From its rich history as one of the world’s largest pineapple plantations to its current reputation as a secluded romantic getaway, Lanai is gauranteed to blow travelers away with its awe-inspiring natural beauty. Spanning 140 square miles, Lanai boasts untouched coastlines, two world class golf courses, scenic hiking trails, stunning scuba diving sites, two incredible Four Seasons resorts, and so much more. But don’t take our word for it—just ask Bill Gates. He chose Lanai for the site of his beautiful secluded wedding ceremony back in 1994, inspiring sweethearts, honeymooners, and travelers looking to enjoy Hawaii’s secluded paradise ever since.

Island Air offers direct nonstop flights servicing Lanai from Honolulu and Maui, making a few days in this paradise on earth well within reach. With flights as low as $59, you’ll get to Lanai for less—so that you can have more time and money to spend on the fun stuff. Whether you’re coming to relax at a world class resort, tee off on the most breathtaking golf courses in the world, or explore the island’s rich topography in scenic hikes and drives, Lanai is a can’t miss destination for travelers who are heading to Hawaii seeking a little piece of paradise. Read on to discover the Top 10 Scenic Wonders of Lanai.

1. Garden of the Gods

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Hawaii’s ultimate rock garden, the Garden of the Gods, is something you have to see to believe. From its rich red rocks to its otherworldly landscape, Keahiakawelo, also known as the Garden of the Gods, is just a 45-minute drive from Lanai City, but it may as well be on another planet. Hawaiian legend holds that this surreal landscape is the result of a contest between two kahuna (priests) from Lanai and Molokai to see who could keep a fire burning on their island the longest. By burning every piece of vegetation on the island, Lanai’s kahuna won the competition and left future generations with the lunar-like Garden of the Gods. Check out this amazing natural wonder at dusk, when the setting sun casts a beautiful orange glow over the rock formations. And be sure to rent a 4-wheel drive SUV for the drive, as Polihua Road is unpaved and only accessible by 4-wheel drive.

2. First Cathedral

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Intermediate and advanced scuba divers can’t miss Lanai’s Cathedrals. Located off the coast of Lanai’s Manele Bay, diving at this legendary site is like being in a huge underwater cathedral with sunlight shining through the water and creating a stained glass effect all around you. From trumpet fish to octopi to sea turtles, you’re gaurunteed to see tons of amazing marine life in Lanai’s cathedrals. A second cathedral offers even more for the experienced diver, from a larger cavern replete with black coral trees and more lobster and shrimp than you could ever eat in one sitting. Lanai’s Cathedrals are consistently rated among the top 10 dive sites in the world, and it’s easy to see why.

3. Sweetheart Rock

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Standing 80 feet tall, Puu Pehe, also known as Sweetheart Rock, is one of Lanai’s most recognizable landmarks and also one of its best legends. According to Hawaiian legend, a beautiful young princess from Maui was captured by a warrior from Lanai. Wanting to shield her incredible beauty from the eyes of other men, the warrior confined his princess wife, whose name was Puu Pehe, to a sea cave located by this rock. A sudden change in weather made for a drastic ending when the sea rushed into the cave, drowning the princess. Overcome with grief, the warrior carried the princess’ body up to the top of Sweetheart Rock where he buried her in a tomb with the help of the gods. The warrior then leapt to his own death from Puu Pehe rock to the treacherous waters below. It goes without saying that Sweetheart Rock is not for climbing, but it’s a beautiful view from the Hulopoe Beach Park trail. This trail takes you past tide pools, Sharks Cove, and a sea arch to sweeping views of Sweetheart Rock. 

4. Shipwreck Beach

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Shipwreck Beach features an 8 mile stretch of sand perfect for walking, collecting stunning shells, and of course taking in the surreal sight of a giant Liberty ship hull that’s taken up residence on a reef in the middle of the Kalohi Channel. While this particular ship was actually placed there as a means of disposal after World War II, the Kalohi Channel is notorious for its choppy waters and strong tides that have caused many ships to meet their watery demise in its depths. One sunken ship in the 1800s was said to have been transporting large amounts of gold and silver, much of which was never recovered. Shutterbugs and shell collectors will delight in this beach, but swimmers shouldn’t plan on cooling off here—the tides are too strong. Still, it’s a fantastic spot for a stroll or a picnic. Shipwreck Beach is accessible by 4-wheel drive, so be sure to check out Dollar Rental L’anai for a Jeep that can handle the elements.

5. Munro Trail

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The 12.8 mile rustic Munro Trail offers some of the best hiking, biking, and off-road driving in Lanai. Named for a naturalist who came to Lanai from New Zealand in 1890, Munro Trail begins just north of Lanai City and winds through a rainforest filled with ohia lehua, ironwood, eucalyptus and pine trees as it takes you to an elevation of 1,600 feet above sea level. You’ll be needing that Jeep for the Munro Trail, or else a good off road bike and some strong legs! The one leg road can get muddy after rains, so plan accordingly, pack a lunch, and take your time on this stunning drive with scenic lookouts.

6. Manele Golf Course

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While the two Four Seasons Resorts on Lanai are currently undergoing extensive renovations, the Manele Golf Course is still open. Situated on lava outcroppings that stretch above the crashing surf of Hulopoe Bay, the Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course is Lanai’s premier 18-hole course. Cliff shots use the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard, and the five-tee concept challenges even expert golfers with tee shots over gorges and ravines. This is truly a golfer’s paradise.

7. Hulopo’e Beach

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Situated at the base of the Four Seasons Lana’i at Manele Bay, Hulopo’e Beach has long been considered one of the world’s best stretches of white sand beaches. The beach overlooks a bay that’s also a designated marine preserve, home to fish and spinner dolphins. It’s a great place for novice snorkelers, as the waters are calm and protected. The beach has all the amenities you could want, from picnic areas to BBQs to showers. And of course, it’s pretty convenient if you’re staying at the adjacent Four Seasons Resort.

8. Koloiki Ridge Trail

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The 5-mile Koloiki Ridge Hike begins at the Four Seasons Lodge at Keole and peacefully winds through a canopy of trees and up a ridge and rewards hikers with sweeping views of Maui, Molokai, and the Maunalei and Naio Gulches on Lanai. This is a moderate hike without a huge change in elevation, and the views you’ll be rewarded with along the way make this a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Be sure to stop by the concierge at the Lodge at Keole first for a trail map and helpful tips on the hike, which can vary depending on season and time of day.

9. Polihua Beach

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Polihua Beach is the longest white sand beach in Lanai, stretching along the coastline for 1.5 miles on the northwest side of the island. Polihua has a great view to Molokai across the channel. Polihua means “nest egg,” and the beach is named after the sea turtles that like to lay their eggs here. It’s also a great spot to whale watch from in the winter,  when humpbacks tend to come very close to shore. While this isn’t a recommended swimming beach, the pristine beauty and wildlife habitat of Polihua make this well worth the trip—by 4-wheel drive, of course.

10. The Stables at Koele

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While exploring Lanai by Jeep is tons of fun, seeing the island by horseback is a tranquil experience unlike any other. Whether you’re enjoying a romantic getaway or a family vacation with the kids, the Stables at Koele offer horseback riding and knowledgeable friendly guides that everyone will love. Trails take you through meadows full of deer, pheasant, sheep and turkey. Past guests have raved about the Stables at Koele and their awesome staff. Be sure to check out our behind-the-scenes cover story on the Cowboys of Lanai, as featured in Kikani, Island Air’s in-flight magazine. For horseback riding, contact the Stables at Lanai or check out Lanai Grand Adventures, which offers guided horseback riding as well as archery and clay pigeon shooting.

Now you’ve got 10 reasons to make Lanai an essential part of your Hawaiian itinerary. Book an Island Air direct flight from Maui and Honolulu, and experience the best of Lanai for a truly luxurious and unforgettable Aloha getaway today!

Images via Flickr: Andy Beal; Andy Beal; Amy Trumer; Andy Beal; Schnik78; Forest and Kim Starr; Swang168; Andy Beal; jshyun; Schnik78; Rickh710