Lanai Through My Eyes | Page 9 | Go Hawaii

Lanai Through My Eyes


Anela Evans

Cultural Practitioner
Anela Evans sings a melodic oli (chant) atop a cliff overlooking Puu Pehe on Lanai’s south shore. She’s just come from her day job as a cultural practitioner, just a short hike from here. As she sings over this dramatic vista, she still wears her formal work suit. It’s a contrast that not only informs who she is, but the contradictions in Lanai itself.

Evans was raised on Lanai from birth. She grew up loving the hula but also loving to hunt deer. She rode horses on Koele Ranch but also started driving on Lanai’s dirt roads at 12 years old. On these holoholo (travels) –  from the breathtaking, white sands of Polihua Beach to the rocky, alien landscape of Keahiakawelo (known as The Garden of the Gods) –  her father would share the legends of this small island. 

Even for Hawaii’s locals, not much is known about Lanai except for its Four Seasons Resort and its pineapple plantation past. But Evans wants to change that. She wants locals and visitors to ike maka, or “see with one’s own eyes” the Lanai that she loves.

“We have places where you go and you step back in time.”

You spent some time away from Lanai. What made you come back?

I lived away from Lanai for about 10 years and I came back because I felt that it was my responsibility to help perpetuate the culture, both the Hawaiian culture and the unique culture of Lanai and to educate people about what's so special about this island. I also felt that it's where I belong. It's where I feel most rooted and where I feel most at peace.

What makes Lanai so special?

Lanai is different from other islands because there is a lot of untouched beauty. We have places where you go and you step back in time. It's what it would look like, 200, 300 years ago. The entire island is off the beaten path. 

Do people treat each other differently on such a small island?

We used to joke because my mom would go to the store and come home two hours later – and it's just the grocery store that's three minutes down the road. It's some social hour. It's where people get their information, it's where people talk story, and I think that feeling of one big family and knowing that everybody has everybody else's best interests and has an essential goodness in their hearts, that's what makes this place so special and that's how it really embodies aloha.

There was a big paniolo culture on Lanai. What is a paniolo?

A paniolo is the Hawaiian word for "vaqueros" which is Spanish term for cowboy. My hanai grandpa was one of the last paniolo on Lanai. When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be a paniolo and to be a hunter. I wanted to do all the things that my dad and my papa did, you know. That, to me, was the ideal lifestyle.

“There's a saying in Hawaiian where you have to look to the past in order to move forward.”

You talk about wahi pana of Lanai. What does that mean?

My parents would always make time to take people around and tell them the stories of Lanai, show them wahi pana, or storied and special places. When we would visit these places with my parents, I felt a connection, and as a hula dancer, that's what you want to portray, right? You want to embody these stories. So, it helped me to develop as a person and as a dancer to be able to go to these places and feel its essence. And it helps me to connect to that place as well, because I wasn't just seeing it as just another pinpoint on the map. It really brings that place to life.

What are your responsibilities as a cultural practitioner for Lanai?

My role is – both in my professional life and in my personal life – to embody that culture and to share that experience with others. I take it seriously because to me, I'm not only representing myself, I'm representing all of those people that came before me. There's a saying in Hawaiian where you have to look to the past in order to move forward. So I really feel like preserving and perpetuating the culture and the essence of Lanai is really my responsibility. It's a role I was born into.


More Stories


Leinaala Jardin

A teacher dedicates her life to take on the duty of bringing hula—the life of Hawaiian culture—from prohibited to celebrated.



Brandon Baptiste

A chef gives up culinary fame to come home, and reinvents a humble plantation-era dessert with world-class technique and local ingredients.



Isaac Bancaco

A spearfisherman and chef exemplifies taking only what you need, defending the ocean’s bounty and representing local farmers and fishermen in his cuisine.



Dustin Tester

A trailblazing big-wave surfer empowers women to overcome the gnarliest challenges through surf therapy, just like she did.



Greg Solatorio

A cultural practitioner sacrifices everything to carry on his ancestors’ way of life, even as the modern world encroaches.



Anela Evans

A cultural practitioner bridges both worlds so that luxury and ease can coexist with the grit and authenticity that shaped her native land.



Cliff Kapono

A young Hawaiian leaves home to further his education and returns with the ability to use chemistry as a platform to share ancestral wisdom with the modern world.



Kyle Reutner

An ex-bartender works with Hawaiian researchers and local farmers to return glory to noble cane with craft and mixology, redefining the Mai Tai as a worthy cocktail.



Keone Nunes

A Native Hawaiian tattooist bestows ancient, hand-tapped kakau upon worthy recipients willing to endure a rite of passage.


Browse Hawaii Adventures

Please note: We apologize for any inconvenience, but our preferred business listings below are in English only.
Filter Results
showing 81 - 90 of 1484
Ultimate Circle tour
Oahu Nature Tours
1649 Kalakaua Ave. #201
Honolulu, HI 96826

Join Oahu's original eco-tour company for fun and educational hiking or sightseeing adventure tours. Spectacular scenery, temples, beaches and waterfalls, provide excellent photographic opportunities. Information about the geology, archaeology, mythology and history of Hawaii await you on our tours.

Tiki's Fresh Island Fish and Ocean Views
Tiki's Grill & Bar
2570 Kalakaua Ave
in the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
Honolulu, HI 96815

Tiki's Grill & Bar features tastes of the Islands through a balance of American and Pacific-Rim fare for lunch and dinner, using fresh local produce & products. Tiki's offers lanai seating with beautiful sunset views of famous Waikiki Beach accompanied by nightly live entertainment and retro decor.

Assistant Marketing Manager
Hawaiian Host, Inc.
500 Alakawa Street Suite 111
Honolulu, HI 96817-4576

Hawai'i's premier brand and the originator of the chocolate covered macadamia. An island tradition providing a fine selection of quality confections. Hawaiian Host: Over 80 years of Genuine. Classic. Original.® and truly Hawai'i’s Gift to the World®

HCR Sunrise
Hanalei Colony Resort
5-7130 Kuhio Hwy
Haena, HI 96714

An oceanfront hideaway nestled on a curve of golden beach in Haena on Kauai’s lush north shore, offering 48 deluxe two-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens. The secluded location and peaceful, laid-back ambiance set amidst stunning natural beauty provide a one-of-a-kind getaway for travelers.

Plantation House Cover
Villas By the Cove
2121 Iliili Rd.
Kihei, HI 96753

Experience a 1940’s era Hawaiian style charm with a modern twist at Villas By The Cove, a boutique vacation rental estate located steps to the beach in South Maui. Ideal for wedding groups, family reunions, retreats, the newly renovated property offers luxury accommodations for 58 guests.

Maui Banyan - living room in MB
2575 S. Kihei Road #H203
Kihei, HI 96753

Vacation Rentals of our two family-owned one bedroom condos in sunny Kihei, Maui. We have one condo in Maui Vista, and one in Maui Banyan. Both have been outfitted for your comfort, and include all you need for a wonderful vacation!