An Overview of the Neighborhoods and Districts of Lanai

Hawaii is one of the world's most well known and well received vacation destinations. With its grand five-star resorts, shimmering beach coastlines, and mesmerizing natural vistas, it's no wonder why so many people love to come to this group of islands. One of the best islands to visit in Hawaii is Lanai. The small island of Lanai offers a side of Hawaii that few are able to experience when they go to the larger islands, such as Oahu or the Big Island. On Lanai Island, you can experience what island living is all about. The island is hardly inhabited, yet it is packed with some of the best beaches, dramatic island views, and hotel resorts. Although the island is relatively small, it's still a good idea to learn about its neighborhoods and districts. This article will give you some helpful information about the different areas of Lanai Island, so you can navigate around the island easily.

Lanai Island basics

Before going into the specific neighborhoods and districts of Lanai, it's helpful to know where Lanai is among the Hawaiian Islands. Lanai Island is situated right in the middle of Hawaii's main islands. The closest islands to Lanai are Maui to the east and Molokai to the north. Lanai Island is a few miles off the coast of Maui, and many of the people who visit the small island take the ferry from Maui to Lanai for a day-trip. These trips leave the bay of Lahaina in Maui and arrive at Manele Harbor in south Lanai. Aside from the regular ferry, you can also get to Lanai Island by air. Although there are no direct flights from the mainland to Lanai Airport, you can get connecting flights from Honolulu International Airport in Oahu or Kahului Airport in Maui. Lanai Airport is the only airport on the island, and it is located just three miles southwest of Lanai City.

Lanai Island only has a total area of about 140 square miles. This means that the land area of Lanai is roughly the same size as a large city. Raw beauty, however, compensates for what it lacks in size. As you can imagine, such a small area does not have many neighborhoods and districts, but Lanai is conveniently split up into areas, some of which are named after the most popular tourist attractions in the vicinity. "The Secluded Isle," as it is often referred to, is packed with historical sites, incredible beaches, geographic spectacles, and pristine habitats. Whether you want to have a romantic or relaxing Hawaiian vacation, Lanai can be the perfect place for you to visit.

Lanai City

The heart of the island is the small and quiet Lanai City. As the main area on the island where people live, the city is home to a majority of the island's population. Most of the people who live on the island fondly call Lanai City "the village." With the airport so nearby, the village will probably be your first stop when you get off the plane. Although Lanai City is just the size of a village, at about 3.6 square miles in total area, it does have many of the services, amenities, and establishments that you would expect to find in any city. In fact, Lanai City is the main center for the island's commerce and business.

Apart from being the main area of commerce and business, Lanai City is also the island's major cultural and historical center. The city has actually been inducted as one of the most endangered historic sites in the United States. In the 1920s, a man named James Drummond Dole purchased the entire island of Lanai and began to develop the island as a major pineapple plantation. As part of his development efforts, Dole established Lanai City to serve the many workers on the island. The pineapple plantations continued to grow as workers started to come in from other countries such as Japan, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Portugal. The influx of workers from abroad led to the development of the city as a cultural melting pot. Soon, Lanai Island became known as one of the world's largest pineapple plantations, providing a majority of the world's pineapple supply. Once called "Pineapple Isle," a large part of the Lanai Island was converted into pineapple plantations.

During its early years, the city consisted of homes, a jail house, a laundromat, and small shops. Today, however, some of the sites in the city have been torn down in an attempt to make room for tourist attractions, restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets. Lanai City is still home to Dole Park, which is a historic site that stands as a testament to the island's roots as a pineapple plantation. Lanai City is home to Lanai High and Elementary School, which is the only school on the island and the one of the largest K-12 public schools in the education system of Hawaii. You can find some bed and breakfasts in Lanai City, as well as Hotel Lanai, one of the few hotels on the island.


Just a one-mile drive or hike north of Lanai City is the town of Koele. In the 1860s, a man named Walter Murray Gibson made plans to develop Koele as a Mormon colony for native Hawaiians. When his plans did not push through, Gibson used the money of the church to purchase parcels of land around the island to be used for ranching. One of these is known today as Koele. The ancient Hawaiian word "Ko'ele" is a name given to a small patch of land that was farmed for the village chief. As Gibson's ranch grew from Koele and around the island, it played an integral role in the growth of the livestock on the island, which included lambs, wild turkeys, horses, cattle, hogs, goats, and sheep.

Today, Koele is home to an award-winning, five-star hotel resort called the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele. You can find an 18-hole, world-class golf range in the area, called The Experience at Koele. Koele is also the starting point for Munro Trail, which snakes up and around the 3,300-foot Mount Lanaihale. From the trail, you can get spectacular views of the Lanai Island and some of the nearby Hawaiian Islands. Three miles away from Koele are the Luahiwa Petroglyphs, where you can see ancient Hawaiian carvings and stone figures.


Keomuku Village is in the northeastern region of the island. Originally, the area was inhabited by fishing settlements and soon after farming settlements. A boom in the sugar industry led to further development of the Keomuku area. The Maunalei Sugar Company decided to build a railroad track to increase production and speed up distribution. Soon after the track was built, the water mysteriously turned salty and an epidemic wiped out much of the area's population. Legend has it that the company built over sacred stones, disturbing the gods, and leading to the demise of the company and Keomuku's inhabitants. You can visit Keomuku by four-wheel drive vehicle to see Malamalama Church or to visit the six miles of pristine coast line with black sand and clear waters.

South Lanai

South Lanai is another of the island's major areas, where you can find some of the best tourist attractions in Hawaii. First is Hulopoe Beach, on the southern coast of Lanai. This beach has been ranked as one of the best in the country. Manele Bay, which overlooks the beach, is home to one of the award-winning, five-star hotels on the island, the Four Seasons Manele Bay Hotel. May it be diving, snorkeling, swimming, tanning, shopping, or eating, you can find everything you need to relax and have fun at South Lanai.

North Lanai

North Lanai, sometimes referred to as Kanepuu, is northwest of Koele. Although this area is largely uninhabited and doesn't have many tourist facilities, it is full of natural beauty. First is Kanepu'u Preserve, which is a protected area of dryland forests. Further north is the Garden of the Gods, where you can find lunar-like rock formations that are truly one-of-a-kind. At the north shore is Polihua Beach, where sea turtles nest during the mating season. Just remember that swimming at Polihua Beach is not advised, because of the strong currents. Shipwreck Beach, a historical site that is said to be the wreck site of numerous ships, lies at the end of Keomuku Road.

Visiting Lanai Island

With all of the great places to see and experience on Lanai Island, you definitely won't have a hard time filling up your vacation schedule with activities to participate in and sites to see. Whether you decide to experience the island with the help of a tour guide or you decide to go out and experience it on your own, be sure to pay attention to warning signs about dangerous beaches or trails. A map will also help you navigate through the island and explore different points of interest. Also, remember to bring your camera along, because you will definitely want to have pictures of this unbelievably beautiful island.