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Lanai, Hawaii Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jun-21-2012, Hits: 4,462, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Lanai, Hawaii Travel Guide Restaurants (12)
Hotels and Lodging (4)
Bars and Nightlife (3)
Attractions (17)
Services (10)
Maps (3)
Links (3)
Hawaii Travel Forum (4)
Location: North America
Geography: Island, Beach, Forest
Vacation Type: Romantic, Relaxation, Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Expensive
Attractions: Golfing, Scenery, Ecotourism, Fishing, Hiking, Scuba & Snorkeling, Spa & Wellness, Surfing

Facts and Stats:
Nickname: The Pineapple Isle
Population: 3,519
Land Area: 140.5 square miles
Area Code: 808
Country Dialing Code: +1
Languages: English, Hawaiian
Electricity: 110V
Currency: United States Dollar (USD)
Time Zone: HST (UTC -10)
Current Time:

Many people have never even heard of Lanai much less considered a vacation there. They might be surprised to know that the island is home to, not one, but two Four Seasons resorts which make up the bulk of the accomodation options here. They might be surprised to learn that there are no traffic lights on the 30 miles of paved roads or the 400 miles of 4-wheel drive accessible trails that are used to access many of the island's attractions. Lanai is a good destination for those who want to get away from it all.

Lanai is the 6th largest Hawaiian Island and the 42nd largest in the United States. It is located 2,236 miles from California with Maui 9 miles to the east and Molokai 9 miles to the north.

Lanai, the fourth youngest island in the Hawaiian chain, was formed by a single shield volcano, Palawai, which erupted approximately 1.5 million years ago. This volcano created a unique land mass of raised plateaus and steep, eroded gorges. Lanai's highest point is the summit of Kanaihale at 3,370 feet above sea level and is the only location in Hawaii from which 5 other Hawaiian islands can be viewed.

Lanai City, better described as a town, is the only settlement on Lanai and is located in the center of the island at nearly 1,700 feet in elevation. With the exceptions of Lanai City and the Four Seasons resort on the southern coast, the island is almost completely undeveloped.

Brief History:
Even though the Polynesians inhabited many of the Hawaiian Islands, Lanai was not one of them. The natives believed that evil man-eating spirits lived on Lanai. In the 1500's, a man named Kauluaau was banished to the island by his father who was a chief on the island of Maui. It is said that Kauluaau went against the Kapu system by uprooting every ʻulu tree (breadfruit) that he could find on Maui. His punishment was banishment to the "evil" island of Lanai.

Kauluaau was not expected to survive, however, the chief looked across the channel from Maui and saw that his son's fire continued to burn nightly on the shore. Recognizing Kauluaau's courage and perseverance, the Maui chief had his son brought back to Maui and gave him control of Lanai as a reward.

Kauluaau encouraged people to immigrate from Maui, Molokai, and other Hawaiian Islands. The first people to migrate here, most likely from Maui and Molokaʻi, likely established fishing villages along the coast, but later moved into the interior where they farmed taro in the volcanic soil.

For hundreds of years, the island of Lanai was under the rule of the Mo'i (king) of Maui, until Kamehameha I set out to unite the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. Those that resisted were no match for weapons that Kamehameha had acquired from visiting Europeans in the 1770's, and they were slaughtered. The islands were eventually united under his rule in 1810. The ruins of Kamehameha's favorite summer fishing retreat, called Kaunolu, can still be seen in southwestern Lanai.

In the 1870s, a man named Walter M. Gibson had acquired most of the land on the island for ranching. The Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele is now located in the area that was once the center of the island's ranching operations. As a former manager of this ranch, George Munro left his mark on the island's landscape by planting the first of what became the island's many Cook pine trees. The Munro Trail, named after Munro, leads to Lanaihale, Lanai's highest point.

In 1922, James Dole, the president of Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later renamed Dole Food Company), bought the entire island of Lānaʻi for $1.1 million, and developed a large portion of it into the world's largest pineapple plantation. In 1932 Castle & Cooke purchased a 21% interest in the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. In the 1960's, Castle & Cooke acquired the remainder of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.

In 1985, ownership of Lanai passed to David H. Murdock as a result of his purchase of Castle & Cooke. Due to rising costs, pineapple production was moved overseas, and Castle & Cooke began developing Lanai as a tourist destination.

In June 2012, Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corporation agreed to purchase 98% of the island.

People & Culture:
Most of the people living on Lanai are descendants of plantation workers who first came here to work when the Hawaiian Pineapple Company created the world's largest pineapple plantation. Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Portuguese are some of the early immigrants that came here to work.

Like so many islands in the world after their traditional occupations have disappeared, many residents now work in the tourism industry. Despite this change, Lanaians still embrace the simple life and are considered very laid-back and friendly.

Outside of the resorts, Lanai is rustic and charming. There is only one school, Lanai High and Elementary School, serving the entire island from Kindergarten through Senior in high school.

Lanai's diving is so good that people take tours from Maui just to experience it. Most of the dozen or so dive sites are located off the southern coast of the island and are close to shore.

Lanai offers a variety of dive types that include coral formations, mysterious lava tubes, graceful archways and soaring pinnacles. Two of the more popular dive spots are First Cathedral and Second Cathedral. First Cathedral is large lava tube that is approximately 100 feet in length and is nearly two stories high. The Second Cathedral is a cavern dive like First Cathedral, and the main chamber has a break in the middle with two large dramatic archways. Second Cathedral is larger than the first, with an abundance of marine life to be found in the interior of the cavern.

Food & Nightlife:
There are basically 2 types of dining in Lanai; upscale restaurants found at the hotels, or budget fare in Lanai City. Hawaiian, Asian, European, and American cuisines are the most commonly found, and often in a fusion of 1 or more of these types. Most of the restaurants in Lanai City are centered around Dole Park.

There is very little nightlife on Lanai. The few bars that exist are at the resorts and they don't stay open late.

Money & Costs:
Hawaii uses the United States Dollar (USD). Credit cards and travelers checks are accepted at most places on the island. There are ATMs on the island as well. Most everything is more expensive in Hawaii than on the mainland. Food, Jeep rental, lodging, etc., are going to be on the high side. Fortunately, many of the attractions on Lanai are completely free.

Tipping is the U.S. standard 15%-20% for service in a restaurant. It is acceptable to give $2 per bag for porters and $3-5 for housekeeping.

Entry Requirements:
If you are a US citizen, traveling to Hawaii is like traveling between states. You are not required to bring a passport, and the paperwork you will need to fill out is required by the US and Hawaii State Departments of Agriculture to prevent harmful plant pests and diseases from coming into Hawaii. If you are not a US resident, you will be required to have a passport, and visitors from some countries are required to have a visa. Visit Travel.State.Gov for more information about entering the United States.

Getting There & Around:
There are currently no direct flights to Lanai from the U.S. mainland so you will need to fly to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) or Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui. Both airports are serviced by a number of major airlines. From there you can catch a short connecting flight to Lanai.

If you are arriving via Maui, there is another option for getting to Lanai. Expeditions ferry service offers 5 round trips per day between Lahaina on Maui and the Manele Bay harbor on Lanai. The trip takes about 45 minutes each way.

If you fly into Lanai, an airport shuttle will be waiting to take you to your hotel. If you are staying at a bed and breakfast or rental house, you should check with the owner about transportation, or rent a jeep. Most visitors will likely want to rent a Jeep anyway so they can get to the island's many attractions. Make sure you make reservations ahead of time.

If you aren't interested in driving to the attractions, or prefer to have a tour guide show you the sites, you may choose not to get a car. There is a shuttle service that runs between the 2 Four Seasons resorts with a stop in Lanai City at the Hotel Lanai. There is a charge for the shuttle service.

Lanai City itself is very small and walkable, and most of the shops and restaurants are located within a few blocks of each other.

See the services section of this travel guide for more information about transportation options.

The forecast and weather averages listed below are for Lanai City. Keep in mind that Lanai City is much cooler than other Hawaiian cities and Lanai's coast because of its elevation. You can add about 10 degrees to Lanai City's temperature to approximate that found at the beach.

Lanai is a relatively dry island compared to other Hawaiian islands, and only receives about 37 inches of rainfall per year.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Lanai City, Hawaii.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 72 73 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 77 76 74
Avg Low 60 59 60 61 62 64 65 66 66 65 64 61
Precipitation 5.05" 4.06" 2.88" 2.60" 2.17" 1.61" 1.66" 1.40" 2.09" 2.51" 3.14" 4.39"
Days of Rainfall 9 8 10 9 9 10 9 8 6 8 9 11

  • Ambulance/Police/Fire Department: 911
  • Lanai Visitors Bureau: (800) 947-4774
  • Marriage Licence: (808) 586-4545
  • Lanai Community Hospital: (808) 565-8450

  • Tips & Additional Information:
  • Lanai is very safe and has less crime than the average American city. Use normal precautions while visiting.
  • Driving on the beach is illegal and in some places may cause your jeep to get stuck in the sand.
  • Before going heading out onto the 4-wheel drive trails, make sure your jeep is gassed up and you have plenty of drinking water and food in case of problems.
  • Do not drive your jeep to the edge of lava cliffs as they can give way.
  • Off road trails are sometimes closed. Heed these warnings and do not drive on them. You may find yourself on a very long hike back to Lanai City followed by a $250+ towing bill if your jeep gets stuck.
  • Do not touch or disturb any of the ruins, artifacts or petroglyphs on Lanai. Many of these are considered sacred places.

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