Since boyhood readings of novels such as “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” I have dreamed of deserted beaches, hidden treasures and sunken ships. Well I recently found all three – and much more. I discovered the island of Lanai.
My getaway to the remote Hawaiian paradise began when a friend and I boarded an Expedition ferry (www.go-lanai.com) in Maui and sailed 14 miles across the Auau Channel to tiny Manele Bay Harbor and stepped into a wondrous world surrounded by towering sea cliffs, palm trees and warm breezes. We then caught a shuttle to Lanai City, where we rented a Jeep and drove to enchanting Lanai Hotel.
Built as a retreat in 1923 by pineapple pioneer James Dole, the inn sits on the edge of town in a lush garden setting, beneath tall Norfolk pine trees. It features 11 charming guestrooms, a gourmet restaurant, and lots of Hawaiian atmosphere. Our cottage suite was highlighted by local Hawaiian artwork and quilts, hardwood flooring, ceiling fans, and a romantic plantation feel.
The room also came with a private yard with hammock and dining area, complimentary Wifi and continental breakfast each morning.
Once acquainted with the room, we grabbed a map, hopped in the Jeep and headed to mysterious Shipwreck Beach. To get there we drove up a mountainous road lined with volcanic rock and red clay. In a few miles we came to a narrow turnout, where the road became a tunnel of trees, paved with deep sand and bumpy rock and we had to put the Jeep in four-wheel drive.
For the next 1.6 miles we bounced along the northeast coast with intermittent views of the ocean and an outline of Maui. The road ended at Big Rock, where we parked and continued on foot to find the sunken ship. Over black volcanic rock and sandy beach and through warm tropical water we pushed on until we saw the rusting vessel, leaning in a reef about 100 yards off the shore. Built in the 1940s, the ship was once a ferrous-concrete oil tanker that the navy unsuccessfully tried to sink after WWII. Today, it provides a hauntingly beautiful backdrop to Lanai.
Back at the hotel we freshened up and then walked across the lawn to Lanai City. Consisting of one block and about a dozen storefronts, the town was founded in the early 1900’s around the booming pineapple industry. It is highlighted by a few gift shops, restaurants, clothes stores and an art gallery.
For dinner we experienced Lanai City Grille, the hotel’s signature eatery. Offering locally caught fresh seafood, prime meats and their famous rotisserie chicken, the restaurant is probably the tastiest on the island. Our meal began with a couple Mai Tais at the bar and a pair of succulent crab cakes with tomato corn salsa and chipotle remoulade, followed by a delicious Caesar salad with white anchovies; and pulled pork won tons, with sweet chili boursin aioli and dipping sauce.
For the main course I went with the cioppino, a savory mix of shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams and fish in a tomato wine sauce. I eat this dish a lot and this was by far the best I’ve had. My friend selected the special pecan crusted mahi mahi, with chipotle honey butter, chorizo mashed potatoes and veggies, which was also a delight. After dinner, we drove to Hulopoe Beach to watch the sunset and swim in the 80-degree water. Surrounded by cliffs and clear blue waters, Hulopoe has often been rated as one of the America’s Best Beaches.
For more information on visiting Lanai, taking the Maui/Lanai ferry and other activities, visit www.gohawaii.com/lanai. For more information on staying at Hotel Lanai, call (808) 565-7211 or visit: www.hotellanai.com.