400 miles of unpaved roads offer access to the
farthest reaches of the island.
Hawaii — Surrounded by rugged, Mars-like terrain,
strange rock formations and crumbling dirt trails of a
dark reddish hue, it did occur to us that we might be
lost. And that if we really had gone missing, it would be
at least a day until Mikey came looking for us. Or rather,
for his jeep.
roads are few and far between on Lanai, pineapple king
James Dole’s plantation, which is now owned by tech
titan Larry Ellison, who purchased 97 percent of the
island in 2012. There’s a main road, lined with
precisely planted Cook pines, that connects Manele Bay’s
small boat harbor, where the ferry docks, to Lanai City,
high above the sea in its own misty microclimate. Another
road leads down to the commercial seaport, Kaumalapau
Harbor, passing Lanai’s small airport along the way.
Lanai has 400 miles of dirt roads, a vestige from the
island’s plantation days. So if you want to really
explore the island, you’ll be following the rugged
earthy trails that crisscross this otherworldly landscape,
clutching a paper map with hand-drawn jottings as a hula
dancer bobble shimmies on the dashboard.
disappears from view in a nanosecond as the trails swallow
you up, taking you up ridges and down ravines, as your
cell signal fades away. (Hence the importance of a paper
popular route takes you on a narrow, winding, paved road
toward Shipwreck Beach — you’ll see the wreck of a
1940s tanker as you wind your way down. Once there, hang a
left at the sign and exercise caution. Better yet, park
and hike or bike in.
sandy trail may look passable, but it has some
treacherously soft spots, where unwary drivers can get
mired up to the axles. You’ll find the trail to the
Kukui Point petroglyphs just beyond the signature
Shipwreck Beach sign. (Shipwreck Beach is for the curious,
not for beach bathers. If you’re hoping to swim, head
instead for Hulopoe Beach, where dolphins frolic in the
waves and the sand is soft and pristine. It’s less than
half a mile from the ferry dock — on a paved road.)
when the "we might be lost" idea arose, we were
headed to the northwestern heights of the island and its
rock-strewn Garden of the Gods. Maybe. It was hard to
tell. The island has no stop lights, let alone road signs
on dirt trails.
the laidback Lanai local who runs Adventure Lanai
EcoCentre, had left his bright red jeep waiting for us in
the ferry parking lot, stocked with a cooler, beach
chairs, towels and the all-important map. We were hoping
to return the jeep to the harbor the next morning after a
lovely hotel sojourn, not spend the night out here in the
middle of extraterrestrial nowhere.
its botanical name, the Garden of the Gods is a barren
spot, all red undulations and strange boulders, with the
occasional sage green brush or wildflower sighting. This
is a place of legends, the most popular concerning two
kahunas from Lanai and Molokai, who challenged each other
to a fire-burning competition. As the story goes, the
Lanai kahuna burned everything to keep his fire alight.
That might explain the barren landscape, but competitive
kahunas do not explain the strange rocks, twisted into
spires or oddly rounded and flung hither and yon.
site is a favorite with the spiritually inclined, but we
weren’t here for the energy chakras. We were here for
the adventure, for the strange sights and for the journey
over a succession of unmarked dirt roads that might, we
hoped now, lead back to Lanai City.
out, most roads here do — even the unpaved ones. A scant
45 minutes after leaving Keahiakawelo and its rock garden,
we were back in town, sipping Guava Southside cocktails at
the Lanai City Grille and toasting to adventure — and to
here: There are two ways to get to this remote island, by
air from Honolulu International Airport or Maui’s
Kahului Airport, or via the Maui-Lanai ferry, which takes
about 45 minutes. The Expeditions ferry service runs five
round trips daily between Lahaina and Manele Bay. You will
need reservations. One-way tickets are $30 ($20 for
children), and you can book online at www.go-lanai.com.
Read the ticket directions thoroughly. You’ll need a
picture ID, for example, and a printout of your
reservation, and you have to check in both on shore and
aboard the boat.
Most of Lanai is accessible only by four-wheel drive
vehicles, mountain bikes or on horseback. If you’re
staying at a hotel, the concierge or front desk can
arrange a jeep rental or a guided jeep safari. If you
prefer to DIY it, there are several jeep rental agencies
on the island, including Dollar Lanai (dollarlanai.com),
which rents two and four-door Jeep Wranglers ($148-$180
per day), but you’ll have to pick up the vehicle in
Lanai City. Adventure Lanai Ecocentre offers guided
off-road tours, surf safaris and jeep rentals ($114 per
you’re going off-roading, there are no services or
facilities out there. Pack plenty of water, food, a paper
map — cell service is exceedingly spotty and Waze will
not help you — and a first aid kit.
Lanai has two hotels — the plantation-era Hotel Lanai
and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai — open right now. The
Four Seasons Lodge at Koele is closed for renovations but
expected to reopen later this year.
In addition to Nobu, One Forty and Malibu Farm at the Four
Seasons Resort, you’ll find a variety of eateries in
Lanai City proper, including the excellent Lanai City