Below are some of our favorite Lanai attractions.
Snorkeling Hulopoe Beach. Crystal-clear waters teem with brilliant tropical fish off one of Hawaii's best beaches. There are tide pools to explore, waves to play in, and other surprises -- like a pod of spinner dolphins that often makes a splashy entrance.
Exploring the Garden of the Gods. Eroded by wind, rain, and time, these geologic badlands are worth visiting at sunrise or sunset, when the low light plays tricks on the land -- and your mind.
Hiking the Munro Trail. The 11-mile Munro Trail is a lofty, rigorous hike along the rim of an old volcano. You'll get great views of the nearby islands. Take a four-wheel-drive vehicle if you want to spend more time on top of the island.
Watching the Whales at Polihua Beach. Located on the north shore, this beach -- which gets its name from the turtles that nest here -- is a great place to spend the day scanning the ocean for whales during the winter months.
(c) Zagat © 2013, Google.
Garden of the Gods
A desolate, windswept place, dotted by lunarlike rock formations of awesome shapes and colors, the so-called Garden of the Gods lives up to its name. According to island legend, the strange rocks and boulders on the island's north shore were dropped from the sky by the gods tending their gardens. Scientists dismiss this supernatural explanation -- calling the area an "ongoing posterosional event" or just "plain and simple badlands." Still, it's impossible to ignore the mystery of the place -- the rock's brilliant reds, oranges, ochers, and yellows set against a rugged and barren backdrop. Go early in the morning or just before sunset, when the light casts eerie shadows on the beautiful lava formations.
Five Islands at a Single Glance: The Munro Trail
In the first golden rays of dawn, when lone owls swoop over abandoned pineapple fields, hop into a 4*4 and head out on the two-lane blacktop toward Mount Lanaihale, the 3,370-foot summit of Lanai. Your destination is the Munro Trail, the narrow, winding ridge trail that runs across Lanai's razorback spine to the summit. From here, you may get a rare Hawaii treat: On a clear day, you can see all of the main islands in the Hawaiian chain except Kauai.
Luahiwa Petroglyph Field
With more than 450 known petroglyphs in Hawaii at 23 sites, Lanai is second only to the Big Island in its wealth of prehistoric rock art, but you'll have to search a little to find it. Some of the best examples are on the outskirts of Lanai City, on a hillside site known as Luahiwa Petroglyph Field. The characters you'll see incised on 13 boulders in this grassy 3-acre knoll include a running man, a deer, a turtle, a bird, a goat, and even a rare, curly-tailed Polynesian dog.
Out on Lanai's nearly vertical, Gibraltar-like sea cliffs is an old royal compound and fishing village. Now a National Historic Landmark and one of Hawaii's most treasured ruins, it's believed to have been inhabited by King Kamehameha the Great and hundreds of his closest followers about 200 years ago.
Ruins of 86 house platforms and 35 stone shelters have been identified on both sides of Kaunolu Gulch. The residential complex also includes the Halulu Heiau temple, named after a mythical man-eating bird. The king's royal retreat is thought to have stood on the eastern edge of Kaunolu Gulch, overlooking the rocky shore facing Kahekili's Leap, a 62-foot-high bluff named for the mighty Maui chief who leaped off cliffs as a show of bravado. Nearby are burial caves, a fishing shrine, a lookout tower, and many warrior-like stick figures carved on boulders. Just offshore stands the telltale fin of little Shark Island, a popular dive spot that teems with bright tropical fish and, frequently, sharks.
Excavations are underway to discover more about how ancient Hawaiians lived, worked, and worshipped on Lanai's leeward coast. Who knows? The royal fishing village may yet yield the bones of King Kamehameha. His burial site, according to legend, is known only to the moon and the stars.
(c) Zagat © 2013, Google.