If you travel on South Pacific cruises as much as Alan and I do, you’ll be repeating cruise ports a lot. So what choices are there for cruisers who’ve already enjoyed whale watching on Maui or a thrilling helicopter ride over the island? Our advice? Book a Lanai jeep safari.
“Wait! I thought you were cruising to Maui. What does Lanai have to do with it?”
The answer is easy. Visiting Lanai from Maui is as simple as stepping onto the Expeditions Maui Ferry for the 45-minute journey across the Auau channel to Lanai. You’ll discover a comma shaped island that offers secluded beaches, golf, skeet shooting, hiking and plenty of dirt roads for exploring.
“Of all the things to do on Lanai, is this the best choice?”
In our opinion, a Lanai jeep safari offers the opportunity to see parts of the island that you can’t reach without 4-wheel drive. With 400 miles of dirt roads, there’s a lot to explore, although you won’t be able to cover all of those roads in one visit to Lanai. And for cruisers, after numerous sea days on the Pacific Ocean, aren’t you ready for a land adventure?
This is more of a driving adventure than safari as you won’t see much wildlife. After all, Lanai was once a private pineapple plantation. Have you heard of Dole pineapples? Well, this is where they were grown until the company moved production to the Philippines. Now tech mogul Larry Ellison owns 97% of the island and tourism is the island’s bread and butter.
How to take a Lanai jeep safari on a Silversea cruise excursion
Alan and I join a small group of Silversea guests on the pier at Maui. A guide escorts us to the Expeditions Maui Ferry for the ride to Lanai. Although this is also an opportunity for some Maui whale watching, we don’t see any on the 9-mile journey across the channel or upon our return. We cruised to Maui in late March so some of the whales could have already been migrating back to Alaska. Whatever the reason, we didn’t see any.
Arriving at Lanai’s Manele Harbor, we quickly spot our Lanai jeep tour company. As the guide drives up the hill toward Lanai City, we learn more about the island’s history. Hawaiians settled on Lanai around 1400 A.D. The island evolved into a sugar cane plantation, ranching operation, pineapple plantation and now a tourist’s playground. Although the guide mentions Larry Ellison’s plans for the island, he’s very careful to avoid discussing any controversial topics about Lanai’s future.
Exploring Garden of the Gods
We eventually end up in a landscape on the northern part of Lanai that looks like the dessert of the American Southwest. Some have even compared it to a Mars’ landscape. The guide parks the vehicle in the dirt parking area for Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo in Hawaiian) so that we can explore on foot. Stretching our legs while taking photographs makes for a nice break from the jeep.
Of course there is a myth associated with Garden of the Gods. Two priests—one on Lanai and the other on Molokai—participated in a contest to see who could keep a fire burning the longest. The island of the winner would receive abundant riches. The Lanai priest used up all of the island’s vegetation when making the fire, turning this area of Lanai into a dessert.
Shipwreck watching on a beach
Although paved, the narrow road to Shipwreck beach is peppered with big potholes (so beware if you’ve rented a four-wheel-drive-vehicle for an independent Lanai tour.) After parking the jeep in a sandy lot surrounded by dense vegetation—and a few mosquitos—our group walks a short path to the beach.
The highlight and namesake of Shipwreck Beach is, you guessed it, the hulking shipwreck that juts out of the water close to shore. But it’s not really a shipwreck. The Navy intentionally grounded the fuel barge, YOGN-42, after WWII. Now the rusting hull is a landmark and photo opportunity. If there had been more time, we could have hiked along the six-mile beach to view more vessels claimed by the dangerous channel or intentionally grounded in this out-of-the-way spot.
Driving back through green valleys forested with ironwood trees, the tour returns to Lanai City for a deli lunch of sandwich, chips, dessert and drink.
The return ferry ride to Maui proves to be a bit rocky—a great reminder to always bring your choice of seasick medication or sea bands on boat rides or water excursions.
Alan and I thoroughly enjoyed our Lanai jeep safari. We’re always happy to bump along a dirt road in a 4×4 to see what we can see. Next time, we’ll plan a land adventure at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Lanai.
Are you cruising to Hawaii? Read our Hawaiian Cruise Excursion reviews before leaving home.
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