Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle liked the Hawaiian Island of Lanai so much he bought it for $300 million back in 2012. The Four Seasons Lanai was part of the deal and I’m on the way. Chicago to Los Angeles to Honolulu, there’s a Four Seasons private lounge in the Honolulu International Airport. There are four Four Seasons resorts in the Hawaiian Islands; the lounge is a classy touch for those waiting for their final island jump. Complimentary teas, wines, fresh fruits, edamame, other quick bites and advance check-in are appreciated. My final leg is a 25-minute flight with amazing views of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and endless views of the blue-green Pacific Ocean reef.
On the ground in Lanai, I’m greeted and picked up by the resort’s complimentary shuttle service. They do everything from arrival to departure, even escorting through ticketing. The short drive into Four Seasons is lined by Cook Island pine trees, which resemble the Four Seasons logo. There is not a stop light or traffic on the whole island.
I’m greeted with a Lei, chilled towel and welcome cocktail; my eyes are instantly drawn to the swanky lobby. Between the birds chirping and waves crashing, the hotel’s lobby feels like an exhibit with Polynesian art and antiques on display. The Four Seasons Lanai was brilliant when it opened in 2005 – it got better in 2016 when it was renovated.
Through a botanical garden maze, I find my room with an ocean view. My jaw drops as I open the door to a mahogany suite with a walk out “Lanai,” which is a Hawaiian word for veranda. If I were to design my own room back home, this room is it. It has state-of-the-art technology, such as remote-control blackout shades, in-mirror televisions and iPads in each guest room. The rooms are spotless and well equipped down to the last detail – the Toto toilet included.
There are five restaurants at the resort. The gnocchi and red wine at One Forty is a must. The others include The Sports Bar & Grill, VIEWS, Malibu Farm and the famous, Nobu. There is a restaurant for everyone, whether you want bar food, a relaxing lunch by the ocean, room service set up on your terrace, or an elegant, white table cloth dinner, it’s all here.
I have one rule while on vacation at luxury resorts; don’t spend the trip in your room and no room service. I break my own rules and feel good about it. This room is hard to leave. Ahead of a horseback ride on the beach, I order in a cheese plate, french fries, a glass of Whispering Angel Rosé and a chocolate treat.
The horse stables at Koele are a quick, beautiful drive across the countryside.
We pull into the ranch and are greeted by smiling wranglers Jay and Molly. These are the type of people that’ll give you the shirt off their back. Literally, Molly gives me her riding pants because I’m wearing floral romper set more appropriate for dancing, a rookie mistake. Dressed the part, I’m introduced to my “pony,” an Indian spotted beauty named Camachi. It’s an instant click as we ride through ironwood trees while Jay and Molly share local lore.
The next day I’m ready to hit the links. But not before a morning yoga session on the driving range, a pre-game ritual I will keep forever. As golfers, we are vulnerable to aches, pains, injuries, stiffness or a cluttered mind – all of which can dampen our round. Will Donnelly, Yoga Instructor at Four Seasons Lanai, tailors our session for golfers. I feel loose, rejuvenated, and for once, mentally optimistic for the round. Of course, the mental part goes out the window after a few double bogeys on the front nine of Manele Golf Club.
Manele Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design, is a cliff-side course set behind the hotel. Every single hole has a view of the ocean. The tee box on hole five is the highest point on the course offering views all the way across to Maui and the top of Haleakala. Hole 10 through 13, along Hulopoe Bay, feature holes that play along 200-foot cliffs with the Pacific Ocean as a hazard. Billionaire Bill Gates married his wife, Melinda, on the par 3, No. 12 tee which is famous for the demanding carry it requires across 200 yards of the ocean blue. There’s no fairway. It’s all carry over the surf to the green. I could play this course over and over again and never get tired of it. In fact, that’s just what I did – I play 36 and love it.
After golf, I step in the Hawanawana Spa – this is the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s pure bliss. My 90-minute LED light therapy massage is heavenly. The LED light therapy is applied to whichever area of your body you’re struggling with the most. The light therapy speeds the healing of the body and reduces inflammation, both of which it indeed did.
Day three is more of the same brilliance. Breakfast is phenomenal and around noon I find a sublime lounge for a glass of rosé. This resort can be as private or lively as you wish. There’s plenty of places to socialize such as The Sports Bar & Grill, the resort’s most causal restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere where guest meet to mingle and watch football at 7 a.m. Or if you want to be alone, bring a good read, a delicious cocktail, and seek out one of the many hidden cabanas under a palm tree or venture out to Hulopoe Beach. The white crescent beach is a quick walk from the lobby and feels like you’ve stumbled upon a private beach with crystal blue water and golden sand. Literally the only one there, it’s my private beach, aside from the beach service, of course, because the service is literally everywhere here. Keep an eye out for dolphins and humpback whales as Hulopoe is also a protected marine reserve.
If you walk past Hulopoe, you will find the iconic Puu Pehe, also known as Sweetheart Rock, a beautiful red rock 80 feet out of the water offering incredible views of the island of Maui. The legends say a warrior jumped from Sweetheart Rock to overcome the grief of his wife’s death. Chivalry is alive.
After working up an appetite on my hike, I stopped in at Malibu Farm for a quick bite. I will remember this place forever. I order the cauliflower lavash pizza, a glass of rosé (are you hearing a theme?) and gingersnap ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Little secret: the ice cream sandwiches are a staple here at Four Seasons Lanai, and rightfully so, they are offered at basically every restaurant, even if they are not on the menu.
This was just three of the days during my stay at Four Seasons Lanai. I miss my perfect room, delectable meals (especially you, gnocchi) and amazing staff. I miss the butlers who did not judge how much food I could eat nor how late I slept in my blissful paradise and I miss the golf pros and attendants who couldn’t keep me off the course, MAHALO – I’ll be back.