Hawaii : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Hawaii - state review
You might not think you can get away farther than Hawaii, but there’s a getaway within the getaway in Lanai City on its own island off the west coast of Maui.
The whole island has less than 3,000 people, making it a quiet destination where time seems to stand still and nobody is in a rush to do anything but take a nap or a stroll.
This is an island where you can go remote and camp through the best starry nights you’ll ever see or live the lavish life at the Four Seasons.
You’ll find Lanai City at the center of the island, but to call it a city is an overstatement.
It’s hardly a town and that’s just the way some tourists like it.
Small farmer’s markets, a handful of shops, and some of the most affordable food you’ll find throughout Hawaii await.
Lanai is less than 10 miles from Maui and Maui Police have jurisdiction here.
There are questions about if Lanai is open to visitors and it certainly is.
You just have to find the right boat to take you there.
It’s so close to Maui yet it feels like a world away without skimping on beaches or wilderness activities.
Lanai is also home to the Garden of the Gods with a fascinating legend of how the rock garden got there.
I don’t want to ruin the plot but you can easily Google it if you want to know before you get there.
Warnings & Dangers in Lanai City
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a very low overall risk in Lanai City as it's really not big enough to have a substantial amount of crime. The locals are very friendly and welcoming to tourists. This doesn't mean you should let your guard down, but it's definitely going to be one of the safer places to visit on all of the Hawaiian islands.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll have to take a boat from Maui to get to Lanai, but it's just eight miles across the water so it takes less than 30 minutes. There is also the option of taking a small plane. Once on the island, you can either rent an ATV or some locals will rent their jeeps or other 4WD vehicles if you want to explore. You might pay around $100 a day for this benefit, but that's the only car rental option you have on the island.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of being pickpocketed on this remote island. There aren't big enough crowds to have you worrying about it in the first place. The biggest risk of losing your wallet would be leaving a bag or backpack unattended for a long period of time, but even then the people here are so nice they'd probably chase you down to return it.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The biggest concerns here will be tsunamis and earthquakes. One comes with a lot of warning, the other with very little warning. There is also the risk of a brush fire, but visitors could be cut off from visiting if one is already burning. You should research the Maui County Emergency Management Plan to put your mind at ease on how to prepare for such events.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of being mugged here. Crime is very low and any muggings would give this beautiful island a bad reputation and nobody wants that. That said, you still shouldn't wander around town or roads in the dark for a variety of safety reasons.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
With a hefty U.S. military presence across Hawaii, there's a definite terrorism risk but there's also a lot of protection. The biggest challenge is there isn't a simple, fast way to evacuate the islands if needed. You can bet after the Pearl Harbor attack caught America unprepared there are better systems in place now. In 2018, a false "Nuclear Missile Warning" was sent across all the islands due to a worker error. At first, nobody knew if the warning was real or fake. Luckily, it was a mistake.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of being scammed here because there aren't a lot of shops or guided tours on the island. You can really control your own destiny. It might be wise to book at an established hotel or resort and not risk a possible rental scam with a home. Also, if you do want to consider renting a car from a local, ask your insurance agent how you'd be covered in that event.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk for women here. Low crime rates and an abundance of activities make it a great way for a working mom or overworked professional to just take a much-needed break and slow down. The only real risk is going out into the wilderness or ocean alone, which is frowned upon on any island at any time.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Not only does Lanai Water Company do the required annual water quality report, but it also provides a periodic water report that goes more in-depth about water levels and such.
Safest Places to Visit in Lanai City
The Island of Lanai has three regions; North Lanai, Central Lanai (where Lanai City is located), and South Lanai.
One of the “must-see” locations is the Garden of the Gods, formally called Keahiakawelo.
This is under an hour from Lanai City and be sure you have a printed or saved photo of the map with detailed directions written down as GPS might not be available in the remote area.
If you can visit here as the sun is setting, you’ll get an amazing view, but it’s open 24 hours a day.
You’ll need a four-wheel-drive or a mountain bike to get here.
In Lanai City, everything is built around Dole Park.
You can find some small restaurants and shops.
There are art galleries too.
This is a very walkable city with entrees around $8-$10.
There is one hotel in Lanai City that has been in operation for more than a century now.
South Lanai has the remains of a prehistoric Hawaiian village and the historic Puu Pehe rock standing 80 feet tall in the beautiful ocean water.
You can also explore white sandy beaches or get a look at incredible cliff views into the water below.
In North Lanai, you can see a shipwreck stuck in the water (I mean, it’s HUGE!) or ATV to a remote beach wilderness where you might be alone with the birds and the fish.
There’s also a LOT of lands to explore here with an ATV, mountain bike, or 4WD vehicle.
Places to Avoid in Lanai City
There aren’t any places in Lanai City that are too dangerous to visit.
There are about 120 crimes per year, and my research shows that can range from a deadly fistfight to someone stealing mangos off a tree on private property.
You do need to avoid being unprepared here as you are very much in the wilderness outside of the major resorts.
There are tropical lush areas and regions that are more like a high desert.
Lanai City is higher in elevation and will always be cooler than the beach areas.
Avoid coming here alone because there are too many natural risks at hand and not enough mobile phone connectivity to make a quick rescue if you are alone and become hurt, lost, or stuck.
Avoid trying to explore without a mountain bike or four-wheel drive.
If you haven’t driven a four-wheel-drive vehicle before it’s worth getting a lesson at home on how to navigate dirt or rock roads with hills and valleys.
If you are just coming here for a day trip, it’s worth the time to research a hotel you’d stay at if extreme weather or rough seas canceled the ferry ride.
Most ferry trips have the final departure around 5:00 pm, so if you miss it you’ll need to wait for the morning ferry.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lanai City
- People go to Lanai to see the Garden of the Gods but you cannot take rocks, dirt, plants, etc. from the area. Not only is it illegal and will get flagged at the airport when you leave, but it’s also going to upset Pele. Who is Pele? Glad you asked. The curse of Pele says that any natural items stolen from Hawaii are the equivalent of taking Pele’s children and you’ll be doomed to a lifetime of bad luck.
- If you are driving anywhere in Lanai, you need to have experience with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. There are a lot of hazards along the way. You could get stuck in the sand, find yourself on a one-way road at the end of a cliff with another jeep coming from the other direction, or accidentally roll/tip over. This is about as rugged as rugged gets. Imagine all those crazy Jeep commercials and this is what the terrain is like here.
- At Shipwreck Beach in North Lanai, you have six miles of beach to explore with more than a dozen shipwrecks on the horizon. This beach is beautiful, but you will have to scramble over some rocks to walk the full stretch of the beach. Now I want you to listen closely. You. Cannot. Swim. Here. There’s a reason all those ships are stuck and it’s because of the incredibly strong current field by intense trade winds.
- For a safe place to swim, head to Hulopoe Bay on the south end of the island by the Four Seasons. There are plenty of tidepools safe for children and adults to cool off while enjoying the occasional hermit crab or sea star visit.
- If you are a sucker for a love story, even a tragic one, you’ll need to see Puu Pehe close to the bay. It’s a giant rock coming out of the water. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it stands as a testament to love and loss. Don’t try to swim to this rock because of the water hazards and the respect of the love story (but mostly because of the water hazards).
- No matter how experienced you are with the ocean, you haven’t seen waters like the ones that surrounded Hawaii most likely. The website hioceansafety.com is the place to check daily to see the current, conditions, dangers, and weather forecast. It’s easy to remember as “HI OCEAN SAFETY!”. Much of what you can safely do in a day is dependent on this information from this website, not what you had planned on your itinerary.
- There are two main safety rules in Hawaii that you’ll hear and see ad nauseum, so I’ll prepare you now. “Never turn your back on the ocean” and “When in Doubt, Don’t Go Out”. The ocean in Hawaii can look calm and right about the time you go to take a selfie, a large wave could knock you down or carry you out to sea. Also, if you aren’t 100% sure you can handle the ocean water based on factual data you’ve researched, don’t do it.
- Never go alone. In the water or in the wilderness, a buddy system is a great way to travel safely. Even if you are traveling alone, find a group to go with. Even a simple snorkeling activity can end up with a wave giving you a mouthful of water or pushing you under.
- Wear water or reef shoes while you’re here. This will prevent injuries to the bottom of your feet if you accidentally step on coral or a shark shell.
- While it’s wise to buy most things ahead of time, you should use an SPF that is considered reef-safe. The chemicals in some sunscreens can really damage coral reefs over time. While you can do the research at home to make sure you’re buying the best reef-friendly product, it’s illegal in Hawaii to sell anything but reef-safe sunscreen so at least you’ll know you’re getting the most eco-friendly product.
So... How Safe Is Lanai City Really?
As far as crime, it’s very safe.
There is a new police chief in the area and as of mid-2022, there have been highway signs up encouraging people to communicate with police or speak up about crime.
This is not indicative of an abundance or increase in crime, but a way the police department wants to open communication with the community in the era of community policing.
The real dangers are in the wild and the water.
You have to be prepared and study up on the rugged terrain.
There are several beaches here where the most experienced swimmer shouldn’t enter.
There are places you could carry a baby in the water it’s so safe, but you have to research it.
Outside of resorts like the Four Seasons, there’s nothing fancy here.
It’s a rugged and rural area with plenty of breathing room and adventures to be had.
Don’t expect it to be crowded and enjoy this slice of a getaway within a getaway.
How Does Lanai City Compare?
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You won't need a Visa if you are a U.S. Citizen because this is a state. For those that are rolling their eyes at that advice, you'd be surprised how many people in Hawaii are overly annoyed by Americans who don't get that one right. Non-Americans will need to show their Visa when they arrive in Hawaii and must also have a passport.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. You'll want to bring cash to the island because some of the restaurants in Lanai City are cash only. Be sure to safely store it tucked away and not just on the exterior pocket of a backpack. You should plan about $20 per meal per person, but that's at the top of the range with an entree, drink, and dessert.
You'll want to bring hiking boots and several changes of socks in case you get wet. Rain gear is advised and you want clothing that can get very dirty. A light jacket or hoodie might be nice for when you are in the center of the island where it's a bit cooler.
There's a small airport in Lanai but it's only for inter-island travel. You'll have to go to Maui or Oahu for the major airports that take you to the mainland. Flights and ferries are openly available between islands.
With great adventures come inherent hazards, so it's perfect to plan for travel insurance here. Make sure you know how you're covered if you rent a Jeep from a company or another person.
Lanai City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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Hawaii - Safety by City