Traveling to Lanai? Then start here with our Lanai Guide.
|Guide Series: Guide To Hawaii
The island of Lanai is located near the center of the main Hawaiian Islands. It's the sixth largest of the main islands at 13 miles wide and 18 miles long. It's only 140 square miles in size, has only has 30 miles of roads, and doesn't have a single traffic light.
Although Hawaiians have lived on Lanai for the past 800 to 1,000 years, it wasn't always that way. According to legend, Lanai was not originally habitable by humans. It was the home of Pahulu, the god of nightmares. One day a Maui chief was banished to Lanai. He ended up killing Pahulu and lit a signal fire that the people on Maui could see. It was an all clear signal so they hopped in their canoes and settled the island.
In 1922 the Dole Company bought the bulk of the island from the descendants of Walter Murray Gibson, a Mormon who landed there in the 1800's and had acquired most of the island. Dole paid $1.1 million dollars for the land and grew pineapples. It quickly became known as the Pineapple Island and pretty much everyone who lived here (around 3,000) worked for Dole. At their peak, Dole was exporting 65,000 tons of pineapples annually. Dole closed its doors in 1992
Today, around 3,000 people live here but if Larry Ellison gets his way that could double. Who is this Ellison character? The 5th richest person in the world, he founded the company Oracle, and the guy who owns 97-98% of the entire island of Lanai as of 2012. It's hard to say if this is good or bad but he has made some improvements for the better to the island.
The original plan was to build another resort on the island's east side in the location of the old Club Lanai on Halepalaoa Beach / Kahalepalaoa Beach. It would be called the Halepalaoa Retreat Resort and would feature up to 100 luxurious and eco friendly rooms. Right now, it looks like plans for the resort have been dropped.
Getting To LanaiTraveling to this small island is easy but don't expect any direct flights from the mainland. Instead, you'll likely fly into one of the other islands like Oahu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) or Maui's Kahului Airport (OGG). From there you'll take an island hopper flight to Lanai which is just a quick 20-30 plane ride.
The other option is to take ferry from Maui to Lanai. The ferry makes five round trips per day. Costs is $30 per adult, $20 per child. On Maui, the ferry docks in front of the Pioneer Inn and on Lanai it docks at Manele Small Boat Harbor. This is a passenger only ferry so don't expect to bring your Maui rental car with.
Getting AroundOn the subject of rental cars, a common question we get from visitors is Do I Need A Rental Car In Hawaii? The answer for Lanai really depends on what you want out of it. If you're just coming for a day or two and plan to relax at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay or Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele then you could get by without a rental.
In fact, most people don't rent a car here and instead take a shuttle. The shuttle is run by the Four Seasons and travels between Manele Small Boat Harbor, the Four Seasons hotels, Lana'i City Airport (LNY), and the center of Lanai City. It's not free. So if you're staying at a Four Seasons Hotel (and chances are good that you are) you'll be paying for this service. If you do rent a car let them know or they'll automatically charge you for shuttle service.
So back to that rental car, we suggest you get one. Lanai is an amazing island that begs to be explored. There aren't many roads, and of those few are paved. So you'll likely be renting a Jeep from Dollar Rent A Car Lana'i. It's worth doing even if you only do it for a day.
Central Lanai / Lanai CityThe main, and only, city of Lanai is Lanai City. It's located right in the middle of the island. Roads from the city to the airport and Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay are all paved. Little else is. This is also where the vast majority of residents live.
If you're not eating at one of the hotels, you're probably eating in the small town here. There aren't tons of options, around a dozen and a half, but you'll find something you like. If not, the hotels have more options though they'll likely be more expensive.
In the middle of Lanai City is Dole Park. It's a nice place to eat some takeout. It has a small playground but only the younger kids will enjoy it. Various town festivals are held here too so if one is going on during your visit be sure to check it out.
While Lanai isn't really a shopping destination, you'll find some unique shops here in the town. We like the Mike Carroll Gallery a lot and suggest you stop in and say to Mike.
Perimeter AreasIf you're looking for a beach, you don't have a lot of options that are easy to access. Right next to the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is Hulopo'e Bay Beach Park that's very good. If you rented a car, driving to Kaiolohia Bay (Shipwreck Beach) on the north shore is a fun adventure even if it isn't a beach you should swim at.
Another amazing place to visit is Garden of the Gods / Keahiakawelo. Make sure you pack some supplies (food, water, maybe some toilet paper!) since it's a long and bump drive (mostly off road). If you're really adventurous you may like the long and slow drive to Halepalaoa Beach / Kahalepalaoa Beach on the east side.
If it hasn't been washed out, a drive along the Munro Trail can be a crazy adventure too. Check with your rental agency to see which trails you can and cannot drive on as it changes with the weather. You do not want to get stuck on a washed out trail in the middle of nowhere!
Explore LanaiFor more information try one of these links:
Or head over to our Guide To Hawaii for an overview on the Hawaiian Islands.
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