From miles of lunar-like rock formations to jaw-dropping red lava cliffs and world-renowned snorkelling spots, Lānaʹi is rich with must-see landmarks
Lured by the luxury, exclusivity and tranquility of the five-star Four Seasons Resort on Lānaʹi, many of the island’s visitors (approximately 70 per cent) come for the sun and never leave the grounds of the luxe hotel. And why would they? The posh piece of paradise sits perched above a secluded white-sand beach (once recognized as the best beach in the world), offers tremendous privacy and boasts picture-perfect views of the Pacific from almost any of the intimate cabanas and poolside seats on-site.
The world’s wealthiest are drawn to the resort’s idyllic surroundings, where they can relax and unwind without interruption, yet the hideaway maintains a friendly, laid-back island feel. Swanky, but not stuffy, the Four Seasons Resort on Lānaʹi epitomizes a tropical paradise—for those who are able to foot the bill.
But the island of Lānaʹi isn’t just for the rich and famous, and its appeal certainly doesn’t end at the sandy shores of Manele Bay. Go beyond the beach and fall in love with the island on which the famed resort has planted its roots.
Here are 8 ways to explore and enjoy the island of Lānaʹi...
1. Getting there: Ferry from Lahaina To Lānaʹi
Bianca BujanUnless you have access to your own private jet, or are in close proximity to the few flights that frequent this remote island directly from Honolulu, it’s best to catch the Expeditions passenger ferry, which offers regular service from Maui’s Lahaina Marina to Lānaʹi—only a short 45-minute jaunt across the Auau Channel. As you sail towards your destination, keep your eyes out for humpback whales (during the cooler months), and pods of Hawaiian spinner dolphins who enjoy playing in the ship’s wake as you approach the bay.
2. Beckon Bruce for a backcountry tour
Bianca BujanMany will recommend renting a four-by-four and exploring Lānaʹi by land on your own, but nothing beats a tour with Bruce of Rabaca Tours. A long-time resident of Lānaʹi, he’ll give you an inside scoop on the ins and outs of the island. Listen to the legends behind Lānaʹi’s most famous landmarks, and take a peek into the lives of Lānaʹi’s 3,200 locals, who have learned to live off the land and thrive in the tiny community that sits on the slopes of the island’s mostly unscathed surface. There’s nothing like getting lost on Lānaʹi with a knowledgeable (and funny) local, and if you want the most exclusive round-the-island, three-hour tour, Bruce is your guy.
3. Get lost in the charm of Lānaʹi City
Bianca BujanYou won’t find street lights, a Starbucks or a strip mall in the quaint town that sits just three miles north of the island’s tiny airport. The last and only intact plantation town in the state of Hawaii, Lānaʹi City has maintained its early 1900s nostalgic feel—even long after the the world’s largest pineapple plantation closed in 1992. Check out the adjacent Dole Park, pop into the local art galleries, grab a snack at the cozy Cafe 565, or pop into the Hale Keaka (movie theatre) for a peek at the most technologically advanced movie theatre in the United States—thanks to “Uncle Larry” (billionaire Larry Ellison who owns 98 per cent of the island). Why did a tiny theatre in Lānaʹi get such drastic upgrades? Bruce will give you the inside scoop.
4. Gaze in wonder at the Garden of the Gods
Bianca BujanA seven-mile drive up the rocky hill will bring you to Keahiakawelo (known as The Garden of the Gods). As you zigzag along the bumpy red-dirt roads, passing abandoned trucks and pointing out the bits of black plastic that peek out from the ground’s surface (remnants of the pineapple plantation that once was), you’ll arrive at a wide-open space covered in lunar-like rock formations. In every direction, a landscape made up of orange, red, purple and brown earth speckled with a colourful collage of curious rock formations will leave you awestruck, as you listen to the legend behind the sacred land on which you stand.
5. Stop in at the Stables at Koele
Bianca BujanThe Stables at Koele are where you’ll want to go for a guided horseback adventure on Lānaʹi—where the ranch’s expert guides lead guests through wooded upland trails and hidden valleys on tours that range in duration and level of difficulty based on the rider’s desires. If you’re exploring Lānaʹi for only a day, you may not have time for a ride, but it’s still fun to stop in, chat with the local ranchers and pet the perfectly groomed horses as you pass through town.
6. Snorkel Hulopoe Beach
Hulopoe Beach Park is a crescent of white sand tucked between the property of the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʹi and the red lava cliffs that lead up to the legend-laden site of Sweetheart Rock. Because this cove is a protected marine preserve, it makes for great snorkelling. If snorkelling doesn’t appeal to you, the tide pools on the lava rocks are a great way to view the diverse marine life without getting too wet. This public beach is a favourite for locals, and offers affordable camping with all of the amenities for visitors who want to sleep under the stars.
7. Scale the cliffs to Sweetheart Rock
Bianca BujanOne of the most recognizable landmarks on the island of Lānaʹi is Pu’u Pehe (also known as Sweetheart Rock). A stroll along the cliff-lined sandy trail (just past Hulopoe Beach) will take you to the peak of the red lava cliffs, where you can take in views of Shark’s Cove and the adjacent 80-foot tall Pu’u Pehe rock that sits 150 feet offshore.
The story behind this landmark is of a ravishing young princess from Maui who captures the heart of a young Mauian warrior. He becomes so taken with her beauty that he doesn’t want other men to see her, so he hides her away in a cave near the rock. One day, a drastic and unexpected change in weather causes crashing surf to fill the cave, drowning his beloved Pu’u Pehe. Stricken with grief, he carries her to the top of the rock and buries her in a stone tomb at its peak. The warrior then dives to his death in the waters below. Many believe that they can still see remnants of the tomb on the top of the rock.
8. Dine at One Forty (Four Seasons)
Bianca BujanFinish off your day in paradise with an exquisite dinner at the Four Seasons’ upscale restaurant, One Forty—named after the perfect temperature of steak and the square mileage of the island. This Four Diamond AAA ocean-view restaurant offers a seasonal selection of freshly caught Hawaiian seafood, Wagyu beef, a wide variety of succulent side dishes to tantalize the taste buds and an extensive wine list. Dine family-style so you can taste as many dishes as possible, and be sure to order dessert! Once you’ve filled your belly, rush back to Manele Bay and catch your ferry back to Lahaina. Watch the lavish land of Lānaʹi disappear on the horizon as you sail back to the shores of Maui.