We found the best ways to spend a long weekend on one of Hawaii's most beautiful islands
AN ABBREVIATED VERSION OF HONOLULU MAGAZINE’S HOLOHOLO GUIDE TO LANAI.
Hawaiian Airlines flies turbo-prop planes from Honolulu to Lanai two or three times daily.
The Expeditions ferry travels five times daily between Lahaina, Maui, and Manele Bay on Lanai. You can bring just about anything aboard, from golf clubs to your dog. One-way kamaaina tickets are
$25 for adults and $10 for children.
(800) 695-2624, go-lanai.com
Get your bearings at the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center by studying the maps and quizzing the knowledgeable docents. You might be surprised by the depth of history here: Lanai has been the home of kings, sorcerers and entrepreneurs of every stripe.
730 Lanai Ave., Lanai City,
(808) 565-7177, lanaichc.org
Lanai has little infrastructure and zero public transit, so arrange your transportation in advance. You can get by without a car: Campers can walk from the ferry harbor to Hulopoe Beach, and Lanai City can be explored on foot. But, to access the hinterlands, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Warning: Gas costs upward of $5 a gallon.
Dollar Rent A Car
The only official rental car company offers four-wheel-drive Jeeps for $139 a day plus tax. The hitch? Most of the roads you want to explore are off limits if it’s been raining. Jeeps are in limited supply, so book well in advance, but check which roads are open before committing.
Dollar at Lanai City Service, 1036 Lanai Ave., (800) 533-7808, dollarlanai.com
Rabaca’s Limousine Service
If you don’t plan to rent a car, make friends with Rabaca’s. The independent company offers airport and harbor pickups for $10 per person. For $75 per person (minimum two guests), a companionable driver will chauffer you to Shipwreck Beach or Keahiakawelo in an air-conditioned Suburban, sharing local trivia along the way.
Lanai Ohana Poke
Visit the takeout window just off Dole Park for affordable poke bowls (which predate the Mainland fad). The deconstructed sushi bowl is super ono, with ahi, masago and crunchy puffed rice. The deluxe poke bowl comes loaded with mac salad and two pieces of teriyaki steak. Seaweed lovers won’t be able to resist the limu kohu poke – a rare local treat.
›› 834-A Gay St., Lanai City, (808) 565-6537.
Two words: malassada machine. The broke-da-mouth breakfast buffet here is worth the gasp-inducing price tag of $52. Treat yourself to piping hot malassadas, house-cured ono and bagels, brioche French toast, an assortment of dim sum, and omelets and smoothies made to order.
›› At the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, 1 Manele Bay Road, (808) 565-2290, fourseasons.com/lanai.
Sear your own tataki steak on a lava rock, or let chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa wow you with his seven-course omakase. The tender butter lettuce and shishito peppers are grown nearby, while the wagyu beef is flown in from Japan.
›› At the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, 1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, (808) 565-2832, fourseasons.com/lanai.
This grocery stocks a range of gourmet treats (French wines and chocolates) and Filipino staples (tapioca pearls and pancit noodles). What you want is in the back: The fish counter offers no fewer than eight varieties of poke. The onolicious cone sushi topped with the poke of your choice costs just $2.99 – which almost makes up for the $9 gallons of milk.
›› 434 Eighth St., Lanai City, (808) 565-3780.
Who needs Starbucks when you can get your buzz on at Coffee Works? The baristas know their business: The espresso is excellent and the bagel sandwiches are tasty.
›› 604 Ilima St., Lanai City, (808) 565-6962, coffeeworkshawaii.com.
Nosh on a prawn BLT or lobster salad while admiring the panoramic coastline. Knock back a craft cocktail, but save room for the addictive gingersnap and caramel swirl ice cream sandwich.
›› At the Challenge at Manele Golf Course, 1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, (808) 565-2230, fourseasons.com/lanai.
Each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noonish, a farmers market blooms in the southeast corner of Dole Park. Entrepreneurial Lanai residents bring everything from backyard fruits and vegetables to homemade pork flautas.
Polihua Beach and Keahiakawelo
Follow the red-dirt road to its end: the empty paradise of Polihua Beach. The currents are too strong for swimming and, when the wind blows, you’ll get sandblasted. But, when the breeze is light, this huge stretch of golden sand is gorgeous.
On your way back, stop at Keahiakawelo to commune with the boulders and lichen. A journalist nicknamed this otherworldly landscape “the Garden of the Gods” in 1912, but its traditional name means “the fire of Kawelo.” According to one tradition, Kawelo was a powerful sorcerer who triumphed over his rival on Molokai by burning the man’s excrement in a fire. Smoke from the enchanted fire turned the flowers on nearby ohia trees permanently purple.
GET THERE: From Keomoku Highway, turn left past the Koele Stables onto unpaved Kanepuu Highway. At the first fork, turn right, then continue straight.
Take all day to explore the miles of empty beach and driftwood forts on the island’s untamed east side. Start at Shipwreck Beach and explore the nearby petroglyphs (at the road’s end, follow the signs into the gulch). Then head south. At Keomoku, peek into Ka Lanakila Church, a beautifully restored sanctuary. Further on, investigate the deserted Club Lanai playground with its funky lagoon and lonely pier. Continue south to Lopa Beach and a historic fishpond that residents are reviving.
GET THERE: Follow partially unpaved Keomoku Highway to its end. Turn left for Shipwreck and right for Keomoku.
You can feel the mana here, vibrating off the cliffs. This was once Kamehameha’s summer home and a puuhonua (place of refuge). Numerous house sites, petroglyphs and the heiau dedicated to the bird god Halulu peek out of the dry grass. At the cliff’s edge, you can stare 70 feet down into the azure blue at Kahekili’s Leap, a notch in the rock where warriors dared one another to leap out beyond the reef.
GET THERE: Head toward Kaumalapau Harbor on Kaumalapau Highway. Turn left on unpaved Kaupili Road. After 2.5 miles, turn right. Continue 3 miles down a steep, rocky trail to park by a picnic bench. Afterward, you can continue on Kaupili Road back to Hulopoe Drive.
Slide on a futuristic helmet and goggles to charge into the island’s upland forest on a Polaris Razor 1000 UTV (utility task vehicle). Local guides will chauffeur you to a recently uncovered agricultural heiau, scenic lookouts and Luahiwa petroglyph field. You’ll dodge axis deer and outrun cloudbursts along the way. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Two-hour tours cost $150 per person.
Four Seasons Lanai Island Adventure Center, 1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, (808) 565-2072.
Meander on horseback through the guava and ironwood groves of Koele; flush wild turkeys, quail and axis deer as you ride back in time; end with panoramic views of islands in the distance. Rain is frequent and the trails are dusty: Wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. A one-and-a-half-hour tour costs $150 per person.
Four Seasons Lanai Island Adventure Center, 1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, (808) 565-2072.
Golf at Cavendish
The golf course at Manele is spectacular – but that’s no reason to shun this quirky public green. Plus, it’s free! Dole plantation built the par-36, 9-hole course in 1947 for its employees. To play, just put a donation into the little wooden box at the first tee. You won’t find a clubhouse, scorecards or carts to rent, but don’t let that interrupt your fun. Tee off on the bumpy greens to remember how the sport was born.
Off Kaunaoa Drive, next to the Lodge at Keole, Lanai City.
WHERE TO STAY ON LANAI
Everything is high-tech luxury here, from the iPad room-service menus to the Toto toilets that remember your preferences (several options for wash and blow dry!). Suites come with Japanese cedar soaking tubs, and the concierge will send you text alerts when dolphins are in the bay. The lushly landscaped grounds overlook Hulopoe Beach, where genuinely friendly attendants set up beach umbrellas for you and serve mini smoothies. If you’ve got money to burn, this is a great place to do it: Rooms range from $1,075 to $21,000.
1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, (808) 565-2000, fourseasons.com/lanai
Dreams Come True
The Hunter family rents its comfortable four-bedroom plantation house room by room or as a whole. Perks: fresh lilikoi juice and fruits from the garden, big bathtubs and, best of all, the option to rent a truck to explore the island without Dollar’s restrictions. $141 double; $564 entire house. Continental breakfast included.
828 Lanai Ave., Lanai City, (808) 565-6961 or (808) 565-7211, dreamscometruelanai.com
Lanai Guest House
This bright turquoise and blue plantation house is artfully decorated and stocked with everything a small family might need: two bedrooms with a queen bed and bunk beds, modern kitchen appliances, a barbecue and a backyard full of fruit trees. The house is $200 per night ($25 off for kamaaina), plus $50 cleaning fee. Two-night minimum.
320 Fraser Ave., Lanai City, (808) 308-2222, lanaiguesthouse.com
Built in 1923, this plantation-era inn in the heart of Lanai City has charm: wood floors, Hawaiian quilts, a classy restaurant and bar, and thin walls – bring earplugs to get a good night’s sleep. Rooms start at $174. Continental breakfast included.
828 Lanai Ave., Lanai City, (808) 565-7211, hotellanai.com
Hulopoe Beach Campground
This is easily one of the finest campgrounds in Hawaii, with soft grass for pitching your tent, clean showers and bathrooms, picnic tables and barbecue grills, and resplendent Hulopoe Beach just steps away. Reserve your spot via email 72 hours in advance. Permits are issued in person for three nights max, major holidays excluded.
$15 per person per night, plus a $30 registration fee, credit cards only.
email@example.com, (808) 215-1107
♦ See Dolphins
Wild spinner dolphins frequent Hulopoe Bay to rest. Look for them in the early morning, but don’t swim out to meet them; they’re napping.
♦ Find Three Petroglyph Fields
Ancient Hawaiian artists carved dogs, sailing canoes and the bird god Halulu into rock faces all over the island.
Check them out at Shipwreck Beach, Kaunolu Village and Luahiwa.
♦ Dive Cathedrals
Sunlight streams into underwater lava tubes, creating a shimmering stained-glass-window effect on the cavern walls.
♦ Get your Jeep Stuck/Unstuck
Four-wheeling on the red-dirt roads is an adventure. Without cell service, you’ll have to rely on your own ingenuity and the kindness of strangers when your Jeep suddenly becomes as stubborn as a mule.
♦ Hale Keaka
Rural Lanai may have the state’s fanciest movie theater, thanks to Ellison’s $4-million renovation of this 1926 landmark. Inside, you’ll be treated to state-of-the-art sound, plush seats, and free furikake and shoyu for your popcorn. Two new films play each week.
456 Seventh St., Lanai City, (808) 565-7500.
♦ Lanai City Grille
Snack on pupu around the restaurant’s outdoor fire pits and listen to talented local musicians jam. It’s chilly after dark, so bring a jacket.
At Hotel Lanai, 828 Lanai Ave., Lanai City, (808) 565-7211, hotellanai.com.
♦ Sports Bar
Challenge friends (new or old) to a riotous game of foosball at this classy watering hole overlooking Hulopoe Bay. The bar food and cocktails are both top-notch.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai,1 Manele Bay Road, Lanai City, (808) 565-2093, fourseasons.com/lanai.
TALK OF THE TOWN
When software tycoon Larry Ellison bought the island in 2012, he made huge promises that proved difficult to keep, even for a billionaire. The island’s housing shortage meant Ellison put up construction workers in the luxurious Lodge at Koele. He temporarily closed both island resorts, scuttled plans for a desalinization plant and routed the island’s main airline away from Lanai.
But Ellison’s team also oversaw the completion of a new community swimming pool, a football field and a renovated movie theater. Employees displaced by the resort renovations restored cultural sites.
The bottom line: Life hasn’t changed much on Lanai. Employment is still dominated by a single company, as it has been for decades. The grocery store still runs out of food right before the weekly barge comes, fish and game are still abundant and everyone still knows who you are before you introduce yourself.