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Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of "things to do" on Lana`i, although relaxing is one of the best things to do. Around Manele Bay the biggest focus is around Hulopo`e Beach. Swimming, snorkeling (some of the best in Hawaii with a very healthy coral reef, to the left as you face the ocean), body surfing, and sunning are all wonderful. The beach is large and uncrowded. The surf actually tends to be lighter in the winter. During the summer months there are more southern swells that kick up the waves making it more difficult to snorkel then. There is a small Keiki Pool at the base of the stairs along the tidal pools where kids and adults alike can snorkel in safety if the surf is rough. This is a large tidal pool created by the Army Corp of Engineers and has smaller versions of many of the reef fish swimming around. The spinner dolphins often swim into the bay and you can watch their free dolphin show they put on from the beach (make sure you bring a pair of binoculars, which will also help with whale watching in the winter). The resort provides free snorkel gear and life belts with no time limit, but they are now fortunately not giving the gear out when the dolphins are in the bay. This seems to have lead to the dolphins visiting the bay more often, and staying longer since they are not being harassed by throngs of snorkelers. You need to remember never to approach dolphins closer than 50 yards or you may be subject to a $25,000 fine. It is best to just enjoy them from the beach. Stand up paddle board is a new activity available and there are a couple of outfits offering this.
By the way for the people who like to rough it, there are campsites on the beach (which are reserved for island residents), and campsites for visitors in the park behind the beach. Visitors are allow to reserve a spot for up to three days for a nominal fee.
There is also easy hiking along the shore going either way from the beach with stunning views. You can take an easy hike east from the beach (left as you are facing the ocean) to a high point overlooking Sweetheart Rock (Pu`u Pehe). This is about 45 minutes round trip, depending on how much time you spend gazing at the beautiful views. If you go west from the beach (back in front of the Manele Bay Resort), you will follow the Fisherman's trail. This is a little more rugged, climbing up and down some rocky slopes, but could be done by most in tennis shoes. The Four Season's has recently cleared the path out so it is much easier to negotiate. There is a new interpretive trail, the Kapiha`a Village, which goes up to the right from the Fisherman's Trail just as you get below the golf clubhouse. Not only are there great views along this trail, one also gets to learn about early life on Lana`i. This trail then ends at the golf clubhouse when one can have a delicious lunch and enjoy the stunning view. One can hike back to the beach over the same trail (this provides new views as one is walking the other direction), or one can have the Four Seasons staff drive one back to the Manele Bay lobby. The Fisherman's Trail also continues past the turn off for the interpretive trail, and eventually ends up on a golf course fairway, but that end of the trail may not be very well cleared of brush (think kiawe bushes with sharp thorns). And finally the tidal pools above the snorkeling area are fascinating as they are full of all kinds of interesting sea-life. You can even walk all the way down the tidal pools and around the point to get to Shark's Cove (one will need at least flip flops to walk over the lava rock, but ideally something that covers the toes).
For the less energetic one can just hang around the small but beautiful pool area with two hot tubs. You will lounge in well cushioned pool chairs with comfortable headrests, while the Four Seasons staff offers you water, lemonade, fresh fruit, frozen pops, cold towels, Evian spritz or a sunglasses cleaning. In fact they offer much of this at the beach also. The spa at Manele is small but nice with excellent staff. It could use an upgrade to get it up to par with the latest new spas being built (such as the one at FS Big Island), but does have a sauna and steam room in each locker room. They also again offer massages outside in hales overlooking the ocean. If you like to listen to the surf and birds as you get a massage then this is a must for you (it is also the only place to get a couples massage). They also offer all the standard massages and spa services inside. There is also a newly renovated spa the the Lodge at Ko`ele as well as a small pool.
For the golfers the Challenge at Manele is a beautiful course (don't golf, but have heard many raving about the course designed by Jack Nicklaus). There are beautiful ocean views from most of the holes, and at one you hit over the ocean to the green. At the Lodge at Ko`ele there is the famous Experience at Ko`ele golf course designed by Greg Norman. It is tucked in the hills of the islands upland which makes it very lush and beautiful. The Manele course will have nicer weather in general.
Back at Manele there is a nice tennis center with a pro available, and they give lessons and have tennis mixers (there are also courts at the Lodge which are free to use). Rob, the tennis pro, gives good lessons and is very patient. It costs $20/person per day for unlimited play, or one can do one of their daily clinics for $25. For this cost, rackets and balls are provided, as well as a cooler with bottled water, iced towels and cold Evian spray. The mixer with FS residents and staff is every Thursday and is free of charge, as is the intro to tennis clinic every Tuesday. They also have an excellent new fitness center (with wonderful ocean views) complimentary exercise classes and nice equipment. There are also regular hydro-tone aquatic classes mornings in the pool. The gardens are beautiful (they offer guided tours once a week), and the hotel lobby is stunning. They even have iPODs you can check out from the front desk to do a tour of the beautiful artwork throughout the resort. From the harbor next door you can go deep sea fishing, or take a snorkel cruise (about a $180 for 4 1/2 hours on the catamaran plus lunch) during which you are likely to see the wonderful spinner dolphins in the bay and whales in the winter. They also do a two hour Zodiac boat trip to see the dolphins and whales for less money. The dolphins may come and swim around the boat. Scuba diving is also available, both guided intro dives for those not certified (about $100 for a one tank dive), and two tank dives for the certified (all the ocean activities are run by Trilogy).
Back up by the Lodge horseback riding is one of the favorite things to do there, and you can take group or private rides (they let you do some trotting on the private rides). The grounds of the Lodge are beautiful (a stunning new pagoda was just built) and certainly worth a tour of the gardens. Both resorts have local artists showing their stuff daily in the lobbies. A good place to pick up some beautiful artwork. They have a great hike out to Koloiki Ridge which partially follows the Munro Trail, and then goes out to the ridge with great views of Maui and Moloka`i. This is about 5 miles round trip and takes 2- 2 1/2 hours. The weather is generally nicer in the morning, as this hike goes along the rainier up country areas. Note: when you get to the grove of pine trees at the end of the dirt road on Koloiki ridge do NOT stop there! Go another 50 - 100 yards down the ridge until you get to an overlook of Maunalei Gulch to the right. This is a spectacular viewpoint and should not be missed. If you are lucky you might see deer or Mouflon sheep scampering about on the cliffs below. The resort will also do this as a guided hike for a fee.
Miniature golf, croquet and lawn bowling are also available back at the Lodge for those who are inclined. And if guns are your passion there is a sporting clays range as well as hunting of the local deer. Bow hunting is also available. The resort also rents regular bikes to tour the paved streets of Lana`i City. This small town can now also be toured by a carriage ride, during which you will get to learn about the island's history from your guide.
Renting a 4x4 and taking it to one the the remote places on the island is always one of the highlights. Garden of the Gods, Polihua Beach, Shipwreck Beach (with a real shipwreck and often turtles), Lopa Beach, Munro Trail, and seeing some petroglyphs are all available. (If you want to see the petroglyphs at Shipwreck Beach then start at the cement foundation that is all that's left of a previous lighthouse or tower. It is just past the parking lot. From there head directly inland (away from the water) on the most obvious trail/path. Go about 200 paces until you reach a small gulch/ravine. Scramble down in there and the petroglyphs are on some large rocks in the shade of kiawe trees. They are very easy to find and well worth the effort. Please treat the area with the dignity and respect it deserves.) It is really something special to drive to a huge isolated beach and be the only ones there. From the Munro Trail you can see up to 4 other islands from the wonderful views. The road to Kaunolu, the summer fishing home for Kamehameha the Great, has been improved, making this another place to visit with your 4x4. You will see well maintained ruins of some buildings, and can hike up to Kahekili's Leap (Warrior's Leap), where the King's men could prove their bravery - a 63 foot dive into the ocean. There are also some old fishing shacks in the area, and they actually welcome guests as long as you clean up after your visit. Current recommended 4x4 renting is from Dollar, http://dollarlanai.com/ or from the newest off road rental company that rents Hummers, http://www.808hummers.com/. The cost for a Jeep as of January 2012 was about $129/day and the Hummers are more. Dollar requires one to take the shuttle up to Lana`i City to get the vehicle, but 808hummers has drop off and pick up service at the hotels. Be aware that if there has been recent heavy rains, one will be limited as to where you can drive the Jeep. One can also do a hike of the entire Munro Trail. The resort bus will drop you off at the one end and you can hike back to the Lodge. This would require a back pack with food and lots of water. It will take you all day to do this hike and likely will be very tiring.
Like most of the other islands one can do helicopter tours, which can include the sights of nearby Moloka`i and Maui. This can cost over $600/person for the full tour. And if you really fall in love with the island and price is no object, then one can tour the multi-million dollar houses for sale at both Manele and the Lodge. If you are staying at one of the Four Seasons resorts, the concierge can arrange various interesting activities for you. This can include a guided island tour, surfing lessons, and any of the various boating excursions, including a weekly Lana'i sunset sail.
Lastly one can tour Lana`i City. Actually a small town that is easily covered on foot. There are no big box stores or national chains there, and that's what makes it so nice. In fact there is not a stop light on the entire island. The Local Gentry has very nice clothes for women and men. Dis'N'Dat shop lives up to its name and has a little of this and that including jewelry, wood carvings, wind chimes, and just an unusual array of gifts. There are a couple galleries in town which have some outstanding artwork. The Mike Carroll Gallery and Jordanne Gallery are great, and both display their work in the hotel lobbies regularly. There is also a wonderful Lana`i Art Center with works from many artists as well as artist's supplies for those who are inspired. There are two grocery/general stores with all the necessities you may have forgotten to bring (wine and liquor also sold). Another newer store is Lana`i Beach Walk with beachwear, Crocs, gifts and casual clothing. Many stores are closed on Sunday. The small Hotel Lana`i in town is fun to check out and very reasonably priced is one is looking for a more budget conscious place to stay. It has about 12 rooms including a small separate cottage. Just opened in 2010 is the Lana`i Culture and Heritage Center. This is an amazing place where you can see old artifacts, watch interesting videos about the island, and learn about the history of the people and the land. It is in the old Dole Administrative building (just to the left of Hotel Lana`i as you face the hotel) and is open Monday - Friday from 9-3 and Saturday from 9-1.
And there are several restaurants in town: Pele's Other Garden (deli by day, Italian restaurant by night with delicious pasta and great pizza), Blue Ginger Cafe with delicious Mahi burgers and local food plates, Canoes Lana`i also with local food (breakfast and lunch only), Cafe 565 with sandwiches and pizza, and Lana`i City Grill (formally Henry Clays) in the Hotel Lana`i with outstanding venison and roasted chicken. Also, there is a candy/ice cream shop called Sweetest Days (the pineapple ice cream is great), a new Lana`i Poke Market and a coffee shop called Coffee Works. The prices at the Lana`i City Grill approach those at the FS resorts (but so does the quality of food), but the other places in town are more reasonably priced. Pele's and Lana`i City Grill are the only places in town with beer, wine and liquor, and of course both resorts have full service bars. There is not much night life on the island. A delicious meal and listening to live music in the resort lounges is what you should expect. On Friday night the Lana`i City Grill has some live music too.
There are two restaurants at Ko`ele, the more casual Terraces and the more formal Dining Room, one of the best restaurants in all of Hawai`i (long pants and collared shirts for men). At Manele the restaurants and bars were just revamped at the end of 2012. The former Hale Ahi Ahi Lounge is now the Sports Bar with pool and other table games, big screen TV and a bar menu. There is now a new bar in the lower lobby level spilling out onto the terrace overlooking the pool called the Lounge. It serves a "refined cocktail menu" and has live entertainment. The Hulopo`e Court is now One Forty with steak and seafood for dinner and breakfast in the morning. And filling the previously vacant Ihilani space is Nobu Lana`i featuring chef Nobuyuki Matshuisa's Japanese Cuisine infused with Hawaiian ingredients. There are 22 Nobu restaurants around the world with one also in Waikiki. The former Ocean Grill is now Kailani. It is outside alongside the pool with nice ocean views, and serves Italian food. Generally all these restaurants are quite expensive, but it is exciting to see some big changes for the restaurants at Manele. And if you really want to splurge for a meal, there is private dining for parties of 2-6 people in an Ocean Hale right on the bluff overlooking the ocean.
The one thing you can usually expect on Lana`i is nice weather. Down at Manele Bay they possibly get the least rain of anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands - it has been written they get only 4 to 5 inches a year! This is thanks to the entire island being in the rain shadow of Haleakala on Maui plus the 3000+ foot hills on the island's north side. Even Lana`i City gets only 20+ inches a year. Up in the hills along the Munro Trail they get over 40 inches of rain a year making it much more lush. So you can almost always expect to find sunshine somewhere on Lana`i.
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