Traveling to any of the Hawaiian islands requires one thing: renting a car. There is very little public transportation on the islands, and they’re all far too beautiful to stay in one place for your entire trip. On most of the islands, you can get around easily without 4-wheel drive (4WD), but Lana’i’s roads are largely unpaved, making that a little more challenging. But, a Jeep is also more expensive to rent on Lana’i than a standard vehicle.
Almost every blog post or website with advice about Lana’i recommends renting a Jeep, and many outright say you have to. What they often don’t say is that renting a Jeep is much more expensive–as in, $65-$130 more per day than a two-wheel drive vehicle. That really adds up over the course of a few days to a week. So here’s your quick list of places you can visit without 4WD, in case you want or need to save that cash. It’s up to you!
Read this first: Everything You Need to Know about Renting a Car on Lana’i
Why Would You Need 4WD?
There are only 30 miles of paved roads on Lana’i. Everything else requires 4WD, including popular sites like Lana’i Cat Sanctuary, Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), and Kaunolu Historic Village. But if those things aren’t on the top of your list, there are still plenty of things you can see and do!
Considering renting a Jeep? Here are The Best Places to Go on Lana’i WITH 4WD.
Where Can I Go Without 4WD Drive?
In my own research for this trip, I was surprised that I couldn’t find a list of places to go with or without 4WD. I thought at least one list or the other would be helpful, you know? So, if you’re debating whether or not to rent a Jeep for its 4WD capabilities, this post is here to help you decide! Here are all the places you can go if you choose NOT to rent a car with 4WD.
This trailhead is easy to find just off of Manele Road, about 1.5 miles south of Lana’i City. There’s plenty of room to park, and the trail is very well-marked and easy to follow (which can’t be said of every trail on every Hawaiian island!). It’s a bit of a climb to the lookout point, about 1.8 miles into the trail, but the rest of this 5-mile loop trail is relatively flat or only a low grade once you get to the top.
Note: If you do choose to rent a Jeep, you can drive this trail instead.
More here: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Lana’i
This beautiful, calm, swimmable bay is the perfect place to spent a morning, afternoon, or all day! The water is remarkably clear, so snorkeling is a treat. But if you’re not a strong swimmer, or if you’re like me and your face is too small for a snorkel and face mask, there are tide pools along the coast to the left where fish, crab, and more sea life are naturally on display. There is plenty of parking, two restrooms, and a gorgeous white sand beach just waiting for you. Plus, the hike to Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) is within walking distance from here as well! (More on that below!)
Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) Trailhead
If you’re up for a longish, kind of hot walk on a sandy road, you’ll be glad to know you can drive on paved road to the trailhead that leads to Kaiolohia! You’ll find it at the end of Keomuku Highway, where the pavement ends. There is a large paved area where you can park, and then walk from there. The walk is easy, since it’s mostly flat, and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of a ship at the end!
Note: If you choose to rent a Jeep, you can drive to this beach instead.
Helpful info: How to Save BIG on Your Trip to Hawaii
Need a little romantic excursion? Check out the sunset at Kaumalapa’au Harbor. You’ll find it at the end of Kaumalapa’au Road, where you’ll also find gorgeous sea cliffs as well! Don’t go all the way to the loading dock at the harbor, though, as it’s restricted.
More here: The Best Things to Love about Hawaii
Ask a local what’s the best hiking trail on the island, and they’ll tell you: The Koloiki Trail. It’s a pretty easy trail to hike, with a “gorge”ous view at the end! But even better–you can drive to the trailhead without 4WD! This beautiful 5-mile trail is located behind the Four Seasons Sensei, about a mile from Lana’i City. Just park at the lot by the Adventure Center and follow the signs. You’ll be rewarded!
Thankfully, you can drive to and from the airport on paved roads. It’s a tiny airport with no security and only tiny planes, so I think you’ll love it! ABB Executive Rental had our vehicle waiting for us in the parking lot when our plane landed, so we didn’t skip a beat after our long flight and two connections from D.C.! You’ll fly here with Mokulele Airlines, or with Lana’i Air if you’re staying at the Four Seasons.
Coming soon: Flying to Lana’i on Mokulele Airlines
No matter what vehicle you choose, you’ll have plenty to do in Lana’i City! There are absolutely no chain restaurants or shops on the island, so every place is unique. Here, you’ll find a pharmacy (when was the last time you saw a mom-and-pop pharmacy?), an art supply store, art gallery, clothing shops, souvenirs, and some of the best food and coffee you’ll find in the islands. Make sure you also make a reservation (during COVID) to visit the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center as well! Hotel Lana’i is also located in Lana’i City, which is a beautiful and convenient place to stay!
Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) Trailhead
Want a beautiful view without a 5-mile hike to get there? May I introduce you to Pu’u Pehe? This coastal trail is just one mile round-trip, and it will take you to the top of this gorgeous cliff overlooking an islet. You can also see the West Maui mountains in the distance while you’re up there. It’s a bit of a climb, but it’s not a difficult hike whatsoever. On our way down, we passed a bride in her wedding dress leading the way up with her photographer and the groom!
Keep reading: How to Choose Which Hawaiian Island to Visit
Whether you choose a Jeep, electric car, or standard vehicle, you will want a paper map. Cell service is pretty good on most of the island, but not perfect, nor always available. Also, the map on your phone is definitely not 100% accurate! We received a beautiful map from Hotel Lana’i, as well as a color-coded map from our rental company, ABB Executive Rental. Both were helpful, and we took them with us literally everywhere!
Must-have life skill: How to Read a Map
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