Lanai is the smallest and most exclusive island in the Hawaiian archipelago to which the public has access. Larry Ellison of Oracle famously owns 98 percent of its land, with the remainder divided between diminutive Lanai City in the interior and the harbor, which offers regular ferry service to nearby Maui. Our rate at the Four Seasons included round-trip air transfers aboard a plush prop plane departing from a well-appointed private hangar at Honolulu’s airport. This service, which allowed us to avoid the hassles of the main terminal, won’t remain complimentary for much longer, however; reservations must be made by September 30, 2021, for a stay starting no later than December 31.
Four Seasons Sensei Lanai
Before landing, we skirted the forbidding sea cliffs that surround much of the island. On the southern coast, fairways top the bluffs, part of a dramatically scenic golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus adjacent to the 213-room Four Seasons Lanai. We had a delightful stay at this family-friendly beach resort a few years ago and I still recommend it. This time, our destination was the 96-room Four Seasons Sensei Lanai is set in the cool highlands just outside Lanai City. Allées of mature Cook pines led up to the freshly renovated property, which reopened in late 2019 as Four Seasons’ first wellness resort. We stepped out of the comfortable shuttle van at the main entrance, faced by “Adam and Eve,” two larger-than-life bronzes by Fernando Botero. As we walked inside the stylish, airy and tranquil lobby lounge, I had a feeling we were in for a very pleasant stay.
My first impression proved incorrect. “Very pleasant” does not do justice to the sublime three days we passed at this extraordinary place. According to some estimates, Ellison spent $75 million renovating the former Lodge at Koele. It is now my favorite resort in Hawaii. This declaration will doubtless surprise those who know that the property lacks sea views. It compensates with splendid botanical gardens laced with footpaths and streams, all surrounding large lily-speckled ponds and backdropped by a low ridge. The extravagant gardens are impressive on their own — even more so than the larger public botanical gardens we visited on Oahu — but they are further enhanced by world-class contemporary sculptures. A towering elongated bust by Jaume Plensa keeps watch over the property from its hillside perch; an immense and sensual red orchid blossom by Marc Quinn is reflected in a pond beneath it; and a craggy bronze archway by Ju Ming marks the entrance to the Onsen Garden.