By conventional definitions, there’s very little to do on Lana‘i. And therein lies its appeal. That said, you can rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle and explore terrain that includes undulating roads lined with Cook pines like solders at attention. Or parched patches that resemble Greek islands or mist-shrouded mountain forests. How about a rocky desert landscape straight out of The Flintstones? You can play golf on a world-class course, ride horseback, snorkel in a marine preserve, or hike and mountain bike remote trails.
You may also indulge your inner Indiana Jones by exploring a sandy track with an abandoned church and an enormous coral block ruin in a kiawe thicket. Add to this a shipwreck, beaches without another soul and petroglyphs. You get the idea
Or you can while away your days and nights in the unparalleled luxury of the Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i at Manele Bay. The other alternative is the small Hotel Lana‘i and a very few vacation rentals.
Some guests venture away from their lodgings for a day trip around the island, while others are just too dazzled to get very far beyond the seaside golf course, the secluded hotel pools or nearby Hulopo‘e Bay. The choice is yours; don’t feel guilty.
Most visitors come for a few nights to celebrate a special occasion at the resort. Well-to-do kama‘aina and mainlanders may fly in for a retreat. It’s also popular for snorkel or diving day trips or a golf excursion from nearby Maui.
Though the island changes from pineapple plantation to luxury resort are momentous, it still retains its pristine charm. Residents are friendly, of generous spirit, and hospitable, waving from their cars to strolling visitors.
Committed to maintaining its Hawaiian character, Lana‘i remains quiet, its unconventional beauty the perfect recipe for solitude seekers.
As in plantation days, there are still just 30 miles of paved road, and one town, Lana‘i City, where everyone lives. There are no stoplights and few cars, much less a chain supermarket or a shopping center. Slip into Lana‘i’s laid-back way of life to find a new rhythm.
Because tourism here is driven by the Four Seasons Resort, all information is subject to change. Many of the resort programs and the Manele Bay Golf Course are open to day visitors, but be sure to check in advance. Though not officially announced, the former Lodge at Ko’ele at the edge of Lana‘i City is destined to become a Four Seasons destination spa.
Long branded as a “private island,” Lana‘i is now owned by Oracle co-founder and chairman Larry Ellison. His aim is to make this a fully sustainable island with environmentally sound tourism practices.
Thanks to Kim Grant for getting this started with this introduction.
Adventuring Lana‘i … Indulge your inner Indiana Jones
How to Best Experience Lana‘i in 24 Hours … Maui’s most popular day trip
Lana‘i for First-Timers … Hiking, horseback riding, golfing, lazing around … do everything or nothing here
Let’s Go Explore Lana‘i City, the Island’s Living Room … Stroll shops, galleries, cafes and a restaurant and duck into the cultural center
Anytime that it’s pleasant to be on Maui, which is about 365 days a year. It’s just 8 miles across the ‘Au‘au Channel from Lahaina to Lana‘i’s Manele Bay Harbor.
And don’t forget time to veg out in one of the secluded lounging areas around the Manele Bay pool. Or a day of spa treatments. Or snorkeling and walking Hulopo‘e Bay.
Avid golfers will want a day or more on the challenging course. Golfers can also come for a day trip from Maui. Expeditions Ferry will book packages.
One day or even two should be set aside for some island exploring by rental 4-wheel drive or by booking a tour. The Four Seasons Resort also offers numerous activities from an off-road driving adventure to horseback riding, clay pigeon shooting or hiking.
It takes a good part of each day to get to and from Lana‘i, whether you come from Honolulu by plane or from Lahaina by Expeditions Ferry, so consider this when planning.
Many visitors do come for just one day, to play golf or on one of the packages offered by Expeditions Ferry. Trilogy offers snorkeling trips from Maui that may include some island exploring.
Like Maui, an all-season destination. Holiday times and summer tend to be the most expensive, while slower periods in late winter and fall may be a little less. Room rates do not vary a lot.
Pacific semi-tropical. The average high and low temperatures are almost unbelievable. In Lana‘i City, summer temperatures range from the high 70s during the day to low 70s overnight. Add about 10 degrees to that at sea level Manele Bay. Water temperature vary about winter-to-summer as Lana‘i City.
Overnight you may need a sweater when it gets into the low 60s.
Most rain falls in December and January. Any time of the year, clouds tend to gather in the afternoon over the higher elevations so may be rain showers in Lana‘i City or on the Munro Trail.
But Lana‘i has less rainfall than Maui. Some experts say it’s because the island lies in Maui’s rain shadow. The prevailing tradewinds tend to lose their moisture encountering Haleakala, so they drop less rain when they reach Lana‘i.
Overall, this is a dream climate
Dole Park is Lana‘s living room and so most festivals take place here.
July: The Pineapple Festival takes place the first weekend in July. Expect pineapple treats, Hawaiian music and dance, crafts and games. Fireworks end the festivities.
September or early October: The Aloha Festival joins the other state-wide festivals. Entertainment is a big part of this festival.
November: Late in the month a tree-lighting ceremonies and festivities with crafts, food and Santa.
The Lana‘i Community Association sponsors much of the activity at Dole Park.
Lana‘i is located in the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone (HAST or UTC-10). To check the local time in Hawaii, click here.
Note that Hawai‘i does not observe Daylight Savings Time (DST), unlike most of the rest of the U.S.A. It is three hours earlier than the West Coast from late March through early November, and two hours the rest of the year.
Simple. Some shorts, tee-shirts and swimming suit and coverup. If you’re staying at the Four Seasons Resort, something a little spiffier for the evening — but not too dressy. Something hiking worthy for exploring or closed toes for horseback riding.
Essential are a hat and sunscreen. Anywhere in Hawai‘i the sun can be brutal. You’ll especially want to be protected at Garden of the Gods or at Polihua Beach.
Of course, aloha shirts and flip-flops.
Lana‘i is expensive.
The Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i rack rates start at about $1,000 per night, so figure on about $1,500 per day for two people. If you sign up for golf or other pricey activities, it will run more. The resort has about 217 rooms and suites.
Hotel Lana‘i’ rooms run a little under $200, but there only are 11. A few vacation rentals come and go, but don’t count on them.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $10 to $25 per person
$$$ => Tickets over $25 per person
$ => Rooms less than $150 for a double room
$$ => Rooms $150 to $300 for a double room
$$$ => Rooms over $300 for a double room
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $15 to $30 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => Over $30 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $10 to $50 per person
$$$ => Tickets over $50 per person
Ferry: The most common way to get to Lana‘i is by Expeditions Ferry from Lahaina. Round-trip fare: $60.
Air service: Hawaiian Airlines connects to Honolulu. . If you fly from Maui to Lana‘i, you will have to go via Honolulu. Round trip fare: about $200
Mokulele offers charter service from Maui to Lana‘i non-stop, but seats are extremely rare.
Car rental: Lana‘i has only 30 miles of paved roads, so you’ll want a Jeep or 4-wheel drive. Rates: about $100 per day.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel InsuranceAssociation.
Lana‘i City has two banks: Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank.
The Four Seasons at Manele Bay has an ATM.
Some Lana‘i City cafes accept cash only.
Getting to Lana‘i you have two choices: Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu or Expeditions Ferry from Lahaina, Maui.
Remember three things for getting around on Lana‘i:
Hawaiian Airlines serves Lana‘i from Honolulu with several daily flights. For air service from Maui or any other Hawaiian Island, you’ll have to fly through Honolulu.
Expeditions Ferry is the common connection to the island from Maui with several departures each day.
The Four Seasons Resort runs shuttles anywhere you need to go, and has a rental fleet of 4-wheel drive vehicles for guests.
Dollar Car Rental at Lana‘i City rents vans and Jeep Wranglers. They offer advice on touring the island’s unpaved roads, at times tracks. They know when it’s passable, and when it’s not.
Neal Rabaca Limousine Service offers any kind of transportation needed — pickups from the ferry or airport, taxi service between Manele Bay and Lana‘i and a full-blown day-long island adventure. (808) 559-0230.
Four Seasons Resort has van shuttles from the ferry landing at Manele Bay Harbor, ($22) or to Lana‘i Airport ($44). The hotel runs an hourly free shuttle to Lana‘i City.
Manele Bay Harbor, Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and Lana‘i City.
Until recently, Lana‘i was a destination only for trailblazers and hunters. The small island, known in the 1900s primarily for its pineapples and exotic game, had been shunned by visitors and settlers alike since Polynesians settled Hawai‘i.
Old Hawaiian legends identify Lana‘i as cursed, a place of evil spirits. The original trailblazer was Kaulula‘au, exiled here by his father, a Maui king, for mischievous behavior. He tricked the demons into drowning themselves and made the island potentially inhabitable, but few people took the opportunity. Even would-be conquerors were repelled. When a chief from the Big Island invaded in 1778 to expand his domain, the army quickly exhausted the scarce food supply and began eating wild roots. After the diet agitated their systems, they renamed the island Lana‘i Kamokuhi (“land of the loose bowels”). It’s not been a history tailored to tourism.
Nonetheless, estimates place Lana‘i’s population at about 6,000 at the time of contact with Europeans. Missionaries from Maui established four schools among the Hawaiians starting in 1825,.
Mormons were the first non-Pacific people to really settle on Lana‘i. They established a ranch at Palawai Basin near present-day Lana‘i City.. Eventually their leader, Walter Gibson, had bought most of the island from the Hawaiians who controlled it. This is how Lana‘i became largely privately owned, which remains true today.
Gibson’s descendants briefly operated a sugar plantation and mill at Keomoku, where you can still see the ghostly ruins of a church and locomotive. It opened in 1899 and went bankrupt in 1901 when the irrigation water became brackish. The Hawaiians said that it was because they had built over a heiau, or temple. By this time the Hawaiian population had also dropped to about 600.
The island and ranch that still operated went through a series of owners, including the Baldwin family from Maui. Fortunately the ranch had an enlightened manager, George Munro. He initiated conservation practices, such as planting the Norfolk and Cook pines seen on the uplands today. The upland mists condense on their needles and drop to the ground.
By 1922, the big change came. James Dole, founder of Hawai‘i’s pineapple industry, bought most of the island for $1.1 million and established the plantation that totally dominated the economy. The first pineapples were shipped in 1926. Lana‘i, exclusively devoted to pineapples, was the world’s largest producer of pineapples. Dole also constructed the little Hotel Lanai‘ and Lana‘i City, the island’s only town (where all services are located), to house Filipino plantation workers.
Castle & Cooke, a primary shareholder in the Dole Corporation, kept the focus on pineapples until the mid-1980s, when rising worker wages precluded profitability. That’s when David Murdock, the chairman of Castle & Cooke, decided that tourism would be the island’s savior and purchased the island for $675 million. The last pineapples were picked and shipped in 1992. Retrained in the service sector, most of the island’s residents now worked for the Lana‘i Company, the non-agricultural subsidiary of Castle & Cooke.
The island’s first cautious step into tourism back in 1990 and 1991 was modest in many respects but not in aspiration. Almost overnight, Lana‘i was transformed. Murdock built two resort hotels — The Lodge at Ko‘ele and the Manele Bay Hotel. A designer golf course flanked each one, and Lana‘i became a golf destination.
About the time that Lana‘i traded pineapple for tourists, it also adopted the moniker Hawai‘i’s Private Island. It’s not surprising, then, that gazillionaire Bill Gates chose to get married on Lana‘i in 1993. Gates booked all the rooms at the Lodge at Ko‘ele and Manele Bay Hotel (and the little Hotel Lana‘i), rented all the island’s rental cars, and chartered all the nearby boats and planes that otherwise could have brought prying cameras to the island during the special event.
But paradise can always get better. Murdock, who claimed to be losing money on the Lana‘i venture, sold the island and company to Oracle founder Larry Ellison in 2012. The selling prices ranges from $300 to $500 million, depending on who’s reporting it. Ellison owns 87,000 of the island’s 90,000 acres. Some residents own their own homes, and a few businesses own their property.
Ellison’s hopes to establish Lana‘i as an “island community driven by economic diversity, powered by renewable energy, and marked by rich cultural and natural resources that define our island,” according to the Pulama Lana‘i vision statement. He established Pulama Lana‘i to run the island.
He started with the hotels. He closed the Lodge at Koele and shut down its golf course. He transformed the Manele Bay Hotel into a stunning but understated Pacific manor set in a jungle. The hotel reopened in spring 2016. Though plans aren’t officially announced, the Lodge is slated to become a destination spa and wellness center.
He has increased employment and the population grew to 3,200. Though his plans for a desalination plant have stalled, the company has a installed solar energy panels that supply about 10 percent of island energy. the company has started gardens that supply food for restaurants.
Residents enumerate the changes. He built an Olympic-sized swimming pool and football field for them, and renovated the closed movie theater into a state-of-the-art facility. You seem to hear the collective breath being let out.
–Thanks to Kim Grant for much of this backstory.
The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren, was filmed on Lana‘i.