Best things to do in Lanai, Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the most popular tropical escapes in the

US
, but that popularity can make some spots feel a bit too
touristed. Yet there’s still one island that remains mostly
undiscovered: Lanai. Once home to the world’s largest pineapple
plantation, Lanai — fittingly nicknamed the Pineapple Island —
entices travelers with the most seclusion out of Hawaii’s six
publicly accessible islands. With a population of just 3,000
people, Lanai and most of its 140 square miles remain uninhabited
and unspoiled. A stay on Lanai feels like vacationing on your own
private island.

Getting there is surprisingly easy.

View of the Maui Lanai passenger ferry boat on the Pacific Ocean

Photo:
EQRoy
/Shutterstock

According to official statistics, Lanai saw just 73,000 visitors
in 2018 compared to nearly six million on Oahu and nearly three
million on Maui. Even most of the locals who live on Hawaii’s
other islands haven’t been to Lanai.

But in fact, Lanai is not that difficult to access. Hawaiian Airlines runs
several daily flights from the Honolulu International Airport,
taking less than 30 minutes from runway to runway. Lanai Air also charters luxury
flights aboard a Swiss turboprop, which can be booked out of Maui,
Oahu, or Hawaii Island.

A scenic alternative to flying is the Expeditions passenger ferry, which
operates five 45-minute trips a day from Lahaina, Maui, to the
Manele boat harbor on Lanai. The ferry is popular among
day-trippers, who dedicate a day out of their Maui vacation to
discover Lanai and its magic.

Lanai City feels like a welcoming village.

View of a building in the center of Lanai City, home of the Dole Plantation

Photo:
EQRoy
/Shutterstock

Lanai is how all of Hawaii must have looked before tourism took
over. It’s the kind of tight-knit community where everyone knows
everyone, where the entire town gets invited to a baby’s first
birthday party, and where it’s customary to wave at every single
passing car — though you could drive an hour without passing a
single one. Lahainans are all incredibly friendly and seem grateful
for the tourists they do get.

Most people reside in Lanai City, which is more like a tiny
village than a city. There are no traffic lights, no fast food
chains, no shopping malls, no fluff to be found. Lanai City is made
up of a couple of small markets, like the charming, yellow-painted
Richard’s
Market
where you can get a fresh poke bowl for $10; one school;
a handful of art galleries and boutique shops; and a 1920s
community theater, Hale Keaka, which was extensively renovated a
few years ago.

If you want to hit up a local hangout for a meal, check out the
Blue Ginger
Cafe
. All of these local, mom-and-pop businesses encompass the
beautiful Dole Park at the heart of Lanai City and can be explored
in under an hour.

You can explore crimson-hued, alien terrain.

Lanai, Hawaii. Garden of the Gods. Dirt road and rock.

Photo:
Lynn Yeh
/Shutterstock

There are only 30 miles of paved road on Lanai, leaving hundreds
of miles of untapped terrain for outdoor adventures. One of the
most popular activities is to rent a jeep — four-wheel drive is
basically a requirement here — and go off-roading. A must-stop is
Keahiakawelo, known as the Garden of the Gods. This red-dusted,
alien landscape with craters, giant boulders, and stacked rocks
looks akin to Mars.

A guided two-hour UTV tour will take you truly off-roading to
places you can’t reach on the island with any other vehicle. You
can also go horseback riding up trails into the Lanai hills and
forests, take an archery lesson, or shoot clays. You can rent jeeps
or book other experiences through the Expeditions ferry from Maui
or through the Four Seasons Lanai
Adventure Center
.

You can hike or mountain bike up — or dive deep down.

Famous red cliffs on Lanai island, Hawaii

Photo:
gdvcom
/Shutterstock

From the Four
Seasons Lanai
, a short and easy hike takes you up to the cliffs
overlooking Puu Pehe, an impressive rock formation that rises 80
feet above the sea. It’s also known as Sweetheart Rock and is the
site of a tragic Hawaiian legend. According to lore, a jealous
warrior named Maka hid his lover Pehe in a sea cave, but one day, a
storm came and Pehe drowned in the cave while Maka was away.
Grief-stricken, Maka climbed to the top of the rock, buried Pehe,
and jumped to his death. The hike to this storied spot is
especially stunning at sunrise.

The 12.8-mile Munro Trail offers a much more strenuous hike,
which can also be tackled via mountain bike. It rises all the way
up to Lanaihale, Lana’s highest peak at 3,370 feet, taking you
through a rainforest and past photogenic vistas. On a clear day,
you may even be able to see all six Hawaiian islands at once.

If you’re seeking an underwater adventure, Lanai is a great
spot for diving. Formed from underwater lava tubes, the Lanai
Cathedrals are the most popular and unique dive option. When light
shines through the lava holes, it mimics the effect of stained
glass windows in a church.

Lanai may be rugged, but you don’t need to rough it.

Pacific waves splash into black and white pools in Lanai, Hawaii

Photo:
MH Anderson Photography
/Shutterstock

Despite its unpolished landscapes, Lanai still has the makings
of a luxurious retreat. One reason Lanai sees significantly fewer
tourists is that there are only two hotels, with a total of 223
rooms, on the entire island. With 213 of those rooms, the Four
Seasons Lanai in Manele Bay is the main hub for lodging and perhaps
one of the most lavish stays in all of Hawaii.

Oracle founder Larry Ellison purchased 98 percent of the island
in 2012 and reopened the resort in 2016 following a major
renovation. The property is a hot spot for honeymooners and
babymooners. Its long list of amenities includes a spa, a
cliff-side championship golf course, tennis courts, two pools, a
private beach, and four restaurants, including outposts of
California’s Malibu Farm and Nobu. In addition to diving and
archery, guests can book activities like snorkeling, aerial yoga,
and a sunset sail through the resort.

For a more affordable option, try to snag one of 10 uniquely
decorated and furnished rooms at Hotel Lanai. The boutique hotel
located in Lanai City was built in 1923 during the island’s
pineapple days and was used to house executives who were overseeing
production. There are also a handful of homes in Lanai City
available for rent on Airbnb, like this renovated original plantation home.

The former Lodge at Kōʻele is a second Four Seasons hotel
located in the mountains of Lanai that’s currently being
transformed into a new spa and wellness destination. A target
opening date has yet to be announced.

You can find your own private beach.

Polihua Beach on Lanai, Hawaii

Photo:
Joe West
/Shutterstock

The main beach on Lanai is Hulupoe. It’s where locals go to
camp, barbecue, and hang out with their families, but one end of it
is reserved exclusively for Four Seasons guests. The beach has
several tidepools carved into volcanic rock, plus its own marine
sanctuary, best snorkeled in the early morning or evenings when the
water is calm. This is also a popular spot for spotting spinner
dolphins.

Hulupoe doesn’t tend to get too crowded, but the island’s
other beaches are often entirely people-free. The best way to find
them is to rent a Jeep and simply drive until you stumble upon your
own private cove.

Kaiolohia, also known as Shipwreck Beach, is a sunny, tranquil
spot and a haven for sea turtles. The beach got its name for its
tendency to literally wreck ships along its rocky and shallow
channel, and today, you can still see an abandoned Navy oiler off
in the distance.

Getting to Polihua Beach takes effort, as it’s an hour drive
northwest of Lanai City, but you’re likely to be rewarded with
two miles of empty white sand. Neither Kaiolohia or Polihua are
considered safe for swimming, however, due to strong currents.

The island is popular with hunters.

A herd of Mouflon Sheep break in their grazing on Lanai

Photo:
Brandon B
/Shutterstock

Like sheep in New Zealand, on Lanai, there are more deer than
people — at least three times more — and because of this, Lanai
has become a globally recognized hunting spot. It’s home to one
of the largest populations of free range Axis deer in the world, an
invasive species that was introduced to Lanai in 1920 and has been
wreaking havoc on the native plant life. The state of Hawaii has
long grappled with how to remove the species, and while it’s
controversial, hunting at least reduces their numbers.

Permitted hunters can hunt both Axis deer and Mouflon sheep,
another damaging invasive species. Even if hunting isn’t your
thing, all meat-loving visitors to Lanai can reap the benefits in
the form of delicious venison, a Lanai delicacy that you’ll
likely find on any menu on the island.

It probably won’t rain on your vacation.

Hulopoe Beach Park, island of Lana'i, Hawaii

Photo:
Joe West
/Shutterstock

Lanai is drier than the other Hawaiian islands, meaning you’re
unlikely to get rained in from your beach day. This is mostly due
to the fact that while the island used to be heavily forested, it
was completely burned down in 1778 in a horrific act of spite by
the King of Hawaii Island, who had just failed to conquer Maui.
Sadly, he also slaughtered thousands of people.

Major reforestation is in progress, though much of the island is
still quite barren compared to its neighbors — since forests
produce much of the moisture that makes rain clouds. Lanai is
working its way back and still has lovely forested areas, but it
does get seemingly endless sunshine and an average of just 37
inches of rain per year — whereas some parts of Maui, which sits
a short nine miles west, can get 400 inches.

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Why Lanai is the last tourist-free Hawaiian island
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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News2
Best things to do in Lanai, Hawaii