Skip to Content

Home / Adventure / Rock these 9+ things to do in Lanai (get off the grid too!)

Rock these 9+ things to do in Lanai (get off the grid too!)

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

Owned privately by billionaire Larry Ellison, Lanai is known as the “pineapple island” (because of its past pineapple growing industry).

It’s a small Hawaiian island off the coast of Maui – just 13 miles wide by 18 miles long.

But despite its postage-stamp size, there are a surprising number of things to do in Lanai.

Watching Spinner dolphins is one of the fun things to do in Lanai

At the same time, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all.

Lanai has no stop lights – imagine that! But its 400 miles of 4-wheel-drive trails get you out into dramatic countryside.

And the island has several secluded beaches where you may be the only person soaking up the sun.

Best things to do in Lanai, Hawaii!

How to get to Lanai

Let’s first start with how to get there.

Expeditions runs a passenger ferry from Maui to Lanai and back.

The ride takes about 45 to 50 minutes. The ferry dock on Lanai – Manele Harbor – is just a short walk from Hulopoe Beach (#2 below), one of the best beaches on Lanai.   

While you can make a day trip to Lanai, you’ll probably end up wishing you could stay longer on Lanai.

You can also fly into Lanai – to the Lanai Airport (LNY) – via Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu or via Mokulele Airlines from Maui.

Things to do in Lanai, Hawaii

Okay, ready now to kick around Lanai?

1) Hike Lanai

Hiking is one the popular things to do in Lanai, Hawaii

We particularly loved the hiking on Lanai.     

Koloiki Ridge hike:

A popular trail is the Koloiki Ridge hike.

This great 5-mile roundtrip hiking trail winds along a mountain ridge through pine forests high up in the hills (where the air is definitely cooler than down by the beach), before opening up to sweeping ocean views.

The official start of the trail is near the Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele.

Alternatively, you can start from the Munro Trail (park at the cemetery) – the hike would then be about 6 miles. Give yourself 2 to 3 hours, which allows plenty of time for gawking at the views.

Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe) hike:

Down by Hulopoe Beach (at the foot of the beachfront Four Seasons Resort Lanai), there’s an easy walk to Puu Pehe or “Sweetheart Rock.”

It follows the coastline to an 80-foot tall craggy rock formation shooting up out of the water.

Hike along these red cliffs to Puu Pehe on Lanai

Legend has it that Makakehau, a young warrior from Lanai, fell in love with Pehe, a Hawaiian beauty from Maui. He took her back to Lanai and hid her in a sea cave.

But a sudden storm flooded the cave, drowning her in the waves.

So he climbed to the top of this rocky outcropping, where he buried her, then leaped to his death in the surging waters below.

Puu Pehe or “Sweetheart Rock" on Lanai, Hawaii

The legend is touching – adding to the mystical beauty of the dramatic red rock pinnacle.

This walk is about 15 to 20 minutes each way.

2) Bask on Hulopoe Beach

Chilling on Hulopoe Beach is one of the best things to do on Lanai.

Of course, you’re going to want to spend some time relaxing on beautiful Hulopoe Beach.

This is one of the things you can do on Lanai without a car, because the beach is walking distance from the Lanai ferry dock.

The white sand beach is absolutely idyllic!

Keep your eyes peeled for spinner dolphins that play in the bay.

Hulopoe Beach is public. If you take a Lanai snorkeling excursion from Maui, this is the beach you get to enjoy lazing about on.

If you’re a guest at either of the Four Seasons resorts on Lanai, you also get to enjoy their beach club services – like being treated to Evian spritzes and chilled facecloths delivered to you, while you’re lounging on your beach chair.

3) Explore Lanai City

The small sleepy town of Lanai City sits at 1,645 feet above sea level.

That means it’s a pleasantly cool reprieve from the beach.

Stroll about the town’s square, and you’ll discover a few shops and several sweet cafes and restaurants.

Hawaii shirt and sunglasses

The Lanai Culture & Heritage Center is worth poking about in.

Historic old photos, maps and artifacts (like poi pounders and pineapple plantation tools) celebrate the land, people and history of Lanai.

There are even a few pineapples growing outside in the garden.

Pineapples growing on Lanai

Also check out the Lanai Art Center.

Its gallery and gift shop features the works of local artists.

4) Visit Shipwreck Beach

Who knew! More than a dozen wrecks lie along the 6-mile coastline known as Shipwreck Beach.

Some were grounded accidentally.

Others were dumped intentionally. After inter-island steamships had finished servicing the plantations and ferrying passengers in the 19th century, their owners let them go to be wrecked on the reefs here.

Wreck of the YOGN-42 at Shipwreck Beach, Lanai

One of the most visible wrecks you see when visiting the area is the YOGN-42, a concrete fuel barge built for the US Navy in 1942. It was intentionally scuttled in 1954.

And now you see her, listing on her side, rusting away in the salty sea – and making for a very interesting photo!

Shipwreck Beach on Lanai

5) Golf on Lanai

Golfers (staying at one of the Four Seasons resorts on Lanai) can tee off on the seaside Manele Golf Course.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, this immaculately maintained course serves up ocean views from every hole.

Manele Golf Course on Lanai

Cool factoid: Bill Gates married his wife, Melinda, at the 12th hole tee box in 1994.

Manele Golf Course Stats:

  • Holes: 18
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 7,039
  • Slope: 35
  • Best holes: 12 and 17
  • Hazard: Getting distracted by whale sightings in winter
  • Green fees: About $350 USD

6) Pet a kitty at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Cats at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Oh, this is a feel-good Lanai activity!

Started by spirited cat lovers, the non-profit Lanai Cat Sanctuary is a top-notch cat haven that has taken in more that 600 cats in the last few years.

It also helps the Lanai eco-system by rescuing cats from protected areas where endangered ground-nesting birds (like the Hawaiian petrel) live.

So rent a jeep or car, and go play with the kitties!

Lanai Cat Sanctuary

The sanctuary survives on donations, so while there’s no admission fee, you might want to donate a little something to help support their efforts.

And if you end up falling in love with one of the cute fur balls and adopting it to take home – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Visiting the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is one of the feel-good Lanai activities!

7) Explore Keahiakawelo

Known as the “Garden of the Gods,” Keahiakawelo is a vast otherworldly rock garden on the north end of the island.

The ultimate rock garden, this storied place looks like how you’d imagine Mars, with the sun bouncing off red rock towers and spires, formed by thousands of years of erosion.

According to one Hawaiian legend, the boulders were dropped from the sky by gods caring for their gardens.

Another says that this rocky landscape was created after a contest between two priests from Lanai and Molokai.

Each priest had to keep a fire burning on their island longer than the other. The Lanai priest won, using all the trees and bushes on this part of the island to fuel his fire.

Whatever the legend, Keahiakawelo is a remarkable site. You need a four-wheel drive to get to this wild and windswept area (about a 45-minute drive from Lanai City).

The Garden of the Gods is most alluring at dusk, when the setting sun bathes everything in a vivid orange glow.

Morning is another good time to soak in the scenes when the colors are richest.

8) Suntan in the buff at Polihua Beach

Polihua Beach on Lanai, Hawaii

Yes, because Polihua Beach is so remote, you can strip off and sunbathe in the nude here!

But don’t tell too many people about this – we’d like to keep it one of those secret things to do in Lanai.

(Note that the water isn’t safe for swimming at Polihua Beach though.)

Like Keahiakawalo (#7 above), this two-mile arc of pristine gold sand beach is also found on the northern part of Lanai, so you can combine visiting both in the same four-wheel drive outing.

9) Go scuba diving

What to do on Lanai underwater? Go scuba diving!

Underwater, Lanai is every bit as captivating as above.

In particular, it boasts two signature dive sites with light-filled caverns created from lava tubes – the First Cathedral and Second Cathedral.

Scuba diving in Lanai, Hawaii

Apart from the wonder of diving through these beautiful lava caves and archways, these sites are also rich in marine life.

See green turtles, yellow butterfly fish, eels and perhaps even whitetip reef sharks, if you’re lucky.

More Lanai activities?

There are several more Lanai beaches where you can sink your toes in the sand. And the beaches are never crowded!

You can also join a yoga session on the island.

And horseback riding? Yup! Ride through Ironwood forests up in the hills surrounding Koele.

Horseback riding on Lanai

Where to stay

Hotels:

Many visitors stay at one of the two Four Seasons hotels on Lanai: the Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort (the former Lodge at Koele) or the Four Seasons Resort Lanai (at Manele Bay).

We’ve stayed at both of these – and can highly recommend these luxury digs!

Four Seasons Resort at Koele

Another option – less expensive too – is to bunk down at the funky and charming Hotel Lanai.

It was built in 1923 as lodging for Dole Plantation execs.

Hotel Lanai

Recommended reading: See our review of the two Four Seasons Resorts on Lanai

Vacation rentals:

If you’d prefer to have your own private self-contained accommodation with a kitchen, there are some lovely Lanai plantation homes, cottages and condos available through VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner), an Expedia Group company.

Experience more of Hawaii

Read our posts on:

Kauai | From SUP boarding on a tranquil river to hiking the Kalalau Trail, there are lots of great things to do in Kauai!

Water sports | Whale watching? Surfing? Snorkeling? Check out these super fun Hawaii water activities and the best places in Hawaii to do them.


Pin to Pinterest

Here’s a good pin!


Photo credits: 4, 5, 11 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase  | 3, 8, 12, 15, 19 to 22, 24, 25 Four Seasons Lanai | 6 Hawaii Tourism Authority | 16, 18 Lanai Cat Sanctuary | 26 Hotel Lanai


Have you visited Lanai? What things to do in Lanai did you enjoy?


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Things to do in Bonn: See Poppelsdorf Palace
17 Delightful things to do in Bonn, Germany
← Read Last Post
The Most Beautiful Gardens in the World
21 of the most gorgeous gardens in the world
Read Next Post →

Becky Padmore

Thursday 11th of September 2014

That top photo looks so enticing, would love to be there right now!

Jenn Smith Nelson

Monday 23rd of June 2014

I haven't been to any Hawaii islands yet! I am always so inspired by your stories however and have been keeping a list of 'must go' places based on what you have written about! The hiking here sounds fab.

Danielle

Thursday 19th of June 2014

I've visited 3 Hawaii's islands - love the idea of visiting this little one.

Janice and George

Thursday 19th of June 2014

Hope you get there... Even if you don't stay on Lanai, you can take a day sailing tour from Maui :-).

Becky

Wednesday 18th of June 2014

I haven't been sadly but if I did I'd be watching those dolphins for hours! :-)

Elena

Sunday 15th of June 2014

Lanai looks so beautiful! I'd definitely opt for hiking and getting lazy on the beach afterwards! I'm sure there are a lot of hidden coasts around the island!