The air on Lanai may be slightly less sweet than it was when the island grew 90 percent of the world’s pineapples. But the charm of its residents in their plantation-style cottages, the solitude of its beaches and the diversity of its highland forests make for an idyllic (and tangy) day on the road.
** Go:** Starting at Hulopoe Beach Park, head north on Manele Road/Route 440. You will rise in elevation, passing from desertlike scrub-brush terrain to red-clay hillsides and eventually to pine and spruce highlands. At the end of Manele Road, continue to quaint Lanai City, past Dole Park, which acts as the town square at the heart of the village, and onward toward the Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele. As you pass the entrance to The Lodge, the road becomes Route 430, or Keomuku Highway. Follow that a half-mile to Cemetery Road, which turns into the off-road Munro Trail, along which you can park and hike to the Koloiki Ridge vista. Return the way you came, back toward The Lodge onto Route 430. Before The Lodge, make a right onto Koele Road, which shortly turns into a dirt road before eventually becoming Polihua Road. It passes through Garden of the Gods and spills onto the pristinely secluded Polihua Beach. You will have this stretch of golden sand all to yourself. Enjoy.
** Stop:** Off Highway 11 between Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, make a java stop at the Hilo Coffee Mill. Get a taste of a major coffee farm that’s spread out over 24 acres. Indulge in the mill’s coffee ice cream to cool off, then go to where the lava meets the sea in a steamy battle.
** Along the Route:** Don’t miss a stroll through the sleepy village of Lanai City, where artists’ studios-cum-galleries are opening with frequency. Take a pit stop at the Sweetest Days homemade ice cream shop. Then walk to Hulopoe Bay and up the embankment that rises above Sweetheart Rock, where ancient Hawaiian lore tells of a warrior who jumped to his death after losing his beloved princess bride.
Take to the water and snorkel Hulopoe Bay, where colorful reefs teem with unique and vibrant marine life. Turtles abound, and it’s not uncommon to spot spinner dolphins making their spectacular leaps.
Lanai comes laden with scenic stops, and the Koloiki Ridge off the Munro Trail offers heart-stopping views of nearby Molokai and Maui. But that’s just an appetizer for the otherworldly Garden of the Gods, a lunar landscape of red clay that’s speckled with volcanic boulders arranged in odd formations. Some have ancient petroglyphs etched into the sides, and views abound.
It’s great fun to test your hunting skills at Lanai Pine Sporting Clays, where an 18-hole-style course takes you through a variety of hunting scenarios, including a pheasant-hunting skeet challenge. For Renaissance lovers, there is the option of bow and arrow. Back behind the wheel, take the off-road challenge to secluded Polihua or Lopa beaches (these drives are not for the faint of heart). Fortunately, the only rentable cars are Jeep four-wheel drives. In summer, head to Lopa to watch the surfers; in winter, drive to Polihua for large waves.
At the end of the day, celebrate your journey at the Lanai City Grille at Hotel Lanai, recently reopened under star Maui chef Beverly Gannon. Hearty portions and local organic greens make for a unique culinary experience.