The island of Lanai is just 16 miles off the coast of Maui, but has a much different island feel. Day-visitors can take a short walk from the harbor to Manele Bay, a golden sand beach and bay frequented by dolphins. Others love nature-based activities on an uncrowded island, or take time to explore quaint shops in the tiny isle’s only town.
Planning your trip
Before exploring the island, learn more about Lanai’s history by first visiting Lanai Culture & Heritage Center website and download the free Lanai Guide App to your phone. Lanai is 98% privately owned by Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison. Holdings include two Four Seasons Resorts on the island with wellness centers for the uber wealthy. There is also world class golf, but it is now reserved for Four Seasons guests.
An amazing part of the experiencing Lanai is the ferry ride over and back. As you voyage across the ʻAuʻau Channel, you’ll be able to view all the islands in Maui County, including Maui, Molokaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Molokini and, of course, Lanai. Dolphins may cross your wake, and October through April there is a very good chance to see Pacific Humpback whales.
The ferry ride between Lahaina, Maui to Manele Harbor on Lanai costs $30 for adults and $20 for children, each way. The ride takes about an hour.
Once you get off the ferry, take a 10-minute walk to Hulopo’e Beach for some of the best snorkeling in all the islands. You will need to bring rented snorkel gear along from Maui, as there is none available on Lana’i. From the left side of the beach as you face the water, you can also take a nice short hike up to Pu’u Pehe Overlook (Sweetheart Rock), where you will have views of Maui and Kaho’olawe. There are also tidal pools to check out around the beach.
To get anywhere else on Lanai requires renting a vehicle, taking a shuttle or tour, which all must be arranged in advance.
Getting around Lanai
One way to see remote spots is via a 4 x 4 “Treckker Tour.” Half and full-day tours hit island highlights, starting at $186 per adult or $165 for kiddos, which includes round trip ferry tickets. Tours must be booked at least two days in advance and don’t include lunch, so plan ahead!
Here is a list of other shuttle, taxi and car hire options on Lanai:
Rabaca’s Shuttle Service & Island Tours:
(808) 559-0230; no website available
Dela Cruz Taxi:
(808) 649-0808; firstname.lastname@example.org
ABB Executive Rental:
(808) 649-0644; www.abbautorental.com
Lānaʻi Car Rental:
(808) 565-3100; www.lanaicarrental.com
Lānaʻi Cheap Jeeps:
(808) 489-2296; lanaicheapjeeps.com
Don with Uber:
Top Lanai activities
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
A purr-fectly wonderful activity on Lanai involves a stop at the Lānaʻi Cat Sanctuary. This lush, 3.5 acre feline farm is home to hundreds of feral cats. By collecting these free roaming cats island wide and giving them a safe fur-ever home, the cat sanctuary also helps protect the native bird populations. The sanctuary is open every day and all holidays from 10 am to 3 pm. No appointment or reservation is required. Admission is free, but this 501c3 nonprofit relies on donations from visitors to fund its operations. Learn more at www.lanaicatsanctuary.org.
Lanai Adventure Park
After a morning at the beach, cool off by zipping through the treetops above Kaiholena Gulch or traversing across aerial obstacles on a ropes course. At Lanai Adventure Park you can enjoy these challenging activities or take a bike tour with a little electric power assistance. Whichever challenge you choose, it will certainly be an adventure!
As the name implies, Shipwreck Beach has remnants of two WWII era ships that were purposely grounded. Located just 10 miles north of Lanai City, it takes a 4 x 4 to navigate the dirt track, then there is a short hike to the coast. This is not a good swimming area, as seas are typically rough, but the views are worth the journey. Also, this location tends to have an assortment of trash wash ashore, which provides an impromptu eco adventure if you bring a trash bag along and are up for doing a little beach cleanup. Note that there are ATV tracks to the beach, but don’t risk it- the cost for a tow out of the sand starts at $500!
Along the way, take a side journey to view unusual natural rock formations at the Garden of the Gods, a red dirt desert in sharp contrast on a tropical island, steeped in local lore.
Lanai is an easy trip from Maui, and has enough interesting sites to fill a day, including a fun ferry ride over and back.