How to Best Experience Lana‘i in 24 Hours

Photo by Four Seasons Resort Lanai

Maui's most popular day trip

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Lana‘i in 24 hours? No problem. The luggage bins on the Lahaina-to-Lana‘i ferry hold a lot more than suitcases. You’ll always find golf clubs since enthusiasts itch to play the Manele Bay Course. And there’s snorkel gear, hiking boots, picnic lunches, packed crossbows and shopping bags.

The most unusual day-trip luggage I’ve seen was an ice chest with a magnificent pair of mouflon sheep horns strapped to its cover. A blood-stained cloth wrapped their base. The proud hunter grinned beside his trophy.

Golfers, hunters, snorkelers, target shooters, hikers, explorers and just plain tourists come to Lana‘i for a day trip. Since rooms on the island are limited and largely expensive, it’s the most feasible way to see Lana‘i. You can do almost anything on a day-trip that you’d do overnight. You just have to limit choices from a lengthy menu of activities.

Expeditions Ferry provides your transportation to Lana‘i. It also offers packages from a lengthy activity menu. Be aware that you must book activities at least two days in advance. A few clicks with one booking can fill the day.

Lana‘i in 24 Hours: Golf

The most popular reason for a Lana‘i day-trip is a round at Manele Bay Golf Course. The Jack Nicklaus-designed facility boasts jaw-dropping cliff-side holes and favors long hitters. Beware the 12th hole where you’ll have to heft the ball 200 yards across an ocean inlet.

Hulopo‘e Bay

Long before the stunning Four Seasons Resort Lanai opened more than two decades ago, people came to Lana‘i for a day of snorkeling or  lolling on Hulopo‘e Bay. If you’re coming on your own, you’ll need to make the short but sweaty walk from the ferry dock at Manele Bay. But the beautiful beach offers showers, picnic tables and plenty of shade. If  you want to be pampered, visit the Four Seasons Resort and have lunch at Malibu Farm. It sits on a terrace overlooking the whole bay.

Explore town, explore whole island

If you want to just poke around the plantation town, arrange with Rabaca Limousine Services for transport to Lana‘i City. You can easily see the town in half a day and then spent the other half on the beach at Hulopo‘e Bay or hiking the Munro Trail. Instead of town, you may want to explore farther. The red dusty roads lead along the arid island spine to Polihua Beach, or down to Shipwreck Beach,. You can rent a 4-wheel drive or book with Rabaca.

Lana‘i in 24 Hours: Skeet shooting and archery

You can play Annie Oakley at the 14-station clay shooting range just outside Lana‘i City. Clay targets are launched to simulate flight patterns of duck, pheasant, doves and even running rabbit patterns. Beginners can start with a five-station course. At the eight-station archery range, participants set sight on 3-D-animal targets, such as turkey, deer and even a T-rex.

Lana‘i in 24 Hours: Horseback riding

Early in the 20th century, a cattle ranch was headquartered at Koele, just outside of Lana‘ City. You can still ride a horse out of Koele stables. The gently rolling countryside alternates between ironwood thickets and open sections. A spectacular view over the ocean and Moloka‘i unfolds from some areas. Rides are offered for a range of experience and run one to three hours.

Guided Polaris UTV (utility terrain vehicle) tours

If you don’t like to get muddy, this isn’t for you. Most people return with the Polaris UTV buggy and themselves spattered with dirt. The reward will be exploring Lana‘i’s backcountry. One popular area is around the open Palawai Basin and the surrounding ironwood forests.  But the experience isn’t just for wannabe motor cross aces. Some tours take in a heiau (temple) site on a mountain top. Others visit a cultural area where Hawaiians planted taro and practiced dryland farming.

Guides know Lana‘i and will share stories of its human and natural history, as well as talk about environmental efforts to preserve the land and restore native vegetation.

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Underwater Lana‘i

A magical way to arrive at Lana‘i is by sailing catamaran. Trilogy, the popular Maui snorkel service, is the only company to have permission to bring groups directly to Hulopo‘e Bay. They have snorkel equipment, and Snuba for those who want to stay down longer. And beach volleyball for landlubbers.

A picnic with a kiawe wood barbecue at the Manele Bay Pavilion usually ends the time on Lana‘i. Most days the crew will unfurl the beautiful sails for a wind-powered ride back.

Some Maui dive companies offer Lana‘i dive trips, but you’ll only see the underwater world and the cliffs along the shore.

Lana‘i in 24 Hours: Hunting

You’ll have to plan long in advance for this and procure a Hawai‘i hunting license. Specific weekends are given to hunting Axis deer or mouflon sheep, by bow and arrow, rifle or shotgun. These tend to be in the spring. A good source of information is the Lana‘i game management office (808) 565-3102. While some hunters do come on a day-trip, it’s usually an activity with one or more overnights.

Add a day on Lana‘i to your Maui trip to experience. It’s a very different island that’s just 45 minutes across the ‘Au‘au Channel.

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