Lana'i Island

Lana'i Island
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The smallest Hawaiian island you can actually visit and stay at. A truly unique island where time has (almost) stood still.

Lana’i is the sixth largest Hawaiian island so for purposes of this discussion it’s essentially the smallest Hawaiian island you can travel to (yes some like Niihau, Kaho’olawe, etc are smaller but not open to visitors). It is known as the Pineapple Island because it used to be a pineapple plantation, though it no longer is.

It has an area of 140.5 square miles but most of the island is accessible only via 4x4 vehicles via off-road trails or by hiking. There are very few roads on Lana’i overall and they mainly lead from the airport to Lana’i City and to the north shore and south shore. Beyond that everything else is a dirt trail and they can often be closed after heavy rains that can wash the rail away.

Driving around Lana’i is an experience all by itself and worth renting a 4x4 vehicle for (see Dollar Rent A Car Lana'i). The roads and trails make some pretty insane elevation changes over short distances so it’s not for the faint of heart or anyone who has an extreme fear of heights.

You also have to keep in mind that you may not see anyone else on some of the trails you will be driving on (certainly no shops or facilities of any kind once you leave the main town) so you need to be prepared and take in plenty of water, food and snacks, maybe some warm clothing, and don’t forget the toilet paper (and a plastic bag so you can bring your trash out) just in case you have a vehicle break down or accident in the middle of nowhere.

We don’t say that to scare anyone away from a good adventure, after all it is a tiny island and you can hike yourself across it fairly fast in an emergency, but just so that you are prepared because you will end up in very remote locations on a remote island and may lose cell service at times. Make sure you have gas in your car as well since the only gas station on the island is in the town right next to Dollar Rent A Car Lana'i. Another thing you won’t see on the island is a traffic light as they don’t have any.

The highest point on the island is Mount Lanaihale at 3,366 feet high (1,026 meters) which is just east of the town (Lana’i City) near the center of the island. Lana’i City is really the only town here and where most residents live. It’s beyond tiny but also very quaint and charming. It’s as if time stood still here and you can tell the residents (all 3,200-ish of them) like it that way. It’s usually a few degrees cooler in the town because of its higher altitude so don’t let that, gray skies, or rainy weather there stop you from hitting a beach where it will be warmer and probably have different Hawaii Weather.

You won’t find any chain restaurants on the island, and not many dining options overall really but the town has a few and the hotels have a few. Prices on food, gas, and probably everything will be higher here than on other islands like Oahu or Maui and that rule is exceptionally noticeable at the hotel restaurants.
On that note, there are only three hotels on the entire island. Hotel Lana'i, in the town, has just a few rooms so not really a full blown hotel. The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele is located in town as well and is beautiful property though isn’t on a beach. The third hotel is the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay which is located right on the gorgeous Hulopo'e Bay Beach Park. Both of the main hotels also have their own golf course.

There is only one easily accessible beach on the island, with a few more that require some long off-road drives or a bit of hiking. So, the only one that you'll probably end up at is Hulopo'e Bay Beach Park because you can drive to it on a paved road easily and because it’s right at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay where you are likely to be staying.
So what else is there to do here? You can snorkel, scuba dive, take a boat tour at the Manele Small Boat Harbor, take a hike, explore the tiny town, see Kaiolohia Bay (Shipwreck Beach), ride horses, and just generally explore the island but most people who come here want to slow down and relax a bit and this is the perfect island for that.

A common question for Lana’I is, “How many days should I vacation for?” The answer depends on a few scenarios and what you want to do here.

If you are visiting other islands for a long time (12-14 days or longer) then it might be fun to spend 2 or 3 nights here. If you are on a shorter trip (7 days or less) than you may want to just spend 1 night on Lanai by arriving early one day and leaving late the next which will give you time to see the town and explore some off road trails or just to sit back and relax. If you really want to explore the island and have a lot of time to spare on your Hawaiian vacation (and money to burn on the lodging and meals) you can certainly enjoy 4-5 nights here with time to see the sites and time to rest and relax.

Do try and get into town at least once just so you can see what it’s all about. Chat up a local or two and you’ll find that most love to talk story about their island and its history. They’ll also tell you about its future now that billionaire Larry Ellison purchased and owns 98% of the entire island and has plans to make it a sustainable island while expanding at the same time.

Overall, Lana’i is a very unique island and like nothing else in Hawaii. It’s a place where time has stood still but also where the future looks very promising. It will be interesting to see how Lana’i grows and expands while (hopefully) retaining its charm.