If you’ve ever ridden the ferry from Maui to Lanai, you’ve seen iconic Puu Pehe. This lovely, 80-foot, volcanic sea stack sits just outside of Manele Bay, and is one of the island’s most romantic, storied, and legendary spots. Known to many as “Sweetheart Rock,” the sea stack was named for a Princess from Maui who tragically lost her life. The legend explains that her bereaved lover, who took his own life rather than live without her.
According to Hawaiian legend, a young Princess by the name of Pehe was in love with a warrior named Makakehau who lived on Lanai’s southern coast. He kept her hidden inside of a sea cave in an area called Malauea. One day when Makakehau was gathering water in gourds in the uplands, he noticed a large, southerly storm making its way toward the coast.
Knowing that Pehe would likely be trapped by the incoming waves from the storm, he dropped his gourds, rushed to the coast—but ultimately was too late. By the time he reached the Malauea sea cave he found Pehe had already drowned, and he buried her body atop the sea stack that bears her name today. How he scaled the rock, however, is still considered a mystery, as the vertical walls and overhanging rocks are nearly impossible to climb. Then, according to local villagers who watched from nearby canoes, it’s said that once he’d buried her body, and bid farewell to his love, Makakehau leapt from the rock and died in the waves below.
When looking at Puu Pehe today, you’ll notice a small, rectangular wall that’s perched at the top of the rock, which legend says is the original grave where Pehe was buried. In 1922, archeologists used scaffolding to ascend the sea stack and found no trace of human remains. However, the archeological study did reveal a number of bird bones that may have been used in worship.
The best way to view Puu Pehe today is from atop the windswept cliff at the end of Puu Pehe Trail. Accessible from nearby Hulopoe Bay, which fronts Four Seasons Lanai, the trail leads .3 miles toward the lookout atop the bluff. Visitors may admire the view and reflect on the love that once was shared by Pehe and Makakehau.