kahalepalaoa lanai

Imagine rumbling down a dirt road in a rugged, 4WD Jeep, and happening upon a stretch of sand that’s completely free of footprints. Or picture yourself sitting and enjoying a picnic beneath the shade of a palm, where tradewinds stir up gentle waves that lap at the outer reef, while locals laugh and “talk story” by their truck while casting rods toward the sea. These are scenes you can commonly find on the hidden beaches of Lanai.

The hidden beaches of Lanai are places that take a little more planning and effort to reach, but are easily located on a map. These are beaches where you need to pack everything—including food and water—and remember to also pack everything out, since there are no facilities or trashcans.

Polihua lanai

One of the popular “hidden” beaches is windswept Polihua, which is set on the island’s northern tip with views looking out toward Molokai. The road can often be rough, and requires 4WD, but the reward for the hour-long, bumpy journey is finding a gorgeous swath of white sand, which joins with rows of coastal dunes as it runs for miles down the coast. The swimming here is dangerous because of very strong currents, so Polihua is a place that’s better suited for photos and strolls.

For a hidden beach, head to Lopa on the island’s south shore, down a dusty, 4WD road, where a sandy cove surrounded by trees helps shield the beach from the wind. Lopa is a favorite of island locals who come to visit on weekends, and take advantage of the area’s fishing and waves for surfing in summer. Lopa is protected from the wind and has ample amounts of shade.

Also along this southern coast is the beach at Kahalepalaoa, a narrow strip of soft white sand with palms hanging over the water. Here you’ll find an old wooden pier as well as some boarded up buildings, which are remnants of days when “Club Lanai” would ferry visitors from Maui. Today the beach is great for a coastal stroll. When standing here on the sliver of sand, looking out toward Maui, keep an eye out for Hawaiian Green sea turtles that poke their head out of the water from the waves.

Shipwreck Beach KaiolohiaKaiolohia, or Shipwreck Beach, isn’t exactly “hidden,” since it’s the island’s second most popular beach, after idyllic Hulopoe. But, you’ll most likely not find many other visitors when you are there. It has a calming sense of seclusion and is a relatively easy side trip when visiting Kahalepalaoa and Lopa. Should you choose to visit these beautiful beaches, and explore Lanai’s sandy coast, be sure to leave Lanai City with a full tank of gas and supplies, since the drive can often be over an hour without stores or facilities.