Sometimes we have preconceptions that we carry with us, origins unknown. Oddly enough, I had this notion that there were some destinations in the world that, due to their popularity in the early 20th century (and likely far before that as well), were too cliched for me. Is that in line with the Portjam & Co ethos? Hell no! I’m wagging a mental, disapproving finger at myself as I write this. The destinations in question: Las Vegas, Morocco, and Hawaii. Though Morocco was on my bucket list, Hawaii was but a dream I reserved for my retirement years, and Vegas was just repulsive. Thank god I’ve matured enough to admit that I now love Vegas, and Hawaii… well, let me tell you about Hawaii my friends.
Hawaii is that land you’ve seen on postcards, in movies, and the occasional Price is Right showcase showdown, come to life. Lush green forests, volcanic peaks (both active and dormant), and sparkling turquoise waters all confirm why Hawaii has been a point of interest for travellers for over a century. Six of the islands are ready for the exploration, and with fun nicknames like the garden isle (Kaua’i) and the friendly isle (Moloka’i), you can take your pick of what paradise you want to inhabit for a stretch of time. I found myself on the island of Lana’i on 3 different occasions this year (all work related).
The first impression you get of Lana’i is upon approach. Whether you’re flying in from O’ahu or taking the ferry from Maui, the views are absolutely stunning! Sheer cliffs and red earth are what you’ll see on either side of the island, something that doesn’t quite jive with those postcards we talked about earlier. Lana’i is a different kind of island, a quieter one. So quiet, that you can tour Lana’i City (the only city on the island) in under an hour.
Lana’i City is a historic plantation community located in the middle of the island, where the weather is often cloudy and cooler than what you would associate with Hawaii. The city is made up of colourful bungalows with wide, wrap-around porches, surrounded by a rainbow of flowers and thick vegetation that make the city just the right amount of subdued adorable.
The grid-based city streets are easy to navigate in your 4×4 (you’ll want to rent one of those for your stay), and most restaurants and cafés are located within a two-block radius of Dole Park (that’s the Dole of pineapple and banana fame). Coffee Works will get your day started right with an amazing cup of beans from near (Maui, Kona) and far (Costa Rica, Jamaica, Java). Richard’s Market has a selection of fresh poke made daily. Pele’s and Cafe 565 make a mean pizza. The Lanai City Grille at the Hotel Lanai (my personal favourite) will have you drooling before you can get the food from plate to mouth.
4×4 Road Trip
Driving is the best way to see Lana’i. I rented a Jeep Cherokee and zipped around the winding roads from the ferry dock at Manele Bay to Lana’i City. The road took me to an elevation that made my ears pop, and I sometimes wished I was in the passenger seat so I can enjoy the hills, cliffs, and sights along the way. The view was best going the other way around, from the city to the bay, where you’re greeted with unspoiled views of the Pacific, right before you negotiate those twists and turns in the road. If you’re lucky, some of the tempestuous weather on the island might just put a rainbow on your path to Manele Bay.
Hulopo’e Beach & Puu Pehe
The beautiful, palm-lined Hulopo’e beach sits between the ferry dock and the Four Seasons resort at Manele Bay. The sand was soft beneath my feet and I sat for a while breathing in the salt spray of the crashing waves while watching the sunset set fire to the sky. Sounds like it was ripped out of a romance novel doesn’t it? Add some crystal clear tidal pools to the north, a few surfers negotiating the waves, a whale jumping out in the distance, and (if you’re lucky) a few dolphins frolicking in the water. No kidding, whatsoever. That’s the best indication of what awaits in Hawaii… it’s just *that* beautiful.
I strolled out to Puu Pehe on my first trip to Lana’i. The rock out at the southern end of Hulopo’e bay is home to a Hawaiian legend that tells of a grief-stricken lover who climbs the rock with his beloved in his arms, buries her at the top and jumps to his own death. Legends can be a bit dramatic, but so can the views. Once you climb the path up you will have unbelievable views of the Pacific, the bay, and sometimes even Kaho’olawe and Maui islands.
Foodie tip: you can enjoy the same views while sipping on cocktails and having a tasty bite to eat at the Challenge at Manele Bay restaurant called none other than Views. I did just that on a bright and sunny day on my last trip, when tropical storm Guillermo was slamming the north coast of Maui just miles away.
While I didn’t go the entire length of the trail, I did get to the southern end of it and got to look down onto the Palawai basin. If ever there was a site that made me pull over off the road to take pics, it’s the Munro trail. There’s almost always some cloud cover casting shadows over the hillside, making the sunlight dance in pretty patterns over the trail and basin below. I drove up to the southern end of the trail, but you can hike or bike it as well. It’s a 12.8-mile long path spanning from the Four Seasons Lodge stables all the way to the Palawai Basin. The top of the Munro trail offers views of the islands around Lana’i (Moloka’i and Maui) and even further out to O’ahu. Oh Lana’i… you spoil us so!
While 3 days on a work trip was definitely not enough for me to see the beautiful, rugged, completely off the beaten path Lana’i, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. Lana’i is a definite must visit, as a change from the higher traffic Maui, O’ahu, and Kaua’i. In fact, I’m not entirely done with it yet. I have a Lana’i bucket list to cross off!
Check out my Instagram (@portjam) and search for #PortjamInHawaii for more pics from Lana’i and Maui.