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Island Hopping - Lana'i, a Lei'd Back Hawaii

Life. Style. Adventure

Lanai islets

Lanai, once almost entirely devoted to pineapple production, has become a destination for visitors eager to find Hawaii's natural side. It's easy to find tranquility on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, a place that has no traffic lights, no malls, just 3,000 people and a grand total of 30 miles of paved roads. Axis deer roam free in the hills, and on a day hike, you're far more likely to run into chattering wild turkeys and quail than people. As you cruise around Lanai's southeastern edge, silvery flying fish skitter across the ocean's surface. A series of strikingly high volcanic cliffs rise before you.

  • the sixth largest of the 8 main Hawaiian islands
  • the only location in Hawaii from which 5 other Hawaiian islands can be viewed.
  • Populated from about the fifteenth century, the island is rich in Hawaiian cultural sites - heiau ("temples"), house-platforms and petroglyphs carved into rock.
  • Lanai was once owned by the same family that now owns Niihau. After several incarnations - as a ranch, as a promised land ( the Mormons owned it ), as a glorified botanical garden and game park - James Dole bought it in 1922 and planted 15,000 acres of pineapples. For seventy years nearly all its 2,200 inhabitants - largely of Filipino or Japanese ancestry - worked for Dole.

Where is our favorite snorkeling spot? "The backside of Lanai at Shark Fin Rock. I've seen everything there while in the water... Whales, Dolphins, Turtles, Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, a Blue Marlin and always lots of Octopus."

Lana'i Offshore Islets

The Lanai Offshore Islets are a series of seastacks off the south and west shores of Lanai.   These islets are a lone refuge for many native seabirds, plants, and insects.   Because of their ecological importance, the islets are part of the Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary system.

Divers accustomed to swimming deep beneath the sea’s surface find lobster, octopus and eels in abundance among the volcanic formations off Lanai..Rare tropical fish hang around shark fin rock, while spinner dolphins play close to shore.

Nanahoa ("Five Needles" or Pinnacles)

There are a few places in this world that deserve to be called paradise, and the West Coast of Lanai, and more specifically, a small sheltered area commonly known as Five Needles, is one such spot. The Hawaiian names for the general area are Honopu (angry mob or crowd) and Nanahoa (to gaze upon or with friends). Both of these names tend to suggest there was some human element to the needles, and visiting the area tends to confirm that suggestion.

Five Needles is today really only two and half needles, so the nickname has simply been reduced to "Needles." They are large spires which rise sharply out of the water like giant redwood trees with no branches and have a curious look about them, as though someone was peering around a corner to see what you’re doing. Volcanic creations, they were probably formed by lava flowing down the mountainside and breaking off as it cooled unevenly, with parts shearing off and the cores remaining.

On the base of the needles themselves, there are several tide pools which contain all sorts of sea life capable of entertaining the curious mind for hours on end. Parts of the beach are sandy, while others are rocky and/or sharp and volcanic, and shoes are always a good thing to have on the feet, and not left on the boat. There is no access to the needles from land (unless rappelling gear is procured). Because there is no light source within fifteen miles of the area, the sky blackens as the sun drops, leaving an easel for stars to paint their portraits in bright and glimmering detail.

North Shore Lana'i

Shipwreck Beach

Accessible best by boat (deer tracks attest to that by boat is not he only way!), where rusted World War II shipwrecks rest and views of the surrounding isles are exceptional.the area has some of the best beachcombing in Hawaii for glass floats and shells and messages in bottles. The rusted hulk of a Liberty Ship that ran onto the reef marks the proximity to the beach itself. While the remains of many other casualties are evident - the wooden decks of smashed ships lay on the beach, twisted in frayed fishing-nets, and further on were the beached and dented containers that had been flung from the deck of more recent wrecks.

West Coast Lana'i

Kaena Point

Located beyond the Garden of the Gods, expanses of luminescent pili grass and canyons sculpted of red earth. Site of Lanai's largest heiau, Kaenaiki. Between 1837 and 1843, it served as penal colony for adulterous and dishonest Hawaiian women who were thrown to shore and forced to fend for themselves. However, the male convicts from the penal colony at Kahoolawe would swim over to Maui, steal canoes and liberate the women on Lanai.


Marine WIldlife

We have been lucky to have consistent sightings of friendly spinner dolphins, transiting Hawaiian false killer whales and short-finned pilot whales, seasonal humpback whales and both large and small whale sharks here! This shore offers great snorkeling, secluded anchorages and sea caves large enough to kayak into.

South Coast Lana'i

Kahekili's Leap

Here, Kamehameha's warriors proved their courage by executing death-defying leaps into only 12 feet of water.

Kaunolu Fishing Village

Registered as a National Historic Landmark, the remains of this ancient fishing village are scattered around a windswept bluff near the cliffs. Once the favorite summer fishing retreat for Kamehameha the Great, this archaeological site features the largest surviving ruins of a prehistoric Hawaiian village. This sacred spot visible from the water is also home to the remains of Halulu heiau (religious temple) , petroglyphs, lighthouse ruins, and “Kahekili’s Leap,” a cliff where warriors would prove themselves by diving more than 60-feet into the ocean below. Will you dare to do so?

Pu'u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)

According to legend, the sea stack comprising Puu Pehe, a young girl, drowned in a sea cave. Her lover, with help from the Gods, carried her body to the summit and buried her beneath the ruins of what is believed to be an ancient bird shrine. The cove's very clear waters contain an abundance of marine life affording excellent swimming and snorkeling. may actually be a bird heiau built by ancient Hawaiians. Numerous bones from sea birds are located near the heaiu.


There's good snorkeling - and dramatic underwater photography along the north side, at "Shark Fin Rock" (a rock that rises like a shark fin out of the water.) Swim with dolphins, in Hulopoe Bay a protected marine preserve, frequented by spinner dolphins and humpback whales.

Lanai land activities:

If you choose to meet us or be dropped off on Lana'i, be sure and check out these people and places.

  • Four-wheel drive to the lunar landscapes of Keahiakawelo, the "Garden of the Gods" -a bizarre area where rocks and boulders are thrown across a Mars-red landscape. Next to it lies the Kanepuu Preserve, a rare dryland forest that has almost 50 native species, including the endangered Hawaiian gardenia and the sandalwood tree.
  • Tee up at two championship golf courses: The Challenge at Manele and The Experience at Koele
  • Hike up to Munro Trail for views of neighboring islands Maui, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Oahu, and Hawaii’s Big Island. There's lots of ocean-views, and deep ravines on the way to highest point of the island. The jungle-like northeast side of the island is very striking when compared with the rocky south coast. Other hiking near Manaele Bay Resort.
  • Swim with dolphins! Hulopoe Bay is a protected marine preserve, frequented by spinner dolphins and humpback whales. At low tide, shallow lava tide pools along the bay's south shore fill with marine life.
  • Western Adventures is a welcome addition to Lanai’s fast-growing list of activities. They offer a variety of specially designed horseback riding adventures for the experienced rider, lessons for novices, easy scenic rides for the nature lover and lots more. Trophy hunts for Axis deer and Mufalon sheep are a specialty and they promise an experience like no other in the secluded, serene environment of the island of Lanai. For more information, please call Lanai Hospitality Partners at 808-565-7211.

Lanai City's town center is arranged around the lush green of Dole Park. (Lanai City is seven miles away and 1,620 feet up from the ferry landing, and is discernibly cooler and more verdant than the dry southern coast.)
There are a handful of galleries, a general store, an Asian market, a public library, a small movie theater and six low-key restaurants and cafes. Most close their kitchens by 8 p.m. and aren't open every night. One restaurant, Pele's Other Garden, is a bright little place decorated with license plates from just about every state and such far-flung locales as Guam and Germany. The setting is so intimate that the patrons call the waitress by name, and if Krystelle doesn't know you already, she'll pass you a guest book to sign. Lanai City Grille, overseen by chef Bev Gannon, features live, outdoor music popular among locals - on Friday nights .

Dollar Rent A Car, 1036 Lanai Avenue, (808) 565-7227, is the only place on the island to get a vehicle. Jeep Wranglers are $139 a day, and compact cars start at $60. The island's only gas station is next door. Be sure to ask for a map of the island before you set out.

Visitors can take also take advantage of Lanai's extensive shuttle service. A one-time fee of $37 per person is good for any length of stay and allows travelers access to shuttles running approximately every half-hour, beginning at 6 a.m. and running through 11 p.m. Pay one fee and travel from the harbor to the beach, to either Four Seasons Resort, to Hotel Lanai, or the city.

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