The smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lanai offers big enticements to its visitors. From the stunning views atop the pine-lined Munro Trail to watching the acrobatic spinner dolphins from romantic Hulopoe Bay, Lanai is a special place where you’re sure to find serenity, adventure and intimacy. If you want to get away from it all, get away to Lanai.
You won’t find a single traffic light here and that’s exactly how the people of Lanai like it. Only nine miles from Maui yet a world away, Lanai can feel like two places. The first is found in luxurious resorts where visitors can indulge in world-class amenities and championship-level golf at the Manele Golf Course. The other is found bouncing along the island’s rugged back-roads in a 4-wheel drive exploring off the beaten path treasures like Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods) and Polihua Beach. In fact, only 29 miles of Lanai’s roads are paved.
In 2012 Oracle founder, Larry Ellison bought 97% the island of Lanai
For Ellison, it seemed, Lanai was less like an investment than like a classic car, up on blocks in the middle of the Pacific, that he had become obsessed with restoring. He wants to transform it into a premier tourist destination and what he has called “the first economically viable, 100 percent green community”: an innovative, self-sufficient dreamscape of renewable energy, electric cars and sustainable agriculture.
Features & Attractions
Just three miles north of the airport, Lanai City was founded in the early 1900’s as a plantation town originally built around Lanai’s booming pineapple industry. It is located in Lanai’s central highlands and, at an elevation of 1,700 feet, is noticeably cooler than coastal areas of the island.
All the shops, restaurants and business of Lanai City are centered around Dole Park. This grassy spot is a popular place for locals to gather, meet and picnic. The towering pines lining the park provide just the right amount of shade on a sunny afternoon.
Lanai City is also a great place for unique shopping and inexpensive dining.
On the southeastern shores of Hawaii’s last unspoiled island. For more info: click here.
This Four Seasons property attracts beach lovers. Positioned along a beautiful stretch of Hulopoe Bay sand overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this resort offers breathtaking ocean views, manicured grounds and top-notch customer service. Dine at the incredible Nobu. Ramed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s cliff-side restaurant showcases authentic Japanese cuisine infused with local ingredients and Hawaiian cooking techniques.
Manele Golf Course – Four Seasons
Cliffside ocean carries. Sweeping vistas at every turn. Precise course conditioning.
All this came together to create a treasured gift to Hawaii golf on Christmas Day 1993, when designer Jack Nicklaus unveiled The Challenge at Manele. While perhaps more forgiving, Manele presents several severe elements of target golf, and the smart golfer must remain sharp and slice-free.
High above the shimmering waters of Hulopoe Bay, the Jack Nicklaus signature Manele Golf Course is Lanai’s premier 18-hole layout, with a reputation for excellence in design and playability.
Built on lava outcroppings, the course features three holes perched on cliffs, enlisting the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard. The five-tee concept challenges the best golfers – tee shots over natural gorges and ravines must be precise – and novice players will enjoy practising their swing amid spectacular vistas. Off the course, players of all ages and abilities can enjoy complimentary access to the driving range and putting green. Complimentary clubs, including sets for children, and balls are available for use.
Manele Golf Course boasts beautiful views of the Pacific. During the winter months, you can spot humpback whales right from the fairways.
Polihua Beach is the most secluded beach on Lanai, a romantic, off-the-beaten-path destination.
For visitors looking for an off-the-beaten-path getaway, Lanai offers the secluded sands of Polihua Beach. About an hour from Lanai City and about a half-hour past Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), Polihua is a 2-mile stretch of beach across the channel from Molokai. Hawaii’s green sea turtles (honu) have been known to frequent this shoreline and humpback whales can be spotted from here during the winter months. Please note that if you do encounter endangered turtles do not touch or disturb them.
The current here is incredibly strong so swimming is not advised and is extremely discouraged. However, visitors will find this remote area a great place to beachcomb and sunbathe. It’s not out of the ordinary to find yourselves alone along Polihua’s long, uninhabited stretches of sand. Polihua Beach can only be accessed by 4-wheel drive. Be sure to fill your gas tank and ask your concierge for clear directions.
Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)
Legend says a heartbroken warrior jumped from the 80-foot summit of Puu Pehe overcome with grief after his wife’s passing. A trail from Hulopoe Beach leads you to the Puu Pehe overlook.
To get to Puu Pehe you can take a short hike from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai southeast past Hulopoe Beach and the rocky tide pools. Hike up the path along the rocky cliffs for about 15-20 minutes and you’ll soon overlook this Lanai landmark. Sunsets here can be especially romantic with dramatic views of Hulopoe Bay. You may even spot the spinner dolphins that frequent these waters perched atop this scenic lookout.
Keahiakawelo (Garden Of The Gods)
Keahiakawelo, also known as Garden of the Gods, is an otherworldly rock garden at the end of rocky Polihua Road.
According to Hawaiian lore, this windswept landscape is the result of a contest between two kahuna (priests) from Lanai and Molokai. Each was challenged to keep a fire burning on their respective island longer than the other, and the winner’s island would be rewarded with great abundance. The Lanai kahuna, Kawelo, used every piece of vegetation in Keahiakawelo to keep his fire burning, which is why this area is so barren today.
The rock towers, spires, and formations formed by centuries of erosion are at their most enchanting at dusk. The setting sun casts a warm orange glow on the rocks illuminating them in brilliant reds and purples. And on a clear day, visitors can see the islands of Molokai and Oahu from these high elevations. Visitors should be aware that Polihua Road is unpaved and is only accessible via 4-wheel drive vehicle. The removal or stacking of rocks is kapu (forbidden).
Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach)
4-wheel drive about a half-hour north from Lanai City and you’ll discover Kaiolohia, also known as Shipwreck Beach. This windy, 8-mile stretch of beach has wrecked numerous ships along its shallow, rocky channel. In fact, the hull of a ghostly oil tanker from the 1940s is still beached on Kaiolohia Bay’s coral reef, its rusted hull giving the beach a surreal sense of wonder.
With excellent views of Molokai and Maui, this is a great area for beachcombing and exploring, but swimming is not advised. Beyond the beach, about 200 yards up a trail past the Shipwreck Beach sign are the Kukui Point petroglyphs, marked by reddish-brown boulders.
A 4-wheel drive is required. Visitors should be careful not to get their vehicles stuck in the sand. Once you reach the sand at sea level and the road opens up, roughly 30 minutes from departing the Lanai City, park and walk the rest of the way to the beach. Consult your concierge for details.
Fronting the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, this protected bay is home to incredible tide pools and is a great place to view dolphins.
Most of the year, this protected bay fronting the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Lanai is the best spot on the island for snorkeling and swimming. In the winter months, swimmers should avoid rough conditions. Open to the public, Hulopoe Beach Park also has a great beach park with picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms and showers.
One of the highlights of Hulopoe Bay is its large tide pools located at the eastern side of the bay. Carved out of volcanic rock, these tide pools are well protected, keeping the waters calm for exploring. Tide pools are created when rocky shores are covered and then exposed by the fluctuating tide. Small organisms adapt to this changing landscape, and many hermit crabs, sea stars, opihi (limpet) and small fish dwell here.
As a protected site, rich with marine life, visitors are asked to leave every stone and shell in its place. This helps preserve the bay for Hawaii’s colorful, native fish and sea life. Acrobatic spinner dolphins can often be seen in Hulopoe Bay, while the winter months bring visits from humpback whales.
The rustic Munro Trail begins just north of Lanai City, past the stables of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele. Named for George Munro, the naturalist from New Zealand who arrived in 1890, this 12.8 mile, one-lane dirt road offers sweeping vistas amongst the majestic Cook pine trees introduced by Munro himself.
The trail offers spectacular views and the 1,600-foot elevation takes you through a rain forest filled with ohia lehua, ironwood, eucalyptus and pine trees. Only 2.5 miles into the trail you’ll find a scenic lookout. You’ll discover stunning canyon views of Maunalei gulch as well as neighboring islands of Maui, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Hawaii’s Big Island and Oahu along the way. The trail, which can also be biked or hiked, also takes you to the top of Lanaihale (House of Lanai), Lanai’s highest peak at 3,370 feet.