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Escape to Lana'i

by Dava Della, spring '03 Lifestyles editor


If you're looking to escape the pressures of the outside world in exchange for some absolute peace and quiet, Lana‘i may be the place for you. Lana‘i offers award-winning golf, white sand beaches, and a wide variety of outdoor adventures and water sports. Only 25 minutes by air from Honolulu, more than 100 flights land on Lana‘i every week.

Click on image for larger view

Lana‘i (pronounced la-nah-ee) is the fourth- youngest and sixth-largest island in the Hawaiian chain. It was formed about 1.5 million years ago by the floor of the single shield volcano Palawai. The Palawai Basin is a prominent caldera filled with alluvium, or freshly eroded rock particles that have come off the hillside and been carried by streams. Under the alluvium is a large mass of lava flows, the type associated with a caldera.

Lana'i is 141 square miles. Uniquely, it is the only location in Hawa'i from which five other Hawaiian Islands--Mau‘i, O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Kaho‘olawe, and the Big Island--can be seen.


Alternately known as Hawai‘i’s "Most Exclusive Island" and for nearly 70 years as "The Pineapple Island," Lana‘i hosted the world’s largest pineapple plantation of the 20th century. Under the ownership of James Dole from 1922 until 1961, the island supplied 75 percent of the world's pineapples. One-fifth of the area was used for cultivation.

Today, fewer than 100 acres of the island are used for growing the fruit. Castle & Cooke, Inc. is now Dole’s corporate successor, and 98 percent of the land is owned by the Lana‘i Company, Inc., a local development firm.

Many still associate Lana‘i with the pineapple, but most of the pineapples grown there today are consumed by island residents and hotel guests.

The island of Lana‘i is one of the least visited of the main Hawaiian Islands. Approximately 100,000 visitors come to Lana'i each year. According to the Hawai'i Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, only 84,000 visited Lana‘i in 2001. This is compared to more than four million who visited O'ahu and two million who visited Maui that same year.


Those who do visit Lana‘i tend to be mainlanders who are wealthier than the average visitor to the other islands. In fact, on Jan. 1, 1994, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, held his wedding on Lana‘i, effectively closing the island for a day. He booked every hotel room on the island so no reporters could take any pictures of the wedding.

Lana‘i is highly dependent on the tourism industry for its survival. The island's two world-class resorts, The Lodge at Ko‘ele and The Manele Bay Hotel, have succeeded in attracting visitors, reviving the island's economy, and providing better job opportunities in farming and hotel ventures for island residents.

A handful of the residents--3,200--live mostly in Lana‘i City, an upper-elevation town (approximately 1,700 feet above sea level) with one bank, one police station, several general stores, a small theater, and an art gallery. Built in 1924 to be the focal point of the pineapple industry, Lana‘i City residents live in colorful plantation cottages with tin roofs.
Lana‘i has no public transit system. Car rentals are available for $50 per day and the hotels provide free shuttle service to and from the airport. But since many of Lana‘i’s breathtaking activities are found at the end of rugged red dirt roads (Lana‘i has no stoplights and there are only 30 miles of paved roads), visitors and residents alike are recommended to rent a four-wheel drive, for about $130 per day.

For those who are adventurous, recreational activities include snorkeling, sailing, oceaning, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking.

One of the most popular ways to get to Lana'i is to take the Expeditions Ferry from Lahaina Harbor. For more information on daily rates and special deals, call 1-800-695-2624.

If you have a wild sense of adventure or simply need a place to relax and unwind, then Lana‘i is the place for you. From mountain biking and hiking to great beaches and championship golf courses, Lana‘i is one of the best kept secrets in Hawai‘i.


Facts about Lana‘i

Official color: Yellow

Official flower: Kauna‘oa (a yellow and orange air plant)

Lana'i translates to "hump," which is the shape of the island when viewed from Lahaina, Maui.

Lana'i is located 8 miles to the west of Maui and 9 miles south of Moloka'i.

Average temperatures range from 66 degrees Fahrenheit to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Lana'i is in the rain-shadow of its neighbor island Maui, it is one of the most driest islands. Rainfall is limited to 1-3 inches per month in the summer to 3-6 inches in the winter.

From Lana'ihale, the island's highest point at 3,360 feet, five of the major Hawaiian Islands--Maui, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Kaho'olawe, and the Big Island--can all be seen, weather permitting.

Largely uninhabited until the 1500s, Lana‘i, has no separate municipal government and is a part of Maui County, boasts a multi-cultural society with immigration from:

700 A.D. Polynesia
1820 United States
1852 China
1868 Japan
1878 Portugal
1900 Puerto Rico

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