Working on your next vacation to Hawaii? Leave plenty of room to explore all the best things to do in Lanai. The quiet Hawaiian island may not jump off the page when planning your Hawaii trip. But with its opulent beauty and high-end resorts, it’s a must-visit destination for beach bums and outdoor adventurers alike.
The top tourist attractions in Lanai showcase not just its beautiful scenery but its history. Lanai has been at the center of infamous battles and at the forefront of local mythology.
Not sure what to do in Lanai? Get a leg up on your trip planning with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Lanai, Hawaii.
Best places to visit in Lanai, HI
We all know Hawaii is an amazing spot for a beach vacation. And if you’re looking to fill your Lanai trip with seaside pleasures, you can’t do much better than throwing Hulopoe Beach into your itinerary.
With its calm and translucent water in the summer, the white sand beach isn’t just one of the best places to go in Lanai, but the top snorkeling location on the island.
As you arrive at Hulopoe Beach Park, you’ll be met with rows of towering palm trees swaying under the Hawaiian sun. Walk towards Hulopoe Bay to see the soft waves of the Pacific Ocean touch down on the golden shores. From here, you can bathe in the sun or embark on a journey beneath the surface.
Hulopoe Bay Beach Park is also renowned for its lava tide pools. Take a dip to discover starfish and other colorful local marine life.
Also known as Kaiolohia, Shipwreck Beach earned its name from its startling trade winds. Over the years, the shore’s wild conditions have caused their fair share of sailing catastrophes. Today, you’ll can still catch a glimpse of its treachery.
From the white sand beach, you can gaze upon a half-sunken oil tanker from the 1940s, now standing upon the off-shore reef. The shipwreck makes for an eerie sight and a constant reminder of the power of mother nature. The rusted tanker contrasts with the effervescent blues of both the Pacific Ocean and the sky above, making for a scenic beach day unlike any other.
With its currents, waves, and wind, Shipwreck Beach isn’t great for casual swimming. But for photography, it’s one of the most popular Lanai beaches to visit.
Garden of the Gods
Featuring a massive rock garden and barren landscapes, the Garden of the Gods feels out of place in Lanai. Located on the northwestern side of the island, the garden will leave visitors feeling as if they’re on Mars as they walk around rock towers left behind after thousands of years’ worth of erosion.
Also known as Keahiakwelo, the garden is a part of two Hawaiian legends. One legend claims that the rocks were dropped by gods from the sky; the other, that the lunar landscape was created by a fire-burning contest between the priests of Lanai and Molokai.
Although you can walk around the Garden of the Gods independently, it’s most commonly explored on a 4WD adventure.
Just 30 minutes from the Garden of the Gods, Polihua Beach offers a slice of heaven after your trip to Mars. The secluded beach requires a bumpy drive before reaching the two-mile expanse of white sand. Upon arrival, it’ll all be worth it as you’ll often get to enjoy the remote beach all to yourself.
Sitting on the northwest coast, Polihua Beach is as wide as it is long. The beach has ample room to spread out, play with friends or simply enjoy the tranquility.
Swimming isn’t common here due to waves and strong currents; sticking to the shallows is recommended. As you relax, keep your eye out for resting turtles, or in the winter, migrating humpback whales.
Located at the heart of Lanai City and at the very center of the island, Dole Park is one of the most popular Lanai attractions. Surrounded by shops and restaurants, the park is a common gathering place for locals and a wonderful place to enjoy a family picnic while in Lanai City.
Traveling families will enjoy taking a step back and letting the young ones climb all over the playgrounds. On the weekends, Dole Park hosts a farmers market where you can load the picnic basket or simply browse for souvenirs and handmade crafts.
Afterward, head across the street to find a range of eateries and boutique stores—not to mention several art galleries.
Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe)
Perched in front of the opulent Four Seasons Resort, Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe) is one of the top things to see in Lanai. The rock formation stands alone off the coast, with the waves encircling it. It’s a beautiful sight; the legend of the sea stack, however, is quite a somber story.
A young warrior from the island fell in love with Pehe, a breathtaking beauty who lived in Maui. One day, he took her to Lanai and hid her in a sea cave where she drowned after it flooded. Heartbroken, he buried her at the top of Sweetheart Rock before leaping to his death.
You can admire the impressive rock formation from a distance, but the Puupehe Trail allows you to get up close to the outcrop after a 20-minute walk.
Koloiki Ridge Trail
Speaking of eye-catching Lanai hikes, the Koloiki Ridge Trail delivers its own buffet of long-range views. The trail begins at the Four Seasons Hotel, not far from Sweetheart Rock.
The 5-mile loop trail takes you along an easy-to-follow, moderate hiking trail up into the lush mountains. Begin among the pine forests before gaining elevation atop the ridge where you’ll bask in 360-degree views. At the higher elevation, you’ll notice the welcome drop in temperature, as the coastal breeze sweeps by.
Not just a simple hiking trail, the Koloiki Ridge Trail has a spot in local history as the site of an infamous battle during the 1700s. The trail also affords the opportunity to learn about the fragile ecosystem and the efforts of Lanai residents to preserve its beautiful nature.
If the Koloiki Ridge Trail has whet your appetite for hiking, then get ready for the Munro Trail. The loop hike is just shy of 13 miles long, whisking you through a stunning array of landscapes.
Beginning in pristine pine forests, hikers will venture above the tree-line to ocean views, onto canyons and rugged coasts before repeating the cycle.
The highlight of the trek is reaching the House of Lanai (Lanaihale), the tallest mountain on the island. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all six Hawaiian islands.
You can combine the Munro Trail with Koloiki Ridge to create a long and challenging but ultimately rewarding day hike.
Manele Golf Course
If you’re wondering where to go in Lanai to break out the clubs, look no further than Manele Golf Course. Alongside the Four Seasons Manele Bay, this course was designed by the only and only Jack Nicklaus.
The famed Manele Golf Course caresses the edge of the island’s southern coast, where you’ll enjoy splendid ocean views on the fairway and from the greens. The course is challenging but it’s hard to stay frustrated in such a location. Just try not to hook any shots into the Pacific Ocean!
Afterward, celebrate or commiserate at the course’s Views Restaurant for upscale oceanfront dining.
On Hulopoe Beach you’ll find the beginning of Fisherman’s Trail. During your relaxing beach day, stretch your legs along this beautiful trail that will also educate you on local history and culture.
Rising along the edge of the Pacific, the hiking trail delivers majestic coastal views, with the waves crashing against the craggy coastline below. Along the way, you’ll pass several ruins that were once temples and homes under the Kingdom of Hawaii.
The Fisherman’s Trail has a series of informative plaques that explore the life of the Hulopoe Bay community. Learn about their way of life, including the tools they used to build their ornate temples.
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Home to over 600 rescued cats, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is one of the best places to see in Lanai for animal lovers. The sanctuary provides a safe home with the aim of protecting these beautiful felines and preventing overpopulation and damage to local nature.
Visitors are welcome to explore the space, spend time with the animals, or volunteer at the shelter. Common tasks include gardening, grooming, and even painting—all with the high likelihood of also falling in love with the cats.
Donations to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary are also appreciated. Even small contributions go a long way to protecting the animals and the island.
Perched on the South Shore of Lanai, Shark’s Bay is a secluded beach only reachable on foot. From the lava tide pools at Hulopoe Beach, continue along the trail to access this remote location.
The beach at Shark’s Bay is more akin to a sandy cove tucked away from the rest of the world. Although it’s only a short walk, it’s enough to prevent large crowds from gathering, leaving you with a quiet paradise all to yourself.
Swimming at Shark’s Bay is limited because of the rocky shoreline and swirling currents. In any case, it’s a lovely place to sit, relax, and keep watch from Hawaiian Monk Seals.
Petroglyphs are always an arresting sight, and visiting the Poiwa Petroglyphs on Lanai is no exception. You can find these ancient inscriptions by hiking along a trail departing from Shipwreck Beach.
The brief trail to the Poaiwa Petroglyphs takes you from the golden shores up along the coast and deep into the Poiwa Valley. It’s here, upon hardened rock lava, that you’ll find the historic Hawaiian petroglyphs.
Pictorial writing was a big part of Lanai and Hawaiian lifestyle. The drawings here comprise contributions spanning across generations. The Poaiwa Petroglyphs depict prominent events, such as battles between warring communities along with simple everyday things, like their beloved pets.
Mike Carroll Gallery
In 2001, Mike Carroll departed the Windy City of Chicago for the golden shores of Lanai. It was here that he was able to pursue his passion for art and nature using his exquisite oil painting skills. Now, in Lanai City, you can visit the Mike Carroll Gallery and admire his works that celebrate Hawaiian culture and enthralling beauty.
The art gallery has been opened since 2002 and has been in its current Lanai City location since 2004. As it’s a working studio, you’ll often find Mike creating his latest work when he isn’t roaming the island seeking inspiration. The art gallery is also home to a wide range of local art.
Lanai Culture & Heritage Center
Within the old Dole Administration Building in Lanai City, the Lanai Cultural and Heritage Center takes you on a journey through the history of Lanai. It’s a great place to start your travels on the island as it offers some of the best Lanai sightseeing.
Travel back in time to when volcanoes shaped the Hawaiian islands before learning about the Polynesians who arrived using nothing but the stars above them.
Continue through the rise of the Kingdom of Hawaii to the arrival of James Dole, who created one of the largest pineapple plantations on earth on what was then a private island. One of the best things to do in Lanai, the fascinating cultural experience leads you right up to the modern day.
From one cultural experience to another, Keomoku presents a unique look back to the mid-20th century. The town on the east coast was the first non-Hawaiian settlement on Lanai. In its heyday, Keomoku was home to 2,000 people who were a part of a thriving fishing and ranching community.
However, drought slowly killed off the local industry, turning Keomoku into a ghost town. It’s remained that way ever since.
Visitors can explore the eerie settlement, now home to a restored church, along with taking in the epic views across the Auau Channel to Maui.
After exploring the town, head to one of the nearby empty beaches.
One of the beaches to visit from Keomoku is Lopa Beach. Those with a four-wheel drive can make their way to the white sand beach along the dirt trails branching off of Keomoku Road.
After arriving at the beach, you’ll find an unkempt haven without another soul in sight. The beach is backed by dense forests which make way for soft golden sand and endless views of Maui.
Lopa Beach stretches between Kikoa Point and an ancient fish pond that’s now a bird sanctuary. From this untouched shore, it’s hard to imagine that across the water is Ka’anapali, one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii, on the island of Maui.