Lanai is deliciously remote: The island’s tiny airport doesn’t accommodate direct flights from the mainland, and its closest neighbor is a 45-minute ferry ride away. It’s almost as if this quiet, gentle oasis—known for both its small-town feel and celebrity appeal—demands that visitors go to great lengths to get here in order to better appreciate it.
By Plane—If you’re coming from outside Hawaii, you’ll have to make a connection on Oahu (Honolulu/HNL) or Maui (Kahului/OGG or Kapalua/JHM), where you can catch a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flight to Lanai’s airport. You’ll touch down in Palawai Basin, once the world’s largest pineapple plantation; it’s about 10 minutes by car to Lanai City and 25 minutes to Manele Bay.
Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianairlines.com; 800/367-5320) operates a fleet of pretty turboprop planes that fly direct from Honolulu to Lanai. Mokulele Airlines (www.mokuleleairlines.com; 866/260-7070) offers charter flights to the island on nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan planes.
By Boat—A round-trip on Expeditions Lahaina/Lanai Passenger Ferry (http://go-lanai.com; 800/695-2624) takes you between Maui and Lanai for $30 adults and $20 children each way. The ferry runs five times a day, 365 days a year, between Lahaina (on Maui) and Lanai’s Manele Bay harbor. The 9-mile channel crossing takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on sea conditions. Reservations are strongly recommended; call or book online. Baggage is limited to two checked bags and one carry-on. Bonus: During the winter months, taking the ferry amounts to a free whale-watch.
If you feel the need for speed (and have $1600 to spare), charter private passage with Lanai Ocean Sports (808/866-8256) aboard Kalulu. The six-person 39’ inflatable previously served as a chase boat for the Americas Cup and can zip along at 50mph. On a calm day you’ll cross the channel separating Maui and Lanai in just 20 minutes.
The island has little infrastructure, so you’ll need to plan your transportation in advance. Rabaca’s Limousine Service (808/565-6670) will retrieve you from the airport or harbor for $10 per person. Guests at the Four Seasons Lanai (808/565-2000) will be retrieved by a complimentary shuttle bus or can hire a private SUV ($85 per vehicle, up to four passengers). If you’re camping at Hulopoe Beach, you can walk over from the harbor—a 5-minute stroll.
Once you’ve arrived at your lodging, it’s entirely possible to enjoy Lanai without getting behind the wheel. Lanai City is easily walkable and if you’re staying at the Four Seasons you’ll hardly want to stray from the luxurious property. But if you plan to explore the island’s remote shores or forested summit (which I highly recommend), you’ll need a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle for at least a day.
Reserve your ride far in advance; cars are in short supply here. On top of that, gas is expensive on Lanai—upward of $4 a gallon—and off-road vehicles get lousy mileage. Spending $40 to $50 per day on gas isn’t unheard of. Tip: Rent only for the day (or days) you want to explore the island’s hinterlands. Keep in mind that rainy weather makes many roads impassable. Check with your rental agent to see which roads are open—and whether renting that day is worth your money.
Dollar Rent A Car, 1036 Lanai Ave. (http://dollarlanai.com; 800/533-7808 ext.1) is the standard, no-frills stop for cars, minivans, and 4WD jeeps. Expect to pay $139 (plus taxes) per day and abide by their rather cautious recommendations regarding which roads you can access. Lanai Adventure Club (http://jeeplanai.net; 800/565-7373) tends to be more flexible with their Jeep Wranglers and where you can drive them; call for pricing. Alternately, check with Susan and Michael Hunter of Dreams Come True (www.dreamscometruelanai.com; 808/565-6961). They rent 4WD vehicles to their guests for $125 per day and might have an extra available.
If serious off-roading is your goal, consider renting an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) from Lanai Jeep Rental (www.lanaijeeprental.net; 808/280-7092) for $150 per day. John Price will give you a tour or turn you loose, depending on your confidence. You can’t drive the ATV on paved roads, but you can go wild exploring the island’s red dirt tracks—which lead to its most pristine sites. Bonus: you don’t have to refill the ATV’s tank before returning. Price also rents Jeep Wranglers for $140 per day. He’ll deliver yours to the harbor or wherever you are staying.
With all of that in mind, if you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, Rabaca’s Limousine Service (see above) is a terrific option for a short romp around the island. Knowledgeable local drivers will navigate the rough roads for you, visiting Shipwreck Beach, Keahiakawelo, and even Keomoku Village in roomy Suburbans. Trips run 3 1/2 hours and cost $80 per person (minimum two guests). If you’ve got a larger group, Rabaca’s will chauffer the lot of you around in a six-person SUV for $110 per hour. Fifteen-passenger vans go for $150 per hour; they stay on paved roads.
Alternately, book the all-inclusive “4x4 Trekker Tour” package from Expeditions (www.go-lanai.com; 808/695-2624; from $181), which includes ferry travel to Lanai.
Whether or not you rent a car, sooner or later you’ll find yourself at the Lanai Plantation Store, 1036 Lanai Ave. (808/565-7227 ext. 3). Get directions, maps, and all the local gossip at this all-in-one grocery, gourmet deli, gas station, rental-car agency, and souvenir shop. It’s also a good place to fill your water jugs: A reverse-osmosis water dispenser is just out front.
Lanai Visitors Bureau, 1727 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku, Maui 96793 (www.gohawaii.com/lanai; 800/947-4774 or 808/565-7600), and the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau (www.gohawaii.com; 800/GO-HAWAII or 808/923-1811) provide brochures, maps, and island guides.
There’s an App for That
The Lanai Culture & Heritage Center partnered with Pulama Lanai to create a great new tool for exploring the island. The Lanai Guide is a GPS-enabled app that directs you to historic sites, replete with old photos, aerial videos, and chants. It’s free on iTunes.
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.