With a sweet little city at its heart, wild terrain throughout, and a breathtaking luxury resort, the smallest of the six major islands is big on escape of every kind. Discover the best things to eat, drink, and do, on beautiful Lana’i.

By Caroline McKenzie

If you’re looking for luxury and plenty of privacy, tiny Lana’i is the perfect island. The relatively undeveloped gem abounds with stunning locations like Hulopoe Bay and Keahiakawelo, and the recent overhaul of the Four Seasons Lana‘i makes it a luxury-lover’s paradise.

Hulopoe Beach Park
Photo: Makena Stock Media/Getty Images

The Best Beaches

Hulopoe Beach Park: Lana’i’s most swimmable beach can be found at Hulopoe Beach Park. Located on Lana‘i’s southern shore, its welcoming tide pools give way to a snorkeling oasis. With famed Puu Pehe (also known Sweetheart Rock) a short walk away, it’s one of Lana‘i’s most popular beaches.

Shark's Bay: A stone’s throw from Hulopoe is Shark’s Bay. This secluded cove features striking red lava cliffs and a small white sand beach. Accessible only by a walking trail, its picturesque vistas are rarely populated with other beachgoers.

Related: The Best Beaches in Hawaii

Polihua: On the northern coast is Polihua, a beachcomber's dream full of shells and coral. (If visiting December through April, its shoreline is also a prime spot for whale watching.) Exemplifying the expression “off the beaten path,” getting to Polihua requires a 30-minute, 4-wheel-drive trek along an unpaved road.

A school of bluestripe snapper (Lutjanus kasmira) outisde of second cathedral divesite in Lanai, Hawaii
Dave Fleetham/Getty Images

The Best Things to Do

Visit Keahiakawelo: Forty-five minutes from Lana‘i City, on the northwest side of the island, is the rocky terrain of Keahiakawelo. On a clear day, you can see the neighboring islands of Molokai and Oahu. But the prime time to take it in is at dusk when the setting sun casts an enchanting glow on the red-tinged rock towers and spires. In recent years, the area has become known as “Garden of the Gods;” however, residents see this moniker as a misnomer. Honor tradition by referring to it by its Hawaiian name.

Related: How to Do Lana'i, Hawai'i Like a Local

Explore Kaunolu Village: Kaunolu Village was a fishing camp of famed King Kamehamela I (he united the Hawaiian Islands into a single kingdom in 1810). The grounds provide sweeping views of remains of Halulu Heiau (a sacred temple) and “Kehekili’s Leap,” a 60-foot sea cliff that warriors once dove from to demonstrate their courage. (A 4-wheel drive vehicle is needed to reach the village.)

Dive the Cathedrals: Scuba divers take note: Lana‘i’s First and Second Cathedrals (formed by massive underwater lava tubes) are sanctuaries below the sea. Let the skilled guides at Lana‘i Ocean Sports take you to the depths of the cathedrals (so called because when light hits openings in the lave tubes it resembles sunlight streaming through stained glass windows).

Ohana Poke Market
Caroline Crafton

The Best Restaurants and Bars

Ohana Poke Market, Lana'i City: Residents swear by Ohana Poke Market for the island’s freshest, most flavorful poke bowls. Charmingly, the eatery is only opened Monday – Friday 10:30 am – 12:30 pm, with the market often selling out by 11:30. Get there early to ensure your fill.

Lana‘i City Bar & Grille, Lana'i City: At Lana‘i City Bar & Grille, part of the historic Hotel Lana‘i, mixologists Jacob Baltero and Marcom Pascua keep tourists and locals pleased as punch. Be sure to order the Lana‘i Tai, their take on the requisite Hawaiian cocktail, which contains spiced rum, a Li Hing powdered rim, and pineapple juice.

Nobu Lana‘i, Lana'i City: It’s not an overstatement to say that a trip to Lana‘i is incomplete without a meal at Nobu Lana‘i. Located at the Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i, Nobu has an inventive menu with entrees like Wagyu Beef served on smoldering lava rocks and dishes that highlight Lana‘i venison.

Blue Ginger Café, Lana‘i City: In the mood for a killer breakfast? Make like a local and go to Blue Ginger Café in Lana‘i City, where all you need to know is this: Order the French toast.

Related: The Best Little Beach Towns in Hawaii

The Best Places to Shop

The Local Gentry, Lana‘i City: At The Local Gentry, owner Jenna Majkus’s impeccable taste is on full display with a well-curated selection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Don’t miss the new “Keiki Corner,” with a colorful array of children’s toys and accessories.

Pilina Boutique, Lana‘i City: A standout among the fine retail offerings at the Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i is Pilina Boutique, which presents a mix of resort clothing and accessories that range from the high-end (Diane Von Furstenberg dresses) to the affordable (Gray and Gold jewelry).

Pine Isle Market, Lana‘i City: For a departure from boutique shopping, visit Pine Isle Market, a mom-and-pop general store that carries almost everything. There’s fresh fish, ice cream, toys—the list goes on. But the real prize is the old Hawaii feel. The Honda family has owned the sundries shop for 60 years and still observes the bygone island tradition of closing for lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Four Season Resort Lana'i
Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Lana'i

The Best Hotels and Resorts

Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i: A recent multi-million-dollar renovation of the Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i has put the once sleepy island squarely on travel’s A-list. With an immaculate beach front, lagoon-like pools, and a heavenly spa, this destination resort is equal parts tropical and luxurious. (Keep an eye peeled for the opening of Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i The Lodge at Koele, an upcountry alternative with a wellness focus.)

Hotel Lana‘i: For charming digs in town, Hotel Lana‘i occupies a former plantation house, with 11 bright guest rooms featuring old-Hawaii-style décor (including obsession-worthy Hawaiian quilts).