Lanai – Our Jeep Adventures

A Tourist-Free Flight in Hawaii!

After a couple of days sipping cocktails in Oahu, the three of us found ourselves on a half empty plane heading to Lanai, the smallest of the habitable Hawaiian islands (population 3,000). On arrival at the tiny airport, the rest of the passengers dispersed, collected by friends and relatives. With no taxis or public transportation, we were left wondering how we would get to Lanai City. We asked one of the airport staff and he pointed out a local guy who agreed to come back and take us into town.

The scenery on the road from the airport

A Blue Plantation House

Fifteen minutes later, he returned as promised and delivered us to the accommodation we had rented, an azure blue plantation house situated in a quiet residential area. Back in the day, when Lanai’s main business was pineapple growing, Dole monopolized the industry and these houses were built for the staff who worked at the plantation.

Our plantation house

Downtown Lanai

We set out to explore the city, which was actually more like a small town. The heart of the community is centred around Dole Park, a grassy area planted with towering Norfolk and Cook Island pines. Additionally, the main businesses surround the park – a theater, a couple of small supermarkets, some cafes and shops.

Dole Park, the main square

A Friendly Local

After some lunch at the Blue Ginger Café, we paid a visit to one of the two supermarkets to purchase some supplies. We re-emerged to a huge tropical downpour and knew we would get drenched on our ten-minute walk back. As we stood waiting for the rain to abate, a kind local woman offered us a lift.

Downtown Lanai City

Carol was half Hawaiian and her family history in Lanai went a long way back. She and her husband divided their time between Lanai and Arizona, which sounded like a good life to us. Not only did she give us a lift, but insisted on giving us a tour of the town, pointing out the sights and supplying us with tips on where to visit. We were finally dropped us off at our plantation house. We had been told about the friendly locals, and Carol certainly proved that what we had heard was true.

Inside our plantation house

Our backyard

Hulopoe Beach

The following day, another amiable local called Jeanne arrived with the jeep that we had booked for the day. She gave us maps together with advice on where to go. Our first stop was Coffee Works, the only coffee shop in town where we stocked up on supplies for the day. 

We then headed to Hulopoe Beach, driving down winding roads to the beautiful beach with its lovely white sand and incredibly blue water. The beach had well-maintained bathrooms, picnic tables and BBQ’S. It was even possible to camp if you purchase a permit. Camping wasn’t particularly cheap, but definitely worth it for such an amazing backyard.

Anton on the rocks

The three of us took off on a trail around the cliffs. We looked down on rock pools and could see fish swimming in the clear water. The contrast of the blue of the ocean and the red earth we walked upon was remarkable.

T and Anton on the clifftop trail
Waves crashing against the rocks

After a fifteen-minute walk we came across Puu Pehe, known as Sweetheart Rock. Legend has it that a warrior who was grieving after the death of his wife, jumped from the rock to his death eighty feet below in the swirling ocean.

Sweetheart Rock

Shipwreck Beach

Next stop was Shipwreck Beach. This proved much more difficult to locate. There were a couple of signs here and there, but it was certainly not clear. We drove on a red dirt track through the most difficult terrain where the potholes were like craters. It was fun, but after miles of jolting around we gave up and drove back to a higher point, where we were able to view the wreck from a distance.

T in the driving seat

Garden of the Gods

We then headed to the Garden of the Gods – one of our main incentives for visiting the island. Again, it wasn’t signed, but eventually we found the dirt road leading to this remote area. It was a great road to manoeuvre the jeep along.  After many miles and nobody else in sight, we arrived at the Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods

It was incredibly atmospheric. Similar to a moonscape, there were red boulders and rocks as far as we could see. Maui could be seen across the channel in the distance. With the blue skies overhead, it made for a staggering spectacle. We explored by jeep and then by foot. What made this place extra special was the feeling of peace we encountered there and we stayed for some time, soaking up the vibe of the landscape.

Beautiful landscapes of Lanai

Lanai Cat Sanctuary

The last place on our jeep adventure was Lanai Cat Sanctuary. Five hundred feral cats had been rounded up from around the island, saving the bird population and giving the cats a comfortable and safe home.

Cats Galore!

The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation but does accept donations. It is free to get in and you can spend as much time as you like wandering around and meeting the cats. We were greeted by one of the helpers, Ariel. He was a friendly guy who clearly loved his job and gave us a tour of the sanctuary, answering all our questions. As we entered, we were surrounded by a crowd of cats, all vying for attention. We strolled around and many more inquisitive cats joined us.

The sanctuary is a wonderful safe haven for the cats and a pleasure to visit. The cats are available for adoption and we could have happily taken a couple home with us!

A tropical paradise for cats

Saturday Night at Pele’s

Our favourite restaurant on the island was Pele’s. It was owned by a Stanley Tucci lookalike with a dry sense of humour, who led us through both the cocktail and dinner menus. The cocktails were very good and the food wasn’t bad either, with lots of veggie choices for Anton and T. We ate there on our last evening on the island and toasted our next leg of the trip – Big Island!

Hipa Hipa! (Cheers!)

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