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From Hulopo’e To Lopa Beach: An Eventful Day On the Isle of Lanai

From Hulopo’e To Lopa Beach: An Eventful Day On the Isle of Lanai

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on this earth. On an island such as Lanai with very little commercial development, one must really take the time to admire nature in all of its untouched glory. There is something so beautiful about being surrounded by vast desert spaces, open oceans, untamed kiawe trees and free roaming animals. For visitors running away from the hustle and bustle of mainland life, Lanai gives a sense of calm and serenity, and introduces them to a new definition of beauty. But it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of a new place, and sometimes undertake journeys that we aren’t equipped for.

About 2 weeks ago, my best friend and I had the opportunity to island hop. We had just completed a year toiling in the kitchen of a top restaurant in Maui. The property was closed for a week and this was our chance to finally spend some time exploring more of Hawaii. We settled on Lanai since it was only a short ferry ride from Maui.

RELATED: If you stay in a hotel or a vacation rental in Maui, you can easily spend a day in Lanai by taking a ferry from Lahaina to Lanai, about an hour each way.

The beginning of our day could not have been more perfect. Being our adventurous and “go with the flow” selves, we decided to walk to the beach after missing the first shuttle to Lanai City. Hulopo’e Beach was absolutely stunning, with not a single person in sight. Here we were, two girls in dire need of a vacation, on one of the most beautiful beaches we’d ever seen, and we had it all to ourselves. For the next hour and a half, we floated in the water on our giant inflatable popsicle, and our stress and worries melted away in the warm sunshine.

Hulopoe beach, Lanai, Hawaii - floating in the ocean
Floating in the ocean on Hulopo’e Beach, Lanai

Eventually, we made our way into town, checked into our room at Hotel Lana’i, dropped our bags off and went on a mission to find coffee and lunch. Two blended coffee drinks and three giant plates of teriyaki chicken, spaghetti and fried chicken later, we decided to rent a vehicle and explore more of the island. There are very few paved roads on Lanai, so we needed to rent a 4-wheel drive jeep, which we did. We started out radio blasting, windows down; our day was going great.

The car rental agency gave us a map with directions. Places of interest had clear directions on how to get there, and showed which roads were paved and which required 4-wheel drives. Seeing Lopa Beach as a point of interest on the South Eastern coast, and imagining shorelines similar to Hulopo’e beach, we headed for Lopa.

At a certain point, the paved road ends, but there are signs along the road pointing towards each tourist destination. The stretches of road are interspersed with a few picnic tables along the way, and look perfect for a barbecue. We can see locals fishing along the shoreline every now and then, and pass an old fishing village, that was abandoned in the 1880’s.

Lanai, Hawaii - Ka Lanakila O Ka Malamalama Church in Keamoku VillageHalfway to Lopa Beach, we stop to admire the scenery near the old Ka Lanakila O Ka Malamalama Church, or Old Hawaiian Church, in Keomoku. The coconut trees sway gently in the background of this once well populated area, and we’re awed by the changes time can bring.

Hawaiian culture and traditions are deeply rooted in the stories of the past. When you are here, you respect the land and the locals who have lived here for generations. For example, there is a myth that ancient Hawaiian ancestors’ souls exist in the rocks. So visitors are asked not move rocks or take any with them.

We continue our drive towards Lopa Beach, reach the end of the road marked on the map and begin to turn around. The map warns us not to drive on the beach as it’s illegal and the fine is $500. So I steer the jeep to the right away from the sand and attempt to turn the jeep around on what I think is dirt road. Immediately the jeep starts to slide. Somehow I drove the jeep into an enormous patch of mud!

I immediately realized that I just need to stay calm. After all, I was raised by my dad and brothers. Since I was a kid, they taught me things like how to change a jeep tire, or how to stay calm and what to do in dangerous situations.

Lopa Beach. Lanai, Hawaii - Jeep stuck in the mud
We get out of the jeep and gather branches and rocks (yes, we moved rocks!) to push under the jeep tires to reverse the jeep out. I climb back in the jeep, switch it into low-4 and begin to reverse. The tires start spinning but the jeep doesn’t move an inch. I keep trying, hoping that the tires will catch the branches and rocks and find grip. But suddenly I hear water coming up from underneath the jeep and flooding the area. The tires had pushed so much mud out of the way that it allowed the water from underneath the ground to come up, and the jeep was buried about 2 feet in mud.

I try texting my boyfriend, but my phone battery dies. My friend has 3% battery left. We begin to panic. We text my boyfriend sending him our GPS location, telling him we’re stuck with no phone battery and to call for help. We then spend 2 hours on our hands and knees, shoveling mud from around the tires with our bare hands; then find wooden planks on the beach, place them under the back tires, and try to reverse again. Nothing happens.

I’m overcome with sadness. How did I get us into this situation? It’s 6:45 pm and we’re losing sunlight fast. We are 1 & half hours away from town by jeep. The phone is at 2% battery. My boyfriend texts us saying there are no tow trucks on the island. We realize we’re going to spend the night by ourselves in the middle of nowhere…

Suddenly, we get a text saying help is on the way. By some miracle, a friend has a cousin on Lanai and they’ll come to help us. They find us an hour later, and tow the jeep out of the mud with straps attached to their truck. I’ve never been so relieved in my life.

Back in town, our new friends fed us, gave us blankets and even wine. We spent the next two hours washing the mud off of our jeep, listening to country music and trying to rationalize what just happened. Coming back to civilization was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. I couldn’t shake how bad it would’ve been if they did not come and rescue us.

I learnt to never underestimate traveling in unfamiliar places. It’s so important to use caution and common sense while traveling. And always travel prepared!

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3 thoughts on “From Hulopo’e To Lopa Beach: An Eventful Day On the Isle of Lanai

  1. I turned off the wifi and bluetooth on the phone. Turned the brightness all the way down, and set the phone on “low-battery mode”. How the phone still had battery, I have no idea. I guess we were just really lucky 🙂

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