Updated: Apr 20
Off Maui's west coast is the small quiet island of Lanai. If you thought Big Island or Kauai was a change of pace, wait until you get to Lanai.
For starters, The State of Hawaii only owns 3% of the island; the rest belongs to the founder of the computer software company Oracle, Larry Ellison.
It might be a little harder to find waves and get to Lanai, it’s only accessible via a ferry from Maui.
However, there are still a number of great waves on the tiny island.
Depending on the time of year and the swell direction you can definitely score some powerful Hawaiian waves on Lanai, we’ll let you know where to find some of these waves and how you can stay out of the Silicon Valley tech nerd's way.
What’s So Special About Surfing in Lanai?
Waves in Lanai
Along its rocky coast Lanai has quite a bit of waves to offer.
It has a variety of reef point breaks and beach breaks and during the summer the south shore is capable of holding some serious power and size.
There are also quite a few waves that aren’t as accessible and may require a walk or drive down a dirt road to surf.
One thing you won’t have to worry about on Lanai is crowds.
Due to its accessibility it’s one of the least crowded islands to surf at.
The Surf Culture in Lanai
Lanai’s surf culture is more about the past than it is about the present.
It has a rich history when it comes to native Hawaiian surfing.
Much like the rest of the islands, surfing on Lanai was only reserved for the royalty or ali’i.
Lanai also has well preserved Hawaiian villages that show what it once was like on the island. As far as localism goes, you should be good to go if you show respect out in the lineup.
Equipment Needed to Surf Lanai
Not much equipment is needed to surf on Lanai besides your board, wax, a leash, and some trunks.
Perhaps on the cooler windy winter months a 2 mm wetsuit top would be great but other than that its usually warm waters and blue skies when surfing in Lanai.
The Best Surf Spots in Lanai
A very accessible beach directly in front of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, is Hulopo’e Bay.
This protected bay is located on the southern coast and the surf can really pick up during the summer and fall months.
This is Lanai’s most popular wave and it's capable of holding some solid size.
It breaks directly on a shallow coral reef making the takeoff and wave pretty difficult to ride.
It can be easy to get caught inside here and the current can lead you directly to the shorebreak which can be pretty hazardous in the right conditions.
Due to its popularity it’s probably the most crowded wave on Lanai.
Kaiolohia beach or shipwreck beach is also located on the north shore of Lanai.
Kaiolohia is an 8 mile stretch of coastline with several reef and beach breaks along it.
This is one of the beaches that is only really accessible via a dirt road, so be prepared with a four-wheel drive vehicle to conquer these waves.
The waves along this stretch of coast are typically pretty consistent all year round. It is especially responsive to a good north or northeast swell so maybe hit this part of Lanai during the winter.
Since it's pretty hard to access, the crowds here will be almost empty.
Located on the east coast of Lanai is Lopa beach. Lopa is a perfect beginner wave and when it picks up some swell is great for more intermediate surfers as well.
It’s a long sandy beach with multiple peaks to choose from so there's plenty of room to spread out an already empty lineup. Summer months are great for Lopa and provide Lanai surfers with plenty of fun waves. The only dilemma at Lopa is the strong onshore winds.
The trades here have the potential to tarnish any fun swells that might be coming through to Lanai.
Another break with rough accessibility Stone Shacks is only accessible through a half mile long trail. Before you skip to the next break, Stone Shacks is well worth the long walk.
On the east coast of the island, Lopa is one of the best waves in all of Lanai.
With both a right and a left stone shacks is a great wave for anyone; but beginners beware, this is a wave that should only be navigated by intermediate to advanced surfers.
This break is slightly more localized than others on the island so beware of where you're paddling out and respect the perceived pecking order in the lineup.
On the north shore of Lanai is Pohakuloa, another stretch of coastline that’s only accessible by a dirt road.
A vehicle capable of four wheel drive is definitely recommended for accessing this stretch of coast.
There are a variety of left and right reef breaks to choose from.
Due to its exposure these breaks are prone to getting blown out by easterly winds.
Pohakuloa works great on a northeast or a big northwest swell.
There are very few people surfing here so localism isn’t too much of a problem.
What To Do In Lanai When the Waves Are Flat
Lanai is a great island to escape from some of the crowds of Oahu and Maui and has plenty to do when waves are too flat or windswept to ride.
Snorkeling and diving is a great option and Hulopoe beach is a great place to snorkel and see some of Hawaii’s beautiful reefs and marine life.
Another landmark on Lanai is the Garden of the Gods, which is an interesting barren landscape with large boulders with an interesting history and religious significance to Hawaiian culture.
There are also long stretches of empty beautiful white sand beaches, like Polihua beach, that are great for having a picnic or for sunbathing.
So that encapsulates the surf of Lanai.
Despite not being the biggest island in the Hawaiian island chain it has plenty to offer for any surfer.
So maybe consider taking your crew to the uncrowded waves of lanai for your next surf trip.