A small island with a big personality, Lanai promises to delight you with endlessly beautiful landscapes, authentic eateries, and everything in between. Although it’s plenty of fun to fly by the seat of your pants, knowing just what to expect can help you make the most of your adventures. You don’t have to figure it all out alone either because we’re here with this guide on everything you need to know. To get started, simply read on to learn just what awaits you on Lanai – and how to enjoy the island to the fullest.
All About Lanai
At just 141 square miles, Lanai is the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island by far. In fact, it’s so small that there’s only one town, Lanai City, set right smack dab in the center of the island.
Following that trend, Dole Park sits in the center of the city and serves as the hub for all the local activities. Most of the shops and restaurants on the island are near the park, making it a great place to land whenever you want to explore the town.
Outside the city, you can find up to 18 miles of beaches plus ample opportunities for hiking and off-roading. Hulopoe Beach Park is the most popular place to enjoy the sand and surf, but all the beaches are well worth seeing.
If you want to go from sea level to the highest point on the island, you’ll need to hike the Munro Trail. At the end of that path, you’ll end up 3,366 feet above sea level as you stand at the summit of Mount Lanaihale.
On Lanai, you’ll find the island split into three distinct areas:
If you travel to Lanai by ferry, you’ll land on the south side of the island. The ferry from Maui arrives at the Manele Small Boat Harbor in Manele Bay and across the way from Hulopoe Bay. In between the two bays is the Puupehe landmark rising majestically out of the sea. Spinner dolphins are a common sight here, so direct your gaze to the ocean waters whenever possible for a chance to spot their pods.
This section of the island features the main local resort, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. At this resort, you can enjoy dining at their upscale restaurants, going to the spa, and playing round after round of golf. The popular Hulopoe Beach Park lies just outside the resort doors, too, for beachside adventures on demand.
Other notable landmarks include the Moku Naio Seabird Sanctuary, Kaunolu Village Site, and Kahekili’s Leap. They’re all located on the southwest side of Kaunolu Bay, which is only accessible by way of a long dirt road.
When traveling to Lanai by plane, you’ll land at the Lanai Airport in the central section of the island. If you head west from there, you will come across the awesome Lanai Cat Sanctuary and the Kaumalapau Harbor beyond that.
Lanai City is located just east of the airport. In the city, you will find all the eateries, shops, art galleries, medical centers, gas stations, and other service providers. This is where you want to go for the car and Jeep rentals you need to explore the rest of the island.
Dole Park serves as the main hub of the city, although the community center is right next door. At the north end of the city, there’s the Lanai Archery and Shooting Range, Stables at Koele, and Koloiki Ridge Trailhead.
In North Lanai, expect to find rugged landscapes, 400 miles of dirt roads, untouched beaches, and not a whole lot more. Upon heading down the Awalua Highway, you’ll first encounter the Kanepuu Preserve. In this 590-acre protected dry land forest, there are rare plants, birds, and wildlife. You’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to enter the preserve and navigate your way around using the self-guided maps.
Keahiakawelo, or The Garden of the Gods, lies beyond the preserve and has an even more rugged landscape. Almost lunar in appearance, this rocky landscape is only passable while moving carefully in a 4×4 Jeep. If you’re able to make it to the end of the dirt road, you’ll arrive at the ever-secluded Polihua Beach. Across its two miles of sandy shores, this beach remains nearly completely desolate, allowing you to enjoy the island beauty all to yourself.
On the northeastern side of the island, there’s also Shipwreck Beach. You’ll want to get there on Keomuku Road, which is a narrow paved roadway designed to take you over the mountainside. Since it’s easier to get to, this beach is often a bit more populated, although walking along the coast for a few minutes will leave you on your own once again.
Every last inch of the island is definitely worth the time to explore. You just need to tread carefully to avoid getting into trouble. Since everything is so remote, you won’t have any lifeguards, rescue crews, or other helpful people available to lend a hand.
Traveling To and From Lanai
If you want to visit Lanai, you’ll need to travel to Maui first. From there, you can either go on a plane or ride the ferry to the island.
To arrive on Lanai by plane, you’ll need to go to either the Kahului Airport or Honolulu International Airport on Maui. Only two interisland airlines travel to and from Lanai: Mokulele Air and Ohana by Hawaiian. So, expect your flight options to be rather limited.
As far as amenities go, the airport doesn’t have a whole lot. You can shop a bit at the Lanai Times, but there are no eateries to speak of. Other amenities include charging stations and an animal relief area. You can also take advantage of the scheduled shuttle service that regularly travels to and from the resort.
Want to take a private flight to the island? You’ll need to stay at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai to gain access. Upon doing that, you’re welcome to sign up for service from Lanai Air and enjoy the full luxury flight experience.
If you’d rather take a scenic trip across the ocean, the ferry is a great way to get to Lanai. The Expeditions Ferry service travels to the island and back again five times per day. Expect each leg of the trip to take about one hour to complete.
Starting at 6:45 am each day, the boat departs from the Lahaina Harbor on Maui and arrives at Lanai’s Manele Harbor docks. After all the passengers disembark, the boat loads up again and heads back to Lahaina around 8:15 am. The last trip of the day leaves Lanai at 5:30 pm.
You must call to book your reservation on the ferry before catching a ride. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the set departure time to get checked in and find a seat.
After your trip to Lanai, you’ll need to return to Maui to catch a flight home. You can then book your flight with any of the major airlines flying to the continental United States.
Moving Around Town
Lanai does not have a public transportation system and it’s too big to walk reliably. So, you will need to either take a taxi or rent a vehicle to travel to all your preferred destinations.
You have many excellent taxi companies to choose from, such as:
Dela Cruz Taxi
The taxis stop running before 9 pm, so plan your travels accordingly. Keep in mind that taxi companies do not go off-road. You will need to rent a Jeep if you want to go anywhere that’s only accessible on dirt roads.
Rental cars are the way to go if you want to travel around the island at your leisure. Since rental cars are limited, you should call well ahead of your trip to book your vehicle of choice. Also, try to reflect on how you’d like to spend your time on the island, so you can rent the best vehicle for the job.
The rental car companies on the island are:
Lanai Car Rental
Come in to pick up a 4WD Jeep Wrangler or all-electric Tesla 3
808 Day Trip Car Rental on Lanai
Request the delivery of a four-door hatchback or SUV
Lanai Cheap Jeeps
Swing by for a 4×4 Jeep or truck rental to use all over the island
They all offer per-day rates with discounts for multi-day reservations. You must abide by all their rules to avoid extra charges, including returning the vehicle before the indicated time on the final rental date.
If you want to bike around town, you’ll need to bring your own to ride. If you let the ferry service know ahead of time, they may be able to bring your bicycle along on the trip. They have limited space for bikes, however, so be prepared to make alternative transportation arrangements if needed.
Since most visitors come for a day trip and return back to Maui by nightfall, there are only a handful of places to stay:
Four Seasons Resort Lanai
1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
Dreams Come True B&B
1168 Lanai Avenue, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
Lodge at Koele
1 Keomoku Highway, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
828 Lanai Avenue, Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii 96763
The Hotel Lanai only has 11 rooms while the bed and breakfast has even fewer available. The Four Seasons and Lodge at Koele have hundreds of rooms between them, but they still fill up fast. So, call months ahead of your trip to book your preferred accommodations.
If you want a more authentic island experience, consider using Airbnb to rent a private room or home. These rentals typically put you right in Lanai City, allowing you to stay within walking distance of all the top attractions in town.
When you want a bite to eat, nothing beats all the fine dining fare, authentic island cuisine, and homecooked meals available all across the island. If possible, try to eat at a variety of local restaurants to enjoy the full foodie experience during your visit.
Eateries you might like to visit include:
Coffee Works is a full-service coffeehouse known for brewing up delightfully delicious Hawaiian blends and serving equally good food. Start your day off right by pairing your espresso drink of choice with a stack of Sweet Cream Pancakes.
Blue Ginger Café
Blue Ginger Café rolls out fresh baked goods daily and serves up tasty American and Pan Asian cuisine in a chill atmosphere. Do yourself a big favor and order their Fried Saimin at least once.
No Ka Oi Grindz
No Ka Oi Grindz is the place to go when you want authentic Hawaiian comfort food served up fast and with a friendly smile. Whenever possible, get their Mini Meatloaf, Kim Chee Fried Rice, or other specials of the day.
The Plantation Deli
The Plantation Deli offers the quintessential café experience complete with huge portions of classic lunch eats. All their options are just as good as the last, but you cannot go wrong with a sammie and Georgie’s Soup of the Day.
Koele Garden Bar
A Lodge at Koele production, the Koele Garden Bar serves up small bite plates alongside truly flavorful drinks you’ll love to savor. Their handcrafted cocktails are the way to go, especially if you pair them with the Shishito Peppers.
Ganotisi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine
Ganotisi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine never fails to delight with its modern international dishes elevated by ultra-fresh island ingredients. Stop in to try their Garlic Shrimp and BBQ Chicken plates for a memorable dining experience.
Pele’s Other Garden Deli
Pele’s Other Garden Deli gives you a chance to elevate your day by enjoying handmade sandwiches in a quaint bistro. The Italian Hoagie is always a solid choice but be sure to save room for their Crème Brulee Cheesecake.
Lanai Wai Juice
Lanai Wai Juice always awaits the chance to brighten your life with 100% cold-pressed juice, smoothies, acai bowls, and the like. All their juice flavors are on point, for sure, but you’ll want to pair your selection with summer rolls for the full experience.
If you’re staying at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, you’re able to make reservations for their onsite eateries as well, including:
Prefer to grab picnic fare and make your own food? Just jet on over to Richard’s Market or Pine Isle Market Ltd to get what you need.
Lanai only has a few medical centers available to provide care:
Lanai Community Hospital
628 7th Street, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
Straub Medical Center
628 7th Street B, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
Lanai Community Health Center
333 6th Street, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763
If you need urgent care, the community hospital is your best bet. They are open 24 hours a day and allow walk-ins. If you can wait for an appointment, then the other medical centers might work better for your needs.
For emergencies, do not hesitate to call for an ambulance. EMTs will come to your location ready to provide immediate care and get you stable enough for transport to the hospital.
Best Spots to Shop for Essentials
Since there are limited spots to shop on the island, it’s best to bring all your essentials with you. If you have to restock, you can shop at the markets and small boutiques in Lanai City.
You might find what you need at:
Grocery store with staples, snacks, and personal care items
Small shop with medications, first aid items, and more
Lanai Plantation Store
Convenience stores well known for their handmade sandwiches
Pine Isle Market Ltd
Small market with specialty food items and cupboard staples
Manele General Store
Convenience store with food, drinks, and toiletries
The Local Gentry
A clothing store with classy island ware plus beautiful gifts
Dis n Dat
Boutique home goods shop with a little bit of everything
If you absolutely need something you cannot find on the island, you can use the ferry to return to Maui. Just keep in mind that the trip there and back will eat up the better part of the day.
Most Popular Attractions on the Island
While it’s not a big island, there’s almost always something fun to do on Lanai. You can go hiking, visit beaches, stay in town, and so much more.
When you want to go on a hike, set your sights on:
There are also plenty of places to hike in the Kanepuu Preserve and Garden of the Gods. Just remember to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to come back whenever you go outside the city.
With its proximity to the resort, Hulopoe Beach Park attracts the most visitors year-round, but it’s not the only place to go.
Other beaches on the island include:
- Lopa Beach
- Halepalaoa Beach
- Keomuku Beach
- Wahane Beach
- Kahokunui Beach
- Shipwreck Beach
- Honowae Beach
- Polihua Beach
If you’d like to see an ancient fishpond up close, go to Waiopea Beach on the eastern side of the island. The rocky barrier running along the coast blocks the waves and provides a safe place for the fish. If you look into the water, you will usually see marine life swimming about in their natural habitat.
Other attractions you might want to visit include:
- Dole Park
- Lanai Community Pool
- Mike Carroll Gallery
- Lanai Cat Sanctuary
- Mimi’s Place Salon & Spa
- Lanai Adventure Park
- Maunalei Sugar Company Site
- Old Club Lanai
Don’t miss the chance to visit the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center as well. Although it’s just a small museum, the exhibits will leave you well-educated about the island’s history and culture. Expect to spend at least an hour looking at all the artifacts on display and discussing them with the curator.
How to Stay Safe on Your Adventures
No matter how you decide to spend your time on the island, it pays to stay mindful of your safety. Here are some tips to keep in mind while going on all your adventures.
While visiting the beaches all across Lanai, you’re largely on your own if trouble occurs. There are never any lifeguards on duty, after all. Plus, it’s common to find yourself completely alone while exploring the sandy shores. So, it’s often best to stay out of the water in favor of beachcombing, building sandcastles, and sunbathing.
In addition, remember to never turn your back to the ocean. Even on calm days, a rogue wave can come out of nowhere and knock you off your feet. The water is even powerful enough to drag you out into the surf where you’ll have to deal with even more waves.
If you’re going to walk along the trails, keep all these smart hiking rules in mind:
- Wear several layers of moisture-wicking clothing plus a sturdy, comfortable pair of hiking boots
- Bring more water than you’ll need along with a filtration device in case you need to find water
- Keep protein-rich snacks on hand, so you can refuel on the go without carrying a lot of food
- Always stay on the marked trails and watch for falling rocks and other hazards along the way
Also, check the weather before you plan to head out to avoid getting caught in stormy conditions.
In addition, if you’re going to travel offroad, bring an emergency kit, tie-down everything inside the cabin space, and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle. Also, abide by all the rules of the rental car agency and keep their emergency number on hand in case anything goes awry.
Key Ways to Avoid Jet Lag
Unless you’re just coming over to Lanai from Maui, you’re likely to experience jet lag on your trip. To keep the effects from interrupting your adventures, start running on local time a few days before arriving.
Also, stay well hydrated, avoid excess caffeine, and eat healthy food that revitalizes your mind and body. If you have trouble sleeping, you can get past it by taking a little bit of melatonin or hopping into a warm bath right before your preferred bedtime.
Your Guide to Respecting Local Customs
As a tourist, it’s important to respect local customs on all your travels. Fortunately, that’s easy to do by following these rules.
Pack Out What You Pack In
Whether you’re visiting the beach, going on a hike, or driving off-road, act like a steward of the land by packing out whatever you pack in. You should always aim to leave each area better than you found it, after all. To make that mission easy, just bring a trash bag with you and toss any debris you find in the bag as you explore.
Never Move or Take the Rocks
When visiting the local landscapes – and the Garden of the Gods, in particular – never move or take the rocks. Although it’s tempting to stack the colorful rocks in fun ways, moving them around is strictly forbidden. Instead, you should simply admire the natural geological formations as they sit, and then continue on your way.
Above all else, always bring plenty of aloha on all your travels. Greet locals and your fellow tourists with a hearty “aloha” and offer a “mahalo” whenever you want to express your gratitude. Your efforts will go a long way in helping you make fast friends as you explore all Lanai has to offer.
Tips for Saving Money on Your Trip to Lanai
On average, it can cost over $2,000 per person to visit Lanai for seven days and that doesn’t include the trip to Maui. If that figure exceeds your budget, there are some things you can do to save money, such as:
- Skip the peak travel season by visiting anywhere from October to April
- Plan to take the ferry to the island instead of booking a flight to the airport
- Compare Airbnb and hotel room prices to find the very best per-night rates
- Make your own food instead of eating out at restaurants for every single meal
- Only rent a vehicle when you want to travel outside of Lanai City for the day
Beyond all that, create an itinerary that allows you to hit up all the key attractions in each area to minimize transportation costs.
With all these things in mind, it’s easy to plan a rewarding trip to Lanai any time of the year. Just be sure to keep this guide on hand, so you can refer back to it as needed during your travels.