Guests who travel to Lāna‘i seek serenity, privacy, and luxury. The former is made possibly by the small population and the lack of hustle and bustle; the latter is at the hands of two five-star hotel properties. There are possibilities for soft adventure and an active vacation, but overall, it’s about the quiet, low-key, exclusive vibes on Lāna‘i.
The following video gives an impression of Lāna‘i seen through the eyes of cultural liaison Anela Evans, who was born and raised on the island.
Recent Lānaʻi History
Lāna‘i’s modern day history traces back to 1922, when the island was purchased by Dole and turned into a pineapple plantation – eventually becoming the largest in the world and earning the nickname, “the Pineapple Island.” Most of the infrastructure you see on the island, from the residential houses to the buildings of Lāna‘i City, are from the pineapple era. When the pineapple industry began to decline in the 1980s (due to competition from Central/South America and Asia), it transitioned to a tourism model. In 2012, Lāna‘i was purchased by its current owner, Larry Ellison, and remains privately owned today.
Lāna‘i City, the only town on Lāna‘i, sits at 1,644 feet above sea level, backdropped by a small forest of Cook Island pines. There are no traffic lights, and with a population of about 3,000 people, services in the town are very limited, and life tends to be sleepy. But, that’s exactly why people go to Lāna‘i – to get away from it all.
Where to Stay
The type of visitor that Lāna‘i wants – and tends to draw – is reflected in its hotel offerings. Visitors to Lāna‘i spend more on lodging than visitors to any other island. There are only three hotels on Lāna‘i; two are high-end, five-star hotels, and the other is an 11-room luxury boutique hotel with rates starting at more than $300 a night.
In that sense, most of the rooms available on Lāna‘i are in the luxury segment, and the island is not a budget-conscious destination by any stretch of the imagination. That said, there are some affordable ways to visit Lāna‘i – they are just limited.
Below are all the lodging options available.
The Hotel Lāna‘i is the oldest hotel on Lāna‘i, built in 1923 but recently revamped and upgraded (it was closed for 7 months in 2018 for renovations). The property is immersed in a small forest of Cook Island pines and evokes its former plantation days with its exterior design. The renovated interior features modern wood paneling, light-colored accents, and a refined, historical feel.
Located in Lāna‘i City, the Hotel Lāna‘i puts you within walking distance of small shops, restaurants, and tour operators, making it a convenient spot for those looking to take several different kinds of day trips throughout their stay. Though it is not located on or near the beach, its surroundings of tall trees and rolling hills provide a very peaceful experience.
Sensei Lāna‘i, A Four Seasons Resort
Located in the hills above Lāna‘i City, the adults-only Sensei Lāna‘i is just a mile up the road from the Hotel Lāna‘i. It focuses exclusively on personalized wellness retreats and offers tailored programs to each individual guest.
To create the experience, Four Seasons partnered with Sensei, the well-being company founded by island-owner Larry Ellison, Guests receive a private wellness consultation upon arrival to construct a program for their stay that includes fitness workouts (yoga, meditation), nutrition goals, spa treatments (massages, soaks, skin treatments), activities (hikes, horseback rides), and mental exercises (journaling). For a better idea of how this plays out day-to-day, check out this sample itinerary.
Rates for the Sensei Lāna‘i start at about $650 per night and can be more than a thousand dollars a night with add-on packaging. All reservations include airfare from Honolulu to Lāna‘i as well as airport transfers. Note that this property, like the Hotel Lāna‘i, is not located near the beach.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai
The crown jewel of the island, the Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i, is located at Hulopo‘e Beach. It is the only accommodation on the island (other than the campground, see below) that is located at sea level. That, in itself, makes it a pretty special place. Guests are just moments away from a white sand beach and Manele-Hulopo‘e Marine Life Conservation District, one of the best places on the island for snorkeling.
But, obviously, the Four Seasons has more in store than just ocean access. The property boasts five-star service, stunning sea cliffs, a Jack Nicklaus-signature golf course, and world-class dining (see below).
Rates start at about $800 a night for a garden-view room and are routinely more than a thousand for ocean view. Roundtrip airfare from Honolulu and airport transfers are included.
Bed and Breakfasts/Vacation Rentals/Campgrounds
Dreams Come True Bed & Breakfast outside of Lāna‘i City currently sells its rooms for around $200 per night (price varies based on time of year) and offers a serene stay at an old plantation house, surrounded by tall Cook pines and fruit trees. Be sure to inquire about breakfast when booking. They have served it in the past, but currently the website informs that they do not serve breakfast.
There are vacation rentals on Lāna‘i through sites like Airbnb that hover around $200 a night, but these options are limited.
There is one campground on Lāna‘i at Hulopo‘e Beach Park. It’s a deal compared to the rates at the Four Seasons, but it’s hardly a budget-friendly affair. A request for reservation must be submitted, and sites are $80 per night for up to four people.
Things to Do
Here’s the rundown of what there is to see and do on Lāna‘i:
There is no shortage of beaches on Lāna‘i, but not all are easily accessed – many are reached only by an adventurous descent on a dirt road in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Some may find that idea exciting; others daunting. Check with your concierge regarding road conditions and directions before you go. Below are some of our favorite beaches on Lanai:
Hulopoʻe Beach Park: Located on the south side of the island, Hulopo‘e is accessed by a paved road and is without question the most well-rounded recreation area on the island. Home of the Manele-Hulopo‘e Marine Life Conservation District, there are wonderful opportunities here for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, barbecuing, and sunbathing. There are also walking paths that surround the bay, offering beautiful vantage points of the rocky coastline (such as Puu Pehe, see below).
Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach): The north shore of Lāna‘i is known for its rough seas, and once you arrive at Shipwreck Beach, you will see very clearly how it got its name: A rusted, ghostly, 1940s-era oil tanker sits wrecked and beached atop the coral reef. But this is only one of many ships to rest here – at least a dozen in total have sank along this 6-mile beach. Though it is often too rough to swim or snorkel, the beach is wonderful for walking and photography.
Polihua Beach: If you’re looking for somewhere out of the way to grab your own slice of sand and sunbathe, Polihua is where you want to head. It’s a longer journey than the previous two – about an hour via four-wheel drive Jeep – but the combination of adventure and seclusion make it worth the journey. If you aren’t comfortable driving the dirt roads, hire a tour guide to take you there.
Just 30 of Lāna‘i’s 400 miles of road are paved, and Jeep rentals are at the heart of Lāna‘i’s soft adventure vibes, allowing access to high plateaus and otherwise inaccessible coastlines. Take in the sweeping views of Maui and Moloka‘i from the elevated perch of North Lāna‘i, or follow roads like the Keomuku Highway and the Ka‘ena Trail to check out some remote beaches. For visitors to Lāna‘i, this is all in a day’s fun.
There are many Jeep rental centers in Lāna‘i City, and as you would expect, they compete mostly on price. As this is one of the most sought-after experiences on Lāna‘i, the price is not cheap, typically at least $150 per day (or likely more). Compare prices from Dollar, Lanai Cheap Jeeps, Lanai Car Rental, and others.
There are a number of enjoyable hikes and walks to experience on Lāna‘i. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Pu‘u Pehe: Located near Hulopo‘e Beach, this iconic and photogenic rock structure is also known as “Sweatheart Rock.” It gets its name from a cultural tale and is reached by an easy stroll along a red-colored cliffside. Anyone visiting Hulopo‘e Beach should take the short stroll to check it out.
- Kapihaa Interpretive/Fisherman’s Trail: This rocky, seaside 1.5-mile trail starts near the golf clubhouse at the Four Seasons Lāna‘i and winds its way along the coast, offering breathtaking views of the ocean. The path retraces the history of the Kapiha‘ā Village, with various historical markers along the way.
- Koloiki Ridge Trail: This intermediate, 5-mile out-and-back trail starts behind the Sensei Lāna‘i and climbs into the forests behind Lāna‘i City, offering a wonderful view of Moloka‘i from the top.
- Lāna’i Culture & Heritage Center: This community museum in Lāna‘i City offers educational and interpretive exhibits/programming related to Lāna‘i’s history and cultural heritage. It is recommended to stop here for an overview before visiting any specific sites around the island.
- Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods): Featuring rock formations, boulders, and spires, this wahi pana (storied place) carries a Hawaiian legend and offers a visitors a unique, “lunar” landscape.
- Kahekili’s Leap: This rock ledge on the south shore is a famous cliff jumping location, where Hawaiian warriors once proved their bravery by leaping into the ocean below. Don’t worry – a visit to this scenic location doesn’t require a jump, and a tour guide will greatly increase the experience by providing cultural context.
- Kaunolu Village: Kahekili’s Leap is part of a larger area, known as the remains of the Kaunolu Village. It was once a favorite fishing spot of King Kamehameha, and today there are the remains of a heiau and some petroglyphs. In total, it is considered the “largest surviving ruins of a prehistoric Hawaiian village,” and it was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1962 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
The best place to snorkel on Lāna‘i is at Hulopo‘e Beach, thanks to its relatively calm waters and the Manele-Hulopo‘e Marine Life Conservation District that sits just offshore. While many beaches, like Shipwreck Beach, seem prime for snorkeling, it is strongly discouraged due to strong currents and rough conditions.
There are 13 dive sites on Lāna‘i in total, but the premier dive spot is a place called the Lāna‘i Cathedrals – underwater lava tubes that are big enough to swim through.
For guests on Lāna‘i, Ocean Sports Lāna‘i is the only dive shop to book through. Those staying on Maui can take a day-trip over to experience the cathedrals or one of Lāna‘i’s other sites. Inquire with local Maui dive shops to see what kind of outings they offer.
There two golf courses on Lāna‘i: The 18-hole Manele Golf Course at the Four Seasons, and the 9-hole Cavendish Public Golf Course in Lāna‘i City. The latter features oceanside hotels and a full-service golf center, while the latter is more a local’s course, located in foothills of Lāna‘i City.
Food and Drink
The restaurant scene on Lāna‘i breaks down into two groups: Expensive, upscale dining options at the hotels and basic, low-key local joints in Lāna‘i City.
Upscale dining options:
- Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i: There are four restaurants on site at the Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i, and all are open to non-guests: One Forty (American steakhouse/Hawaiian seafood), Nobu Lāna‘i (Japanese/sushi), Malibu Farm (poolside, organic, locally-sourced dishes), and The Break (coffee and sandwiches).
- Sensei Lanai: Like its Four Season counterpart, Sensei also offers a Nobu dining experience.
- Hotel Lanai: The Lāna‘i City Grille is located inside the Hotel Lāna‘i and was renovated along with the hotel in 2018. It is open to the public/non-guests and offers a casual menu of sandwiches, burgers, and local specialties, like venison loco moco and mahi mahi.
More low-key/basic dining options in Lanai City
There are a handful of local eateries in the downtown square of Lāna‘i City:
- Nō Ka ʻOi Grindz Lānaʻi: If you’re looking for a local plate lunch, this is the place to go.
- Pele’s Other Garden Bistro: A New York-style deli by day, and an Italian Bistro by night.
- Blue Ginger Café: This local-style café serves all the house favorites: Saimin, katsu, loco mocos, local fish, and chicken teriyaki plates, among others.
A Day-trip to Lānaʻi
Because of the high cost of spending the night on Lāna‘i, many people choose to make a day trip of it by taking the ferry from Lāhainā (Maui). Here’s what you need to know.
Take the Ferry From Lāhainā
The Maui-Lāna‘i Passenger Ferry departs from Lāhainā. It takes about an hour to reach Manele Harbor in Lāna‘i. There are several departure times from each location and roundtrip tickets costs $60 for adults and $40 for children.
Stay in Manele
Upon landing at Manele, there are many options right at your fingertips, and many day-trippers never leave the area. You can swim, kayak, or snorkel in the Manele-Hulopo‘e Marine Life Conservation District; hang out at Hulopo‘e Beach Park; walk the path to Pu‘u Pehe, play a round of golf at the Manele Golf Course, or have lunch at Malibu Farm at the Four Seasons.
Spending the day in Manele is a rewarding and convenient option, but you can also choose to explore farther if you want.
Take a taxi up to Lāna‘i City (you will most likely have to call ahead to arrange one) or take the shuttle run by the Four Seasons. You must contact the hotel to arrange the shuttle and purchase a day pass.
Once in Lāna‘i City, you can walk around there, explore, and visit some of the downtown attractions (cultural center, restaurants, public parks, etc). You could also rent a car or Jeep, or jump on an organized tour. We recommend making prior arrangements and reservations to ensure availability.
Another way to visit Lāna‘i on a day trip is as part of a snorkel tour. Some Maui tour companies, such as the Pacific Whale Foundation, offer snorkel excursions to the Manele-Hulopo‘e Marine Life Conservation District.