Last month, my homie Erin and I wanted to venture out to another Hawaiian island before she left to go back to Texas. Since the Superferry is no longer in service – a short-lived, poorly run ferry that residents and visitors once used to transport themselves and their vehicle to other islands – our options were limited to 1) buying an expensive plane ticket (typically $80-120 each way), renting a car and paying for a hotel on Kauai or the Big Island or 2) taking a much shorter, less expensive ferry ride to either of Maui’s neighbor islands of Moloka’i or Lana’i.
Since I assume all Hawaiian islands are beautiful and rad and worth seeing, we chose the least complicated option and decided to camp out on the island of Lana’i for Erin’s last night in the lovely Aloha State.
One Night on Lanai: Camping on The Pineapple Isle
What You’ll Need:
- Lightweight Tent/Camping Hammock
- Food, Water, Adult Beverages (there is no store near here, but drinking water is available)
- Bug Spray
- Flashlight/Headlamp/Lantern/Tiki Torch
- Snorkeling Gear
- Beach Stuffs – Towel, Swimwear, Hat, Sunblock, Slippahs
- Mini Speakers (’cause you can’t go camping without tunes)
- Photo I.D. & Credit/Debit Card
- Ferry Ticket – $50 per person round trip from Lahaina Harbor (West Maui) to Manele Bay (Lana’i) for Hawaii residents ($60 for non-residents, although they didn’t make me prove I was a resident beyond signing up for an online account with a Hawaii address, so try it out and save $10) *Note: You must buy your ticket in advance (phone or online). They do not accept walk-ups with no previous reservation. Luggage is limited to 2 carry-ons, but they seem pretty chill about it.
When you get to Lahaina, there are a couple of options for overnight parking. Personally, I think it’s safer to pay the $12/day fee to park in the Republic Parking lot a couple blocks from Front Street, but there is also a dirt lot on the far south end of Front Street that’s unmonitored and free for overnight parking.
The ferry ride lasts about 45 minutes and is extremely beautiful. I’d like to go back to Lana’i during whale season to combine two awesome reasons to get on a boat into one, so if you’re in Maui between December and April, I suggest you do the same. Also keep an eye out for flying fish! Those fools were everywhere.
Camping on Lanai
I should mention that Lana’i is pretty barren. There are only 3,000 residents, one city (Lana’i City), two Four Seasons Resorts and a handful of other mom-and-pop shops, boutiques, restaurants, etc. If you’re going to Lana’i strictly to camp or treat yourself at one of the Four Seasons Resorts and don’t care/have time to explore other areas of the island, you will not need a vehicle. The ferry captain suggested we hitchhike into town (7 miles from the campground) or call a taxi if we really wanted to check it out, so there’s always that option too.
To get to the campground from the ferry drop-off at Manele Bay, get off the boat and make a left followed by an immediate right up the hill to the intersection. Turn left at the intersection and you’ll see a small white building about 5-10 minutes walking distance away. This is where you’ll check in for overnight camping. Permits are required, and camping is first-come, first-serve, locals only on the beach, everyone else slightly behind in the wooded area, and there is no need to reserve a permit beforehand.
The cost, camping-wise, ain’t cheap. $30 for the campground, $15 per person per night, 3 nights max, credit/debit cards only and photo I.D. required. For two people camping a single night on Lana’i, the cost was $160 (including the ferry ride). That’s a ton for camping, I agree. However, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, only next time I’d like to stay longer and bring a group of friends. The reason: everything about this campground is absolutely radical. Located on Hulopo’e Bay, this beach is so freaking gorgeous it makes your eyes hurt. White sand, shorebreak, clear water, waves, excellent snorkeling, swimming, and often times, although unfortunately not while we were there, pods of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins chillin’ in the bay.
The campground is equipped with tons of awesomeness, including picnic tables, swaying palm trees, grassy lawns, sprawling sand, short walk to Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) and plenty’a shade for all us haoles (“white tourists” in Hawaiian slang). Besides all that, one of the two Four Seasons is located directly next to the campground, which offers an activity hut with fresh lemonade, chilled water, and the nicest campground bathroom I’ve ever seen, including automatic soap dispensers. Ha! Now that is my kind of camping. They even gave us a giant bag of ice for our cooler. Charmers, those Four Seasons folk.
We spent the majority of the day and evening swimming, napping in the grass, taking relaxing walks, watching enormous waves crash into the sand and enjoying a sweet sunset in the sand. And somewhere in there we also drank two bottles of wine, played light-up frisbee and danced with a stranger on the beach.
In the morning, we did what any experienced wilderness survivalist would do and treated ourselves to breakfast at the Four Seasons.
I’ll most assuredly be back to explore more of the island, but if you’re traveling to Maui and have 24 hours to spare, definitely make it to Lana’i to visit the sexiest campground this side of the Mississippi. And maybe even the other side.