Standing 80 feet tall, Puu Pehe—also known as “Sweetheart Rock”—is one of Lanai’s most recognizable landmarks. It is also the setting for one of Hawaii’s most enduring legends.
The story goes that a ravishing young princess from Maui was captured by a young warrior from Lanai. He took her as his wife and brought her back to his home island. He was so stricken with her beauty that he was afraid to let other men see her, and thus he confined the princess to a sea cave near the rock.
One day, as the warrior was away, the weather suddenly changed drastically, and the raging surf began to pound this side of the island. The warrior rushed back to the cave, but it was too late: His beloved Puu Pehe had drowned. Heartbroken, he retrieved her body and, with the help of the gods, climbed the steep rock island, where he buried her in a tomb. Overcome with grief, the warrior then leaped off the rock to his death.
Puu Pehe is situated about 150 feet offshore between Manele Bay and Hulopoe Bay along the island’s southern coastline. A closer look at this picturesque sea stack reveals, indeed, a tomb-like structure resting at the summit. Archeologists who have studied the rock will tell you that there are no human remains in this “tomb.” The tomb, in fact, may actually be a bird heiau constructed by the ancient Hawaiians, as numerous bones from sea birds have been found near the heiau.
Need To Know
While the story of Sweetheart Rock is romantic and haunting, don’t let the legend overcome your common sense. Do not attempt to scale the rock. The walls are impossibly steep and the rocky waters below are swift and treacherous.
To get to Puu Pehe, take Highway 440 south from Lanai City and follow the signs to Hulopoe Beach Park. A trail from the beach will lead you to a breathtaking overlook of Puu Pehe. A number of tidepools, a sea arch, and Sharks Cove are found along the trail.