How to Visit Lanai on a Budget and Travel More Local

February 24, 2024   8 Comments »

“But what about those who want to visit Lanai on a budget? This nagging question is what kept going through my head when I initially arrived in Lana’i.

When two of the three hotels on the entire island are luxury Four Seasons resorts, what is a budget traveler on Lana’i to do? It took me a few days, but slowly I started seeing through the luxury haze and notice opportunities for the mid-range and budget traveler. They seemed to be camouflaged to some extent – a bit overshadowed by the Four Seasons luxury resorts.

After digging deeper, I can say that Lana’i isn’t out of reach for people who are traveling on a tighter budget.

The Challenge of Doing Budget Hawaii Travel

Hotel Lanai

However, keep in mind, that it’s Hawaii and things in Hawaii don’t come cheap.

Many times by compromising one thing, it allows you to do another activity that might be more expensive. For example, you can save a lot of money on lodging if you are willing to camp and that will allow you to afford a high-end dinner at one of the Four Seasons restaurants. Or stay in the luxurious accommodations, but go to local cafes in Lana’i City when it comes to eating.

How ever you want to spin it – just set your trip budget and see how you can fit the puzzle pieces together that allow you to choose everything you want to do on Lanai.

Budget Lodging on Lanai

There are only 3 hotels on the entire island. And as of 2020, there are only 5 Airbnb options – your choices of lodging really are limited on Lanai. The Airbnb options don’t come cheap – most are over $250 a night.

Dreams Come True Bed and Breakfast

I’ve never stayed here – so I can’t give you a review – but it is one of the only B&B’s on the island and is moderately priced for Hawaii.

Read reviews of Dreams Come True Bed and Breakfast on Trip Advisor

Camping on Lanai

If you are looking to really go budget and you like the idea of roughing it, then reserve a camping spot at Hulopo’e Beach Park. This is the one and only official campground on Lanai.

Budget Camping at Hulopo Beach lanai
Hulopo’e Beach Lanai is not a bad place to camp!

For beautiful views of spinner dolphins in the morning as the sun comes up over Sweetheart Rock (Puu Pehe), you can’t beat this spot! The campsite has 8 spaces and the site has 2 bathroom buildings which are well kept and include cold water showers (which is really all you need when you are camping at the beach!).

There are ample shaded picnic tables and places to grill. The best part about this budget campsite is that it’s only about 200 feet from the beach where you can take a dip! Plus, it’s only a 5-minute walk up a torch-lit path to the Manele Bay resort for happy hour or dinner.

At approximately $80 a night to reserve a campsite, this is definitely the most budget option you’ll find on Lanai. Be sure to reserve your space early. For campsite reservations and information, contact Dony Haban, Park Manager, Castle and Cooke Resorts, PO Box 630310, Lanai City, HI 96763, or call (808) 565-2695.

Historic Hotel Lanai Is a Great Midrange Option

hotel lanai budget travel

Nestled between the two Four Seasons Resorts is the mid-range Hotel Lana’i – with a pristine woodsy setting in Lana’i City. This buttery yellow old plantation hotel was used originally to host the Dole Pineapple executives and management when they were in town.

It’s been kept up lovingly and has a charm about it that is welcoming and cozy. The hotel definitely serves the midrange traveler with lovely cottage rooms starting at $300. A simple breakfast is included.

I stayed at Hotel Lana’i for 6 nights and fell in love with the relaxed, simple setting as well as the helpful staff. The location was perfect for walking around town and the island shuttle stops right outside!

Room at Hotel Lanai
Room at the cozy Hotel Lanai
hotel Lanai

Budget Food on Lanai

Lanai City Grille at Hotel Lanai

You can find high-end food that will satisfy any critic and meet a mid-range budget at Lana’i City Bar & Grille. The restaurant highlights seafood as well as meat which showcases the diversity of Lana’i very well.

I had the venison and it was my favorite meal on the island cooked perfectly and served with a sauce of cherries.

The charm of this place is its location – it’s a part of Hotel Lana’i and as you walk in you’ll find locals intermixing with tourists. If the locals eat there then you know it’s a good mid-range option!

Take a seat at the bar, and be sure to order a martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and strike up a conversation with the locals about their favorite things to do on the island – I’m willing to bet they will have ideas that will meet your budget.

Chef Warren Seta prepares sushi
Chef Warren Seta prepares sushi

Pele’s Other Garden

For heaping plates of Italian food and pizza, stop by and see Mark at Pele’s Other Garden. You can find very reasonable prices here as well as the other locally owned establishments in Lana’i City such as Blue Ginger Café.

This is actually more of a casual deli with sandwiches and salads during lunchtime and at night it transforms into an Italian Bistro! You can even catch live music on Wednesday nights at Pele’s Other Garden and they too serve up a mean green tea vodka martini. Or if you are more of a beer person – they have 15 beers on tap!

A live band at Pele's Other Garden plays on Wednesday nights
A live band at Pele’s Other Garden plays on Wednesday nights.  Love their flip-flops!

Budget Activities on Lanai

If you want to do more than simply lay on the beach near your campsite, then there are plenty of other activities you can do for little or no money.

Hiking on Lanai is Free

There are a variety of hiking trails on Lanai and of course hiking is always free! The hiking on Lana’i can be quite varied since it has a cool pine forest as well as more typical coastal hikes that are exposed to the elements but offer glorious views.

I hiked the Koloiki Ridge Trail and the Kaunolu trail and ran out of time to get on the Munro trail (which is also perfect for mountain biking if you are willing to get dirty). I also scrambled up to Sweetheart Rock – a very short walk from Hulopo’e Beach Park for some great views. Just stop at one of the markets in Lana’i City and take plenty of water and snacks and you’ll have a cheap afternoon of activities and exercise.

koloiki Ridge Trail
Koloiki Ridge Trail

Golf for Free at Lanai’s Cavendish Golf Course

One of the big draws to Lana’i is the championship golf courses designed by Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus and run by the Four Seasons Resorts. The courses are so beautiful and luxurious that Bill Gates got married on the 12th tee.  

However – if you want to golf on a budget, there’s an option for that too on Lana’i. Head to the Lana’i city’s public golf course, Cavendish Golf Course situated right next to the Lodge at Ko’ele; it is full of long straight fairways and Norfolk Pines.

It was originally built as a nine-hole, par 36 course in 1947 for plantation workers on the island. But today it’s a free option for golf on Lana’i. Yes – that’s right – it’s completely free – you don’t even need to reserve a tee time, just show up ready to play!

Spa Services on a Budget

Spas on Lanai on a budget

Looking for a bit of budget pampering – then try out some of the local spa treatment options. I was made aware of the existence of these local operators when I was at the luxurious Manaele Bay Resort spa. My masseuse, Diane, treated me to an amazing deep tissue massage while I was staying at the resort – and when she finished she mentioned to me that she also does massage independently and gave me her number.

I decided to give it a try for a much cheaper option and see what it was like. It was no-frills, but her massage room was perfectly lovely with aromatherapy, a choice of soothing music, and the same great massage treatment that I had at Manele Bay Resort. The price was also lovely – $65 for an hour.

I’m not sure if Diane is still in Lanai offering massage, but there are a few other private operators on the island as well as a nail salon that offers an array of spa services. My best advice is to go to one of the local restaurants in Lanai City and just ask a local where you can get a massage that’s is not the Four Seasons!

Mimi’s Place has services on both Maui and in Lanai City
Around the Square: Karen Brown Massage

Lanai Transportation

jeep rental lanai

Sadly – getting around Lanai isn’t very easy. You can rent a Jeep in Lanai and have the freedom of driving yourself. There are also a few taxis – but they aren’t cheap. There is some sort of shuttle that runs for $10 a person – but the times are very specific and coordinate with the ferry from Maui. Finally, a shuttle runs on the island and is free for the guests of the Four Seasons Resorts.

Budget Travelers Can Enjoy Lana’i

My nagging question was answered – even those with a small budget can enjoy the tiny island of Lana’i if you are willing to cut a few corners. However, no matter how much you spend I’m willing to bet that you will fall in love with Lana’i.

Other Lanai articles for your enjoyment

Sea Turtle mating on Lanai

Take an offroading adventure with Lanai Jeep Rentals

The “purrrfect” Cat Sanctuary on Lanai

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Visit Lana'i

Disclosure: I was a guest of Visit Lana’i as a part of their New Media Artist in Residence Program.   All views expressed here are my own honest opinions and do not reflect the views of Visit Lana’i.

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