First Impressions of Lana’i

First Impressions of Lana'i

Before we booked a trip to Lana’i, we asked other travelers what to expect or how they would describe this small tropical island. We heard the word “luxury” thrown around a few times, but that was about all of the information we could get. Needless to say, we were a bit frustrated with the information we found and wondered why we would even want to visit Lana’i.

After some deliberation, we decided this was a great opportunity to introduce a relatively unknown island to our readers. Not to mention, we are obsessed (okay, Christy is obsessed) with turtles and islands, so we decided to go for it and book the trip.

First Impressions of Lana’i


First Impressions of Lana'i, Hawaii

Turtle at Shipwreck Beach in Lana’i

I must admit, Lana’i is remarkably different than any other Hawaiian island we have visited and it was a bit of a challenge to define, but I think we can make it clear as to why you would want to go there.

Boarding the small, two-level Expeditions Ferry in Lahaina, Maui, we were in the company of many locals carrying boxes of household goods — items they can’t find on the rural island of Lana’i.

As we departed the calm, peaceful harbor and left one island behind, we noticed a distinct shift in the wind, water and swagger of the boat. Once it got too bumpy, we decided to move from the sundeck to the comfortable, enclosed cabin just a few feet away.

The ferry muscled through the rough waters, causing an anxious dog to bark uncontrollably and sending waves splashing over the sides of the boat, onto the second floor deck. As we approached Lana’i, the only things visible to us were choppy waters, unclimbable cliffs and a dry, desolate landscape. Yes, the island looked a bit daunting at first.

Once we reached Manele Harbor, we were graciously greeted by friendly locals who helped us find our way to Lana’i City. Lana’i offers a convenient island-wide shuttle service and we were thrilled to be chauffeured around after a long day of traveling.

As our shuttle climbed in elevation, we passed through an extinct volcanic crater. It felt almost as if we were driving through Montana — with a big open sky, endless green pastures and not a man made structure in sight. We had the bus to ourselves after the first stop and talked with our bus driver, who had just moved to Lana’i from the Big Island.

“It’s quiet here,” he said. “I’m just not used to it.”

I thought to myself… If it was shocking for him, then we were in for a unique experience.

Lana’i City itself looks like a small town you might find in the Pacific Northwest — and by small, I mean tiny. (To give you some perspective, there are just over 3,000 people living here.) Dole Square, the island’s business district, is lined with towering Cook pine trees — a striking difference from the palm trees we normally see in Hawaii.

The first thing we noticed was how much cooler it felt than it did by the beach. Were we still in Hawaii??

First Impressions of Lana'i, Hawaii

Koele Lodge – Lana’i City
We checked into the quaint Hotel Lana’i and instantly felt at home. Our cottage, just off the main house, had its own private yard, complete with a resident cat.

First Impressions of Lana'i, Hawaii

First Impressions of Lana'i, Hawaii

After settling in, we walked two minutes into town to grab a beer and dinner at Pele’s Other Garden. No crowds of tourists, no noisy streets, just a cute little town, partially covered in fog. As we drank our brew, we thought about the adventures that lay ahead on this wonderfully unique island.

Are you intrigued yet? Then stay tuned for more detailed posts about Lana’i!


A special thanks to Lana’i Visitors Bureau for hosting this trip and helping us put together a unique itinerary that fits our travel style. As always, all opinions are our own.



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  1. a Lana'i resident says:

    ….Lana’i is NOT Oahu! let’s hope it’s unique quality doesn’t change under it’s new owner…

  2. Great pictures, Lana’i is a beautiful island. I hear more about Honolulu but after seeing this majestic beauty I would go here instead.

  3. Definitely intrigued and absolutely lvoe your photo of the turtle with his head sticking out.

  4. Travelbllgr says:

    Beautiful photos. I love the one of the turtle with its head stuck out of the water!! Cute.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thank you!

  5. Brittany @ Paws for Beer says:

    I have only been to Hawaii once and was not impressed. I visited Kauai and O’ahu and although they were both beautiful it just seemed over-commercialized. Your post makes me want to explore Hawaii again… I’ll skip the touristy islands this time!

  6. Maria Falvey says:

    An amazing place – not a man made structure in sight – wow!

  7. kazspence says:

    Looks very interesting – await part 2 eagerly 🙂

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thanks, Kaz!

  8. I lived on Lanai for 8 years before moving to Taiwan. This is my home away from home, (‘home’ being Molokai, the island I was born on.) I’m so stoked to see more people writing and promoting this beautiful island! You’re right, it’s unlike any of the other Hawaiian islands. Then again, each island is unique.