Lanai Island in Hawaii isn’t the most famous Hawaiian island. Most people only visit Lanai on a day trip from Maui, but this beautiful island is worth so much more than just a day trip. We spent seven days on lanai and found many amazing and unique things to do in Lanai that make for a memorable vacation in Hawaii. From exploring the rugged landscapes of the Garden of the Gods to indulging in the world-class amenities at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, visitors can find an exceptional balance of natural splendor and opulent comfort. Whether basking in the sun on secluded beaches, snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Hulopoe Bay or embarking on a thrilling UTV ride across the island’s diverse terrain, Lanai promises an unforgettable experience for every kind of traveler.
Best Things to do in Lanai
There are only three hotels on the island, and we stayed at them all. Our final night was at the Hotel Lanai in Lanai City. All of the hotels have their charms and they are all worth starting in to split up the nights on Lanai as each location is very different. However, the island is small enough that you can stay in one place and visit all the areas of the island. We will break down the hotels at the end. Still, suppose you are looking for a week-long Lanai Itinerary. In that case, we suggest staying at Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, for three nights and then moving to the Four Seasons Resort Lanai on the beach for the next half of your trip with a final night at the Hotel Lanai that was recently renovated in 2018.
A 40-minute ferry ride from Maui or a 30-minute flight from Oahu gets you to Lanai, Hawaii. Known as the Pineapple Island, Lanai was once home to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, producing 75% of the world’s pineapple! Read more: The Most Amazing Facts About Hawaii
Lanai, pronounced La-nah-ee, is the 3rd smallest Hawaiian island and the smallest publicly accessible inhabited island. When landing at the ferry port in Manele Harbour from Maui we took the complimentary shuttle take us to the Four Seasons Resort Lodge at Koele. This was where we stayed for the first couple of nights and then we moved on to the Four Seasons Manele.
What is unique about Lanai among the Hawaiian Islands is that it is almost entirely privately owned. This intriguing aspect of Lanai’s history began in the late 19th century. It reached a pivotal moment in 2012 when Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle Corporation, purchased most of the island. This ownership has led to both development and conservation efforts, aiming to balance modernization with preserving Lanai’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
1. Rent a Jeep for a Day
We rented a jeep for our first day on the island to see some of Lanai’s top off-the-beaten-path attractions. Having a jeep is a great way to get around, as some of the terrains on Lanai are rugged and exciting. A lot of Lanai’s attractions are best reached by four-wheel drive. You can compare prices here.
2. UTV Adventure
One of the most unique things to do in Lanai (and perhaps the entire Hawaiian Islands) is to take a UTV Adventure. The tour starts on off-road vehicles going through forests and ridges to see gorgeous views of Maui and Molokai.
Embark on an exhilarating UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) adventure in Lanai to experience the island’s rugged terrain and hidden treasures. These guided tours, offered by experienced operators like Lanai Adventures, take you off the beaten path to explore areas inaccessible by regular vehicles.
Navigate through red dirt trails, ascend to panoramic viewpoints, and witness the diverse landscapes of Lanai, from rocky hills to lush forested areas. These adventures are suitable for all skill levels, with safety briefings and equipment provided.
Along the way, guides share insights into the island’s history and ecology, adding an educational aspect to the thrill of the ride.
There are also free shuttles from Manele Bay Four Seasons and from Downtown Lanai as well. If you are looking for something different to do in Hawaii, Lanai UTV touris so much fun!
3. Garden of the Gods – Keahiakawelo
Keahiakawelo is also known as the Garden of the Gods is a located 45 minutes from Lanai City on the northwest side of Lanai. Its otherworldly lunar landscape features a massive rock garden filled with rock towers and boulders.
Legend has it that t it was created as a result of a contest between two the two kahunas (priests of Lanai and Molokai to see who could keep a fire burning longer. If you want to feel like you are walking on Mars, this is the place to be.
- Getting there: It’s best to see it by jeep rental for a day.
4. Polihua Beach
Polihua Beach is a 2-mile stretch of beach that offers gorgeous views of the neighboring island of Molokai. This rugged day trip in Lanai is a beautiful secluded beach perfect for beachcombing. We visited Polihua Beach via 4X4 while exploring Lanai’s northern coast.
Located on Lanai’s northwestern side, Polihua Beach is known for its wide expanse of soft, white sand. If lucky, you may spy green sea turtles or a humpback whale from the shore.
Swimming is not recommended at Polihua due to strong currents, but the serene environment makes it perfect for sunbathing and relaxation.
The journey to Polihua Beach itself is an adventure, taking you through rugged landscapes and offering a glimpse into the island’s raw beauty. It’s about 60 miles from Lanai City and about a half-hour past the Garden of the Gods. This secluded beach, devoid of facilities, is a must-visit for those looking to experience Lanai’s untouched charm.
5. Hulopoe Beach
While Hulopoe Beach is easily accessible by a short walk from the Four Seasons Resort, there’s also a public parking area for those coming from elsewhere on the island.
Hulopoe Beach, located on Lanai’s southern coast, is a prime spot for snorkeling and swimming, thanks to its clear, calm waters. This well-maintained beach is part of a marine preserve, which ensures an abundance of sea life, including tropical fish and, occasionally, dolphins. Facilities like picnic tables, barbecue grills, and restrooms make it ideal for day-long visits.
The beach is also famous for its proximity to Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock). We stayed at the Four Seasons Resort and took the hiking trails out to Sweetheart Rock. You can also follow a trail from Hulopoe Beach to the MAnele Golf Course. We did the walk in closed toed water shoes which was perfect. just a short hike away.
6. Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach)
Kaiolohia, also known as Shipwreck Beach, is a 6-mile stretch of coastline that is located on the north shore of Lanai. Large swells and strong trade winds have caused more than one shipwreck off its coast. When visiting the beach, you’ll see a 1940s oil tanker that still remains beached on Kaiolohia Bay’s coral reef. The ghostly rusted hull creates an eerie scene.
From Shipwreck Beach, you will also see great views of both Molokai and Maui. While you are there, be sure to check out the Poaiwa Petroglyphs. They are located along the trail a short distance from the beach.
7. Keomuku Village
Wander through the remnants of the past at Keomuku Village located on the east coast of Lanai. It was a fishing village until 1899 when plantation owners moved in turning it into a sugar plantation. Explore the abandoned village and the remains of the Ka Lanakila o Ka Malamalama Church that was recently restored, as well as the area where the sugar plantation was once in operation. It is well worth visiting this lesser known attraction on Lanai.
8. Visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary
It was over a century ago that the cats came to the Hawaiian Islands on whaling ships. They reproduced and overpopulated the islands endangering the endemic bird species and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Many residents saw these cats as pests and poisoned and trapped them. But today, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is working to keep the cat population is under control and the birds are coming back.
Set on two acres of land, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary keeps up to 300 cats and has a no-kill policy. If you are visiting the Island of Lanai, arrangements can be made at the Four Seasons to visit the center. They don’t charge a penny and you will be picked up by a volunteer who will bring you to the sanctuary for a pet and purr session. Or you can help out with some gardening, painting, and grooming.
9. Go Horseback Riding
Horseback riding in Lanai offers a unique way to explore the island’s diverse landscapes, blending adventure with a taste of local culture. Guided tours, available through reputable stables like the Lanai Grand Adventures, cater to all skill levels, from beginners to experienced riders.
These tours often traverse scenic trails, offering views of lush valleys, rugged hills, and panoramic ocean vistas. Riders have the opportunity to learn about Lanai’s history and ecology from knowledgeable guides, enhancing the experience beyond a typical trail ride. Some tours even include visits to historic sites or hidden spots inaccessible by vehicle. Horseback riding on Lanai not only provides an engaging outdoor activity but also a deeper connection to the island’s natural beauty and heritage, making it a memorable part of any Lanai itinerary.
10. Dolphin and Whale Watching
From December to May, the island of Lanai becomes one of the best places for whale watching in the world. The Auau Channel is located in Lanai, Maui, and Molokai and attracts more than 10,000 humpback whales who migrate to its warm shallow waters.
These gentle giants migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters, and Lanai’s unique vantage points provide excellent opportunities for viewing. Several local operators offer whale-watching tours, equipped with knowledgeable guides who share insights about these magnificent creatures.
These tours often depart from Manele Harbor and provide close-up views of whales and the chance to see dolphins and other marine life. For those preferring land-based observation, the cliffs along the southern coast, especially near Hulopoe Bay, offer spectacular viewing spots. Whale watching in Lanai combines the thrill of marine adventure with educational aspects, making it a must-do for nature enthusiasts and families visiting the island.
11. Lanai Snorkel and Scuba Dive
The crystal clear waters of Lanai make for beautiful snorkeling. Seasoned scuba divers will enjoy exploring the Lanai Cathedrals. Popular dive sites in Lanai are First Cathedral and Second Cathedral, formed from massive underwater lava tubes.
Enjoy a relaxing sail aboard one of Trilogy’s state-of-the-art catamarans to a protected cove on the island’s western shore, where you can snorkel and view the underwater life that awaits you.
12. Manele Golf Course
We aren’t much on golfing, but visiting the Manele Golf Course is a must. Located at the Four Seasons Manele Bay, the world-renowned Manele Golf Course was designed by Jack Nicklaus. This world-class course, perched atop the cliffs overlooking Hulopoe Bay, offers stunning ocean views from every hole, enhancing the playing experience. Known for its challenging layout, the course incorporates natural landscapes, including ravines and lava outcrops, demanding strategic play.
Even if you are not into golf, we recommend having lunch at its restaurant for gorgeous views. PS. Bill Gates has played a round here.
13. The Spa at Manele Bay
Staying at Four Seasons Manele Bay is a real treat and one of the most romantic destinations on earth. Booking a spa here was one of our favourite things to do in Lanai. A couples massage on the beach in a cabana is the most decadent thing you can do. Enjoy the warm breeze of the Pacific Ocean as you listen to the waves crash against the shore. And then spend the afternoon relaxing by the
14. Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)
Located within walking distance from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, Sweetheart Rock, also known as Pu´u Pehe, is a huge rock formation just off the coast.
It is the number one thing to see when you visit Lanai, as this iconic landmark is steeped in Hawaiian legend and beauty is legendary. This striking rock formation, rising majestically from the sea, is accessible via a short and scenic hike from Hulopoe Beach. The trail, less than a mile round trip, is well-marked and offers stunning coastal views, making it suitable for most fitness levels.
When you talk romance, I can’t help but mention Pu´u Pehe, better known as Sweetheart Rock on the island of Lanai. This is the perfect couple’s getaway, complete with its own love story.
According to local lore, Puu Pehe is named after a tragic love story, adding a layer of cultural significance to the site. The top of the trail provides panoramic vistas of the rugged coastline and opportunities for whale watching during the right season.
One of the most popular things to do in Lanai is to hang out at Hulopoe Bay at the Four Seasons Manele Resort. It’s a great place for sunbathing and snorkeling in the summer. During the winter months keep an eye out for dolphins and whales from the shore.
15. Lanai Cultural and Heritage Center
Located at the old Dole Pineapple Administration Building the Lanai Cultural and Heritage Center takes you through the history of Lanai. We didn’t know much about Lanai before visiting and this was the perfect introduction to Lanai and its pineapple history. It is a great first stop on Lanai to help you understand the sights you will be exploring and the people you will meet.
16. Explore the Tide Pools
While at Hulopoe Bay be sure to take a walk to explore the lava tide pools at low tide. It’s very cool to see what critters you’ll see floating around inside the pools between tides. Be sure to wear reef shoes, keep an eye on the tides and wave and have fun!
These natural pools, most notably found along the rocky coastline near Hulopoe Bay, are teeming with marine life, offering a close-up view of sea stars, small fish, urchins, and crabs in their natural habitat.
Accessible during low tide, these tide pools provide a unique opportunity for educational exploration and gentle interaction with marine ecosystems. Visitors are encouraged to tread lightly and respect the delicate balance of these environments. In addition to the marine life, the area around the tide pools also boasts impressive geological formations and scenic ocean views, making it an ideal spot for photography and relaxation.
17. Monro Trail
If you are looking for a good hike around Lanai, this 12.8-mile trail begins in Lanai City. But you can also take it from the Four Seasons Koele Lodge. The trail takes you through the rainforest and beautiful scenic lookout, where you can see all of the Hawaiian Islands at once. The trail also takes you to Lanai Hale. At 3400 feet, it is the highest peak in Lanai.
18. Koloiki Ridge Trail
Koloiki Ridge was the site of a fierce Hawaiian battle in the 18th century. The ridge separates Naio and Maunalei. It was here that we learned all abou the fragile ecosystem of Lanai and how the islanders are working to protect the flora and fauna. The hike is four and a half miles round trip.
The Koloiki Ridge Trail is a standout hiking adventure on Lanai, offering an invigorating five-mile round trip journey that rewards hikers with breathtaking views. Beginning at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, the trail winds through lush, native forests and opens up to stunning vistas of neighboring islands, Molokai and Maui.
Along the way, hikers can immerse themselves in Lanai’s unique flora and fauna, with informational signs providing insights into the local ecosystem. This moderately challenging hike, well-marked and maintained, is suitable for most fitness levels, making it a popular choice for both novice and experienced hikers. The trail’s peak, offering panoramic views, is a perfect spot for memorable photos. For those seeking to explore Lanai’s natural beauty, the Koloiki Ridge Trail is an essential experience.
19. Take a Stroll in Lanai City
Lanai was home to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, and a great way to explore the history of Lanai is to explore Lanai City. There are some great boutiques and eateries to check out including Dis N Dat Shop, The Mike Carroll Gallery, the Cory Labang Studio and the Local Gentry.
Lanai City is located in the heart of Lanai Island. Take a walking tour starting at Dole Park, the city’s central hub, lined with shops and local eateries. It is perfect for experiencing the island’s cuisine and craftsmanship. Visit the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center to delve into the island’s history, from its pineapple plantation past to its present-day developments. Art enthusiasts will enjoy the Mike Carroll Gallery, showcasing works inspired by Lanai’s landscapes.
For a taste of local life, stroll through the Lanai City Farmers Market, where you can find fresh produce and artisanal goods. Golfers can’t miss the Cavendish Golf Course, a free public course offering a relaxed round with scenic views.
Where to Stay on Lanai
How to Get to Lanai
Reaching Lanai, Hawaii’s secluded island paradise, is a journey that adds to the destination’s allure. The most common way to get there is by a short, scenic ferry ride from Maui, departing from Lahaina Harbor, which offers a picturesque approach to the island.
For those who prefer air travel, daily flights are available from Honolulu and Maui, landing at Lanai City Airport. These flights are a quick and convenient option, providing stunning aerial views of the Hawaiian archipelago.
For a more exclusive experience, private charters and helicopter transfers are also available, offering a luxurious and personalized way to arrive on Lanai.
Each mode of transportation to Lanai offers its unique perspective of Hawaii’s breathtaking landscapes, ensuring that the journey to the island is as memorable as the stay itself.
And these are all the things to do in Lanai. If you are booking a trip to the Hawaiian Islands and are looking for something different, we suggest checking out Lanai. It is luxurious, adventurous and you will see far less crowds than on other islands in Hawaii.
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