The best thing about a ten-day stay on Maui? Time for short trips to near-by Lanai and Molokai. Our one-day excursion to Lanai was easy and fun. We hadn’t planned to go to Lanai before we got to Maui––we did our planning just one day before scooting over to the old Dole pineapple island, now the Larry Ellison island. At Lahaina harbor, we picked up an Expeditions ferry schedule and learned that we should make reservations, then googled Hulopo’e beach and Lanai City before booking our trip. We were glad we did our homework––we took the 9:15 ferry over and the timing worked out perfectly. (Tip: your ferry ticket stub gets you all-day parking for just $5.)
Before getting on the ferry, Sis bought a tin of this sunscreen. Nice stuff, made right in Lahaina and available at the Whale-watching booth on the pier.
The one-hour ferry ride travels through the Humpback Whale Sanctuary and ports at Manele small boat harbor on Lanai, where shuttle drivers await the arrival of the ferry to drive passengers the 10.3 miles uphill to Lanai City ($10 per person each way). After taking a photo of the shuttle’s phone number (so we could call them later), we perused the nearby market to check out snacks and lunch fixin’s, then walked the easy 0.2 miles to the beach.
“They say” the especially calm waters of Hulopo’e Beach are great for beginner snorkelers, but when we were there, the air was windy and the waves big. Not easy to get past the point where the waves break. We were slammed down hard, more than once. Beyond that point, though, it’s easy to ride the swells and float out to a coral reef that hosts a good selection of colorful fish. Difficult to get back onto shore unless you are a strong swimmer––the undertow is as strong as the waves are big. My sister had the longest snorkel time and grew tired getting back to the beach. She lived to tell the tale, although she was a bit shaky by the time her feet touched ground. We all had buckets of sand in our shoes and our shorts––I felt like I was walking around with a loaded diaper, even after standing under the outdoor shower. Later, another cup or two of sand fell out of my swimsuit when I used the restroom at Blue Ginger Cafe.
We had taken snacks and water and shared beautiful park with locals, some who had come for a Sunday family outing and some who were camping overnight. The park has an abundance of picnic tables and shade trees, the sandy beach offers easy access to snorkeling without climbing over lava rocks, and tidepools of warm water welcome toddlers. Altogether a great family location.
We hailed a shuttle heading to Lanai City, and enjoyed walking around the peaceful, almost deserted town on a Sunday afternoon.
Read how the Cook pine replenishes Lanai’s ground water.
In Lanai City the only activity seemed to be in the two grocery stores and the one restaurant open on Sundays: Blue Ginger Cafe, where we had lunch. What a treat that was! Irv had a large plate of fried saimin––large because he thought the regular-sized plate at only $6 wouldn’t be enough. Ha! My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture of our lunch — it was beautiful.
The Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center was closed, as were most of the shops. In fact, even on weekdays, many stores close in mid-afternoon. Our best stop was the Mike Carroll art gallery. Mike’s art features local sights plus the shop sells items like wood carvings and purses hand-crafted by island locals.
From Kathy, we learned about her cat rescue foundation. (Mike’s painting of Kathy and some of the rescued cats is on the left side of my photo.) More than 650 feral cats have been caught, spayed, and are kept in a natural refuge park where they are vaccinated and fed. Can you imagine how many feral cats would be roaming the island if she hadn’t started this project 15 years ago? Or how much food 650 cats can go through every day? See the good work they do: video.
A side note: Kathy told us these dried leaves (fronds?) that fall from the Cook pines, decompose to make good kitty litter. They remind me of woven lanyards that one might make in Scout camp.
On the shuttle, we heard good things about the newly renovated Hotel Lanai in Lanai City. Shuttle-mates exclaimed about the musician who had performed there for two nights, and also about the food at the hotel restaurant. I don’t know, though, even at 1/3 the price of the Four Seasons resort at the beach, the hotel seems pricey to me. I guess you have to decide what you are willing to pay for peace and quiet.An overnight stay on the island would give one a chance to catch a couple of good things we didn’t see: Garden of the Gods is said to be inspirational at sunset and the cat refuge is the most popular tourist site in Lanai right now. And if I were to stay on Lanai overnight, I’d definitely have a big breakfast at Blue Ginger cafe.
Date of travel: February, 2020.