20 Things To Do In Lanai

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Lanai might not be the first Hawaii Island you think of visiting, which is not surprising considering it’s the smallest publicly accessible island in the state. However, it is no less fascinating than the others in the chain. The entire island was once a pineapple farm (hence its nickname, Pineapple Island). But, 98% of it is now owned by Larry Ellison, the chairman and founder of the Oracle Corporation.

Unlike Oahu or the Big Island, Lanai has no stoplights. It also only has 30 miles of paved roads, making it a fantastic place to escape to for a peaceful visit but despite its small size, there is plenty to occupy your time on the island – regardless of whether you go there on a day trip or for a little while longer. Here is my take on the 20 best things to see and do on Lanai.

Lanai, Hawaii

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Tropical Drinks On Lanai
Drinking cocktails on the beach is one of the best things to do on Lanai.

20 Things To Do In Lanai

1- Catch Some Rays At Polihua Beach

Lanai/Hawaii sunset
Enjoying the sunset is one of the things to do on Lanai.

If you are looking for a gorgeous beach where you are likely to be the only one there, Polihua Beach is an excellent choice.

Stretching for two gorgeous miles, the pristine golden sand is perfect for sunbathing (some people choose to do this nude) and beachcombing. Unfortunately, due to the choppy waters and powerful riptides, swimming is not recommended.

Back in the day, this beach used to accommodate scores of turtles. Sadly, their presence is very scarce these days, although you might be able to spot the odd one or two.

2- Explore The Downtown Area Of Lanai City

Lanai City is the island’s main epicentre, so it is a terrific place to get to know the locals and gain insight into their way of life.


Dole Park is a great starting point to do this and also get groceries, while you can also find plenty of mom-and-pop shops in which to strike up a conversation.

Elsewhere, places like the Lanai Hula Hut, Mike Carroll Gallery and Cory Labang Studio are excellent stores to pick up unique gifts for your loved ones.

You can also try some authentic local cuisine at the Blue Ginger Café and buy loud Hawaiian clothing at the Local Gentry.

3- Play Golf With A Pro At The Manele Course

Golf Ball On Course
Playing a round of golf at the Manele Course is one of the things to do in Lanai.

If you love golf, you’ll want to play a round at the beautiful Manele Golf Course on the southern shore of the island.

It was designed by Jack Nicklaus and accommodates stunning ocean cliffs and pristine seaside fairways across three courses.

Sometimes you may even spot a whale gliding through the bay while on them!

PGA professionals can be hired to help you improve your game and there is also a golf store onsite that sells a wide range of gear.

4- See The Iconic Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe)

Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe) in lanai hawaii
Exploring Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe) is one of the things to do in Lanai, Hawaii.

Also known as Sweetheart Rock, Puu Pehe is an iconic sea stack – steeped in Hawaiian legend – that rises 80 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

According to the lore, a beautiful princess named Puu Pehe drowned in the nearby waters and her lover, a warrior called Makakehau, climbed the rock to be with her in death.

The site is revered for its cultural significance and breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline. It is accessible by a scenic coastal trail and is a must-visit destination for photographers and those interested in Hawaiian mythology.

5- Visit Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Care, Charity And Cats At Adoption Shelter
Visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is one of the top things to do in Lanai for cat lovers.

If you love cats then you’ll want to check out the Lanai Cat Sanctuary.

This non-profit refuge operates with the main goal of preventing the feline population from going out of control.

It does this by rescuing cats and then looking after them to ensure they don’t explode in numbers and threaten rare ground-nesting birds – such as the Hawaiian Petrel that resides on the island.

Overall, it accommodates over 600 different-sized cats, known locally as Lanai Lions and relies on donations to keep their work going.

6- Marvel At The Poawa Petroglyphs

Throughout the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll find several examples of petroglyphs, an ancient form of writing and Lanai is no exception.

One of the best places to see it is at the Poawa Petroglyphs, which can be reached by driving to Shipwreck Beach and then taking a scenic half-mile walk down its sandy shoreline until you see the signs for it.

The petroglyphs in the Poaiwa Valley are etched into huge boulders made of lava rock.

They showcase incredible rock art which portrays everything from battling warriors to gentle pets.

Overall, it’s a pretty amazing site that links back thousands of years.

7- Go Fishing With Lanai Ocean Sports

Fishing is a popular pastime in the waters around the island, and one of the best companies to experience it with is Lanai Ocean Sports.

These guys will take you around the island’s scenic coastline on private island shuttles or special fishing charters to some of the best spots.

At them, you’ll be able to catch yellowfin tuna, wahoo, Pacific blue marlin and mahimahi. You’ll also get to see dramatic cliff faces and exuberant dolphins frolicking in the shimmering sea.

8- Take Part In An Art Class At Lanai Art Center

Those who love art should make a point of visiting the Lanai Art Center.

It is an excellent destination for art enthusiasts, showcasing a remarkable collection of art from local and international artists, year-round exhibitions and other cultural activities.

What sets the Lanai Art Center apart from others in Hawaii is that visitors can actually watch it being made.

Most of what is on display at the gallery is created by local artists from Lanai, which you can buy to take home with you.

You can also take classes in subjects like calligraphy, textiles, silk painting and woodworking if you want to have a go at creating something yourself.

9- Discover The Island by Jeep or Truck

Lanai is an island you can easily explore and one of the best ways to do this is by hiring a modern all-terrain vehicle.

Doing this enables you to more easily access the undeveloped beaches and visit remote parts of the island many tourists don’t get to.

Vehicles are reliable and efficient and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

10- Enjoy A Day At Hulopoe Beach

School Of Convict Tang Swim
Going snorkelling is one of the most popular things to do in Lanai.

If you can only visit one beach during your time on Lanai, make sure it is Hulopoe Bay.

It is one of the island’s few beaches where you can swim and snorkel in the summer, providing access to a huge expanse of sand and plenty of colourful coral reefs where local plants and hundreds of species of tropical fish thrive.

While the waves are too hazardous to venture into during the winter, it is still worth coming here then as you can see humpback whales and dolphins.

Throughout the year, you’ll find tidal pools that accommodate Barber Pole shrimp, limpets, starfish and sea cucumbers.

Another terrific place to visit if you like art is the Mike Carroll Gallery. Originally from Chicago, Carroll moved to Lanai in 2001 after being inspired by the Hawaiian Islands’ incredible beauty.

He has devoted his life since then to painting various parts of the island which he showcases in his very impressive collection. His work is so mesmerising, you could easily spend hours taking it all in.

12- Check Out The Lanai Culture & Heritage Center

For those wanting to find out more about the island’s rich history, the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center is an excellent place to visit.

This non-profit institution resides in the historic Dole Administration Building and showcases artifacts, photographs and exhibits that narrate Lanai’s diverse heritage – spanning Native Hawaiian, plantation and immigrant cultures.

Through these displays, visitors are able to gain insights into the island’s evolution, including its pineapple plantation era. Subsequently, the charitable non-profit center plays a vital role in educating and preserving Lanai’s unique traditions.

13- Indulge Your Tastebuds at Pele’s Other Garden

Lanai has a good selection of places to eat. But if you are in the mood for pizza or deli sandwiches, then you’ll want to hit up Pele’s Other Garden.

Pele’s is a bit of a local legend due to the portion sizes being huge, the food exceptionally tasty, and the atmosphere always relaxed.

They also offer 15 beers on tap – some you’ll struggle to find elsewhere in Hawaii – for those who want to quench a thirst. In addition, they dish up some of the best coffee in town.

14- Photograph The Rusty Tanker At Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach In Lanai Island
The Rusty Tanker at Shipwreck Beach. Going to the beach is one of the things to do in Lanai without a car.

One of the most popular activities for visitors in Lanai is to photograph the rusty tanker that resides on Shipwreck Beach.

Commonly referred to as Kaiolohia, this 8-mile stretch of windy coastline has witnessed numerous shipwrecks in the thin, jagged channel that runs through it.

One of them, an oil tanker from the 1940s, still rests on the coral reef today, rendering it an enchanting photograph opportunity.

To access this location, you will need a car with four-wheel drive.

Once there you can enjoy sunbathing and beachcombing, but not swimming as the waves can be rough.

15- Immerse Yourself In Nature At The Kanepu’u Preserve

A massive dryland forest once covered vast amounts of Hawaii’s lowlands.

While most of it has gone now, you can still see some of it at the Kanepu’u Preserve including native and rare dry woodland that comprises olive (Eloqua) and ebony (lama).

Take a self-guided tour of the region by following a series of markers around the 368-acre section and keep an eye out for indigenous plant species, including olopua and lama trees.

16- Dive The Lanai Cathedrals

Diver Swimming Through Reef
Going diving is one of the fun things to do in Lanai Hawaii.

Scuba diving is a popular activity in Lanai, with the First Cathedral and Second Cathedral being prominent dive sights.

The principal attraction at both is their lava tube caves, which feature fantastic archways and cavern formations that are home to a diverse range of marine life.

While under the water, you can see green turtles, golden butterflyfish and whitetip reef sharks, among many different species.

You’ll be mesmerised by the colours and vibrancy of this aquatic world.

17- Visit The Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo)

Keahiakawelo is a fascinating rock garden at the end of Polihua Road also known as the Garden of the Gods, with an enchanting lunar terrain that accommodates incredible boulders and rock towers.

It takes about 45 minutes to reach the site from Lanai City, which is in the northwest part of the island and only accessible by four wheel drive or mountain bike.

The best time to visit the site is at night when the eroded spires, rock towers and formations are at their most beautiful.

As natural dryland forests can still be found in the area, when the sun sinks lower in the sky, the rocks are bathed in a magnificent glow. of purple and crimson hues.

18- Go Horse Riding

If you don’t fancy exploring Lanai by jeep or four-wheel drive, then another terrific option is horseback riding.

Koele Stables allows you to rent out horses, which you can then choose to lead you through the gently swaying ironwoods and cinnabar hills of the island’s countryside, where plenty of deer and bird species reside.

Elsewhere, you can also pass through the island’s famous Cook pines – each one spins 200 gallons of water per day using the highland fog.
Guide are available for new riders, or those who don’t fancy venturing out alone.

19- Take A Yoga Class

Yoga, Beach And Wellness Woman At Class
Taking a yoga class is one of the things to do in Lanai Island.

Lanai is the perfect place to relax and de-stress with yoga.

If you are staying at Four Seasons Lanai, consider taking a yoga class.

The resort’s Yoga Studio offers 10 aerial hammocks set around a 1,100 square-foot floor area, which provides various options for practising yoga in the air.

The multi-talented staff offers classes in meditation, sound healing, reiki and yoga for all skill levels.

They even offer yoga programs for the beach and Luau Grounds.

While you might have to pay for some of these classes, many are free.

20- Trek The Koloiki Ridge Trail

For those who fancy stretching their legs, the Koloiki Ridge Trail is a popular hiking route offering stunning views of the island.

This moderate five-mile circular route takes you through lush pine forests and up into the beautiful highlands of Maui and Molokai.

The Koloiki Ridge – which separates Naio and Maunalei – was a significant battleground for Hawaiian wars in the 18th century.

As you explore the trail, you’ll be able to learn about its history, delicate ecology and the islanders’ efforts to preserve their wildlife and flora – through interesting signs.

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Spencer Samaroo
Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years experience producing written content for tourism-related businesses. A thalassophile who was afflicted with wanderlust from a young age, he has visited over 40 countries in the world. An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations. Specialising in writing about beach destinations around the world, he would probably bleed sand if you cut his arm open