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Why Go to Lanai

When billionaires are fighting over something, you know it's special. That's the case with Hawaii's most exclusive island, Lanai. Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, has been trying to lay his hands on some Lanai real estate for some time. Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, took control of 97 percent of Lanai in 2012. But don't let this clash of titans stop you from visiting.

Here is where Mother Nature puts on quite a show, providing remote beaches, otherworldly rock formations and colorful underwater reefs. You'll probably need an off-roading vehicle and a taste for adventure to reach them  top sights like Shipwreck Beach and the Munro Trail are literally off the beaten (or paved) paths. Cool down from exploring the terrain at one of the area's posh hotels where you can expect to luxuriate in exceptional cuisine, first-class service and upscale accommodations. Should you crave more activity, you can try your hand at deep sea fishing, horseback riding, lawn bowling and more. With all this, how can you resist the coveted charms of tiny Lanai?

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The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Lanai is ranked as:

Best of Lanai

Lanai Travel Tips

What You Need to Know

  • These ferries aren't magical, just expensive Daytrippers will most likely rely on the Maui-Lanai ferries that cost $30 each way. See the ferry company Expedition's website for more details.
  • Four-wheel drive is a necessity You'll need an off-roading vehicle to fully explore Lanai, since there are only 30 miles of paved road. Driving the Munro Trail is a traveler favorite.
  • It's drier than the other islands Lanai receives about 37 inches of precipitation annually  much less than the other Hawaiian islands. Expect to see eucalyptus trees and pine forests rather than lush jungle.

How to Save Money in Lanai

  • Take a daytrip from Maui If your budget won't allow you to spend your entire vacation on Lanai, consider making it a short daytrip instead. Ferries make five trips a day between Maui and Lanai.
  • Rent a Jeep for just a day A four-wheel-drive vehicle is the best way to reach some of Lanai's top attractions. Thanks to the island's small size, it's easy to see most of it natural wonders in just a day. You'll cut down on rental costs and have more time to relax at your resort if you limit your off-roading.
  • Travel during shoulder seasons Visiting Hawaii can be expensive no matter the time of year, but there are a few months between peak season travel that offer a sweet spot for budget-conscious travelers. If your dates are flexible, consider visiting in April, May, September or October.

What to Eat

Though it's the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lanai manages to provide a diverse range of culinary offerings. If you're on a budget and in search of a local haunt, head to Blue Ginger Café, which past visitors recommended for its burger, homemade bread and relaxed setting. Pele's Other Garden Deli is equally lauded for its sandwiches and pizzas. Coffee Works – one of the only coffee shops on the island – is another must-visit spot if you need a cup of joe and some souvenir coffee to take back to the mainland.

If you're in the mood to splurge, Lanai has you covered there too thanks its handful of high-end resort eateries. Lanai City Bar & Grille in the Hotel Lanai specializes in local dishes, including venison, and offers live music on the patio. Meanwhile, ONE FORTY offers a menu of wagyu beef and seasonal Hawaiian seafood inside its perch at the scenic Four Seasons Resort Lanai. This is also where you'll find Lanai's own Nobu, the acclaimed sushi restaurant with locations around the world. Rounding out Lanai's cache of formal dining establishments is Views, the lunch-only restaurant at the Manele Golf Course, known for its (no surprise) ocean views and Hawaiian small plates (called pupus).

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Getting Around Lanai

The best way to get around Lanai is by four-wheel-drive vehicle. This will allow you to safely explore Lanai's 400 miles of unpaved road, the bulk of which are off-road paths. Comparatively, there are only 30 miles of paved road on the island, meaning a rental car won't allow you to access some of Lanai's most popular natural wonders. Taxis, though expensive, are also available. Inter-island travel is available by ferry (to Maui) or plane (to Oahu, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island).

To reach Lanai, you'll likely connect through Honolulu or Maui since there are no direct flights from outside Hawaii to Lanai Airport (LNY). To get from the airport to your hotel, you can take a taxi. Check with your accommodations before arriving to see if they offer shuttle service.

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