September 28, 2022

How to get to Lānaʻi

Just nine miles off the coast of Maui, Lānaʻi is a serene escape to an even calmer and more relaxed way of life. With approximately 3,100 residents, Lānaʻi is the smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian islands and is owned by Larry Ellison, co-founder of software company Oracle Corporation.

From charming town and untouched terrain to opulent resorts and world-class golf courses, visitors are sure to find both tranquility and adventure on the island. Family-owned shops line the street at Lanaʻi City and the cat shelter is 10 minutes away by car. And there’s no need to worry about traffic; there are no stop lights on the island.

Want to visit the island? Here’s what you need to know.

Take the Expeditions Ferry

The most common way to get to Lānaʻi is on the Expedition Ferry, which departs from Lahaina Harbor in Maui and arrives at Manele Harbor. The 45-minute ride crosses the ʻAuʻau Channel with stunning views of Lahaina, Mauna Kahālāwai, and Molokaʻi. During the winter months, passengers can also watch spectacular displays of humpback whales and their playful calves.

The ferry offers four departure times throughout the day from Lahaina and Manele. The last ferry ride departs from Manele at 5:30 p.m. Passengers are encouraged to book their tickets in advance, especially when traveling on weekends. The elderly and kamaʻāina (residents) can benefit from reductions. The ferry docks in front of the Pioneer Inn and passengers should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure. For those who want to sit on the roof of the double-decker boat, arrive early as these are the most coveted seats and fill up quickly.

For those who prefer to fly, airlines offering flights to the island include Lānaʻi Air. The luxury plane offers flights between the city of Lānaʻi and Oʻahu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Mokulele Airlines also offers flights to the island but only by charter.

What to expect on the ferry ride

Lānaʻi Island is visible from MauiWestern coast. The Expeditions ferry crosses the ʻAuʻau Channel, connecting Lānaʻi to Maui.
Photo: Grace Maeda

The ocean is smooth and glassy flowing through the ʻAuʻau channel early in the morning. The canal is one of the most protected passages in the state, located between Lānaʻi and Maui, with the protection of Molokaʻi to the north and Kahoʻolawe to the south. ʻAuʻau was named for its quiet, bath-like conditions, translating to “taking a bath”.

While the channel is indeed calm in the morning, the wind and waves increase throughout the day. For those prone to motion sickness, be prepared as afternoon rides can be rowdy. Often the top of the boat is the best place to relieve motion sickness. The outdoors and breezes certainly help, but there’s little shade and a good chance of getting sprayed by ocean waves.

Make reservations with shuttles

Before embarking on the journey to Lānaʻi, be sure to book shuttle rides at least a day in advance. There are several taxis that will transport passengers from Manele Port to the town of Lānaʻi and the Lānaʻi Cat Sanctuary. Renting a car is also a great way to explore the island and the rugged terrain. Four-wheel drive vehicles can be reserved from Lānaʻi Car Rental in town.

Attractions within walking distance from Manele Port

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Hulopoʻe dream beach is just 7 minutes walk from Manele Port.
Photo: Grace Maeda

For those who haven’t planned and made shuttle reservations in advance, don’t worry. At the port, Manele General Store is a small grocery store offering snacks and refreshments. It even carries beer and wine. After getting drinks and food, take a 7-minute walk to Hulopoʻe Beach Park. The water is crystal clear on this white sand beach, making it ideal for snorkeling. It’s also a peaceful place to spread out a towel and lie on the beach all day. Don’t forget to catch the last ferry to Maui!