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In the early 1900s, travelers from far-flung countries arrived on Lanai to work on the newly formed Dole Plantation. Today, the island still attracts visitors from around the globe but, instead of pineapples, they focus their attention on unique outdoor adventures, outstanding cuisine, idyllic beaches and golf on two award-winning courses.
Other Hawaii islands offer similar attributes, but Lanai stands apart in its size, just 141 square miles. In Lanai City (population 3,100) people stop on the street and take time to chat with each other, and nightlife consists of a solo guitarist and a sea of stars. Two Four Seasons hotels blend into the landscape, with dolphins spinning off the shores of its Manele Bay property and wild turkeys roaming the manicured lawns of the upcountry Lodge at Koele. Following are some options for making the most of Maui County’s smallest, sweetest member.
1. Take an Off-Road Tour. Lanai Grand Adventures gives clients the lay of the land on an island where nature knows no bounds. They can drive a utility task vehicle through towering ironwood forests up to the 3,300-foot summit of the Munro Trail, or journey to Lanai Pine Sporting Clays and test their marksmanship at various shooting stands. The company also offers horseback rides through majestic Cook pine forests, with sightings of wild deer and sheep and views of Maui, Molokai and Kahoolawe. www.lanaigrandadventures.com
2. Get Acquainted with Lanai City. Take a leisurely walk around pine-lined Dole Square, Lanai’s homespun business district with local boutiques, galleries, trinket shops and eateries. Take time in the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, which traces the rich story of the island through a variety of historical displays, from ancient Hawaiian artifacts to items documenting the plantation era. Finish with lunch at Pele’s Other Garden, a local favorite with sandwiches, salads, pizza, fish and chips and a selection of beer and wine. www.lanaichc.org, www.pelesothergarden.com
3. Cast Away to Shipwreck Beach. Rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and head north from Lanai City to windswept eight-mile-long Kaiolohia, better known as Shipwreck Beach. Several vessels have met their demise along its shallow, rocky channel, and visitors can see the rusting hull of a large 1940’s oil tanker forever stuck on the coral reef. This is a great place for taking photos of Molokai and Maui as well as beachcombing and exploring, but don’t get in the water here. Save that for the next activity of the day.
4. Swim and Snorkel in Hulopoe Bay. Head south for some quality time in Hulopoe Bay, a marine life conservation area. Years ago, its pristine white sands and clear waters earned it the title of America’s Best Beach by Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach). Fronting the Four Seasons Manele Bay, it calls to snorkelers, swimmers and a dazzling pod of spinner dolphins. A 20-minute walk leads to 80-foot-high Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) from which, according to legend, a heartbroken warrior grieving for his wife leapt to his death into the sea.
5. Dine at Lanai City Grille. For a laid-back meal with a local flair, try this easy-going dining room in Hotel Lanai, built in the early 1920s and renovated just right. Award-winning Hawaii Regional Cuisine chef Bev Gannon oversees the Pacific fusion menu featuring locally caught seafood, fresh meats and rotisserie chicken accompanied by truffle mac and cheese. During each Friday Under the Stars, island musicians help clients start the weekend with a tasty helping of Lanai-style aloha. www.hotellanai.com
Get Acquainted with Lanai City. // © 2012 Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M. Myers
Cast Away to Shipwreck Beach. // © 2012 Hawaii Tourism authority Japan
Swim and Snorkel in Hulopoe Bay. // © 2012 Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M. Myers
Dine at Lanai City Grille. // © 2012 Lanai City Grille