Escape to the
Island of Lanai
Story and photos by Greg Aragon
often dream of secluded islands with deserted beaches, hidden treasures
and sunken ships. Well I recently found it all and much more. I discovered
My recent getaway to the Hawaiian paradise began in
Maui, where a friend and I boarded a ferry and journeyed 14 miles across
the Auau Channel. Led by Expeditions,
the comfortable trip was highlighted by spectacular views of the islands
Kahoolawe, and the Big
Island. And since its now whale season, we also saw a couple
giant humpbacks poke their tales out of the water, as well as dolphins
and colorful sail boats.
The Expeditions Maui-Lanai ferry is a great way
to visit both the islands
After about an hour we cruised into tiny Manele Bay
Harbor, where we caught a shuttle to Lanai City. Here we rented a Jeep
at Dollar Rent a Car and drove to enchanting Lanai Hotel.
Built as a retreat in 1923 by pineapple pioneer James
Dole, the inn sits on the edge of town in a lush garden setting, beneath
towering Norfolk pine trees. The place features 11 charming guestrooms,
a gourmet restaurant, and lots of Hawaiian atmosphere. Our cottage suite
was lost in time and highlighted by local Hawaiian artwork and quilts,
hardwood flooring, ceiling fans, and a romantic plantation feel.
The room also came with a private yard with hammock
and dining area, complimentary Wifi and continental breakfast each morning.
With a charming Hawaiian plantation feel, the Lanai
Hotel sits in a lush garden setting, beneath towering pines
Once acquainted with the room, we grabbed a map, hopped
in the Jeep and headed to mysterious Kaiolohia, or Shipwreck
Beach. To get there we drove up a mountainous road lined with volcanic
rock and red clay. In a few miles we came to a narrow turnout, where
the road became a tunnel of trees, paved with deep sand and bumpy rock
and we had to put the Jeep in four-wheel drive. The real fun had begun.
For the next 1.6 miles we bounced along the northeast
coast with intermittent views of the ocean and the outline of Maui.
The road ended at big rock, where we parked next to fresh wild goat
hoof prints in the sand, and then continued on foot to find the sunken
ship. Over black volcanic rock and sandy beach and through warm tropical
water we pushed on until we saw the rusting vessel, leaning in the reef
and water about 100 yards off the shore.
Shipwreck Beach is a beautiful secluded spot on
Built in the 1940s, the ship was once a ferrous-concrete
oil tanker that the navy unsuccessfully tried to sink after WWII. Today,
it provides a hauntingly beautiful backdrop to Lanai.
We stayed at Shipwreck Beach for a couple hours, swimming
and lounging on the sand with nary a soul in sight. From the beach,
we drove back to the hotel and walked across the lawn to Lanai City.
Consisting of one block separated by a large park, the picturesque little
town boasts about a dozen storefronts, made up of few gift shops, restaurants,
clothes stores and an art gallery. The town was founded in the early
1900s around the booming pineapple industry.
Once a WWII oil tanker, the vessel at Shipwreck
beautiful and mysterious
Back at the hotel we changed into our best Hawaiian
shirts for dinner at Lanai City Grille, the hotels signature eatery.
Offering locally caught fresh seafood, prime meats and legendary rotisserie
chicken, the restaurant is probably the tastiest on the island.
Our meal began with Mai Tais at the bar, before sitting
down to succulent crab cakes with tomato corn salsa and chipotle remoulade,
followed by a delicious Caesar salad with white anchovies; and pulled
pork won tons, with sweet chili boursin aioli and dipping sauce.
While devouring the appetizers we met Michelle Kommes,
who runs the hotel along with her fiancé Michael Charles. Michelle
told us how she moved to the Lanai a few years ago from Arizona, and
how she loves the charming, plantation feel of the hotel and island.
Michelle Kommes, who runs the Hotel Lanai with her
fiancé, welcomes guests with lots of charm and a big smile
When Michelle left the table, my cioppino arrived and
the ocean came to life in my bowl. With a savory mix of shrimp, scallops,
oysters, clams and fish in a tomato wine sauce, this soup was so good
I demanded to meet Chef Gabriella Juliano and personally thank her.
In few minutes she appeared and informed me the recipe was inspired
by her family and the dish was one of her specialties. No kidding!
The cioppino at Lanai City Grille is a must for
any seafood-lover on Lanai
On a tasty side note, my friend's main course was a
chef special pecan crusted mahi mahi, with chipotle honey butter, chorizo
mashed potatoes and veggies, which was also a delight.
After dinner, we drove to Hulopoe Beach to watch the
sunset and swim in the 80-degree water. Surrounded by cliffs, white
sand and clear blue waters, Hulopoe is often rated one of Americas
The next morning, we enjoyed complimentary continental
breakfast in the lobby and then it was back in the Jeep for a drive
down rustic Munro Trail. Beginning just north of Lanai
City, this 12.8-mile, one-lane dirt road offers sweeping vistas
amongst majestic Cook pine trees, as it climbs through a rain forest
filled with ohia lehua, ironwood, eucalyptus and pine trees, and offers
stunning canyon views of Maunalei gulch as well as neighboring islands.
The trail, which can also be biked or hiked, also goes to the top of
Lanaihale (House of Lanai), Lanai's highest peak at 3,370 ft.
Lanai offers miles of sandy beaches and off road
trails to explore
For more information on visiting Lanai, taking the Maui/Lanai
ferry and other activities, visit www.gohawaii.com/lanai.
For more information on staying at Hotel Lanai, call (808) 565-7211
or visit: www.hotellanai.com.
Everybody loves sightseeing in Lanai
Island of Kaua'i; Oahu's
North Shore; Kaunakakai,
Island Hawaii; Maui's