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How to Visit Lanai as a Day Trip from Maui

I haven’t done a full blown trip to Lanai yet (it’s on my list!) but I’ve been twice on a day trip from Maui: once on a sailing excursion and once on my own via the ferry. 

Maui and Lanai are actually the only two islands you can “hop” between via ferry in Hawaii since they’re so close. 

How to Visit Lanai as a Day Trip from Maui

There are THREE ways you could visit Lanai as a day trip from Maui. 

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Discover Lanai Tour with Trilogy

Trilogy’s Discover Lanai Tour is their top rated snorkel tour and one of the best bang for your buck excursions on Maui. 

I’ve written a full post about my experience on this trip here >> Visit Lanai with Trilogy

But here are the cliff notes: This 8 hour excursion picks up on Kaanapali Beach and cruises over to Lanai in about an hour. It’s kind of advertised as a “snorkeling tour” but it’s actually a lot more. 

The catamaran docks in Manele Harbor on Lanai and you spend the day at Hulopoe Beach. They have a great beach set up with chairs, shade, and snacks and you can snorkel right off of the beach. 

Spend over two hours snorkeling, swimming, lounging on the beach, exploring the tide pools, and hiking to the Puʻu Pehe lookout and then it’s time for a big BBQ lunch in a pavilion overlooking the harbor. 

What I love about this trip is you can basically spend the day doing whatever you want (don’t want to snorkel? Fine! Stay on the beach instead!) and it’s a great way to see Lanai while being 100% taken care of. 

The service from the crew is exceptional, they’re basically feeding you all day (on the boat coming and going, the bbq lunch, plus snacks on the beach), and it’s so nice not having to think about how you’re going to get around and where you’re supposed to go. 

Really, all you need is your swimsuit and a towel. They pretty much provide everything else…including sunscreen!

They advertise this trip as “the best day of your vacation” and honestly…they’re right ; ) 

This is my #1 way to do a day trip to Lanai. Read more details here

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Take the Ferry

The most economical way to visit Lanai for the day is by taking the ferry. I STRONGLY encourage you to read the updates on the ferry’s website as the situation is very fluid post fire. 

But currently (as of June 2024), the ferry is running out of Maalaea Harbor with 3 round trips a day, 7 days a week. And it takes about 1.5 hours from Maalaea Harbor to Manele Harbor (on Lanai). 

Round trip tickets are $60/adult (12+) and $40/child (2+). 

If you take the early ferry (6:30AM) and come back on the late ferry (5:30PM) that gives you a really decent day on Lanai. 

You could arrange to pick up a rental car to explore the island on your own or do an excursion, but if you only have one day on Lanai, I would stick to spending the day around Hulopoe Beach. 

There’s a general store in the harbor where you can buy drinks and snacks right where the ferry docks and from there, it’s an easy ¼ mile walk to the beach.

This is a NICE beach to spend the day. You’ll need to bring everything with you though. Take chairs, towels, snorkel gear, and a cooler if you want the full beach experience although there are picnic tables and plenty of shade. 

The snorkeling right off the beach is excellent and there’s a short hike past the tide pools and along the cliff to view Puʻu Pehe rock. 

The Four Seasons Lanai sits at the southeast end of the beach and you can go up to the hotel for lunch and drinks if you don’t want to pack a picnic. 

If you’re there for the full day and you only want to spend a few hours at the beach, you could arrange to take a taxi up to Lanai City to look around. Rabaca’s taxi service offers trips and tours but you have to call – (808) 559-0230 – since they don’t have a website. 

Side Note: If you’re looking for a rental car for your trip, I LOVE Discount Hawaii Car Rentals. They’re seriously the only company I ever use. They’ll give you the very best prices, you don’t have to reserve with a credit card or pay until you show up, you can cancel and re-book anytime if you find a better rate, and they usually have a special that adds additional drivers for no fee. It’s a no brainer. Click here to check rates for your trip.

Fly to Lanai

You can usually fly round trip to Lanai for about $120. Yes, it’s on a tiny plane. Mokulele Airlines offers multiple flights per day and they leave from Kahului Airport (OGG) but it’s from the commuter terminal so you don’t have to deal with the TSA and you just show up about 30 minutes before your flight. 

I would only fly though if you’ve got a tour or specific excursion lined up (or if you’re going to rent a car and do sightseeing instead of a beach day) as you’re more limited with what you can bring with you. 

Is a Day Trip to Lanai “Worth It?”

I LOVE going to Lanai for the day and I think it’s a major selling point for a trip to Maui that you can easily island hop like this. 

And I really do think that Hulopoe Beach is one of the nicest beaches in Hawaii (soft sand! great snorkeling! shade! views for days! close to the Four Seasons beach bar!).

But is it a “must do?” Here are some things to consider: 

If this is your first trip to Maui and you’ve got a week or less, I’d lean towards skipping it and saving it for a return trip. It’s lovely, but there’s sooooo much to see on Maui that I’d probably prioritize first. 

If you’re a bucket lister and you’re checking islands off your list, go for it!

If you’ve heard it’s hands down the best snorkeling in the Maui area and that’s why you’re wanting to go …eh, I don’t know that it’s significantly better than most places on Maui. I don’t think I’d go out of my way just for the snorkeling…it’s more about the overall experience

If you have the funds, I’d definitely do the trip with Trilogy over taking the ferry on your own. It’s just SUCH AN EASY AND NICE DAY.

Want to read more posts about Maui? I’ve got plenty!

Things You Can ONLY Do on Maui // 9 Things to SKIP on Maui // 4 Day Maui Itinerary // My Favorite Road to Hana Itinerary // Things to Do Upcountry // Tips for Sunrise at Haleakala National Park // Snorkeling Molokini Crater // Whale Watching

My Favorite Hotels on Maui // Where to Find Condos on Maui // Wailea vs Kaanapali // Every Resort in Wailea Ranked // Four Seasons Maui Review // Andaz Maui Review // Fairmont Kea Lani Review // Wailea Beach Resort Review // Four Seasons vs Andaz Maui // Andaz Maui vs Wailea Beach Resort

Best Restaurants in Wailea // Best Breakfast in Wailea & Kihei // Mama’s Fish House // Best Luaus in Wailea

My Favorite Things to Do in South Maui // Best Beaches in Wailea & Kihei // Road to Hana Tips // Driving the Backside of the Road to Hana // Where to See Turtles on Maui

Maui vs Kauai // Everything You Need to Know BEFORE you go to Maui

Here’s one more really important thing you need to know before your Hawaii trip…

Reservations You Need to Make BEFORE Your Hawaii Trip

You’ve got your airfare, hotel, rental car and your big activities booked, so you should be good to go, right? Wrong!

Travel is BOOMING in Hawaii so a lot of state and national parks used the closure and reopening to institute reservation systems at some of the island’s most popular spots to make things a little more sustainable.

That means that there are now over half a dozen sites (beaches, trailheads, etc.) that require advance reservations. And some sell out well before you arrive on the island so you really need to have some sort of a plan.

I recently saw somebody in a Hawaii travel group post in a panic that they didn’t know they had to make reservations for things in advance…they thought they could just show up and “go with the flow.” I was tempted to say, well, “as long as the flow doesn’t take you somewhere that requires reservations, you can!” ; )

But I don’t want YOU to be that person, so I’ve pulled together a list of all the places you need to reserve entry in advance (plus all the details on booking windows, price, links, etc.) and a handful of popular tourist hotspots that book out really far in advance too.

Haleakala National Park (Maui)

To visit Haleakala National Park for sunrise at the summit, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are required to enter the park gates between 3AM and 7AM (sunrise hours).

Online reservations are $1 per reservation/vehicle PLUS you’ll pay the park entrance fee of $30/vehicle when you arrive (National Park annual passes are also accepted at the gate).

The reservation booking window opens 60 days in advance at 7AM HST. There are also a limited number of tickets released two days before.

You can make one reservation every three days with the same account. So if you want to make reservations for back to back days (in case of weather/conditions), you’ll need to do so with separate accounts (email addresses).

If you can’t get reservations for sunrise, you can enter the park anytime after 7AM without reservations. The summit is spectacular during the day and you don’t need reservations for sunset.

I strongly recommend creating an account before and making sure you’re logged in at 7AM HST because it’s not uncommon for reservations to sell out quickly.

Waianapanapa State Park (Maui)

To visit Maui’s famous black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are required to visit the beach and are distributed in windows from 7AM-10AM, 10AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-3PM, and 3PM-6PM. And they are pretty strict about exiting by the end of your window time (you can arrive anytime within your window).

It’s $5/person to enter plus $10/vehicle to park and those fees are paid when you book your time slot.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Iao Valley State Park (Maui)

To visit the lush, green mountains and hike at Iao Valley State Park, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are offered for 90 minute time slots beginning at 7AM and ending at 6PM. They ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot.

Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Diamond Head (Oahu)

To hike to the top of Waikiki’s famous Diamond Head, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are offered in two hour increments beginning at 6AM (6AM-8AM, 8AM-10AM, etc.) and ending at 6PM. If you’re parking onsite, they ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your reservation window.

Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Tip: I recommend booking one of the first two time slots because there isn’t much shade on this hike and it gets pretty hot.

Hanauma Bay (Oahu)

To snorkel at Oahu’s pristine Hanauma Bay, you must make reservations in advance here.

Entry times are staggered in 10 minute increments from 7AM to 1:20PM with roughly 1000 slots being assigned in advance every day.

Reservations can be made two days in advance and they open at 7AM HST. They’re usually gone in minutes (if not seconds).

If you’re unable to get an advanced reservation, you can try for a day of, walk in ticket. They open at 6:45AM and they only have a limited number available. Everyone in your group needs to be present when you purchase your tickets in person.

There are no reservations for parking and it’s first come, first serve. $3/vehicle.

It’s $25/person to snorkel at Hanauma Bay (12 and under, active military, and locals with HI ID are free).

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday (CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY) from 6:45AM-4PM. Last entry is at 1:30PM, the beach is cleared at 3:15PM and you have to leave the facility by 4PM.

Jellyfish patterns can also affect whether or not the bay is open so double check the day before/day of.

USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (Oahu)

If you want to take the boat tour at Pearl Harbor out to the USS Arizona, it’s recommended to make advance reservations here.

Online reservations are guaranteed a specific boarding time to go out to the USS Arizona. If you’re unable to get an advance reservation, you can wait standby when you arrive. The line could be short (15 minutes or so) or long (hours) and it just depends on the day (if they’re having problems with the loading dock sometimes they don’t take many from the standby line) and the time of day.

Reservations are supposed to open up 60 days in advance, but keep an eye on your exact dates, because lately they’ve actually been opening up about 57ish days in advance???

They also release a small batch of tickets the day before.

The boat ride out to the USS Arizona is free, but it’s $1 to make the reservations online.

They recently started charging $7/vehicle for parking at Pearl Harbor.

Haena State Park / Kalalau Trail (Kauai)

If you want to hike Kauai’s famous Kalalau Trail, you must make advance reservations here.
You’ve got three options here:

1) Parking & Entry: This is the most flexible option and also the most limited. THESE RESERVATIONS SELL OUT IN LESS THAN A MINUTE. There are three time slots available: 6:30AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-5:30PM and 4:30PM to sunset. You can purchase multiple time slots if you want to stay longer. It’s $10/timeslot (parking) plus $5/person and you have to reserve every person when you initially book. Everybody has to arrive in the same car and your ID needs to match the reservation.

2) Shuttle & Entry: If you can’t get parking at the trailhead, there’s also a shuttle option. Shuttle reservations are $35/person (16+), $25/person (ages 4-15), 3 and under can ride free. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes 6:20AM to 6:40PM.

3) Entry Only: If you’re a Hawaiian resident (with HI ID) or someone WITH a Hawaiian resident, you can purchase entry only for $5/person with no advance reservations. Also, if you’re walking or biking to the trailhead you can do this option. But there is NOWHERE to park in the area to walk in. So this really only works for those with bikes or who are staying close enough to walk. They will tow your car if you park outside the designated areas.

The reservation window opens 30 days in advance at 12AM HST. The parking & entry option usually sells out in a minute, but the shuttle availability will last longer.

There are a TON of FAQs here including the possibility of snagging a canceled reservation.

Other Things to Book in Advance

Hawaii is a busy place these days! Besides the state and national parks above, here’s a handful of miscellaneous things you should make reservations for in advance (if they’re on your radar):

Mama’s Fish House (Maui): The iconic spot is the most popular restaurant in Hawaii and dinner reservations usually start filling up about 6 months in advance (they open up bookings 18 months in advance). Make reservations through their website and if the dates you want are already booked, you can join a waitlist. Most people have pretty good success getting in on the waitlist (even if it’s for lunch).

Old Lahaina Luau (Maui): Honestly, any luau you’re planning to attend you should book early, but most people are usually shocked how far out the Old Lahaina Luau books out. Book it as soon as you know your dates (I think they open at the six month window). They also have a waitlist.

Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour (Oahu): Everybody loves Jurassic Park so getting to ride UTVs where they filmed the movies is very popular. The ranch offers a lot of different tours but the UTV tours usually book out a couple of months in advance.

Spa Reservations: If you’re staying at a resort with a spa (or planning on visiting one), don’t wait until you arrive to make your reservations. I’d make them at least a month in advance.

Tee Times: Same for golf, reserve your tee times well in advance.

Dining Reservations: Any “fancy” or resort restaurant is likely to be booked up these days so if you like having a nice dinner every night, make your plans in advance.

P.S. Thanks for sticking around and reading this whole post! If you have ANY questions about planning your trip to Hawaii, you can join my free Facebook group here. I’m there answering questions every day and there are 7500+ other friends who have a ton of Hawaii information to share!

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