The view from Kaunolū Village
The view from Kaunolū Village; Photo: Joe West/Shutterstock

With a sweet little city at its heart and wild terrain throughout, the smallest of the six major islands is big on escape. Here, the insider's guide to the island's can't-miss beaches, activities, restaurants, and more.

By Caroline McKenzie

Secret Beach: Polihua Beach
Afternoons can be wild and windy, so get up early (and book a four-wheel-drive vehicle) to get the most from this two-mile stretch of secluded beach on the island’s northwest coast.

Culture Excursion: Kaunolū Village
This favorite fishing camp of King Kamehameha I, on the island’s southern tip, is also the site of Halulu Heiau (a sacred temple), and “Kahekili’s Leap,” a 60-foot sea cliff that warriors once dove from to demonstrate their courage.

Ohana Poke Market
Caroline Crafton

Old-School Favorite: Ohana Poke Market
You can’t go more classic Hawai‘i than a poke bowl. And Lana‘i locals flock to this no-frills market for the most flavorful poke on the island. Weekdays only, so you’ll want to get there when they open the doors at 10:30 a.m. Ohana closes at 12:30 p.m. and often runs out of fish by 11:30.

Knockout View: Keahiakawelo
Forty-five minutes from Lana‘i City, on the northwest side of the island, sits an otherworldly Hawaiian heritage site high above the sea known more familiarly as the “Garden of the Gods.” Head here at dusk, when the setting sun casts an enchanting glow on the red-tinged boulders, towers, and spires.

Shopping Stop: The Local Gentry
Jenna Majkus has just expanded her shop near picturesque Dole Park in Lana‘i City, adding more room for her well-curated selection of island-inspired men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Don’t miss the new “Keiki Corner,” with its colorful array of children’s toys.

Meal of the Moment: Nobu Lana‘i
In the luxurious lap of the Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i, this elegant restaurant pairs views of Hulopo‘e Bay with a menu that includes top-shelf sushi, a wide selection of sake, and atmospheric plates like Wagyu beef served on smoldering lava rocks. Sit back and turn your meal over to chef’s choice on the omakase menu, or book a private teppan table for a night’s delicious entertainment at the hands of your personal culinary master.

WATCH: A Perfect Weekend in Lana‘i:

Top-Notch Mai Tai: Lana‘i City Bar & Grille
From their digs in the historic Hotel Lana‘i, bartenders Jacob Baltero and Marcom Pascua blend their take on the classic cocktail with pineapple juice and rum. It’s fresh and fruity enough that locals and visitors agree it’s among the best on the island.

Don't Leave Before You: Go Off-Road
Much of Lana‘i can only be reached via rugged dirt tracks. Polaris Guided Tours gets you off paved roads and into towering forests and lush, verdant landscapes. Unless you have the time (and stamina) to hike this extra­ordinary island, this is the best way to see its astonishing beauty. Guided tour rates start at $225 (book via the Adventure Center at Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i).

Sweet Sunset Spot: Kaumalapau Harbor
Drive south to the island’s main commercial seaport (look for views of Lana‘i’s impressive sea cliffs along the way) and find a seat on the stone wall. Take in the show, keeping an eye out for spinner dolphins and migrating whales.

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

Rest Your Head At: Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i
A recent multimillion-dollar renovation of this resort put this once sleepy island on the travel map. Now, luxury reigns with an immaculate beachfront, lagoon-like pools, and serene, contemporary guest rooms. Even if you’re not a golfer, be sure to check out the resort course’s 12th hole for some of the best views on the island.

Insider Take: Getting Away From It All on Lana‘i
“One of Lana‘i’s assets is her natural beauty, but it can take some effort to appreciate. It’s important to go off the beaten path—literally, by getting out of the car and hiking to areas not commonly seen. I especially like to take visitors to a spot at the western edge of the Kānepu‘u Preserve, where a bowl-like depression opens up to views of Moloka‘i. It is a quiet and peaceful place with no cell service. Instead, you connect with the landscape.” —Bruno “Uncle Bruno” Ambry aviarist at Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i