Lanai is unique among the Hawaiian islands for several reasons. First of all, there are no stoplights on the island and public transportation is run by the hotels. Ninety-nine percent of the population lives in Lana’i City. Since 2012, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation, owns 98% of the island (the state owns the other 2%).
- Lanai Airport (LNY) – There are no direct flights to Lanai from the mainland, so you’ll need to fly into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) or Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) and hop over to Lanai on any of several local airlines. Since Maui is only 9 miles away, you could also take an hour-long ferry from Maui’s Lahaina Harbor to Lanai’s Manele Harbor.
Where To Stay
This is an easy one on Lanai, there are only two options…
- Four Seasons Resort LanaiLocated in Hulapoe Bay, a marine sanctuary perfect for swimming and snorkeling, the Four Seasons is great for relaxing in luxury. There are two pools, a family friend one where the kids can splash away and a lagoon-style adults-only pool and a number of wellness programs, like sunrise yoga classes on the beach and massages at Hawanawana Spa. If you’re a golfer, be sure to check out the three courses, including Manele Bay, a Jack Nicklaus designed course where Bill Gates was married (on the 12th hole tee-box) in 1994.
- Hotel LanaiThis cute little inn is nestled at the top of Lana’i City, about a 15 to 20-minute drive from the beach (but only 10 minutes from the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, just in case you need a cuddle). It was built by James Dole in 1923 to serve as lodging for executives of the Dole plantation. In the early 20th century, 75% of the world’s pineapples were grown on Lanai. All eleven rooms at the Hotel Lanai have art by local artist Mike Carroll. Lanai City Bar & Grill, located on-site, serves up local cuisine under the stars. Up until 1990, it was the only hotel on the island!
Where To Eat
I’ve already mentioned the Lanai City Bar & Grill at the Hotel Lanai, so here are three more delicious options.
- Blue Ginger Cafe – Simple, affordable, tasty. Blue Ginger Cafe has Hawaiian favorites like Loco Moco and Saimin (a chicken noodle soup) as well as mainland American favorites like pancakes, french toast, and double cheeseburgers.
- Pele’s Other Garden Deli – A New York-style deli and bistro in the middle of Lanai. At lunch, Pele’s is a casual deli with salads, sandwiches, and pizza. At night it transforms into an Italian Bistro with filling pasta dishes like farfalle, cheese ravioli, and rainbow tortellini.
- Malibu Farm – Located poolside at the Four Seasons, Malibu Farm features healthy, locally-sourced ingredients. The Malibu Farm Harvest Garden grows tomatoes, cucumbers, swiss chard, zucchini, bell peppers, radishes and more!
What To Do
- Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) – A short hike from Hulopepe Bay, Puu Pehe rises 80 feet out of the water and is steeped in folklore. Legend has it, Makakehau, a warrior from Lanai, was utterly smitten with Pehe, a maiden from Lahaina. He took her back to Lanai and hid her away in a sea cave in the cliffs of Manele. While Makakehau was out one day, he noticed a storm brewing and sped back, only to find that Pehe has already drowned in the storm. Grieving, he carried her out of the cave and asked the gods and his ancestors to carry him up to the top of the steep rocky island and there he buried his love before throwing himself of the 80-foot rock into the pounding surf.
You needn’t go through quite that order to experience it yourself… A 15 to 20-minute hike will afford you beautiful views, especially at sunset, of Sweetheart Rock. Bring your sweetheart and see if you can spot some the dolphins that frequent the waters.
- Keahiakawelo – Also known as the Garden of the Gods, Keahiakawelo looks like the surface of the Moon, or perhaps Mars. It’s about 45 minutes from Lana’i City, but worlds away. The park is filled with boulders, spires, and rock towers. At sunset, it’s bathed in a reddish, sometimes purple-ish, glow. It really must be seen to be believed. Getting there isn’t the easiest though, the road is unpaved and only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles or mountain bikes. Check with your hotel or a tour operator to get there safely.
- Lanai’s Cathedrals – Imagine beams of sunlight shooting down through holes in the ceiling of massive underwater cathedrals. If you (unlike me, unfortunately) are at least an intermediate scuba diver, you won’t have to imagine. A ride from Lanai’s southern coast are two of the Pacific’s premier dive sites, First Cathedral and it’s bigger sister, Second Cathedral.
With only two hotels, and a handful of flights in & out, Lanai might not seem like a big vacation spot, but that’s part of its charm. It’s less crowded and more relaxing than its neighbors but offers lots of outdoor adventure if you’re looking for more than Mai Tais on the beach (but that’s a totally legit option too).