The secluded island of Lanai is an anomaly in Hawaii. Even though it is within sight of Maui, this tiny island is home to a scant 3,000 residents and only three hotels, including the surprisingly budget friendly Four Seasons Manele Bay and Four Seasons Lodge at Koele.
Once known as the world’s largest pineapple plantation, today Lanai is a quiet retreat, close in distance to Oahu, but a million miles away from the cacophony of Waikiki.
On the south end of the island visitors will find the rich azure waters of Manele Bay, home to the eponymous resort. The hotel itself has done a magnificent job of incorporating the gorgeous ocean views into nearly every aspect of the property and from the first moment, there is no doubt that you are in paradise.
Manele Bay, and its nearby sister Hulopoe Bay, are constantly ranked as one of the world’s best beaches, thanks in great part to its fine sandy beaches and impressive waves. To get a taste of beach life, plan on spending the morning or afternoon sunbathing, body surfing or snorkeling. Be sure to watch out for the famous spinner dolphins in the distance, a common site at Manele.
While Manele may guarantee an idyllic, beach experience, the Four Seasons’ sister property, the Lodge at Koele, gives the visitor something else entirely different.
The Lodge is a brief 20 minute ride in the hotel’s complimentary van and is set in the interior of the island, close to the generously named Lanai City. Riding through town to the Lodge, it is hard to believe that the Manele Bay resort occupies the same island. Gigantic Cook pine trees dot the landscape, and the general feel is very much Pacific Northwest rather than South Pacific.
The Cook pines were originally planted in the 19th century, and propagation continued in the 20th century, although even most people don’t know the full story behind the mysterious pine trees on Lanai. While ascetically gorgeous, their purpose is actually quite mundane. The forest of trees on the island were planted to catch the moisture in the fog and are vital in maintaining the island’s underground water system.
As you approach the Lodge, you begin to once again question your sanity, an all too common occurrence on Lanai, as an expansive ranch on prairie-like grasslands unfolds before your eyes. The Lodge was built to mimic the classic ranches of Hawaii’s past and the feel is at once both refined, yet homey and comfortable.
The inland areas of the island are typically 10-15 degrees cooler than the ocean side Manele Bay, and morning fog rolling off the mountains is an all-too-common phenomenon. Staying in the Lodge offers the guest even more seclusion than the Bay and a certain sense of pastoral calm not found elsewhere on the island.
A good introduction to the Lodge is to take advantage of the incredible walking paths and familiarize yourself with the property, at least part of it. To continue your exploration of the highland areas of the island, there is no better mode of transportation than horse.
The Stables at Koele are located on a large field that was actually home to the islands’ first airport, but today plays host to thousands of eager horseback riders, from novice to pro. The wranglers at the Stables lead groups on two-hour rides through some of the most stunning and hard to reach areas of Lanai. I had never been on a horse before and was impressed at both the instruction given and the ease with which I grew accustomed to the experience. What was even better was taking advantage of the spa the next day for a much needed massage to sooth my aching muscles.
There is no shortage of activities at the Lodge either: croquet, executive putting course (mini-golf), clay shooting and nature hikes are just some of the many options available. It doesn’t matter which Four Seasons you call your temporary home, all guests are free to use all the facilities on the island. Of course, the best activity on Lanai is to do nothing at all.
More than 6 million people visit Hawaii every year, most of whom are on a mission to find both peace and quiet as well as their own little corner of paradise. Lanai is one of the few places in the state that can truly give the visitor this experience.
Matthew Long, Editor-in-Chief and creator of LandLopers.com, has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to do it all on a budget. Matt is a Lonely Planet Featured Blogger, as well as a contributor to many other travel sites. Matt’s new eBook Money Saving Travel Tips is an essential guide to traveling well and affordably. Contact Matt at Matt@LandLopers.com.