Escape to Lanai
If you're traveling around Hawaii and want to experience true remote luxury, then Lanai is definitely the island to prioritize. On Lanai, you'll feel like you're on your own private island getaway. Escape from the hustle and bustle of heavy tourist destinations on Lanai island, and you'll get the chance to experience authentic island living.
Lanai is often referred to as Pineapple Island because of its history with pineapple farming. Visitors today travel to Lanai for a private luxury feel. Especially compared to some of the other more populated and busy Hawaiian Islands open to visitors, Lanai is largely uninhabited with only 3,000 residents, making it one of the most remote and unspoiled islands to explore.
While Lanai's private atmosphere is what draws most of its visitors, this doesn't mean there aren't plenty of adventurous activities and amazing food to experience. Keep reading to learn more about Lanai island and the fun that awaits you.
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Your Guide to Lanai, Hawaii
Lanai Is only a short ferry ride from Maui if you're looking to spend the day on Lanai. However, if you're planning to delve deeper into Lanai luxury, there are plenty of flights that go straight into the Lanai airport from the other larger islands.
If you're planning to head straight to Lanai from outside of Hawaii, you'll likely have to stop in Honolulu or Maui and grab a connecting flight. But if you can, a ferry ride from Maui is a perfect way to travel to the island and see the gorgeous views of the blue water and the island's incredible views.
Once you land, Lanai City will most likely be your first destination. However, don't let the term city fool you. Lanai City is closer to a small village with only a few accommodation options, a small market, one school, and there are also no traffic lights.
You'll feel like a local in Lanai City with its cozy and casual atmosphere. Local Lanaians provide a welcoming and open space for tourists to feel right at home. It's definitely worth spending at least a few nights on Lanai island if you can. It's a great space to escape heavy tourism crowds and get to know the local community.
There are plenty of small businesses that serve as fun spots to get to know the residents and see what it's like to live as residents on the island.
While Lanai City has plenty of places to explore, you'll also have access to tons of day trips and outdoor activities that display the beauty of Hawaii.
Is Lanai a Privately Owned Island?
Lanai's remote atmosphere has been solidified by the fact that Larry Ellison, founder of the giant tech company Oracle, actually bought almost the entire island in 2012. The island underwent major renovations to bring a more modern luxury feel but still held on to the remote and unspoiled nature.
The island reopened in 2016 and is now the Hawaiian island most well-known for its lavish and isolated reputation. It's the place where Hawaiian visitors go to feel like they have the entire island to themselves rather than having to push through overcrowded tourist spots.
Although most of the island is owned by Ellison, it's still open to the public. It is a popular day-trip destination for travelers visiting Hawaii as it's extremely close to the large island of Maui.
Lanai gives visitors that remote island vibe while also boasting its indulgent amenities and accommodations, creating a seamless blend between rustic island living with private tropical luxury.
Where to Stay on Lanai Island
If you choose to stay on the island because of its size and being only partially owned by the state of Hawaii, there are only three main options, one of the two traditional hotels and the larger chain resort.
- Four Seasons Resort Lanai: Located right on Hulopoe Bay, this hotel is the epitome of lavishness. There are multiple types of cuisine available at the resort’s restaurants and it’s only a few short steps from the beach. If waterfront views are what you’re looking for, this Four Seasons Resort will provide everything you need.
- Hotel Lanai: With only a few rooms available (11 total), Hotel Lanai is the best place to feel like you have the entire island to yourself. Located in the midst of Lanai City, Hotel Lanai brings modern luxury and rustic charm seamlessly together for an experience that encapsulates the island culture.
- Sensei Lanai: If you’re staying on Lanai to reset and relax, this spa and wellness centered hotel is ideal. You’ll feel extremely refreshed and serene after a stay at Sensei Lanai.
The Four Seasons is the main accommodations spot, but it's also garnered a reputation as one of the most luxurious places to stay in all of Hawaii. Lanai's private and lavish atmosphere is exemplified to perfection at each and every hotel available.
If you're looking to lean into a real private island vacation experience, there are also quite a few rentals and Airbnb's you can stay in. You'll be able to have an entire space for yourself or your family, which can really contribute to that remote and private atmosphere.
For the travelers that want a different experience from the large and tourist crowded spaces of the other islands, a stay at Lanai is perfect. There are plenty of attractions to keep you busy on the island, but if you want to take a day trip to Maui or another island, you're usually only a ferry boat away.
What's the Best Way to Get Around Lanai Island?
Lanai island has no traffic lights, and the majority of public transportation is supplied by a few hotel accommodations. Therefore, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is actually the best way to travel around the island. Lanai's roads are often unpaved and rocky, so it's best to have a vehicle that can handle the often-off-road terrains of the island.
In fact, a popular activity to do on the island is to rent a jeep and go off-roading. Most of the island is undeveloped, so to get into all those nooks and crannies of the island's natural beauty, a four-wheel-drive is the best option to get a feel of the environment. With a well-equipped vehicle, you'll be able to see more of the undiscovered and hidden jewels throughout Lanai.
If you're not comfortable driving around the island, hotels like the Four Seasons have shuttles available to transport guests to the different popular attractions on the island.
Lanai Has Outdoor Activities that Appeal to Everyone
Lanai is known for having a few options for outdoor adventure activities that aren't typical of the Hawaiian Islands. While Lanai is notorious for its quiet and pristine atmosphere, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of action and adventure to explore.
There is something that appeals to every type of traveler on Lanai island. Along with amazing outdoor adventures, there is also an art gallery and heritage center for anyone looking to learn more about the Hawaiian culture and traditions.
Grab your water bottle and hiking shoes for some of these incredible trails, coves, and overlooks that will make you marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the island. Once you start exploring Lanai, you'll see that this remote island has no shortage of fun and exhilarating activities.
Feel Like a Martian and Drive Through the Garden of the Gods
When you think of a remote, tropical island, you probably don't think of a deserted rocky terrain that looks like it came straight out of photos of Mars.
But the Garden of the Gods or Keahiakawelo is just that. Located about 6 miles north of Lanai City, this incredible landscape makes for the perfect start to exploring Lanai attractions.
Rather than lush green vegetation, you might think of when you hear the term 'garden,' the Garden of the Gods is a long stretch of boulders, rock towers, and bright orange terrain. This space is home to a rich and interesting legend involving a competition between two Hawaiian priests that resulted in a long fire that burned all the vegetation in the area to the ground.
The best time to visit the Garden of the Gods is at sunset. This is because the way the light will hit the rocks and dirt create such incredible reds and oranges you'll seriously feel like you're on another planet.
To access this space, you'll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle as there are no paved roads, but there are plenty of available tours where a guide can take you through the different rock formations and tell the incredible myth and history of the area along the way.
Gaze Upon Deserted Ships from World War II at Shipwreck Beach
Shipwreck Beach received its name from the more than a dozen ships and vessels that have deteriorated along the island from accidental wrecks. Strong winds and powerful tides have caused many an interesting treasure to wash up on the shore, and visitors often have a blast exploring the beach.
However, the two most popular ships that visitors go to see on Shipwreck Beach actually landed there intentionally. They're both from World War II, and one of them is one of the last ships available to see that was present at the attack on Pearl Harbor.
If you plan to drive the thirty minutes north of Lanai City to Shipwreck Beach, make sure to get directions from your concierge or a trusted source because the pathway there can get a bit confusing with most of the roads being unmarked. After driving down the narrow Keomoku road, you'll see when you come upon the sand, and the narrow road becomes much wider. This is the best spot to park and then walk the rest of the way to the shore.
You'll want to avoid driving along the sand in a vehicle because it's likely that you'll get stuck, and you don't want to end up paying any hefty towing fees.
Once you've arrived at Shipwreck Beach, you can walk along the entire 8-mile stretch of sand and take a look at all the different ships that are now becoming one with the reef along the shore. Some of the walkways can get a bit rocky so make sure to wear comfortable shoes.
And while the beach is beautiful, with a view of Molokai and Maui, it's not recommended that you swim in the water.
Along the beach, there is also a trail that leads to petroglyphs. These rock carvings may have been used for various reasons and often depict what many believe to be historical events.
The walk along Shipwreck Beach has no shortage of amazing historical monuments to explore. Plus, you'll have amazing views of the neighboring islands along the entire journey.
Get Your Camera Ready for the Views Along Munro Trail
If you're looking for an amazing hike or drive that displays all of the island's beauty, from the canyons to the beach, to the lush green forest, then Munro Trail should be at the top of your list.
Munro Trail is also one of the only spots where visitors have the chance to gaze upon all six major Hawaiian Islands at once.
Travelers have the option of walking, biking, or driving through the trail, but no matter which travel method you choose, you won't want to miss the views available throughout the entirety of the trail.
The trail is almost 13 miles long with no facilities, so make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the excursion. At 1600 feet above sea level, you'll be able to set your sights on the rain forest full of eucalyptus trees, a breathtaking ocean lookout, as well as incredible views of large looming canyons. Munro Trail is also the ideal way to get to Lanai's highest peak named Lanaihale.
This entire trail is home to gorgeous views that you will not want to miss while visiting Lanai. Make sure to charge your camera and phone batteries because you won't be able to help but take plenty of photos of the incredible views along the way.
Learn the Island's History at the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center
If you're staying in Lanai City, you definitely need to spend an afternoon at the Lanai Cultural Heritage Center. The different exhibits lead visitors through the history of the island, from the volcanic explosions that played a large part in the island's environment to the island's time as a large pineapple plantation.
The staff of this cultural center will make you feel right at home and help you have fun while learning about the history and culture of the island.
A special note is that while admission to the exhibits is free, similarly to many of the island's attractions, donations are highly encouraged.
The Lanai Cultural Heritage Center is quite small, but the hospitality and depth of the exhibits are plenty to keep you engaged for an afternoon.
Many visitors also recommend actually making this one of the first stops to explore when visiting Lanai because it gives a good lay of the land and information about the plentiful attractions and adventures you're likely to go on later in your trip.
The Lanai Culture and Heritage Center has a mission to celebrate the traditions, history, and culture of the island, so it's definitely well worth patronizing this establishment and contributing to the community while staying on Lanai island.
Sunbathe and Swim Along the Reef at Hulopoe Bay
While Lanai is largely unspoiled territory compared to other more tourist-heavy Hawaiian Islands, that doesn't mean they don't have breathtaking beaches you'll never want to leave, one of the most popular spots being Hulopoe Bay.
If you're staying at the Four Seasons Resort, you'll likely be making Hulopoe Bay your go-to spot as it has everything you need to relax and explore all day long.
The island's location makes many of its beaches unsafe to swim in. Still, in Hulopoe Bay, swimming should actually be the first thing you do because the gorgeous reefs full of amazing fish and plants are truly incredible.
If you want to explore the water even more, make sure to explore the east side of the bay, where calming tide pools breed calm waters ideal for the snorkeler looking to spend time with the island's organisms like the hermit crabs and sea stars.
Hulopoe Bay is also an amazing spot to relax if you're hoping for a natural dolphin sighting. If you visit Lanai in the summer, then you're likely to see at least one spinner dolphin at Hulopoe Bay and if you visit in the winter, then expect to come across a humpback whale.
One important thing to note when visiting Hulopoe Bay is that its beachgoers are asked to leave the sea life, fish, and animals completely alone. To protect their natural habitats and leave the space open and beautiful to future visitors, those who spend time on the beach are asked to appreciate the sights but not to move or take any of the sea life or to chase after the dolphins.
When you need a break from swimming or sunbathing, there are plenty of other activities available within walking distance. Picnic tables are available as well as barbecue grills, restrooms, and shower facilities. Access to the beach is free.
Learn the Legend of Puupehe Trail (Sweetheart Rock)
If you've spent enough time on Hulopoe Bay and want to do some exploring, strap on your tennis shoes and take the 20-minute hike along the southeast side of the bay to Puu Pehe or Sweetheart Rock.
According to legend, a warrior with a broken heart jumped off this rock with the rising tide after losing his wife. However, the legend and history of this incredible landmark go even further back in time, so it's well worth it to take a proper tour of the area if you have the time.
Sweetheart Rock is sandwiched between Manele and Hulopoe Bays, and the rock rises almost 80 feet above the water, making it truly a magnificent sight. If you can, many visitors recommend hiking along the trail and coming to the rock around sunset.
Between the incredible views and the highly romantic myths and legends of the area, Sweetheart Rock is the perfect spot to explore with a loved one, especially after a day on Hulopoe Bay.
Feel Like You're on a Private Beach on Polihua Beach
If you're looking for a secluded and pristine beach during your luxury Lanai getaway, look no further than Polihua Beach.
It's located about half an hour away from Garden of the God north of the Lanai city, and its pristine sandy beaches are the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the tropical views of Hawaii.
It's a small beach consisting of only 2-miles of sand, but this is what gives it that private and secluded atmosphere. During the day, you can sit back, relax, and sunbathe all day.
If you stick around long enough, during the late winter and early spring, you may even be able to spot a humpback whale along the shore. Nothing beats an unintended sighting of some of the most magnificent ocean animals in the world.
Similar to other beaches on the island during most times of the year, swimming can be dangerous. However, access to the beach is free, and it's one of the most beautiful and often secluded beaches on the island.
For real island luxury, Polihua Beach is definitely the best place to visit.
Experience Incredible Views at the Kaunolu Ruins
If you plan to explore the southern part of the island some more, make sure to check out the Kaunolu ruins, a 19th-century fishing village that is currently the largest surviving area of Hawaiian prehistoric ruins.
This area brings together the rich history and culture of the island and spectacular views of the incredibly tall cliffs at this part of the island.
While you need a vehicle to travel to this part of the island as well, the road there is usually an easy drive given the island's dry climate.
The views here are like nothing you've seen before, and you're likely to have most of the area to yourself as it's almost never crowded. However, many visitors do report coming across locals that are willing to share about the history of legends of the space, which can be a welcome experience.
While it's rarely crowded in this part of the island, you're likely to come across a few fishermen but remember that the water is not ideal for swimming. Instead, you'll have plenty to keep you entertained and busy with the views, and there are even more petroglyphs along the path.
Dine in Luxury on Lanai Island
After a full day of lounging on the beach or exploring all the other attractions Lanai has to offer, visitors will be happy to learn that there are some amazing food options at their disposal.
Lanai's reputation as an island of high luxury carries over into their restaurants as well. But if you're also looking for some local and casual options, Lanai will not disappoint.
Make sure to check out some of these restaurants while spending time in Lanai:
- Nobu: With incredible views of the ocean, you’ll experience delicious and unique Japanese cuisine that speaks to Lanai’s luxury atmosphere. Incredibly fresh seafood and amazing cocktails will make dining at Nobu in Lanai Hawaii a truly amazing experience.
- Richard’s Market: If you love fresh and casual seafood dishes then Richard’s Market is a great spot to try out. You can find poke bowls and experience what it means to eat like a local.
- Blue Ginger Café: If you’re staying in Lanai City, Blue Ginger Café should be your first stop for some friendly casual Hawaiian cuisine. This café’s authentic and local atmosphere along with their tasty baked goods and home-style dishes will make any visitor feel right at home.
There are a few different options for places to eat on Lanai island, especially if you're staying at the Four Seasons, which is a larger resort with a variety of restaurant options all within walking distance of each other. Still, there are also plenty of local and casual dining options as well as grocery stores.
Many Lanai visitors revel in the chance to have a casual barbeque or picnic on the beach during the day and then experience true Lanai luxury at a 5-star restaurant for dinner.
While Lanai is known for its private seclusion and luxury feel, there are tons of casual or budget-friendly options for spots to grab a bite during your stay.
Experience Remote Island Luxury on Lanai Island Today
Lanai island is truly a Hawaiian island with attractions, amenities, and dining options to meet every traveler's needs.
If you can visit Lanai for a day, it is definitely worth it, but it's even better to be able to stay right on the island and feel as though you are on a private beach vacation.
The climate is much dryer than the other Hawaiian Islands, so you're less likely to get rain and less likely to have to deal with overwhelming humidity.
Lanai City will make every visitor feel right at home, and you practically won't want to leave at all by the time your vacation comes to an end.
If you plan to visit Hawaii but want to stay on an island that isn't too overcrowded with tourists and is more likely to have a relaxing and isolated atmosphere, book your flight to Lanai today.