Because Lanai lacks major development and experiences very little rainfall/runoff, it typically boasts Hawaii’s best water clarity. The coast is washed clean daily by strong sea currents, which can wash you away, too, if you aren’t careful where you jump in. Most of the aquatic adventures—swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving—are centered on the somewhat protected west coast, particularly around Hulopoe Bay. Spinner dolphins often cruise this coast, traveling in large pods and leaping from the water to twirl mid-air. Green sea turtles, humpback whales, and monk seals make appearances, too. For surf breaks, you’ll head to the untamed east shore.
Boat trips—along with most island activities—can be booked at the Four Seasons’ Island Adventure Center (1 Manele Bay Rd., Lanai City; 808/565-2072). Their new vendor, Lanai Ocean Sports (www.lanaioceansports.com 808/866-8256), took over the Trilogy vessels and crew—so you can expect the same top-notch service. They offer sailing and snorkeling tours aboard a decked-out 49’ catamaran and chartered adventures on Kalulu, a 39’ rigid-hull inflatable. The six-person raft can plow through the sea at 50mph; it previously chased yachts in the Americas Cup. Keep in mind that during “festive season” (mid-December through the first week of January) the boats are fully committed to Four Seasons guests.
Lanai’s south and west coastlines offer spectacular vistas: dramatic sea cliffs punctuated by hidden caves, quiet coves, and mysterious sea stacks. You can put kayaks in at Manele or Kaumalapau Harbor. Both are working harbors, but not very busy. From Kaumalapau, paddle roughly two-and-a-half miles north to reach Nanahoa, a cluster of needle-like sea stacks. It’s a picturesque lunch stop, with a shady cave and rocky apron to pull up onto for a landing. The snorkeling around these islets can be magical. Check weather conditions and currents before you go. You can rent kayaks and gear from Lanai Adventure Club (http://jeeplanai.net; 800/565-7373. They also offer 4-hour guided tours from 8am to 12pm; call for pricing.
To snorkel on your own, simply strap on a mask and head out from Hulopoe Beach. The marine-life conservation area is Lanai’s best snorkeling spot; fish are abundant in the bay and marine mammals regularly swim by. Try the lava-rock points at either end of the beach and around the tide pools.
Venture further afield with Lanai Ocean Sports aboard their 49’ sailing catamaran. The captains will steer you alongside the island’s dramatic southern coast to a site near the Kaunolu lighthouse. The three-hour snorkel trips cost $150 and include sandwiches, cookies, cocktails and local microbrews. Help yourself to the stand-up paddleboards and organic Coola sunscreen.
Two of Hawaii’s best-known dive spots are found in Lanai’s clear waters, just off the south shore: Cathedrals I and II, so named because the sun lights up an underwater grotto like a magnificent church. Sadly, the on-island scuba options have shrunk over the years. Lanai Ocean Sports (see above) is your best bet. You can charter Kalulu for a private two-tank dive, or tag along on a snorkel trip for a one-tank dive. Certified divers only; make sure you bring your PADI or NAU card.
Sportfishers can charter Kalulu, a 39’ rigid-hull inflatable from Lanai Ocean Sports (see above). It’s $1600 for several hours of trolling.
Surfing/Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP)
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to surf, let instructor and surfing champion Nick Palumbo take you on a 4WD surfing safari to a secluded surf spot on the island’s rugged eastside. He’ll have you up and riding the waves in no time. His Lanai Surf School & Surf Safari ★★ (www.lanaisurfsafari.com; 808/649-0739) offers 5-hour surf safaris, which include four-wheel-drive transportation to Lopa Beach, refreshments, and “a really good time.” The adventures cost $200 per person, minimum of two guests. He also offers stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) lessons at Hulopoe Beach, 2 hours for $100.
Sailing & Whale-Watching
Every evening, Lanai Ocean Sports (see above) offers a two-hour sunset sail. Cruise past sea cliffs and unspoiled coastline while spinner dolphins and flying fish dart ahead of the bow. You’ll arrive at Puu Pehe, Sweetheart Rock, just in time for the best sunset shots. The trip costs $100, inclusive of snacks, beverages, and Dramamine for those suffering from seasickness.
During whale season (Dec–Mar), Hawaiian humpback whales put on impressive shows, breaching, slapping their pectoral fins, and singing complex melodies underwater. You can view them from just about any spot on Lanai, particularly on the eastside, looking toward Maui.
If you want to witness whales up close, hop aboard Lanai Ocean Sports’ catamaran for two-hour whale-spotting tour. Scan the horizon for the massive marine mammals, which are almost guaranteed to surface nearby with gusty exhalations. The captain and crew are certified naturalists who make each trip educational. The cost and amenities are the same as the sunset sails.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.