by Scott Laird
Last updated: 2:00 AM ET, Thu October 13, 2016
Lana'i was once said to be a favored fishing ground of Kamehameha I, who took up residence on the south side of the island and spent time playing board games made of stone tablets. The site at Kaunolu, which enjoys a view of the sheltered bay and is a short walk from a stunning vista of sea cliffs, is easily one of the most breathtaking spots on the island, in spite of its lack of practical items like fresh water.
Neighboring Manele Bay is somewhat more hospitable, and is the site for the AAA Five Diamond-rated Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, which reopened earlier this year following a top-to-bottom renovation and refresh of guest rooms and public spaces.
Arriving at Lana'i Airport from Honolulu, the first thing one notices stepping off the 'Ohana by Hawaiian prop plane is the temperature. At 1,500 feet elevation, Lana'i City is pleasantly temperate, even while Lanai's mostly treeless and lava-rock fortified coasts bake in the midday sun at sea level.
The sense that Four Seasons has been expecting me is apparent. I'm swiftly escorted outside to a Mercedes SUV, my motorcade of one for the 15 minute ride to the resort, down at sea level, with my Lana'i Ambassador (sort of a welcome specialist and driver) taking pauses from conversation at brief intervals to report arrival status via an earpiece. She points out the fields covering the island, now laid fallow after a generation of producing the lion's share of North America's pineapples. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, owns 98 percent of the island and aims to create a sustainable, green community. The single road south to Manele Bay is lined with Cook pine trees, another suggestion that this small island stands uniquely separate from the rest of the islands in the chain.
The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i is quite unlike any other resort in Hawai'i. It's the island's only resort (the boutique Lodge at Ko'ele, also managed by Four Seasons, could easily be considered part of the complex). Deer and wild turkeys roam the island, and it's virtually uninhabited outside of Lana'i City and the resort areas.
At the resort, I'm handed a chilled towel and a small glass of pineapple juice with a hint of jalapeño, after skipping the front desk through a series of gently meandering corridors with delightful little design embellishments awaiting around every corner - a potted orchid here, a pair of love seats there, a pair of resident rescue parrots off to one side. The property is almost surreal in its perfection - nowhere is there a flower out of place, discarded glass or napkin to be seen, or a chair pillow askew from a recent occupant. It's as though the resort is maintained to a state of constant readiness to accommodate.
It feels amazingly private. Although there are other guests in residence that can be seen at the pool or in the restaurants, it never feels crowded and when strolling through the corridors to and from public areas there's a resolute stillness that makes you feel as though you have the exclusive lease of the place.
In spite of the beauty of the island and the resort's public areas, guest rooms are difficult to leave. Mahogany floors, teak and zebra wood paneling, bespoke furnishings, island art, hand-woven area rugs and beds that facilitate languid lingering over coffee in bed from the in-room Nespresso machine are enough to keep one sequestered. It was a serene moment, sipping coffee watching the sun rise over the peak of Haleakala on Maui, visible from my room.
Guest rooms are also well-connected. Mini iPad Airs ensure requests for ice, housekeeping, or restaurant reservations are a few touches away. In my case, requesting an extra few bath amenities from the exclusive-to-the-resort 'Aina line of bath products, fragranced with plumeria and awapuhi (white Hawaiian ginger) and made with kukui nut and botanicals grown on the island, was the best use of that feature.
I can't say I've had better seared ahi than I did at One Forty, the hotel's signature steakhouse. It's served on a bed of edamame and shimeji mushrooms with a warm soy and sesame dressing that seems also to warm the very spirit. It's smile-forming. There's also a fine selection of fresh Hawaiian seafood and a variety of premium proteins such as Snake River Farms Wagyu, and local Lana'i Venison, which is new, now that there's an USDA approved game processor on the island.
Big culinary names Malibu Farm (poolside) and Nobu also take up residence in the resort-Lana'i is undoubtedly the smallest community that can boast the presence of both well-known outposts.
It feels as though every moment of every day at the resort has been thoroughly curated to lull guests into a sense of contented calm. Whether you're snorkeling in the bay, relaxing poolside or on the beach with a personal cooler of ice water and a mai tai, enjoying amenities like chilled fruit skewers and popsicles, or texting questions and requests to the ever-accommodating staff from wherever you might be on the island, the sense of being well-looked after never ceases.
The Takeaway: Remote, gorgeous, and well-run, the Four Seasons Lana'i is a hospitality nirvana found nowhere else in Hawai'i-it's the closest thing the chain has to a luxury private island.
The Damage: A quick scan of low season rates found them from $875 per night, although 2017 rates appear slightly higher
Instagrammable moment: Every turn down every corridor, and every guestroom is picture-perfect, although beach and pool views will probably net you the most likes.
Pro Tip: If you're staying longer and get island fever, Maui is accessible via a walk-on ferry. The ride is just an hour, and lands right in Lahaina. Guests can also rent Jeeps from the hotel's activity desk to explore the island.
Accommodations and meals were furnished by the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i in preparation for this story.
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