Lanai is one of the four islands that make up Maui Nui: Maui, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and Lanai. Although most visit Maui for a Hawaiian vacation, sometimes you want to beat the crowds. With a daily ferry with both morning and afternoon departures from Lahaina, Lanai is an easy day trip for Maui's visitors.
How to Get to Lanai
For daytrippers, the most effective way to get to Lanai is with the Lanai Expeditions Ferry. Departing from the Lahaina harbor, it takes about forty-five minutes to cross the eight-mile channel to Manele Harbor. Along the way, you will be surprised with views of all four Maui Nui islands and marine life: spinner dolphins and seasonally humpback whales. For those looking to stay a few days, the best options are Hotel Lanai, Airbnb, and the two Four Seasons properties: Resort Lanai or Sensei Lanai.
What to Do Once You Are on Lanai
You can enjoy the beach and snorkeling without a car. Just a five-minute walk from the small boat harbor is Hulopoe Bay and a nature walk to Sweetheart Rock (image above). However, to get the most out of your time on Lanai, many rent a 4x4. There are a few rental companies, but you can support the local economy by opting to rent through Turo.
Go Snorkeling on Lanai
If you don't want to drive from the Manele Harbor, you can easily snorkel at Hulopoe Bay. However, if you want to drive, opt for Shark's Cove, Shipwreck Beach, or the former Club Lanai's pier. Most snorkelers find yellow tang, parrot fish, sea turtles, and more. Like most Hawaii snorkeling locations, it is calmer in the mornings; so, plan your snorkeling early. Then, do other adventures later in the day.
Enjoy the Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods is about a thirty to forty-minute drive from the small boat harbor. However, in such a short time, you feel like you aren't in Hawaii anymore. It feels like a combination of a little bit of Sedona, Arizona mixed with Utah. The rock formations are definitely neat (image below); plus, the views of Molokai can't be beaten (image above).
Visit Shipwreck Beach
Another short drive from Garden of the Gods is Shipwreck Beach. This is definitely a favorite stop for shutterbugs, turtle lovers, and snorkelers/divers. You get a preview of the first of two shipwrecks on the road down to the ocean. Once you reach the end of the road, you will need to walk and/or swim to explore the 1940s oil tanker wreck further. On calm days, you can swim, snorkel, and/or dive from shore. For those that aren't lovers of water, you can witness turtles along the rocky coastline here.
Walk the Sensei Gardens
The Four Seasons has two properties on Lanai: the beach resort and the Sensei. The Sensei Lania is a short drive out of Lanai City and on your way back from either Garden of the Gods or Shipwreck Beach. It has a beautiful, 24-acre garden and sculpture walk.
Make sure to bring your camera. This is more of an art museum in a botanical garden mixed with wildlife (see wild turkey image below).
Experience More Animal Sightings
When visiting Lanai, you will witness the abundance of wild axis deer as well as wild turkeys. In fact, be very cautious on the roads. As the locals say, Lanai ain't Maui nor the Mainland. If you are an animal lover and still have time before returning on the ferry or your dinner plans, you may want to make a stop at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, which is close to the Lanai airport on your way back to the harbor area.
If you are heading to Lanai, these travel tips will serve you well. Whether for a day or several, you can enjoy the more remote feel of Lanai. Escape the crowds of Maui and Honolulu with a visit to Lanai.