Lanai is the smallest, publicly-accessible island in the Hawaiian chain. With a population of 3,000 people, no stoplights, and only 30 miles of paved roads, Lanai is a destination that usually gets overlooked. However, there are quite a few amazing things to do on Lanai, so here are the best of them.
How to Get to Lanai
Flights to Lanai only come from the Honolulu Airport, and, to my knowledge, they are only flown by Hawaiian Airlines. The flights are rather reasonably priced, ranging from $75 to $85.
If you find yourself on Maui, rather than on Oahu, you can take a ferry from Lahaina, Maui to Manele, Lanai. However, do not plan to fly to Maui and then go straight to the ferry, as the logistics of this are quite difficult. First of all, the Maui airport is in Kahului – which is a solid 40 miles from Lahaina. If you are renting a car on Maui, that can work. If you are not, that’s about an $80 Uber ride. Also, if you plan on staying the night on Lanai, having a rental car sit overnight (or over multiple nights) on Maui may not be the most cost-effective thing to do.
In other words, are you going to spend multiple nights on Lanai? Take a flight from Honolulu. Are you hoping to just spend a few hours on Lanai as a daytrip from Maui? Take a boat. Not sure how long you want to spend there? Keep on reading.
Where to Stay on Lanai
In my opinion, Lanai is a daytrip sort of island. You can definitely see all of the best things to do on Lanai in six hours or so. However, if you are looking for somewhere very off-the-grid to relax, there are a couple of options for you to spend a few nights.
This ocean front Four Seasons property provides guests with two pools, a spa, fitness facilities, tennis courts, a shopping area, and a few restaurants. Prices start at $1,050/night.
Located within Lanai City, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele has a very different vibe from the other Four Seasons property on the island. Spa treatments, locally-sourced healthy meals, and customized fitness programs take priority at this resort.
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele is currently closed for renovations. It will reopen in early 2019.
If you’re looking for a hotel with more of a local feel, Hotel Lanai is the place for you. With Hawaiian quilts and plantation-style décor, it is unlike any other form of accommodation on the island.
Hotel Lanai is temporarily closed at this time. It is not currently taking reservations.
Even on this very small island, Airbnb is still an option. There are a total of eight Airbnbs on the island at the moment, which range from $89/night to $1,500/night. Here are some tips to find an amazing Airbnb.
Transportation on Lanai
Let me be very clear about this: there is no other option but to rent a car on Lanai. There is no public transportation, no taxis, and practically no Ubers (although I did happen to open the app once and find a single Uber). Additionally, if you plan on doing even half of the best things to do on Lanai, you’ll need to rent a four-wheel drive (as mentioned before, Lanai only has thirty miles of paved roads).
I found two places to rent cars from on Lanai: Dollar and Lanai Cheap Jeeps. Despite the name, the prices are pretty much the same ($150/day – I know, very expensive, but they’ve got to survive on this small island). On our trip over, we chose to use Dollar, and there was a small hidden fee of $10/person for transportation to and from the airport and/or ferry port (as they are located in Lanai City, rather than either of these places), which was quite the bummer. I do not believe Lanai Cheap Jeeps has this hidden fee. However, Lanai Cheap Jeeps is cash only, whereas Dollar accepts credit and debit cards.
If you do happen to be staying at one of two Four Seasons resorts on the island, there is a free shuttle service from the airport and into Lanai City.
So What Exactly Are the Best Things to do on Lanai?
If you’re like me, you’re all about the unique. I’m not about to tell you to go horseback riding or try your hand at archery. No, you can do that anywhere. The best things to do on Lanai are the things that you can’t do anywhere else.
Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo)
One of the best things to do on Lanai is the Garden of the Gods, also known as Keahiakawelo. (You’ll need to know this Hawaiian name if you’re going to have any success finding it, so remember it or screenshot this page.) This rather barren, foggy landscape of haphazardly placed round rocks and bright orange swatches of dirt creates a sacred, untouched landscape that is unlike any other.
A four-wheel drive is required to get to this stop.
For more information on the Garden of the Gods, check out this post.
Continue on past the Garden of the Gods to reach Polihua Beach, another untouched portion of Lanai. This stretch is sand is also one of the longest across the entire Hawaiian Island chain, despite the fact that it is on one of the smallest islands. This secluded beach is also perfect for just lying on the sand, although not for swimming as the waves can be quite violent here.
A four-wheel drive is also required for this stop.
Shipwreck Beach is a beach on the West coast of the island of Lanai, where over a dozen ships have sunk. One particular one still manages to stand above the surface of the water. While we did try to reach Shipwreck Beach while we were on Lanai, our attempts were unsuccessful. But we’ve learned from our mistakes (and asked some locals when we returned our car), and now I will share what I’ve learned.
A good chunk of the road to get to Shipwreck Beach is paved. When the paved road ends, you’ll make a left and drive for a long while on an unpaved road filled with divots and deep tire tracks for your vehicle to fall into. At one point, there will be a sort of opening on the right where you can see a decent chunk of sand and the nearby ocean. (If you pull up Google Maps, it’s just around where the road ends – fun fact: even if you don’t have service, Google Maps can still pinpoint your location.) If you’ve gone up a short section of unpaved road that is quite steep, you’ve just passed it. Park your car there. Head to the shoreline and walk for another 30 minutes to the left. Then, you should see the famous shipwreck of Shipwreck Beach.
If you do manage to make it all the way to the shipwreck, rumor has it that there are some Hawaiian petroglyphs (ancient Hawaiian drawings) nearby.
A four-wheel drive is also required for this stop.
Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)
Puu Pehe is one of the most recognizable spots on Lanai. The red-orange cliffs contrasted with the deep blue of the water make quite the picturesque scene. To get to Puu Pehe, drive to Hulopoe Bay. On the left side of the beach, there will be a little peninsula. Follow the trail on the peninsula until you see Puu Pehe. Down below (or just to the left of the frame of the image above), you will also get a glimpse of the stunning “Shark’s Bay”.
But why exactly is it called Sweetheart Rock, you ask? As with most places in Hawaii, it goes back to a Hawaiian legend. (It’s quite a depressing one, so skip this paragraph if you’re not feeling like a sad story today.) A young warrior from Lanai went to the nearby island of Maui and saw a gorgeous princess. He captured her, took her to Lanai, and made her his wife. Because he was afraid that other men would fall in love with his princess, he hid her away in a sea cave. But one day, there was a violent storm, and the princess drowned. So, in true Romeo and Juliet style, the warrior killed himself by jumping off the cliff.
Not the happiest of stories, but it does have a great view.
Also, a four-wheel drive is NOT required to access this stop.
Want to find out more about Sweetheart Rock? Aloha with Love has a little more information on it.
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
One of the most unique things to do on Lanai is the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. This nonprofit is home to over 600 cats, and it helps both the cats and other endangered animal life on the island. By giving the cats a new home within the borders of the sanctuary, it gives them a comfortable life without them having to prey on the endangered birds of Hawaii. It’s a win-win for everyone!
A four-wheel drive is NOT required to access this stop.
Where Can I Grab a Bite to Eat Between All These Fantastic Things to do on Lanai?
Once again, options are limited. There are only a dozen or so places to find something to eat. If you’re hoping for a local spin, Blue Ginger Café is the place to go. Be warned though, Hawaii’s local food might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re looking for something a little more familiar, head to the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Nobu, Malibu Farm, One Forty, and the Sports Bar & Grill are all located on the property.
If you’re looking for a market to grab something quick, there are only two on the island: Richard’s Market and Pine Isle Market, both of which are in Lanai City. Take your pick.
A Couple Bonus Tips Before You Go
Phone service on Lanai is VERY spotty, particularly outside of Lanai City – and that means Google Maps is very spotty. While there are very few roads on the island, if you’re like me, you will still manage to get lost. So download the map of Lanai on Google Maps ahead of time! To do so, simply type “Lanai” into the search bar, click on the white section at the bottom of the screen, and click the download option that comes up! Make sure you’re on Wi-Fi as it downloads, and keep the app open to have it download faster.
Also, a local told us while we were there to make sure to follow all traffic laws (so that pesky speed limit and making a full stop at stop signs), because the police can be quite strict. Don’t want to add a ticket to that already quite heavy rental car bill!
Have you ever been to this tiny island gem? What do you think are the best things to do on Lanai? Tell me about your experience in the comments!
Did this inspire you to plan a trip to Lanai? Pin these tips for later!