Things To Do on Lanai

The island of Lanai—with its towering sea cliffs, lavish resorts, and string of white sand beaches—is a tropical paradox of luxury and leisure that’s often misunderstood.

Yes—98% of Lanai is owned by Larry Ellison—but that doesn’t make it a private island that’s completely closed off to visitors. Instead this island just nine miles west of the town of Lahaina, on Maui, is an outdoor escape for hiking, surfing, diving, fishing and relaxing.

Golf is one of Lanai’s top things to do, with the Jack Nicklaus designed, Challenge at Manele offering sweeping views of the coast, and the 9-hole Cavendish being Hawaiʻi’s only completely free course.

Off-road exploring is another one of the best things to do on Lanai, where dirt roads lead to white sand beaches like Lopa and Polihua, and ancient historical sights like Kaunolu village are only a short drive away. It was here where chiefs like Kahekili would practice lele kawa—the ancient sport of diving off cliffs towards the turquoise waters below.

Today, those waters are home to some of Hawaiʻi’s best snorkeling and scuba diving, with the dive at “Cathedrals” ranking as one of the best things to do on Lanai. If you aren’t a certified scuba diver—and prefer the simplicity of snorkeling—Hulopoʻe Bay Marine Preserve was not only voted the best beach in America in 1997, but is home to a playground of colorful corals that teems with tropical fish. Occasionally, spinner dolphins can be spotted offshore as they flip and jump from the water—completing up to seven rotations before crashing back down with a splash.

As for the best free things to do on Lanai, exploring the island on your own two feet is a great way to appreciate the landscape, whether it’s hiking the Munro or Koloiki Ridge Trail in the misty, forested uplands, or exploring the Kapiha’a Fisherman’s Trail that departs from Hulopo’e Bay. Near Shipwreck Beach, on the northeastern coast, you can scour the shoreline for small white seashells that have washed ashore in the current, or search for the hidden petroglyphs that are scrawled on nearby rocks.

When driving between the mountains and beach, be sure to stop in Lanai City to explore the restaurants and shops, or peruse the collection of ancient artifacts at the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center.

Or, if you’d simply prefer to lounge by the pool of the Four Seasons Manele Bay, where massage tables and private cabanas look out towards the shoreline below, sometimes the best thing to do on Lanai is simply nothing at all, but listen to waves as they crash on the sand, and wind in the palm trees above.