Day Trip to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Day Trip to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Maui Activities

Are you a cat lover? Then you need to check out a kitty paradise on your next visit to Maui. Located on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, a short ferry ride away from Lahaina, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is the happy home of nearly 600 cats of various colors, shapes and sizes.

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary

Born Out of Need

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary was founded by Lanai resident and cat lover Kathy Carroll.

According to my friendly shuttle driver, who took me from the harbor to the Sanctuary for $10, the cats used to help control the rat population back when Lanai was a leading producer of pineapple. It seems that rats enjoy munching on sweet pineapple stems. The island stopped producing the fruit years ago, the rat population declined, but the cats remained - so the story goes. Also, the island’s Ua’u, native flightless birds, were sitting ducks for these cute little predators.

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Conservation

Enter Kathy. With no vet, animal shelter, or system to take care of the many feral cats that called the island home, Kathy organized a sterilization and housing program. In doing so, she helped take care of her beloved cats and the Ua’u. Thus, the Sanctuary was driven by a desire to protect native species as much as by kitty love.

Because of her efforts, in a little over a decade, Lanai has gone from having no shelter to having a stable home for cats that provides lifelong housing, medical care and much-needed TLC. It’s also become a source of tourist revenue, as visitors will come to visit the Sanctuary and spend the day, and dollars, on the island.

A Happy Place

Spanning over 25,000 square feet, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary provides shelter, food and a playground for the lions of Lanai. Shade trees, kitty condos, obstacle courses, and feline-buffets fill the temperate home of these playful tabbies.

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Condos

Guests of the sanctuary will enjoy the laid-back style and the ability to interact with these happy felines.

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Petting

The operators of the facility could not be more friendly and enthusiastic. For them, it’s truly a labor of love. They know most of the kitties by name and understand their unique personalities. Depending on the time of day, they may give you a box of treats to shake and distribute to during your stay – it’s amazing to see them all come charging when they hear the rattle of the kibbles!

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Maine Coon

For formerly feral cats, they are surprising friendly, the result of having been exposed to so many visitors. On a recent visit to the Sanctuary, we were told one man traveled all the way from Japan just to spend six hours with them. The Lanai Cat Sanctuary has even hosted a that's what you call "cat fancy!"

Nonprofit 501c3 Charity

In 2009, the sanctuary became a nonprofit charity and relocated to a new and better plot of land with access to running water. The main goal: protect cats and endangered birds, and provide a haven for cat lovers!

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Donations

In 2014, executive director, Keoni Vaughn made plans for an expansion which would include a medical system and a high-tech mobile veterinary clinic. Teams were recruited from Oahu and other Hawaiian islands, and over the last few years, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary has expanded to host a cat-family number nearly 600 The goal is to eliminate cat overpopulation on Lanai, and they continue to rescue cats from protected areas where native endangered birds nest.

Featured in Country Living, The Los Angeles Times, and Cosmopolitan Magazine, these "Lanai Lions" are enjoying some fame. Funding for this kitty paradise comes from vacationers who visit the sanctuary and support their mission with a donation, so your visit will make a difference.

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Cute Face

The staff at Lanai Cat Sanctuary believe that cats deserve the highest quality of life possible. Those who are not able to cuddle the cats in person can still make tax-deductible donations via their website  You can also purchase a snazzy T-shirt there.

Open 365 days a year from 10 am to 3 pm, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is a great little spot for a family outing. No appointment is required and groups any size can stop by for a visit. Bring along a snack and something to drink, and enjoy a fun day full of purring and playing! If you really fall in love, you can even discuss adoption!

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Queenie

Getting to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary

Getting to Lanai is easy from Maui. Regular ferry service runs between Lahaina and Lanai each day. The crossing takes around 50 minutes and during whale season, November to April, you may even get to enjoy the spectacle of breaching whales on the journey. It costs $30 each way. Tickets can be purchased on a walk-up basis, but it's advised to reserve ahead just to be safe:

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Ferry from Lahaina

You arrive at the port in Lanai and the Lanai Cat Sanctuary is located on the plateau in the center of the island. Lanai City, where most of Lanai's 3,500 residents live, is at 1,600 ft. so it can be pleasantly cool. The Sanctuary is located about two miles from town, near the airport. The Lanai shuttle service will charge you $10 per-person, each way, to go from the port to Lanai City or the Sanctuary. 

Lanai City does have a gallery, shops and restaurants, and there is also accommodation for those who want to spend a night or two on the island. The Four Seasons operates a luxurious hotel on the shoreline, near the harbor. 

John Di Rienzo - Lanai Cat Santuary - Entrance

Visitors are encouraged to leave a tax-deductible donation to help the Sanctuary continue its rescue work and provide life-long care for the cats.

If you like cats, we encourage you to visit Lanai and the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. You’ll be able to play with lots of happy cats and check off a visit to one of the lesser-known Hawaiian islands. Who knows, your next kitty may be waiting for you here at the Sanctuary! 

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