Best Things To Do in Lanai
Visitors come to Lanai hoping for remote luxury. To best stir up the feeling of isolation, do some off-roading en route to the island's best natural wonders. On the northern coast, Polihua Beach and Shipwreck Beach offer secluded sands fit for romantics. And on the way there, they might stop at the Garden of the Gods, a bizarre natural rock garden with many local legends. On the south side, travelers savor their time on the sands of Hulopoe Bay and on the fairways at the Manele Golf Course. To complete your dream Hawaiian vacation, venture to the Munro Trail – the only place where you can see all six Hawaiian Islands at once.
Updated August 29, 2018
- #1View all PhotosfreeHulopoe Bay#1 in LanaiBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Hulopoe Bay is one of Lanai's most popular spots. Sunbathers like the wide stretch of sand, while snorkelers revel in the vibrant reefs filled with fish and native plant life. This is one of the few beaches on Lanai where swimming is safe, but only in the summer; the waves in the winter are too dangerous. If you're in Lanai during the winter months, a stop at Hulopoe Bay is still worthwhile as you can sometimes spot dolphins and humpback whales from the shore (they pass through the bay every winter).
Recent travelers recommend that you uncover the sea stars and hermit crabs in the bay's eastern side tide pools, and that you picnic in the shady areas behind the beach. If you get antsy sunbathing, lace up your hiking shoes and take a 15- to 20-minute walk along the cliffs just southeast of the tide pools to catch a glimpse of Puu Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock. According to Hawaiian legend, a grief-stricken warrior jumped from this 80-foot rock after learning of his wife's passing.
- #2View all Photos#2 in LanaiHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
When you think "Garden of the Gods," you expect lush vegetation – but not here. This barren site, also known as Keahiakawelo, hosts only strangely shaped boulders and dust. So why should you visit this apparent wasteland? First, the terrain's appearance is probably the closest you'll ever get to Mars. And second, at sunset, the orange light turns the rocks shades of fiery reds and bright purples. According to Hawaiian legend, the dry landscape occurred as a result of a challenge between two priests who were tasked with keeping a fire burning on their respective islands longer than the other. The winner would be bestowed with an abundance of vegetation. To keep up with his competitor, the Lanai priest used all of the existing vegetation to keep his fires burning, resulting in the parched land that exists today.
Recent visitors said the trek to Garden of the Gods is an adventurous drive, but worth it. Some reviewers suggested visiting after stopping at Polihua Beach since the two sites are within close proximity to one another. Travelers described the views as "surreal" and "amazing." What's more, on a clear day you'll be able to spot the islands of Molokai and Oahu.
- #3View all Photos#3 in LanaiSightseeing, ToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Humpback whales can be seen from all of the Hawaiian islands (the region's warm, shallow waters attract humpback whales), but the Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai is one of the world's best whale-watching destinations. You may be able to spot these majestic creatures from the shore if you plan your visit between December and May, but for the best views, you'll want to sign up for a tour.
Your hotel may offer a whale-watching excursion, but there are also several tour companies that depart from Maui. This will require you to take the ferry over to Maui, but according to past visitors, it's an experience you won't want to miss. Ultimate Whale Watch & Snorkel, Hawaii Ocean Rafting and Sail Trilogy all receive high marks from travelers. Tours, which typically depart from Lahaina Harbor in Maui, last around two hours. Prices vary by company, but you can expect to pay at least $50 per adult. Some tour boats also come equipped with a hydrophone, which allows guests to hear the whales underwater.
- #4View all Photos#4 in LanaiGolf, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDGolf, RecreationTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The famous Jack Nicklaus designed the Manele Golf Course, and its position along Lanai's southern coast impresses golfers with its difficulty and architecture. The course boasts lush vegetation, ocean cliffs, seaside fairways and the occasional whale sighting (especially during the winter when whales are passing through the bay).
Past visitors raved about the excellent service and "breathtaking" views at the Manele Golf Course and suggested travelers have a meal at the Views restaurant after playing a round.
- #5View all PhotosfreeMunro Trail#5 in LanaiNatural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Munro Trail is a circuitous, 12.8-mile path that offers the only chance to see all six Hawaiian islands at once – on a very clear day that is. The evolving forest, canyon and ocean views that travelers can marvel at are unforgettable. When you reach the top, you'll see Lanai's highest peak, Lanaihale (House of Lanai), which sits at 3,370 feet.
Many Lanai visitors claim that traversing the trail was the best part of their vacation. And note that though it's possible to hike and bike the path, most people use a Jeep.
- #6View all PhotosfreePolihua Beach#6 in LanaiBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
About a 30-minute drive from the Garden of the Gods on the island's northern coast, Polihua Beach attracts visitors seeking a romantic setting for sunbathing or beachcombing. This remote 2-mile stretch of sand used to be the nesting ground of sea turtles. Now, sightings of these endangered creatures are infrequent. In fact, many recent travelers report being the only ones here – human or animal. But if you come between December and April, you'll likely spot migrating humpback whales from the shore.
Several recent travelers reported being the only visitors at the beach, attributing the lack of crowds to the difficult (and bumpy) drive that's required to reach the shoreline. However, even with the turbulent journey, many still recommended making a stop here after Garden of the Gods thanks to the serene atmosphere and incredible views and clear water.
- #7View all PhotosfreeShipwreck Beach#7 in LanaiBeaches, Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Getting to Shipwreck Beach (also known as Kaiolohia) is no walk in the park. But those who reach this fascinating destination on the island's northeastern coast receive quite the photo-op. Here, you'll spot two World War II ships that were intentionally grounded. Most come to see the YOGN-42, a fuel barge that's visible off the shore of Kaiolohia Bay. On the western end of Awalua Bay, there's another wreck, the YO-21 oiler that sits 6 miles away.
Though recent visitors warned this beach is not for swimming or sunbathing, they still recommend making the trek for the hike and views alone. However, they also caution that you'll see piles of trash debris that have washed ashore. If you want to help out the ecosystem here, consider bringing a trash bag to aid in the cleanup. Also, don't attempt to drive on the sand if you're not in a four-wheel-drive vehicle as you will get stuck and need to be towed.
- #8View all Photos#8 in LanaiMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Located in Lanai City, the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center is housed in the old Dole Administration Building. Small exhibits trace the island's history from its volcanic rise to prehistoric times and from native occupation to the closing of the Dole pineapple plantation.
Many visitors said this should be your first stop before exploring the island as it provides a wealth of context for understanding the city's cultural and geological identity. Reviewers noted that because of its small size, you can tour the center in about 45 minutes to an hour. They also praised the friendly, passionate staff and their commitment to preserving the island's history.
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