Let’s Go Explore Lana‘i City, the Island’s Living Room

Photo by Carol Fowler

Stroll shops, galleries, cafes and a restaurant and duck into the cultural center in Lana'i City

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It’s time to go to town and explore Lana‘i City. Even if you stay at the beach-side Four Seasons Resort Lanai, you’ll want to spend some time Upcountry in Lana‘i City. Shops and galleries, cafes and a restaurant beckon. The Lana‘i Culture & Heritage Center is reason enough to go. Or simply sit around Dole Park, the town living room, and chat with locals.

If you’re lucky, you might snag one of the 11 rooms at Hotel Lana‘i.

Lana‘i City is also the trailhead for the Munro Trail, so you can spent part of the day hiking, part poking about town. The morning is recommended for hiking since mist often settles on the trail in the afternoon. It will cut out the view from high spots and may bring rain.

The Four Seasons Resort runs an hourly shuttle to Lana‘i City, about a 25-minute trip. If you’ve come on the ferry for a day trip, you can engage a Rabaca’s Limousine Service car.

The Cook Island pines that grow throughout town provide shade for walks and bring a stately presence to this former plantation town. They also line the road to the airport and to the Four Seasons. A visionary plantation manager, George Munro planted them in the early 20th-century to capture moisture.

Your Explore Lana‘i City itinerary traces the edge of Dole Park, the big square right in the center of town,

Start Here to Explore Lana‘i City

Start your visit at the Lana‘i Culture & Heritage Center. It will give you a glimpse of the island that was populated later than other Hawaiian Islands. The artifacts and information bring to life Lana‘i’s agricultural past.

When you leave the center, turn right to 7th Street. The building on the corner is the handsomely refurbished Lana’i Theater. Next comes Mike Carroll Gallery. Do pop in and pass the time of day with Mike. He’s an award-winning artist. One of his oil paintings of Lana’i would make a fine souvenir. He’s also knows everything about and everyone on the island.

Continue on 7th and you’ll come to Blue Ginger Café. Sit out on the porch for banana pancakes for breakfast or a Hawaiian plate at lunch. You’ll get to greet most of Lana‘i. In this same block, the Local Gentry and Lanai Art Center showcase things made on Lana‘i

Now skirt the bottom of the square past the town churches. Turn up 8th Street. Then you’ll come to what may be the country’s smallest jail. It’s the shipping container-sized structure. Inmates were held in the cells for two hours only.

Continue on 8th Street. Pele’s Other Garden has a split personality. At lunch people line up for the great sandwiches. But come evening, the deli is transformed into a bistro serving Italian fare. Richard’s Market has been a Lana’i institution since 1946. While the shelves serve the locals with staples, you’ll also find gorgeous produce, a prepared food section and excellent wine selection. And they provide picnic tables outside where you can eat alfresco. Like much on Lana’i the store has been refurbished with satiny wooden floors and ceiling since Larry Ellison became the island’s owner.

If you have time, take a detour out beyond the airport to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. It’s the reason some people come to Lana‘i for a day trip. It’s quite an amazing place offering shelter to 500 or more spayed cats.

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If Pele is happy, you’ll be on Lanai when one of the local celebrations takes place. We lucked into the Aloha Festival in late September. Community organizations, craft and aloha wear vendors had booths. Others offered Hawaiian plate lunch in more varieties that you imagined. The entertainment was continuous, and could be heard all over town. Festivals all take place in Dole Park.

Or time a visit to the “Fifth Friday.” Maui’s main towns have a Friday night town parties. First Friday for Wailuku, second for Lahaina, etc. Lana‘i City must have had final dibs, since it happens only if there is a Fifth Friday to the month.

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