BACK IN 1994, when Bill Gates was looking for a secluded place to marry Melinda French, he chose the island of Lanai, booking every room in the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay for his wedding's 130 guests. Lanai is still a relatively secluded vacation destination and is hailed as being representative of authentic Hawaii. The island is only 13 miles wide and 18 miles long, with expanses of cloud forests ringed by secluded white-sand beaches and rugged red lava cliffs. Lanai has just 29 miles of paved roads, no stoplights and a single gas station.
Lanai was purchased in 1922 for $1.1 million by James D. Dole, who developed the island's agriculture to such an extent that it was eventually supplying 70 percent of the world's pineapples. The island has since shifted to tourism and Lanai has shed its nickname "The Pineapple Island" and now markets itself as "The Private Island."
Visitors can learn all about Lanai's intriguing history by dropping into the Lanai Cultural and Heritage Center. Exhibits chronicle 1,000 years of history, from early settlers through the plantation years. The center also displays historic photos and cultural materials from various immigrant groups, including Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Puerto Rican. It's in Lanai City and open Monday through Friday.
In addition to enjoying the island's relaxed pace and natural beauty, visitors come to tee off at two golf courses. The Challenge at Manele is an 18-hole course built on lava outcroppings overlooking Hulopoe Bay. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and every hole has ocean views, with three holes on cliffs utilizing the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard. During the winter, it's possible to catch a glimpse of migrating whales from the fairways. The Challenge at Manele has wooded slopes, manicured bunkers and terraced water hazards.
The 18-hole Experience at Koele course was designed by Greg Norman and architect Ted Robinson. This highland terrain championship course offers views of mountains and lush greens, with the ocean in the distance.
Keeping It Simple
Agents will find a pared-down decision-making process when it comes to booking their clients into a Lanai hotel: There are only three on the island, and two of these are distinctly different Four Seasons properties.
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is the only beachfront hotel on the island. Its Prime Oceanfront Rooms are popular, measuring 1,018 square feet and having unobstructed, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. They're furnished with rustic wicker furniture and feature private wraparound lanais.
The Hulopoe Suite features similar ocean views and a private lanai, as well as a dining area with a table seating six. The suite can be converted into a two-bedroom suite with the addition of a connecting room.
The resort's Alii Suite has a traditional Asian-influenced decor, with velvet and silk fabrics in jewel and gold tones, and carved mahogany furnishings in the living and dining areas. The three-bedroom oceanfront suite has a total of 1,162 square feet of outdoor space, complete with daybeds, a small dining set and lounge chairs.
The suite can be converted into a two-bedroom or three-bedroom suite with the addition of connecting rooms, making it an ideal choice for families.
The resort's alfresco oceanfront Ocean Grill is open for lunch and dinner. A signature dish is Grilled Opah, served over vegetable ratatouille with a Shanghai barbecue sauce.
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele is set in the highlands edging Lanai City. The resort has the ambiance of a country estate, with Cook Island pine trees, formal gardens with a reflecting pond, a wedding gazebo and an orchid greenhouse. Afternoon tea is served daily in the Great Hall. The resort also has a veranda, perfect for relaxing after a day on the links.
The Great Hall Fireplace Room features a cozy sitting area with fireplace, and overlooks the croquet court and a Hawaiian church. The room also has a spacious private lanai.
For those clients looking for even more space, steer them toward the Great Hall Fireplace Suites. These one-bedroom units have views of the lodge's gardens, pool and surrounding grounds. The living room features a fireplace. These suites can also be configured with two bedrooms.
For the best views, book one of the Koele Deluxe Rooms. These are corner rooms providing expansive views of the gardens. They have private lanais, where guests can dine.
The Dining Room, the lodge's restaurant, is open for dinner daily. It evokes the ambiance of an estate dining room, complete with a wood-burning fireplace. A popular choice on the menu is the Macadamia Crusted Lanai Venison Loin, which is served over pureed parsnips, with brussels sprouts.
Two for One
Guests at each Four Seasons resort are able to use facilities at the other, and can sign meals, activities and services directly to their room. Four Seasons operates an inter-resort shuttle for guests, with pickups throughout the day; fees apply.
The travel agent liaison for both Four Seasons hotels is Ruth Mills, director of leisure sales (808-275-2100, [email protected]).
A full-service spa is available at Four Seasons' Manele Bay resort. The spa has 11 treatment rooms and one outdoor spa hale (traditional island hut), which can accommodate a couple's massage. The most popular treatment is the lomi lomi massage.
Four Seasons' Lodge at Koele offers lomi lomi, sports and aromatherapy massages by appointment in the guest's room, or in the proerty's fitness center. Gigi Galang, spa director, can be contacted at 808-565-2086, [email protected]
Both resorts are popular destination wedding locations, and settings and amenities of both resorts can be utilized for weddings. Jill Hamasaki is the wedding sales manager (808-275-2147, [email protected]).
Hotel Lanai (www.hotellanai.com), the third hotel on the island, is in the heart of Lanai City. The 11-room hotel was built in 1923 as lodging for Dole executives and is now considered a historic landmark. Rooms have a plantation-style decor with views of the quiet, easygoing life of the town.
All rooms have ceiling fans, hardwood flooring, a private bathroom with shower and pedestal sinks. Rates are $139 for a Standard Room, $159 for a Premium Room and $209 for the sole Cottage. There are two sets of Premium Rooms that have a shared front porch (rooms 1 and 2 and rooms 9 and 10). Daily complimentary continental breakfast is provided in the hotel's lobby.
The Lanai City Grille is part of the hotel. Its menu features locally grown produce and fresh seafood. "Friday Under the Stars" is a weekly event at the grill, combining dinner and live music.
It's recommended that guests book a month or two in advance if a specific room is requested. Hotel Lanai doesn't have a travel agent liaison, although agents can e-mail questions and requests through the hotel web site's reservation request form.
Wendy Goodenow, owner of Honolulu-based HNL Travel, has booked numerous trips to Lanai for her clients, as well as visited the island herself five times.
"The beachfront Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is a good choice for families and watersports," says Goodenow. "The Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele is like being in someone's home. It's very romantic—but it's also cooler in the highlands."
Lanai City lies between the two Four Seasons properties, and Goodenow notes that it's about a 10-minute walk from the Lodge at Koele into town.
"The third property on the island is the Hotel Lanai, which is popular with locals—it's quaint and cozy and has a great restaurant," says Goodenow.
Goodenow says Lanai City has two or three little restaurants that serve up casual meals, including the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch. "There are lots of little shops." she says. "When we first visited, we didn't realize how cool it could get, so my husband bought a flannel shirt in one of the shops for $9—that shirt has been all around the world."
Goodenow's clients don't usually combine a visit to Lanai with another island. "A three-day weekend is not too short for a visit to Lanai," she says.
Getting to Lanai
Air: Lanai's airport is three miles west of Lanai City. It has facilities to accommodate up to three corporate jets. Island Air offers scheduled daily nonstop service between Lanai City, Honolulu and Kahului (Maui). Charter services from all islands to Lanai are offered by Island Air, Aloha Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Marjet, Maui Air, Mokulele Air, Paragon Air, WT Air, Royal Hawaiian Air Service, Sunshine Helicopters, InterIsland Airways and Pacific Wings.
Ferry: The Expeditions passenger ferry operates a one-hour ride daily between Lahaina Harbor, Maui, and Manele Harbor, Lanai. Roundtrip is $60 for adults and $40 for children under 12.
Car rental: Lanai has only 29 miles of paved roads and a top speed limit of 25 miles per hour. To rent a car on Lanai, call the Lanai Dollar-Rent-A-Car office at 808-565-7087.