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  • Writer's pictureRose@WhereToGoTravelCo

Off the Beaten Path: The Islands of Molokai & Lanai

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and The Big Island are the islands most people think of when they book their vacation to Hawaii. However, if you're looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, you could explore the beautiful and less touristy islands of Molokai and Lanai. Both islands are close to Maui, but they could not be more different from each other.

The Island of Lanai: Rugged, Undeveloped Beauty

Honeymoon couple walking on beach on Lanai, Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

Lanai is a short, one-hour ferry ride from Maui. It boasts a little over 3,000 inhabitants and no traffic lights. The quiet island of Lanai is a great destination for anyone looking to get away from the crowds, enjoy a little peace and quiet, and disconnect from their busy life. It's also home to a championship golf course. Due to its remoteness and luxurious accommodations, famous people looking to get away from crowds often travel here.

The few accommodations on Lanai boast some of the most luxurious accommodations in all of Hawaii. There are three places to stay on Lanai:

  • Four Seasons Lanai- A gorgeous property on a pristine beach perfect for snorkeling

  • Sensei Lanai (also Four Seasons)- An immersive health and wellness resort located in the spiritual uplands of Lanai

  • Hotel Lanai- A charming and rustic plantation inspired resort in the heart of Lanai City

Beaches of Lanai

Like the other Islands of Hawaii, you'll find a variety of beaches here. The one thing you won't find is a crowd.

  • Hulopoe Beach: Located on the south shore, right in front of the Four Seasons Lanai, this easy to access beach is an idyllic secluded crescent-shaped white-sand beach perfect for snorkeling and watching spinner dolphins and sea turtles.

  • Polihue Beach: On the north shore, you'll find this harder to access (and consequently very private) pristine beach. No swimming here, though, just a beach to behold! You'll need a 4WD to access this beach.

Turtle on beach, Lanai, Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M Myers Photography

Lanai attracts the type of traveler looking for a little adventure while also enjoying an ideal beach setting. This is reflected in the type of activities that are popular on Lanai. The best ways for you to explore the island are:

  • Guided ATV/UTV rides.

  • Explore 400 miles of roads with a 4WD

  • Hike through lush rainforest.

  • Horseback ride over dramatic vistas.

Unique experience

Lanai often attracts day visitors from Maui who want to visit the Cat Sanctuary. (I don't mean big cat sanctuary). Cat lovers can spend the afternoon loving on more than 600 rescued housecats. The sanctuary is doing good work, protecting the cats and the native bird population at risk from the cats.

Whether you visit Lanai as a day trip or stay to enjoy this secluded dreamy island at one of its luxury resorts… you'll experience the off-the-beaten-path Hawaii that few others experience.

Couple enjoying sunset in Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Molokai- Immerse yourself in Hawaii's past

Located a short distance from Maui, this small island bursts with old Hawaiian culture. Molokai residents cling to their native roots and are passionate about their land and preserving their rural lifestyle. Molokai is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world, and that in itself is a sight to see. You can also find the largest sandy beaches of Hawaii here. It's no wonder the natives want to protect their way of life and their beautiful island.

Molokai, Hawaii travel
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

You won't find any big resorts or luxury accommodations here. You will find a handful of rental cottages, bed and breakfasts, and one hotel called Hotel Molokai. Rustic and authentic is what travelers will find in the accommodations on Molokai.

Unique experience

Many people come to this island to see Kalaupapa National Park. This makes for a very interesting day trip if you're staying on Maui. Kalaupapa National Park is where victims of Hansen's disease (Leprosy) were sent in the 1800s to live out the rest of their lives, isolated from the world. Through touring the park, you'll learn about Saint Damien and others who sacrificed their own lives to care for their patients, and you'll learn about the park's residents.

Getting to the park is an adventure in itself. You'll take a 90-minute cliffside descent on the back of a mule. Enjoying many dramatic ocean views as you go.

Kalaupapa National Park, Molokai, Hawaii
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

Lanai and Molokai are islands that require guests to have a sense of adventure and an outdoor spirit. These islands show you a different side of Hawaii. A rugged, undeveloped, and isolated Hawaii. Traveling to these islands can be a TRUE escape from day to day life. A chance to truly disconnect and experience another way of life (sometimes that's the best way to reconnect with yourself).

By the way, if we haven't met yet, I'm Rose Woolsey. I help people choose, plan, and book the vacation they've dreamed of. I specialize in Hawaii and other exotic destinations. If you are not yet signed up for my weekly email, what are you waiting for?! I save the best stuff for my email community.


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