If you ‘ve been following my trip through Hawaii, you’ve already read my reviews of Maui’s luxury hotels. Now are are my thoughts on Lanai and the two Four Seasons resorts there — Lana’i at Manele Bay and Lana’i, the Lodge at Koele.
Lana’i in General
The beauty of Lana’i is that it’s remote. Just look at the picture below from our room. While not in the middle of the Indian Ocean, up until now it might just as well have been. I’ve been to Hawaii many times over the last 15 years since the hotels were built but it’s the first time I’ve been here, except for a 1 day snorkeling trip in 1985. This island is either a 45 minute ferry ride from Lahaina (Maui) or a short flight from Honolulu. *
From our balcony at the Four Seasons Manele Bay the view is of the water, the rocks, a bit of the resort’s landscaping and that’s it. One feels one has gone much further than about 20 miles from Maui! If you want to relax — this is the place. Main activities include snorkeling from the hotel’s beach, horseback riding up on top of the island, tennis and golf (2 courses) . You can also rent a jeep and visit the remote beaches on the island. Unfortunately I didn’t have time for that.
* The island was purchased a year ago by Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. He bought the airline flying there too and Four Seasons is planning a meet and greet at the Honolulu Airport for early 2014 to make the transfer easier.
Four Seasons Lana’i at Manele Bay
There are 2 hotels and one small inn on the island. Manele Bay is Four Seasons’s resort on the water. Barely spoken of in the same breath as Four Seasons Wailea in Maui, or Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island, Manele Bay has been the ‘cheap’ Four Seasons in Hawaii at about 60-70% the price of the other two. And Koele has been even less expensive. And staying there now, it’s clear why that’s the case: It’s harder to get to, the rooms aren’t as nice, the service isn’t as sophisticated and the facilities aren’t as beautiful. But significant changes have begun with the purchase by Larry Ellison and I’m told by the hotel’s General Manager that by July of 2014 the renovations at Manele Bay will be mostly completed and the hotel will have turned about a 180 from where it is now. And I believe him. The opening of Nobu is one sign – with World Class cuisine firmly in place, a total renovation of the lobby about done, and “test” rooms completed, analyzed and retooled.
Four Seasons Lodge at Koele
About 20 minutes up the hill toward the center of the island , adjacent to downtown Lanai City, some nice stables, and many many acres of open land and forest sits the Lodge.
The temperature has cooled off a few degrees, the ocean view has vanished and now it’s almost as if you’ve arrived at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, but slightly smaller with 102 rooms. (Manele Bay has 236 but it’s going down to about 209). Even though the hotel looks storied, it only opened in the 90s.
Being a Hawaii regular I was pretty shocked by the transition – and I’m not one who likes surprises. Plus I like beach! But my partner John immediately wanted to check-in and open a book once he saw the hammock out in the very green backyard. Since our visit I’ve spoken to others who really like the atmosphere. It’s great for hiking, riding and relaxation and with less heat and humidity than down by the beach. It’s also harder to snorkel. While the look and feel of Manele Bay is becoming quite contemporary, for now Koele remains rather traditional.
For dining outside the Lodge, the Lanai City Grille is a very good option. It’s technically walkable but the walk isn’t that nice so the hotel runs a shuttle. The restaurant is by the main park where you’ll find other small businesses like gift shops and coffee shops. But don’t expect much – it’s very minimal.
Visiting Lanai Thoughts
I’d recommend an overnight stay now on Lanai if you really want to get away from it all and if you have a realistic expectation on what to expect of the two hotels. For me on this last trip I really enjoyed the solitude and the fabulous balcony with the sound of ocean and nothing else. I enjoyed the food very much at all 3 restaurants at Manele Bay. I was also OK with the typically slow and not very sophisticated service levels in the restaurants. If that’s not OK for you, then I’d suggest waiting until next August (2014) or so to visit when renovations are finished at Manele Bay and the staff has had more training a la Wailea and Hualalai. I understand the Lodge is slated for renovations for 2015 but it’s really fine now.
Next Steps for Booking Travel to Lanai
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