Getting to Lanai is only half the fun. There’s a real food adventure awaiting you at the top of the island in Lanai City. If you’re thinking of going by air, a flight from Kahului to Lanai Airport will run you about $140 round trip and take about 25 minutes. Want to take Ellison’s Island Air? The price jacks up to around $310 round trip and takes about two and a half hours en route through Honolulu. But the real baller way to go is private yacht; barring that, a kama‘aina round trip on Expeditions (you have to flash your Hawaii ID) will cost $50 round trip, and the boat leaves Lahaina harbor about every three hours.
The ride across the Au Au Channel takes about 45 minutes, time well-spent watching whales or dolphins that love these protected and deep waters. As you come up to Manele Harbor, you have some good views of the dramatic Pu‘upehe, or Sweetheart rock.
Once on land, hop on one of the shuttles to Lanai City. It’s free for guests of the resorts, otherwise it runs $10. It takes about 40 minutes to get to Lanai City, with some drivers giving history lessons of the land. There’s just one car rental in town, Dollar Lanai. Jeeps run about $129 for kama‘aina, and a Hummer is $179. There are lots of 4×4 adventure roads, so call at least 24 hours ahead to check on closures for bad weather. Another way to go is set up a tour with Rabaca Limousine Service. They will take you around the island for about $75 per person.
Lanai City is mauka, about 1,600 feet up. Think cool evenings and warm sunny days, average temperatures range from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. For overnight stay up the mountain, Hotel Lanai is a gorgeous 1920s inn tucked under pine boughs smack in the city, with lots of warm personality. Dole Park is right in front of it and it’s easy to walk into town. Rooms there run $149 to $229.
Staying at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele is also an option–look for special kama‘aina deals. The Festival Package for the Lanai Film Festival starts $279 per night and includes breakfast for two and VIP seating at the event.
The grounds at the Lodge at Koele will give you good reason to either work up an appetite or walk it off. There’s a lake to stroll around, orchid growing rooms to explore and flora and fauna everywhere. You can sneak off to a hammock, take in the country air on a cushy lounge on their casual open air decks or play croquet on the lawn. This weekend, the Lodge will be home to the Hawaiian Culture Film and Music festival, with live music, films, hula and workshops starting Friday through Sunday.
There are a handful of festivals in Lanai, the biggest being the Pineapple Festival that’s held in July, but the Lodge hosts several events like the Hawaiian Culture Film and Music Festival through the year. Keep an eye out for the Lanai Jazz Festival (March 7-9), ‘Ukulele Festival and Slack Key Festival.
This year’s Film Festival has expanded with more workshops and live music by local artists. Benny Uyetake will be doing an outdoor ‘uke jam at Cafe 565 and Sheldon Brown will be on the lanai of Coffee Works.
For local grinds there are many options, and you can tell that local Lanai people love food. Small town life may have its challenges, but cooking great food isn’t one of them. Lanai City has plenty of restaurants to choose from, including one with Bev Gannon’s menu, and Executive Chef Eren Guryel came on board at the Lodge at Koele last June with some new culinary showings at their restaurants. (Note: our Lanai dining guide below leaves out the wonderful food and drink down at the beach in Manele–we’ll save that for another installment of Eat Lanai.)
• Massacre at Kaupoa Beach
• Malama Ko Aloha-Aunty Nona Beamer
• Ke Ka’apuni Ho’onui Fire March
• Discovering Ancient Lanai
• Peace by Piece
• Lua Warriors
(All events are free and open to the public)
Friday, Feb. 7
6-8pm: Hawaiian music under the stars at The Lodge at Koele’s Pineapple Fountain with special chefs selection of pupus and Ocean Vodka cocktails
7-9pm: Live Hawaiian style music in the Great Room celebrating the Film Festival
6-10pm: Award-winning Hawaiian film screenings in the Living Room at The Lodge at Koele
Saturday, Feb. 8
9-11am: Live music at Coffee Works in Lanai City featuring ‘ukulele master Sheldon Brown
11am-1pm: Benny Uyetake at Café 565 in Lanai City for an afternoon ‘ukulele jam session
10:30am-11:30am: Calvin & Liko Hoe nose flute and talk story at the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center
12-1pm: Slack key workshop with Grammy winner Dennis Kamakahi Lodge at Koele
1:30pm-2:30pm: Beginner ‘ukulele workshop with Benny Uyetake Lodge at Koele
1-2pm: Calvin Hoe poi pounding demonstration
2-3pm: Nose flute workshop and Hawaiian talk story with Calvin and Liko Hoe
3-4pm: Hula workshop with Hui Lanakila
5-9pm: Lanai Hawaiian Culture Film & Music Festival. Live Hawaiian music in The Great Hall at The Lodge at Koele. Throughout the musical performances, the Library will feature a selection of films on rotation 6-10pm
Sunday, Feb. 9
•9:30am-12pm: The festival continues in the morning with a musical performance by Sheldon Brown and friends in The Great Hall at The Lodge at Koele
10-11am: ‘Ukulele music with Benny Uyetake at Anunene Juice Bar
11am-noon: ‘Ukulele music with Benny Uyetake at Mimi’s Spa
7-9pm: The festival concludes with live music in The Great Hall
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ANUENUE JUICE BAR
338 8th St.
Fresh Juice, smoothies, soups, salads, wheat grass shots, counter order, vegetarian, raw food, gluten free, free wi-fi
This is a fresh juice bar with creative smoothies and vibrant salads and soups by Tammy Ringbauer.
BLUE GINGER CAFE
409 7th St.
bakery, local dishes, Hawaiian, American, breakfast, lunch, dinner, sandwiches, noodles, counter order, indoor seating, take out, outdoor seating, cash only
The fresh baked goods, like blueberry turnovers, cinnamon rolls, danishes and cookies are legendary at this Lanai City diner that’s nearly always open. You’ll want to order some extra to take back with you. They bake all their own breads and buns so burgers and sandwiches have that extra special flavor and texture. Traditional breakfasts like pancakes and French toast, omelets, breakfast burritos and bacon and eggs are a standard here, but the fried rice plate is epic and you can get it as a side, too. Local plate lunches like chicken katsu, chop steak, teri-chicken and fish and chips are also great.
408 Eighth St.
M, Th-Sa 10am-3pm
M, Th-Fi 5pm-8pm
Tu-W 10 am-8 pm
Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Hawaiian, pizza, salads, calzone, sandwiches
If you’ve ever dialed a number on Lanai, then you noticed that it’s all 565. The menu is the melting pot of the residents of Lanai. Their plate lunches are huge, and you can get two scoops rice or green salads. The pizza dough, sauce and foccacia is all made in-house. In fact, everything is from scratch here.
419 Seventh St.
Local diner, breakfast, lunch, dinner (F-Sa only), waiter service
This local style diner serves plenty kine good grinds. The pancake breakfast that’s served with vanilla mac nut sauce and Portuguese sausage looks ono, and everyone seems to love the furikake chicken.
604 Illima St.
Coffee House with coffee drinks, sandwiches, bagels, light pastries
It’s a cute cafe to pick up your favorite barista-made coffee drinks. Their lattes are regarded as the best on the island. There’s also a nice outdoor lanai to lounge on while you sip.
LANAI CITY GRILLE
828 Lanai Ave.
Pacific Regional Cuisine, dinner, pupus, sushi, keiki, dessert menu, full bar, wine list, waiter service, live entertainment Fridays, dine under the stars, fine dining
Bev Gannon designed the menu. The cozy antique dining room and outdoor tables near the pine forest exude Lanai’s classic country charm. The building harkens back to the ranch heyday of the 1920s but the cuisine is all 21st century. They even have Gannon’s crab dip on the menu, and other borrowed favorites from Hali‘imaile General Store.
LANAI OHANA POKE MARKET
834-A Gay St.
M-F 10am -3pm
Seafood emporium, poke, counter service
They have daily specials and many different kinds of poke as well as poke bowls, ocean salad, mussels, shrimp and tofu salad.
PELE’S OTHER GARDEN
811 Houston St.
M-Sa Dinner 5-8pm
M-Sa Happy Hours 4:30-6:30pm
Lunch $/Dinner $$
Italian Bistro, lunch, dinner, subs, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, pub fare, salad, desserts, waiter service
This Italian bistro, complete with a black and white checkered floor and sit-down service has Happy Hour specials that include $3 draught beers and 20 percent off the bar pupus. The sandwich menu is extensive, with 11 different cold subs and four hot. Pizzas, salads and garlic bread round out the Italian deli menu, and the nightly entrees feature pasta dishes.
434 8th St.
This is the only grocery store in town. It’s a small store but they cover the basics and then some. I’ve seen some good sale items from time to time, but prices bound to be higher here than Maui. I have to commend the wine buyer, as they have an amazing selection of wine.
LODGE AT KOELE
Four Seasons Resort Lanai
1 Keomoku Hwy.
Executive Chef Eren Guryel
• Dining Room: Here the chef is celebrating the new year with a new menu. The focus is still local and sustainable–what they like to call Hawaiian-influenced nature-to-table. Dishes like Molokai venison loin that’s seared on a hot lava rock table-side are just one example of the seasonal offerings, and if you’re truly adventurous you will opt for the four-course blindfolded Chef’s tasting menu.
• Terrace: The Terrace overlooks the resort’s gorgeous lawn, lake and trails. Dining here is elegant and relaxing, and Chef Guryel has added a prime cut grilled protein concept that pairs perfectly with their new selection of craft beers. There are many nods to Hawaiian cuisine in the menu like Kalua pig, lomi salmon, ahi poke and fresh caught fish of the day. Their breakfast menu has amazing kids meals, and lunch is tasty too.
• The Bar: Light menu and full bar. There are dark leather seats, a masculine setting and great views of the Cook Pines. The upscale bar fare includes artisan cheeses, bruschetta, tempura ahi rolls, kalua pig nachos, truffle oil popcorn and fall-off-the-bone ribs. Happy Hour runs Sun to Thursday and features 50% off selected refreshing drinks. Open 11am-11pm with menu available 11am-9pm.
• Great Hall: Strictly pupus and drinks. They have couches and cushy seating near the cozy fireplace. The great hall is incredibly comfortable, so much so you’ll want to hunker down with a book and a glass of wine.
Afternoon tea, F and Sa: 3-5pm
Nightly live entertainment: 7-9pm
Alapa Drive live band performance, F 7-10pm
• Trophy Room: Drinks and Snacks, 46″ Flat Screen TVs, shuffleboard, foosball, pool table. Open 11am-11pm.