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THE ISLAND OF LANAI: ADVENTURES IN AN ALL-TERRAIN PARADISE
“Dolphin!” The cry is heard frequently on Lanai, from its shoreline, boats, kayaks, cars, bicycles and hotel rooms. Like their mammal cousins the kohola (humpback whales), the naia (spinner dolphins) love the warm waters of Lanai and consider them their personal playground. And what a playground it is: the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Hawaii, miles of deserted coastline, reefs full of fish and landmarks rich with legend.
Lanai’s 89,600 acres of countryside invite hiking, mountain biking and sightseeing. From its highest point you can see up to five neighbor islands across the channels and steep gorges below. Fishing, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and world-class golf in mountain and oceanfront settings – these are the adventures that await you on Hawaii’s most enticing island.
By land, sea, and everything in between, Lanai strikes the perfect balance of wildness and accessibility. It is rugged but approachable, isolated but generously comfortable. Since 1990, when the island’s first luxury hotel opened in the hills of Koele, the curtains have been parted on the island’s hidden wonders. With only 30 miles of paved road on Lanai’s 141 square miles, its life off the beaten track brims with rich rewards.
The two luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, and the 11-room Hotel Lanai are ideal base camps for exploring the far-flung corners of the island. A four-wheel-drive vehicle, rented from Lanai City Service or an activity operator, and a map, available from the hotels, are the basics for a self-guided excursion. Although hikers need no more than a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and a well honed mental compass, there are several operations that offer the full range of Lanai based activities and authentic island experiences.
SNORKELING, SCUBA, SAILING AND CHARTER TOURS
Scuba divers the world over know that Cathedrals is one of the premier dive spots in the world. And it’s in Lanai waters, just off the southern shore where underwater caverns and clear waters are a scuba diver’s delight. Skin Diver magazine has rated Lanai one of the top 10 snorkel and scuba sites in the world.
Lanai’s ocean activities companies have experienced skippers and dive instructors who can spot a dolphin from a distance, identify rare tropical fish in the waters of Kaunolu, and coax an octopus off its rock so you can see it up close. They will teach you to snorkel and lead you on ocean rafting expeditions. Departing from the south shore, Trilogy Excursions operates the full range of watercraft: Zodiacs, and custom-made sailing catamarans 54-, 55- and 64-feet long. The catamarans come with all the amenities and equipment for snorkel, sail and scuba tours to Cathedrals and other sites. Lava tubes, sea cliffs 1,000 feet high, and staggering underwater lava tubes are among the adventurer’s rewards. Trilogy’s Adventure Center shop outfits beach-goers and divers with appropriate gear for endless fun in the sun.
With plentiful reefs and 47 miles of shoreline, fishing is a major part of the Lanai lifestyle and a source of recreation. Lanai residents are expert fishermen. A morning or afternoon expedition on the 36-foot Twin-Vee Fish-N-Tips – successor to its well known predecessor the Fish-N-Chips – will test your angling skills against giant fish and leave you with a magnificent Hawaiian sunset. They provide gear, bait, tackle and soft drinks, and take you sport fishing, light tackle fishing, or bottom fishing in Lanai waters. Anglers aim for ono (wahoo), mahi mahi, and marlin, and, where the seabirds are circling and diving, schools of aku (skipjack tuna) and ahi (yellow fin tuna).
A fishing village dating back to 900 A.D., the marine preserve called Hulopoe Bay is the center of Lanai’s beach activities. The wide, white-sand crescent, lined at each end with dramatic lava outcroppings, invites swimming, snorkeling and tide pool exploration. As habitués love the beach, so do the schools of spinner dolphins that leap and dive in the bay. From November through early May they are joined by their gregarious relatives, the leaping, breaching humpback whales. At Hulopoe there are barbecue grills, restrooms, picnic tables, camping facilities—and showers with water warmed by the sun.
Located around the corner from Hulopoe, Manele Bay is also a marine preserve with the only public boat harbor on the island. All south shore ocean tours originate at Manele Harbor: fishing boats, yachts, the Expeditions ferry, whale watching, snorkel sails, scuba diving and ocean rafting.
The Munro Trail is one of Lanai’s terrestrial highlights, a trail for advanced hikers that traverses the 3,370-foot Lanaihale. The trail is a challenge, continuing for 16 miles roundtrip and accessible by foot, bicycle and 4-wheel drive. Astounding views unfold of steep gulches below and at least three, and sometimes five, of the neighboring islands: Maui, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Hawaii and Oahu. Named after George Munro, a botanist and ranch manager from New Zealand, the trail is lined with sky-high Cook pines and eucalyptus stands that flourish among native plants. Munro planted the trees in the 1930s as part of a reforestation effort, to draw moisture from the clouds and create a watershed. Today Munro Trail is the greenest part of Lanai, winding above Koele through mountain grasslands and forests of bamboo and koa where ancient taro terraces lie hidden.
Hiking along the northern and eastern shoreline is a beachcomber’s paradise. You can walk the wild, windswept strand for miles and look for abandoned boats and the wreckage of the World War II ship that gave the beach its nickname: Shipwreck. It is actually Kaiolohia, meaning “tranquil sea.” The wild, windswept coastline stretches for miles along the Kalohi Channel between Lanai and Molokai. Eight miles north is the beach called Polihua, favored by nesting turtles. Near the island’s easternmost point, an old wooden church recalls the days when Keomoku was a sugar settlement and, years later, the headquarters for a sheep and cattle ranch. Along the shoreline, turtles frequent the inshore reefs, and monk seal like the beach for napping.
The 6.5-mile downhill slope from Koele to Kaiolohia is paradise for mountain bikers. Or, rent a bicycle for a leisurely ride around Lanai City’s Dole Park – its small, shady and charming, with a restaurant or shop every few feet.
You don’t have to choose between the mountains and the seashore. Savvy golfers often choose both. The Experience at Koele is a spectacular 18-hole championship course spread high over a plateau and the rolling hills of central Lanai. Designed by Greg Norman and Ted Robinson, the 7,014-yard, par-72 course is set nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, with views of Maui and Molokai directly across the channel.
At sea level, the Challenge at Manele is built on hundreds of acres of lava fields and dry, desert-like terrain that present their ultimate challenge at the ocean: three holes built on the bluffs above Hulopoe Bay, where the Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest water hazard. The 7,039-yard, par-72 course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and features panoramic ocean views from all 18 holes.
Directly across from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele at the 1,700-foot elevation, the Stables at Koele are the equestrian center of the island, offering an alternative way to explore the wooded valleys and trails of the extraordinary upland terrain. Ride along open pasturelands to a plateau in the Mahana area, or in the central ridgelines of Lanai along a section of the Munro Trail. Maui and Molokai scroll into view across the ‘Au‘au Channel. Those new to riding can take lessons from expert instructors.
LANAI PINE SPORTING CLAYS AND ARCHERY RANGE
One of the fastest growing sports in the country has found its perfect setting: the northwestern hills of Lanai, two miles from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele. The 15-acre Lanai Pine Sporting Clays and Archery Range offers multiple target shooting disciplines with a bonus: views of Maui and Molokai across the channel. Masterful instruction and top-quality equipment are presented for shooters of all levels, whether they choose wobble trap, skeet, compact sporting, air rifle or sporting clays. The 14-station sporting clay course meanders through old ironwood forests and groves of Australian eucalyptus trees, presenting challenges of varying terrains and targets. The clay targets, mimicking traditional game such as flushed pheasants and rabbits, are launched in random patterns. Certified instructors are available for all levels of skill.
For a soundless kind of target practice, aim for the pineapple bull’s eye in the adjacent archery range. Instructors teach all ages and levels on first-rate equipment: 15-pound bows for children and 20- and 25-pound bows for adults, for both right- and left-handed archers. Even beginners discover that the bull’s eye – 5, 10, 15, and 20 yards away – is not so far after all.
Maui Visitors Bureau
808-244-3530 Ext. 716