Larry Ellison may own 98% of Lana’i, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. It is not like Mr. Ellison has plastered his name all over the island as some other rich folk might. And though you might expect that private ownership would translate into massive development, the absence of a reliable source of fresh water has so far capped growth.
The result is that Lana’i is a fairly exclusive destination. In other words, it is not cheap to go there.
On our trip, we stayed at the resort at Hulopoe Bay, which is one of two resorts operated by the Four Seasons on the island. There other Four Seasons resort is the Lodge at Koele, which is upland in the often fog-shrouded forests.
The only other option is the Hotel Lanai, an upland plantation style 1920’s-era compound off the main drag in Lana’i City that houses the Lana’i City Bar & Grill and offers 11 rooms at similar prices to the properties run by the Four Seasons but without the amenities.
Nowadays, there are a variety of places advertised on airbnb.com as well, though a glance at the prices suggests that the island is still not accessible to the budget traveler.
The absence of budget accommodations means that the island is free from the crowds that flock to the other islands. You quickly realize this when you deplane at the postage stamp sized airport and discover that the people on the puddle jumper that delivered you will be the only people arriving on the island for the next 8-12 hours. In fact, the largest crowd that we encountered during our week on Lana’i was at the airport when we collected our luggage and waited for the shuttle to take us to our hotel. After that, it was easy to go our own way and essentially disappear if we wanted to. On Lana’i, you are basically paying to keep the crowds away.
Though you can very easily remain a “prisoner” of the resorts if you stay at either of them, we opted to stretch our legs and explore.
Not surprisingly, our exploration focused on food, including getting some fresh poke from the Lana’i Ohana Poke Market, spam and eggs at the Blue Ginger Cafe, and a scrumptious rotisserie chicken with truffle mac & cheese at the Lana’i City Bar & Grille. We also sipped champagne and munched on popcorn in the lobby of the Lodge of Koele while the piano player serenaded us with his rendition of “Tiny Bubbles.” To save money, we stocked up on fruits and cereal from the market in Lana’i City, and often held breakfast on our patio as the sun rose and the birds began to squawk.
When we weren’t eating, we lay by the pool and the beach, drinks in hand. We also rented a jeep to get to the places that the inter-resort shuttle doesn’t go, including a sunset at Kaumalapau Harbor, a walk along Polihua Beach, a traipse through the Garden of the Gods, and a drive down the island’s east side along Keomoku Road to Naha for a private dip in the ocean.
There is also a ferry to Lahaina on Maui from the Manele Small Boat Harbor adjacent to Hulopoe Bay that makes for a good day trip and provides a ready way to compare the experiences offered on the two islands. If sunset cruises are more your speed, you can do that too, with daily departures from Manele Harbor.
Overall, if you are looking to relax and avoid crowds, Lana’i is a great destination if you can afford it.