How to Visit Lanai on a Budget

December 18, 2012 8 Comments »

Hotel Lanai

Hotel Lana’i a historic midrange option for accommodation on Lanai

“But what about those who travel 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 resorts, what is a budget traveler on Lana’i to do? It took me a few days, but slowly I started see 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. But after digging deeper, I can say that Lana’i isn’t out of reach for people who are traveling on a tighter budget.

However, keep in mind, it’s Hawaii and things in Hawaii don’t come cheap – but many times by compromising one thing, it allows you to do another activity that might be more expensive. For example, 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. However you want to spin it – just set your trip budget and see how you can fit the puzzle pieces together that works for your needs.


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 $99 and also providing a private cottage (no kitchen) for $199. A simple breakfast is included and you can use the island shuttle service for a fee of $35. I stayed at Hotel Lana’i for 6 nights and fell in love with the relaxed, simple setting as well as the helpful staff.

Room at Hotel Lanai

Room at the cozy Hotel 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. 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 6 spaces and the site has 2 bathrooms 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 picnic tables and places to grill. You must obtain a camping permit for around $30 and then pay $15 for the camping space. Which allows you to stay for a max of 3 nights at a time. This permit can be acquired from the park rangers who are on site 24/7. The best part about this budget campsite is that it’s only abut 200 feet from the beach and it’s a 5 minute walk up a torch lit path to the Manele Bay resort for happy hour or dinner.
Reservations are only required for groups larger than 10 people else it’s first come, first serve.  I found two different reservation numbers to use – but not sure if either one is correct!

Reservations: (808) 565-3018 or (808) 565-2695

Hulopo Beach lanai

Hulopo’e Beach lanai – not a bad place to camp!

sweetheart rock also near the camp ground

Sweetheart rock is a short hike from the campground


You can find high end food that will satisfy any critic and meet a mid range budget at Lana’i City Grille. Chef Warren Seta has owned world renown restaurants in Las Vegas, and has been on television cooking shows, but he has decided to slow life down in Lana’i. He’s been running the kitchen at Lana’i City Grille now for over a year and does a lovely job of highlighting 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 it’s 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 and I’m willing to bet they will be ideas that will meet your budget.

Chef Warren Seta prepares sushi

Chef Warren Seta prepares sushi

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 Ohana Poke Market, and Blue Ginger Café. 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.

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!


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

There are a variety of hiking trails on the island and of course hiking is always free! The hiking on Lana’I can be quite varied since it has 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

Off Roading Adventure
You can rent a Jeep from Dollar Rental Lana’i which isn’t necessarily cheap – but it will get you to the far corners of the island and entertain you all day. Make your way to Garden of the Gods or go for total privacy at the typically empty Lopa Beach. Rates are $139 per day but if you rent for multiple days it’s a better deal of course. You can find rate info and discounts at their website. Once again I suggest packing along a picnic lunch and Hotel Lana’i will provide you with a cooler full of ice for your off-roading adventure.  My off-roading on Lana’i was my favorite activity on Lana’i – but you have to be willing to get dirty!

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 and it 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!

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. In addition to Diane, there are a few other private operators on the island as well as a nail salon that offers an array of spa services.

Diane – 808-371-2167 you can call her directly and set up an appointment
Massage by Delmar –
Mimi’s Place –


A shuttle runs on the island and is free for the guests of the Four Seasons Resorts and costs $35 for Lana’i Hotel guests during their stay. This is a great way to get around the island to the main attractions and locations. It will take you down to the public beach, drop you in Lana’i City, or to the hiking trails or stables near Ko’ele Lodge.  Other people can use the shuttle too if you aren’t a guest at the hotels – you will need to check with the shuttle for the rates.

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.

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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