy manages the preserve in partnership with Ike ʻAina, a native Hawaiian land trust, and is working to contain the spread of invasive plants and animals and prevent the introduction of new alien species. The long-term goal is to ensure the viability of this rare native forest by building the capacity of the local community and private landowner to become the preserve’s caretakers.







Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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