Let’s Get Lost On The Hawaiian Island Of Lanai
Welcome to Lanai. Now get lost.
That’s certainly not how your gracious hosts at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai will phrase it, but all the same … this less-traveled Hawaiian island is an ideal destination for outdoor adventurers to get lost on remote trails that lead to deserted beaches, ride horses along scenic mountain ridges, straddle ATVs through the red-dirt fields once filled with pineapples and swim with wild dolphins in the warm waters of Hulupoe Bay.
Of course you can also opt to stay closer to the refined luxuries of the Four Seasons, where daily life might include a sunrise walk on the beach, lollygagging by a meandering pool, some truly delicious culinary options at Malibu Farm — including locally sourced venison sliders that had everyone in my group raving — and perhaps an afternoon tour around the shops and art galleries of Lanai City, a 15-minute shuttle ride away.
Then there’s golf on one of the most picturesque golf courses you’ll ever play, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Manele Golf Course that is perched on tall sea cliffs above the Pacific with broad ocean views. And though golf writers are guilty of saying it far too often, this layout really is comprised of 18 postcard-worthy holes.
AN EXPERIENCE TO REMEMBER
“Manele Golf Course is one of the most beautiful and picturesque golf courses you will ever see,” says director of golf Scott Ashworth. “Mr. Nicklaus used the land and ocean to create an amazingly enjoyable and playable golf course.”
Nicklaus, who has a reputation for designing very demanding courses, created a layout at Manele with the resort golfer in mind. “With five sets of tees, the golf course can be enjoyed by golfers of all skill levels,” Ashworth says. “There are some required carries and it can be penalizing if you hit it off the fairway, but the fairways are generous and the approach shots into the greens are both picturesque and can be played along the ground. The greens are also gentle with no severe slopes in them, making for a very enjoyable time when players reach the greens.”
One of those “required carries” Ashworth refers to is found at No. 12. A thrilling par 3, No. 12 plays from cliff top tees to a cliff top green (202 black/185 gold/153 blue/103 white). But in keeping with the resort nature of the design, the forward tees measure only 65 yards, while still retaining the excitement and ocean views.
Ashworth and his team strive to make golf inclusive for hotel guests, including those who may never have stepped onto a golf course before. Programs include transforming the practice range into “Mini Manele” every Wednesday after 3 pm, where families can play a six-hole par-3 course with holes as short as 30 yards and no longer than 90 yards. There’s also a Sunset Nine Tour after 3 pm on Fridays, that includes cocktails and prizes for hitting the green on No. 12.
“It’s all about the experience, whether you are a beginner or an advanced player,”Ashworth says. “Golf needs to be fun and enjoyable for everyone, and that is our goal. We want you to feel welcome, that you are a part of our ‘ohana’ (family) when you visit Manele Golf Course.”
MERGING TRADITIONAL WITH CUTTING EDGE
Lanai’s modern history dates back to 1854 when a group of Mormon missionaries established a small town in the upcountry that is today Lanai City and constructed a rough road down to Manele Harbor. In the early 1920s, the first experiments with growing pineapple were conducted, and seeing the success of the crop, James Dole purchased the island and established the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later renamed Dole Food Company) in 1922.
Dole’s operation was the mainstay of the island’s economy over the years, until competition from other pineapple-producing regions caused Lanai’s plantations to become less and less feasible. When David Murdoch purchased the island in 1985, he saw the need to transform the economy from agriculture to hospitality, and thus built the two hotels that today are managed by Four Seasons.
The island was purchased from Murdoch by the billionaire founder of Oracle, Larry Ellison, in 2012 for a reported $300 million. The acquisition included 90,000 acres of land, the two Four Seasons resorts and two golf courses. One of the golf courses, known as The Experience at Koele, was closed and the land is now being repurposed. The second hotel, The Four Seasons Lodge, is being transformed into an ultra high-end spa and wellness retreat and is scheduled to reopen in December 2018.
To date, Ellison has spent a reported $450 million in improvements not just to the hotels (Bloomberg reported that he rebuilt the lobby four times to get it to frame the view of the ocean perfectly), but in ways that have benefitted the island’s 3,000 residents as well. A new community swimming pool is one example, and a new community movie theater is another. Schools and roads have been improved.
And in one of his most ambitious projects, Ellison is in the process of transitioning to a solar- and wind-powered energy grid in hopes of making Lanai energy independent and setting an example for what communities across the country can do with the right conditions and funding.
There are no stoplights on Lanai, reason enough to go if you’re looking for peace and quiet to go along with your 5-star resort. Those “remote trails to deserted beaches” are best accessed by rented 4-wheel drive Jeep. You can literally bump along for hours and not see another soul, discovering snorkeling sites, petroglyph fields and countless vistas. At the top of the island is a heritage site known as Keahiakawelo (or Garden of the Gods), with wondrous rock formations and views for miles in every direction.
Hiking and biking are also options for exploring the trails and back roads of Lanai. And when you’ve had your fill of exploration, head back to the hotel for a hot shower, a great meal and good night’s sleep, because you have a tee time in the morning.
And lest we forget one more thing that lingers long after a visit to Lanai: the absolutely delicious and unexpected gingersnap ice cream cookies that are served on menus throughout the resort. Now that’s getting lost — and found —in extra tasty style.
For more information: www.FourSeasons.com/Lanai/