Onsite Review: Lanai, Hawaii

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Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay
Family-friendly fun at Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay.

Proof that big things come in small packages, 141-sq.-mile Lanai has evolved from producing 75 percent of the world’s pineapple to seducing lovers of off-the-beaten-path adventures. Rather than trendy nightclubs, ritzy retail and high-rise hotels, your clients will discover a slower paced retreat reflecting the spirit of old Hawaii.

Since purchasing 98 percent of the island in 2012, Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, has targeted sustainability. By acquiring interisland carrier Island Air in 2013, he added a metaphorical airlift  bow to his Lanai vacation package that includes two Four  Seasons Resorts.

At Honolulu International Airport’s commuter terminal, the  exclusive Four Seasons Lounge pampers with VIP perks via a concierge providing transportation from the main terminal and check-in for Lanai accommodations. During Recommend’s recent visit, we were privy to WiFi, snacks and charging stations while waiting for the quick 25-minute flight.

“The Lounge allows us to offer a sophisticated, yet relaxing setting for our guests prior to stepping foot on the island,” says Tom Roelens, general manager of Four Seasons Resorts Lanai. “They can ease into their vacation in a convenient, intuitive and state-of-the-art manner.”

where to stay
A mere nine miles apart, the island’s distinctive Four Seasons properties cast contrasting demeanors. One is sleepy and charming while the other adds sunshine and splash. Luxury touches, signature experiences and personal connections are common threads.

We head to the cooler highlands and the 101-room Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele. Approaching along a pine-lined road etching through horse-sprinkled pastures, it’s obvious this isn’t your typical Hawaii resort. As Roelens says, “It’s like stepping into a family home and being engaged into a sense
of place.”

Our Koele Deluxe room is well appointed with a Signature Sleep by Four Seasons bed trimmed with pineapple-carved finials, a writing desk, window seat, refrigerated private bar and lanai (balcony) for soaking in garden views. The spacious bath is spruced with a vanity and deep-soaking tub/shower. Techie touches include complimentary WiFi, iPod docking station, and a 40-inch, flat-screen TV with DVD.

Beaming as The Lodge’s social hub, The Great Hall features bookend fireplaces, and photography depicting Koele’s ranching and agricultural eras. Guests gather for afternoon tea, Hookipa Cultural Sessions and pre-dinner libations. The culinary scene is garnished with the bistro-style Terrace, and elegant Dining Room showcasing farm- and ocean-to-table cuisine.

Lanai’s rural roots also play out at Lanai Pine Sporting Clays & Archery Range favored by novices and avid hunters hoping to bag mouflon sheep and axis deer. Other diversions include horseback riding, guided four-wheel UTV treks, croquet, lawn bowling, executive putting course, pool and fitness center.

Coastal counterpart Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay dazzles in its prime perch above the white sands of Hulopoe Beach. The 220-room retreat is especially geared to active families and couples that are into ocean recreation, tennis and spa indulgences. It’s also home to the Pilialoha Keiki (kids) Camp and the Jack Nicklaus-designed The Challenge at Manele that rolls along red lava cliffs above the bay.

After sailing and snorkeling with Trilogy Excursions, we plant ourselves on shaded loungers prepped by beach services staff. Resort guests missing the boat still catch ample underwater action with freebie snorkeling gear use.

Among recent enhancements are 13 new penthouse suites, redesigned guestrooms debuting this fall and Nobu Lanai, where 65 percent of menu ingredients are grown on site. Other dining options include Views Clubhouse and One Forty, an oceanview American steak and Hawaiian seafood eatery.

where to play
“It’s a hotelier’s dream to be part of Four Seasons Lanai and the island itself,” says Charles Fisher, Manele Bay resort manager. “It truly feels like a private island. Since it’s quiet, there’s a perception that there’s not much to do. That’s just not the case.”

Limited to 30 miles of paved road, Lanai is a four-wheeling dream. Dollar Rent A Car is the only game in town for Jeep rentals. Natural highs include the five-island view from Munro Trail, a rusted WWII relic off Shipwreck Beach, “moonscape” formations at Garden of the Gods and green sea turtles frequenting Polihua Beach. Hiking is another hit, with the 5-mile Koloiki Ridge trek taking off from The Lodge. Hikers can traipse it solo or tap into Hike Lanai with guides well versed in Lanai history and culture.

For clients into voluntourism, Four Seasons partners with Lanai Animal Rescue Center, a 15,000-sq.-ft. cat sanctuary where more than 300 ferals live in harmony. We fed felines at the “cat-fur-teria” and groomed on the “cat-io”—without witnessing a single cat fight.

Void of traffic lights and franchise eateries, mellow Lanai City is anchored by landmark Dole Park. Most visitors slip into the “Dole Stroll,” taking in candy-colored “mom & pop” shops, galleries, and the Lanai Cultural & Heritage Center. Among folksy eateries for “a night on the town” are Pele’s Other Garden, Blue Ginger Cafe, Canoes Lanai and Lanai City Grille.

rates & packages
Through Dec. 31, The Lodge nightly rates start at $339. Manele Bay rates are from $489 nightly through Sept. 30, with redesigned rooms from $650 through Dec. 18. Seasonal free nights and Bed & Breakfast plans are also available. Guests enjoy reciprocal charging privileges, most amenities and complimentary shuttle service between the two.

getting there & around
Book your clients into Oahu’s Honolulu International Airport (HNL) or Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG), where they’ll connect to Lanai Airport (LNY) on Island Air, Ohana or Mokulea airlines.

Expeditions Ferry operates between Maui’s Lahaina and Lanai’s Manele harbors. Recommend a 4WD vehicle for at least a day to explore Lanai’s unpaved roads. Four Seasons can arrange airport transfers.

what travel agents are saying…
“Koele is great for those who like the feeling of old Hawaii. Manele appeals to those wanting to be at a beautiful beach hotel without the crowds of Maui. This is one of the most relaxing places I have been without it being boring. You can swim, snorkel, hike, ride or rent an ATV without standing in lines. Then you relax in your wonderful hotel at the end of the day.”—Liz Harwood, Travel Advisors, Los Gatos, CA

contact information
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele: fourseasons.com/koele
Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay: fourseasons.com/manelebay
Island of Lanai: gohawaii.com/lanai