Panoramic ocean views, strange rock formations and smoothed shelves with wave-battered edges await at Lanai Lookout. This popular scenic overlook on a promontory north of Kahauloa Cove is so named because it affords sweeping views of the neighboring islands of Lanai, Molokai and Maui on a clear day. Though it may be challenging for visitors to peel their eyes away from the turbulent blue sea, turning 180 degrees provides a rewarding view of the southern slopes of Koko Crater, a dormant volcano climbable via a trail that follows old railroad ties to the summit rim.
Lanai Lookout has little more infrastructure than a parking lot with space for just under two dozen cars, but it’s worth it to circle for a space in the early hours of the morning when the sun rises over the horizon beyond the Oahu’s Windward Coast; visitors don’t stay here long. Another good time to visit? Between November and April, when the lookout becomes one of the island’s best locales for spotting visiting humpback whales—many of which spout, dive and frolic in the waters between Oahu and Maui.
The turnoff for Lanai Lookout is an equidistant mile between Hanauma Bay to the south and Sandy Beach to the north, along Kalanianaole Highway (HI-72). It is the southernmost of three similar lookouts on this stretch of the island. Binoculars will be useful for whale watching. If leaving valuables in the car while taking in the view, it’s advisable to keep them out of sight, even if it’s just a short stop.