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The alluring Hawaiian island of Lanai is a secluded paradise that feels worlds away from the bustling tourism of Oahu or Maui. If you’ve ever wondered exactly where Lanai is located, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Lanai is the smallest publicly accessible inhabited island in Hawaii. It lies just southeast of Maui, part of Maui County in the Hawaiian island chain.

In this nearly 3,000 word guide, we will explore Lanai’s geographic location in detail, give an overview of the island, discuss how to get there, highlight top attractions, and provide tips to help you plan the ultimate Lanai vacation.

Where Exactly is the Island of Lanai Located?

The Hawaiian island of Lanai lies in Maui County within the main Hawaiian Islands archipelago. More specifically, Lanai is the sixth largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, located just southeast of Maui island and west of Molokai.

Located in Maui County in the Hawaiian Island Chain

Lanai is part of Maui County, which consists of four islands – Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe. Out of the 8 main Hawaiian islands, Maui County’s islands are considered part of the Leeward Islands located to the west.

With an area of 364 square miles, Lanai is the smallest publicly accessible inhabited island in Hawaii. Its status as part of Maui County means Lanai residents vote in Maui’s elections and rely on Maui for many key services and resources.

Lies Just Southeast of the Island of Maui

If you look on a map of Hawaii, you’ll notice the small, isolated island of Lanai lies just 9 miles southeast of Maui island across the Au’au Channel. The two islands are visible to each other on clear days.

It takes approximately 45 minutes to reach Lanai via ferry from Maui. There are also small aircraft charters that provide quick access between Maui and Lanai airports. So despite its remote location, Lanai is still reasonably accessible for visitors.

One of the Leeward Islands in Hawaii

The Leeward Islands of Hawaii consist of the western and northern islands from Niihau to Maui. They are called “leeward” because they sit to the west/downwind side of the main trade winds.

As one of Hawaii’s Leeward Islands, Lanai has a hot, dry climate compared to windward islands which experience more rainfall. It has crystal blue waters and coral reefs making it a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming.

How to Get to the Island of Lanai

Fly into Lanai’s Tiny Airport

The quickest and most convenient way to reach Lanai is to take a short 25-minute flight from Honolulu. Several major airlines including Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, and Mokulele Airlines operate daily flights to Lanai’s airport (LNY). The tiny airport is located just over 3 miles from Lanai City.

One-way fares typically start around $80 per person from Honolulu or $100 from Maui. Seating is limited, so be sure to book flights early, especially if traveling during peak seasons.

Take a Ferry from Lahaina Harbor on Maui

The Expeditions ferry offers the most scenic way to reach Lanai. The ferry ride takes around 45 minutes one-way and departs from Lahaina Harbor on Maui. Ferries run back and forth between the islands multiple times per day.

Round-trip ferry tickets cost around $120 for adults and $60 for kids ages 3-11. You can either book ferry tickets online in advance or purchase them at the harbor prior to departure.

Arrange a Private Charter Flight

Several small airlines offer private chartered plane flights to Lanai from various islands. This is the fastest way to get a group or family to Lanai. However, chartered flights are also by far the most expensive transit option.

Expect to pay upwards of $500 one-way for a small group. Seating is very limited on chartered Cessnas and other small aircraft, so plan on having just 2-5 passengers maximum per flight.

Some Maui and Oahu-based companies offering chartered trips to Lanai include Maui Executive Helicopters, Lucky We Live Hawaii Tours, and Air Molokai.

Top Attractions and Activities on Lanai

Explore Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is one of Lanai’s most iconic spots. These rocky plateaus feature otherworldly formations created by erosion and weathering over eons. Marvel at the red and orange hues painting the landscape and bizarre shapes like the “Garden of the Gods,” a 20-foot tall rock sculpture.

Meander along the hiking trails to discover secluded spots and panoramic views of Lanai.

Marvel at Unique Geological Formations

In addition to the Garden of the Gods, Lanai boasts many unique rock formations created by the forces of weathering and time. Visit places like the “Pillars of the Sky,” a cliffside overlook with columns of rock towering above you.

This area is also home to the “Kaiholena Gulch,” a canyon dotted with Norfolk pines. Or check out Keahiakawelo, also known as the “Garden of the Gods,” an otherworldly plateau of red rock spires. The variety of unusual geological features is part of what makes Lanai so special.

Learn About Pineapple History

Pineapples once blanketed the landscape of Lanai, which was home to the world’s largest pineapple plantation for much of the 20th century. To immerse yourself in this history, visit the Lanai Pineapple Plantation or the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center to see artifacts and photos showcasing pineapple’s impact on the island.

You can even book a Pineapple Garden Tour to see where and how pineapples were grown. Learning about Lanai’s pineapple past gives deeper insight into the island’s identity.

Relax at Hulopoe Beach

Consistently rated one of Hawaii’s top beaches, Hulopoe Beach is an idyllic spot to soak up the island vibes. Its golden crescent of sand hugs a bay of calm, clear waters perfect for swimming. Snorkel among bright tropical fish, set up camp for an afternoon of lounging, or watch the sunset paint the waters in dazzling colors.

Nearby amenities like beach cottages, a shave ice stand and the Four Seasons resort make it easy to settle in for a day of relaxation at this Hawaiian gem.

Try Snorkeling and Dolphin Watching

The protected waters off Lanai’s coast make for world-class snorkeling. Rent snorkel gear to glimpse brilliant corals, playful spinner dolphins and sea turtles at spots like Hulopoe Beach, Manele Small Boat Harbor and KaunolÅ« Village.

Or hop on a snorkel sail or scuba tour to marvel at coral gardens teeming with tropical fish. According to Go Visit Hawaii, Lanai has at least 50 varieties of coral and over 250 different fish species. It’s a snorkeling haven waiting to be explored.

Tee Off on World-Class Golf Courses

With two top-tier golf courses designed by Greg Norman and Gene Bates/Bill Coore, Lanai entices golf enthusiasts from all over. The Experience at Koele overlooks mist-veiled mountains and lush foliage while the Challenge at Manele unspools along seaside cliffs.

Golf Magazine ranked Manele the 8th best course in Hawaii, a testament to its first-class greens and stunning views. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or casual linksman, playing Lanai’s fairways is a bucket list-worthy experience.

Tips for Planning Your Lanai Vacation

Book Early as Accommodations are Limited

With only 30 miles of paved roads, Lanai is the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island. As such, lodging options are scarce compared to more popular destinations like Maui or Oahu. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Lanai has under 1,500 hotel rooms and house rentals combined.

So it’s critical to book your Lanai accommodations well in advance.

The earlier you book, the more selection you’ll have between the two main resort areas – Manele Bay on the south coast with ocean view hotels like Four Seasons Resort Lanai, or Lanai City in the island’s interior with plantation-style inns and B&Bs.

We recommend booking at least 2-3 months ahead of arrival for peak seasons.

Consider Renting a Four Wheel Drive Vehicle

Exploring the remote dirt roads and rocky terrain of Lanai is best done in a rugged 4×4 vehicle. Fortunately, Jeeps and SUVs can be rented on Lanai through companies like Dollar Rent A Car.

With a capable four wheel drive rental, you’ll have the flexibility to discover Lanai’s hidden gems like secluded Hulopoe Beach, the Garden of the Gods rock formations in the north, and off-road adventures through the island’s red dirt roads.

Bring Cash as ATMs are Sparse

Lanai has just one bank on the entire island with a single ATM machine. So having cash on hand is wise since credit card acceptance may also be spotty at small eateries or mom-and-pop shops.

The local Bank of Hawaii branch in Lanai City does have an ATM, but service fees may apply for withdrawals. So it’s best to carry $200-300 in cash per person for several days as backup, along with credit/debit cards for hotels and larger retailers.

Pack for Diverse Weather Conditions

Lanai weather shifts dramatically based on which part of the island you’re visiting. The south coast around Manele Bay by the Four Seasons tends to be sunny and dry year-round with temps in the 70s-80sF. Meanwhile, Lanai City in the highlands can be cool and misty with temps dropping to 60F at night.

So pack light layers along with bathing suits and sunscreen. Check forecasts for both Lanai City and Manele Bay since they may differ by 10-15 degrees on any given day.

Be Flexible as Things Move Slowly on “Pineapple Island”

Activity Lanai Pace
Meal times at restaurants Expect 1 hour+ for food prep & relaxed service
Island driving distances Budget 50% more drive time than mainland norms
Internet speeds Often sluggish, plan for basic web browsing
Life ticks by at an unhurried pace on rural Lanai, often called “Pineapple Island” for its plantation history. So build extra buffers into itineraries and excursion timing. Patience and spontaneity will be rewarded with pleasant surprises during your Hawaiian escape to this heavenly island paradise.


Isolated from the bustling crowds of Hawaii’s most popular islands, Lanai provides a serene escape full of natural beauty, rich history, and luxury accommodations. Now that you know precisely where Lanai lies in the Hawaiian chain and how to access this lesser-visited paradise, you can start planning your relaxing island getaway.

With limited lodging and activities, be sure to book early and prepare for Lanai’s remote, laidback pace. Use the tips provided to make the most of your time exploring quiet beaches, archaeological sites, world-class golf, and more on Hawaii’s hidden gem known endearingly as ‘Pineapple Island’.

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