The Hawaiian island of Lanai has always been a bit of a sleeper, with even many Hawaiians having never stepped foot on its dreamy beaches and gorgeous cliffs. “When we first came to Lanai, we were constantly picking our jaws up off the ground,” said Kalani Miller, one half of the duo behind Mikoh, the cult-favorite swimwear and resort label that draws inspiration from the Hawaiian way of life. “Unlike anywhere else in Hawaii, Lanai feels incredibly secluded, private, and somewhat like an undiscovered refuge,” her sister and partner, Oleema added. Perhaps that's why Katherine Schwarzenegger and Chris Pratt decided to jet there for their honeymoon.
Oleema is Mikoh’s creative spirit, and the one who began sewing swimwear when she couldn’t find swim separates she liked. Kalani is the more business-minded sister. The eleven year old label is indeed a family affair (their brother also lends a helping hand ), and has amassed 300K followers on Instagram due in part to the girls’ authenticity. For the sporty sisters, who grew up in the beach town of San Clemente, California, being true to themselves means being in the ocean as much as possible. "My boyfriend [pro-surfer Kelly Slater] always says I have the biggest smile whenever I am out surfing,” says Kalani. It's fitting, then, that they just debuted their first collection of custom surfboards.
The perfect place to put them to use? Lanai, of course. Here's the sisters share their guide to the under-the-radar paradise.
What is the most unexpected thing about Hawaii?
Kalani Miller: Our family is from Oahu, so it has always had a special place in my heart. I think guests don’t realize how different and unique each island is. It really does vary island to island, whether it be Maui (The Valley Isle) or Kauai (The Garden Isle). Even within the islands, there is town and country. Hawaii is a unique place with the perfect match for everyone.
Oleema Miller: I don’t think people expect all of the islands to all be so vastly different—it is one of the many reasons why I love Hawaii. I love that every island has it’s own characteristics, charm, and landscapes and yet they are all tied together by their beauty, history, and sense of pride. The Hawaiian Islands are so diverse, and you truly can have a different type of experience at each of them.
How would you describe Lanai to someone thinking about traveling there?
OM: One word, paradise. From the second you step off the plane, you can tell you are somewhere special. The landscape of Lanai is so different from the other islands in the Hawaiian chain—the land feels raw, undeveloped, and almost preserved in time. The coastline is absolutely breathtaking and you can sense the rich culture, heritage, and the pleasure the locals feel about living on this somewhat hidden island.
KM: It is what I imagine old Hawaii used to feel like. The land is expansive, the skies open, and the wildlife lives and roams freely. A lot of the island isn’t even accessible by roads still.
Getting to Hawaii can be a long flight for many. Do you have any pre- or post- flight beauty rituals?
KM: I have my little kit and routine that I do on every flight. A lot of the planes have zero humidity so it is so important to stay hydrated. I always bring along a reusable water bottle so I can minimize my plastic usage on planes. It also keeps my tea hotter longer! I love to bring my own organic tea selection so I can have a hot tea depending on my mood. As far as beauty goes, I wash away any make up or sunscreen. Then I usually mist my face with True Botanicals mist. I follow up with an eye cream (I use a roller eye cream from Natio, an Australian brand) so I can keep any dirty hands and germs away from my eyes. Then I put on a heavy cream like Caudalie Hydrating Mask. I love to mix it up on the flight and always get little samples of things to try.
OM: Post flight, I love jumping in the ocean, taking a long hot shower, scrubbing myself head to toe, and drinking an obscene amount of water and lemon. I am obsessed with scrubbing the plane germs off and resetting for wherever I land and re-centering myself.
What’s the best way to get to Lanai once you’re in Hawaii?
KM: We flew Lanai Air, which is a private charter and only takes about fifteen minutes from Honolulu. You can drive your car right up to the plane where smiling friendly locals help load up your bags. As you fly from Oahu to Lanai, you pass over other islands that are part of the chain. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in paradise and can experience a true island hop.
Where would you recommend people stay in Lanai?
OM: The Four Seasons Lanai all the way. Every little detail is so well thought out on the property and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed.
KM: There are a few places to stay on the island, but nothing beats the Four Seasons Lanai. Their attention to detail is second to none and you can feel secluded and relaxed here. There is a gym with classes available (like aerial yoga) and the food is mouth watering!
What was the most memorable experience you’ve had on this island?
OM: On our first trip to Lanai, we went on the most incredible sunset sail around the island. We were so fortunate that it was the migrating season for whales and we saw the cutest momma and baby whale having the best time. I could have sworn they were putting on a show for us.
KM: Nothing beats being out on a catamaran, eating local fare, and watching the sun drop into the Pacific. The cliffs of Lanai are so stunning as well, especially when the afternoon light hits them. It is a great way to feel in touch with nature.
What were the highlights of your most recent trip to Lanai?
KM: It is such a hidden paradise where you can unplug. For me that is a major highlight... being so close to home but feeling like I can truly unplug and feel like I am on vacation and in a faraway land. I also loved learning about the Hawaiian culture and history while making leis. Making leis is so interactive and can be such a social gathering. It’s fun to sit around with friends, cocktail in hand, and make lei. There is something so therapeutic about it.
OM: I absolutely loved being able to share this hidden gem with such an incredible group of women. Being able to bring women from different backgrounds to a place that feels so special to both Kalani and I was fulfilling, fun, and rewarding. We both have such a sense of pride of having such a long history in Hawaii and being able to share this was the ultimate dream. I loved the traditional experiences we tied into our trip- the lei making, the sail around the island to see the landscapes, the hike to Sweetheart Rock, and just exploring the island each day.
What are some of your favorite Hawaiian foods/dishes?
KM: I love the local seafood which is often caught that day. I love a simple preparation served with vegetables. On the islands, you can find a lot of local produce that is grown up in the valleys. I tend to eat more simply but shave ice is always a weakness of mine!
OM: Nothing will ever beat a fresh caught fish thrown on the BBQ and paired with fresh local veggies and some yummy simple rice. Hawaiian food is flavorful using simple ingredients and is always comforting. Lomi lomi salmon, taro, and haupia are usually my go-to’s.
What was the best thing you ate in Lanai?
KM: Nobu Lanai is like no other. You eat beneath the open Hawaiian stars and moon. My favorite thing is their shave ice with lilikoi (passion fruit). It encompasses all things Hawaii in one bite.
OM: The buffet at the Four Seasons Lanai for breakfast is out of this world. I am such a child when it comes to eating—I love to taste every single thing on the menu and am one of those people that will literally order 3 different entrees just so I can have it all. The buffet here is so fresh, has such an amazing selection of every type of cuisine, and kombucha on tap—need I say more?
What are your must-do’s for someone traveling to Lanai?
KM: Get out and see the island! There are so many activities whether it be golf, beach hangs, boat rides, or just sitting by the pool and taking in the views. Also, nothing beats a massage to help you get into the holiday getaway pace.
OM: Sailing around the island at sunset, hiking to Sweetheart Rock, swimming down at the beach in front of the resort, and exploring the mountains in the middle of the island are definitely a must-do.
You girls are super active - what are some of the outdoor activities you enjoy on the island?
KM: I love being in the salt water, whether it be surfing or just doing a dip. No matter where I am in the world, one of the most comforting things for me is to see the ocean daily. I also love to walk and explore the island. You miss so many things being in a car or looking down at your phone, it is nice to unplug and take a walk!
OM: Surfing will always be my favorite way to get out in nature and to get some exercise at the same time. I haven’t been able to surf yet on Lanai but definitely want to come back when there is swell there so I can get out in the water. Waking up and walking around the island is the best way to really take in the outdoors. The island is so breathtakingly beautiful and the early morning light on the ocean is pure magic. I found myself awe struck every time I would gaze out to sea, and the best way to do this is to go on a hike along the sea cliffs. Nothing beats exercising in Mother Nature, especially when your backdrop is so incredible.
How did your destination factor in when packing for the trip?
KM: I love to have the same basics no matter where I go in the world. Then I like to mix in color and statement pieces. I always make sure I have multiple bikinis on hand too! I love our breezy cover ups and always have plenty on hand.
What are your packing tips when preparing for a trip?
OM: For years, I have tried the whole “packing light” method. Unfortunately, I have not been able to practice the “less is more” thought process and constantly find myself with a giant suitcase. However, I’ve decided to just embrace that this is my packing style and I will always, always have options and a great outfit no matter the situation or occasion. There is nothing worse to me than being on a vacation or a trip and not having something that you love or have been dying to wear with you- that is the whole point of why you bought it in the first place, right?! So, I’ve decided to go with the mantra “better to have it than to not” from now on.
KM: Always bring a bikini! I always make sure I have a rain jacket, a big hat, and a bikini. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
What did you purchase during your trip?
OM: I have a weakness for spa gift shops and Hawanawana spa at the Four Seasons is amazing. I bought the most luxurious coconut oil balm that is my new favorite go-to post shower, and it immediately brings me back to my stay on the island.
You’re both well-travelled, what is it about Lanai that keeps you coming back?
OM: We both live pretty hectic and busy lives so the calm that Lanai brings to me is unlike any other. It is the perfect place to come and really unplug and completely disconnect. I have such a hard time sometimes slowing myself down but the second I step off the plane it’s like a breath of fresh air and I immediately feel relaxed.