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Lanai (lah nah ee) is the smallest publicly accessible island in the Hawaiian chain. As of 2014, the island was 98 percent owned by Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle), with the remaining 2 percent owned by the state of Hawaii. Ellison has announced plans to improve the island’s infrastructure, create an environmentally friendly agricultural industry, develop a massive desalination plant to bring fresh water to the island, and generally improve the welfare and employment of Lanai’s citizens.
The island has no traffic lights, large buses, crowded beaches, malls, or urban complexes. Of primary appeal to visitors are Lanai’s golf courses, the privacy afforded by its resorts, and the contrast of ecosystems between Koele and Manele. Of the millions of visitors to Hawaii each year, most never visit Lanai, and their absence is one of the island’s most appealing features. Lanai is 72 miles (115.8 km) from Honolulu, yet it seems far removed — endowed with all the comforts (in fact, cradled in luxury) and amenities of life and not bothered by its problems.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
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What is a lanai? A lanai is the Hawaiian word for patio or balcony. Most hotel lanais come equipped with chairs and a small table. If you see the word spelled with an uppercase L, it refers to the Hawaiian island. If the word is spelled with a lowercase l, it refers to the balcony or patio.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
To Hawaiians the island was called Lanai o Kauluaau, which can be translated as “Day of the Conquest of Kauluaau,” referring to the legend of a prince who was banished to the island for misbehavior at home in Lahaina. Man-eating spirits haunted Lanai. Kauluaau chased them away and brought order and peace, thus regaining his father’s favor.
Native settlers set up fishing villages along the shore. Soon they started farming and planting taro on the island’s dry volcanic soil. Foreigners discovered Lanai in the late 1700s and 1800s. Kamehameha I added Lanai to his kingdom in 1810.
Throughout the early 1800s foreign influences grew and the native population was in decline. Large parcels of land fell to western ownership. In 1854, missionaries of the Mormon Church chose Lanai as their home. In the 1870s, Walter M. Gibson, head of the Mormon settlement, took control of the land for ranching. A resort now occupies the area that was once the center of ranch operations.
In 1922, James Dole bought the island for approximately $1.1 million. Under his leadership, Lanai became the world’s foremost grower and exporter of pineapples—a title the Pineapple Isle held for most of the 20th century. Foreign laborers arrived in 1924 to work the fields that filled the land.
When the pineapple industry started to decline in the 1980s, Lanai underwent another change, one that was in line with changes occurring on other Hawaiian islands. Shifting away from agriculture, Lanai began developing as a tourist destination. Dole’s pineapple plantation closed in 1993. Resorts, golf courses, and real estate development took over, and today Lanai is a luxury retreat for the sophisticated business and leisure traveler.
Lanai is somewhat comma-shaped with eighteen miles (29 km) in the longest direction. Lanai’s highest point is Mount Lanaihale at 3,366 feet (1,026 m), an inactive volcano near the island’s center. With forty-seven miles (75.6 km) of coastline, only the southern coast of Hulopoe Bay has an easily accessible beach.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
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The best way to explore the rugged interior of Lanai is by four-wheel-drive vehicle or mountain bike. Both are available for rent on the island. Guided jeep tours are also offered.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
Lanai is not the Hawaii’s most scenic island. Only the highest elevations get much moisture. Characterized by dry weather and sparse rainfall, the climate was ideal for pineapple cultivation.
On a clear day Mount Lanaihale offers sweeping views of neighbor islands. The ridge is lined with native plants and the Cook Island pines that were planted to add coolness and moisture to the island’s barren plains. The mountain descends in the west into the flatland of the Palawai Basin. Fallow pineapple fields line the basin.
No airlines serve Lanai direct from the mainland. Instead, visitors must fly to Honolulu or Kahului in Maui to connect to a local carrier. Lanai Airport (LNY) is three miles (4.8 km) southwest of Lanai City, a thirty-minute flight from Honolulu. The airport has a single runway and primarily serves interisland and commuter/air taxi traffic with some unscheduled charter and general aviation activity. Improvements to the airport are continuing. Arriving passengers deplane by stairs to the tarmac.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
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Lanai’s resorts are perfect venues for weddings, honeymoons, and special occasions. Specially conceived wedding packages ease all worries. Location choices include: barefoot vows on the beach; sunsets and fireworks on a cliff above the Pacific; sophistication in the ballroom with ocean and sky as the bride’s something blue; or a luau reception in the gardens by shore.
The Terrace Restaurant at the Lodge at Koele features creative dishes sourced from the eleven climates zones of the Pacific Rim. Sample dishes include Wagyu skirt steak, Koele macaroni and cheese, grilled mahi mahi, and the catch of the day served with lomi lomi, ahi poke, poi, mango salsa, Molokai sweet potatoes and macadamia nuts.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
Lanai has no public transportation services. Rental cars are available at the airport. The resorts provide shuttle service. In Lanai City, there are no traffic lights, no malls, and the hotel contractor supplies guest transportation. Island visitors ride on small and large buses that go between the hotels and the ferry landing on Manele Bay. Bicycles and off-road vehicles are for rent. Many of the island’s landmarks are accessible only by dirt roads that require a four-wheel drive vehicle (4WD). Drivers and riders can expect to be covered with Lanai’s famous red dust after a day of off-road exploration.
Passenger ferries connect Manele Harbor, Lanai, with Lahaina, Maui. The Lahaina-Lanai Ferry provides service five times a day. The trip takes roughly an hour and can involve rough water.
Accommodation choice is limited to three hotels. The island’s central region has a limited number of B&Bs and rental homes.
James Dole built the Hotel Lanai in Lanai City in 1923 as a lodge to house the executives of his pineapple plantation. The small hotel’s restaurant features American country cuisine. Accommodations are rustic. The hotel’s plantation-style rooms have Hawaiian quilt bedcovers, ceiling fans, and hardwood floors. The popular hotel must usually be booked far in advance.
Frequently listed among the world’s finest, Lanai’s two major resorts are managed by Four Seasons Hotels. The Lodge at Koele, in the cool uplands of Koele just outside Lanai City, is modeled after an English country manor. It has 102 rooms, fireplaces, spa services, golf, an executive putting course, horseback riding, archery and clay shooting, and some of Hawaii’s most sumptuous cuisine.
At sea level, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai in Manele Bay welcomes guests to its Mediterranean-Pacific splendor. It has 220 rooms and suites, restaurants, displays of art, a full service spa, tennis courts, and golf.
The island is divided into south, central, and north regions, and only the southern part has easily accessible beaches. The island’s prime features are Hulopoe Bay on the south shore; Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) in the northeast; Polihua Beach in the northwest; and Kaunolu, an ancient Hawaiian fishing village, on the southwest shore.
Sunny South Lanai is home to Hulopoe and Manele bays, marine life conservation areas where dolphins can be spotted jumping from the sea.
Did You Know?
Off Lanai’s southern coast, the scuba cathedrals are spectacular diving sites suitable for intermediate and advanced divers. The site is usually reached on a forty-five-minute boat ride from Lahaina Harbor on Maui.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
Home to Lanai City, the open plains and Cook pine trees of Central and West Lanai offer a rustic feel. The higher elevations also make for cooler temperatures.
The island has thirty miles (48 km) of paved roads and 400 miles (643.6 km) of unpaved ones much of which is in North Lanai. Off road to Kaiolohia, also known as Shipwreck Beach, one can catch sight of a derelict ship stuck in the water. Visit the Kanepuu Preserve to see the Garden of the Gods, featuring a lunar landscape incongruous to Hawaii’s sand and surf. Finally, drive to secluded Polihua Beach to experience what true vacation solitude is all about.
Did You Know?
When billionaire Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was married to Melinda, he chose Lana‘i — specifically the 12th tee of the golf course at Manele, perched on a bluff 150 feet above the ocean — to mark the occasion, and he wore golf spikes with his tuxedo.[su_note note_color=”#f2f7fa”]
You do not need to answer these questions to take the Destination Specialist test. The questions are for you alone, intended to help you check your absorption of the material. The sample questions reinforce the key features of each area. They also serve as a review for the final test.
Use these exercises when reviewing. Your objective should be to “recall” as much material as you can, not merely recognize it. Try to answer multiple- choice questions before looking at the choices. See if you can remember facts about cities or places before looking at their matching descriptions. This will help you in the sales situation, because clients do not come in asking you to match sights to cities, but rather to have you match them to destinations.