Lana’i is both journey and a destination. While it’s always best to spend at least 4-5 days exploring any island, Lana’i is unique in that there’s a ferry to get you there from nearby Mau’i, making a day trip a real possibility. If you’re hoping to see all the Hawaiian islands you can visit, this is definitely an easy way to check Lana’i off the list!
But with limited time comes a dilemma: How do you spend a few valuable hours?! There are no traditional taxis or rideshares (that’s right, NO UBER!), and renting a car is expensive–no two ways about it. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a day trip to Lana’i, and three itinerary options for every kind of traveler.
Do everything: The Ultimate Lana’i Buket List
Need to Know Info
The only ways to get to Lana’i are via small airplane with either Mokulele Airlines or Lana’i Air, or the Expeditions Ferry from Lahaina, Mau’i. All itineraries below are written with ferry-goers in mind, but the same principles can be applied to day trippers arriving by air.
- Ferries to Lana’i come only from Lahaina, Mau’i.
- The ferry terminal on Lana’i is located at Manele Bay.
- Lana’i Airport is located in the middle of the island, three miles from Lana’i City and 10 miles from Manele Bay.
Coming soon: Flying to Lana’i with Mokulele Airlines
At the time we visited, the Four Seasons and its restaurants near the ferry terminal was closed to non-guests, meaning you cannot eat at their restaurants unless you are staying at the hotel. The only other places to purchase food on the island is in Lana’i City. If you plan to stay around Hulopoe Beach and are not renting a car, please remember to bring food to the island with you.
Come hungry: Where to Get the Best Food on Lana’i
3 Perfect Day Trip Options
We stayed on Lana’i for five days, and we never ran out of things to do, but even one day can give you a taste of all the island has to offer! If I only had one day to spend on Lana’i, here are three ways I’d like to choose from to do it.
Option 1: Take a Hike and Visit Lana’i City
- 6:45am Ferry from Lahaina, Mau’i
- 7:45am Shuttle or Car Rental pick up at Manele Bay Ferry Terminal
- 8:15am-10:45am Hike
- 10:45am Walk or Drive to Lana’i City
- 11:00am Lunch
- 11:45am-2:00pm Lana’i City and Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center
- 2:30pm Ferry from Manele Bay
Take advantage of your jet lag coming from the mainland and catch the early ferry! You’ll want to get your hike in before the day gets too hot. I recommend choosing to hike either the Koloiki Ridge Trail or the Hi’i Trail, both of which are five miles round-trip. The locals all recommended Koloiki Ridge to us for its beautiful views of the other islands and Maunalei Valley, but if you’re more interested in an uphill hike through beautiful forest (and a view of Lana’i from 1,700 feet), Hi’i Trail may be better for you.
Essential info: Everything You Need to Know about Renting a Car on Lana’i
After your hike, grab lunch and do a little exploring. Lana’i City has no chain stores, so it’s easy to shop local! And don’t miss the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center. Due to COVID, advance reservations are required, but visiting is FREE, and it’s the best way to learn more about Lana’i. E-mail Shelly at Shelly@LanaiCHC.org. If you rented a Jeep, you may learn about a place you want to drive to visit before heading back to the ferry (last ferry leaves Lana’i at 5:30pm).
More here: The Best Things to Love about Hawaii
You may want to plan to rent a car and have it waiting for you at the ferry terminal. If you want to save some money and don’t mind walking to town after your hike, you may want to consider scheduling rides from and back to the ferry terminal with Rabaca’s Shuttle or Dela Cruz Taxi services. Both hiking options are just 1-1.5 miles from Lana’i City, making it easy to grab a bite to eat and explore the local shops as well!
Keep reading: The Ultimate List of Hiking Tips
Bring water! This is important on any hike, but especially here because there are so few stores on the island. There is a water bottle refilling station if you need it at Hulopoe Beach behind the bathrooms, which is not far from the Manele Ferry Terminal.
More details here: The Best Hikes on Lana’i
Option 2: Lanai City and Cat Sanctuary
- 9:45am Ferry from Lahaina, Mau’i
- 10:45am Shuttle or Car Rental at Ferry Terminal
- 11:15am-1:00pm at Lana’i Cat Sanctuary
- 1:00pm Pick Up or Drive from Sanctuary to Lana’i City for Lunch
- 3:00pm Lana’i Heritage and Cultural Center
- 4:30pm Pick Up or Drive from Lana’i City to Manele Ferry Terminal
- 5:30pm Ferry to Lahaina
If you’re a cat lover, you CANNOT miss the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary! My husband Steve and I spent nearly two hours here, and we could have stayed longer if we hadn’t gotten hungry. They’re open every day of the week, but only from 10:00am-3:00pm. When you come, you’ll be shown around, given a baggie of dry cat food to help you make friends, and warned about this little guy who loves to jump on people’s backs to say hello.
More here: Your Guide to the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary
Since the Cat Sanctuary should only take you a couple of hours, plan to spend some time in Lana’i City as well. This is the best place in Hawaii to truly shop local, since there are no chain stores–not even Hawaii-based chain stores! This is also where you’ll find all the available food on the island, so you’ll definitely want to come here for lunch!
Read on: The Best Things to Do in Lana’i City
To get here, you will need to have a 4-wheel drive Jeep (this is technically “off-road,” even though it’s close to the paved road, so you will be fined if you come with anything other than a Jeep) or a ride with Rabacas Shuttle or Dela Cruz Taxi Service. Just text them to make a reservation.
Want to stay longer? How to Plan Your Trip to Lana’i, Hawaii
Also, the nearest restaurants and grocery stores are in Lana’i City, which is about four miles from the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary. So you will want to make sure you get a ride there as well, unless you choose to rent a Jeep.
Option 3: Hulopoe Bay
- 9:45am Ferry from Lahaina, Mau’i
- 10:45am Walk to Hulopoe Beach
- Relax! Read a book! Swim! Snorkel! Hike!
- 2:30pm or 5:30pm Ferry from Manele Bay
If you’re hoping for a relaxing day at the beach, this is the best option for you! Hulopoe Beach is beautiful, with plenty of sand to go around. The water is clear for snorkeling or simply looking down from above the tide pools off to the left of the beach.
You may want to bring a few things with you: 5 Things You Forgot to Pack for Hawaii
Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) Hike
Farther around to the left of the beach, you’ll find a short (0.5 mile) trail up to Pu’u Pehe, also known as Sweetheart Rock. It’s a stunning place for photos. There are also two restroom buildings and a water bottle refilling station, so it’s set up well to be your home base for the day.
More here: The Best Places to Go WITHOUT 4WD on Lana’i
This option is walkable from the ferry terminal! Just follow the road out and turn to the left. You’ll see the parking lot, restroom facilities, and the beach come into view.
Read on: The Ultimate List of Safety Tips for Your Trip to Hawaii
At the time we visited (November 2021), the nearby Four Seasons and it restaurants were closed to non-guests. The nearest food is in Lana’i City, which is not walkable from here. If you plan to spend the day at the beach or walking around the area, pick up lunch to bring with you before you leave Lahaina.
Essential reading: What to Know Before You Visit Lana’i
Bonus: Leave It to a Local
If you’re not interested in any of those options, contact Dela Cruz Taxi Service or Rabaca’s Limo Service. Let them know what day you’ll be coming and what you want to see, and they will do their best to accommodate you!
Essential Info: How to Choose the Best Hawaiian Island for You
Want more? Check out everything you need to plan your trip to Hawaii on my dedicated Hawaiian Islands Page!
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