The Island

Words by Kevin & Betsy Marr

Even in the dark of night, through shadowy silhouettes after sunset, we knew we had just arrived somewhere special.

This privileged escape to Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort, could not be more relevant or timelier. With a focus on health and wellness, the days ahead would become life changing.

When daylight presented itself the following morning, all that was cloaked under the evening stars was on full, majestic, jaw dropping display. Lush almost seems like an understatement. Acres of towering trees. Never-ending foliage and tropical plants. Koi ponds stocked with the most gorgeous fish imaginable. The soundtrack of occasional chatter from roosters, chickens, birds and ducks, while handsome butterflies float through the air. Stunning pops of pristine, colorful flowers mesh beautifully with the wavy palm trees, sultry lake, and thought-provoking art installations alongside the stone paths traversing the grounds.

The 96-room resort is an elegant, relaxing oasis, set upon 24-acres on a secluded Hawaiian island. Guests can choose from a collection of curated experiences to more structured programs that best align actions to intentions on their journey to well-being. In collaboration with pre-arrival specialists and Sensei Guides, customized itineraries are crafted to meet each guest’s personal goals and preferences in an inspiring and supportive environment.

When it’s time to nourish the body, the resort’s signature restaurant is none other than Nobu. Clean eating at its finest. Breakfast is a master class on flawless creations to begin the day correctly whether it’s whole wheat avocado toast, flaxseed pancakes, gluten-free bacon and sausage, or a collection of fresh fruit and smoothies.

The day’s agenda is geared to assuage both the body and the mind. The caliber of care and instruction at Sensei is incomparable, with its practitioners recognized globally as some of the finest in their respective fields. These professionals – many of whom have masters degrees in their areas of practice – have sought out this property specifically for the curriculum that Sensei Lana’i celebrates. So, it’s not only a destination for the guests, but for the staff as well.

Treatments and workshops run the gamut with unrivaled offerings featuring thermal body mapping, massage, restorative aerial yoga, one-on-one sessions with nutritionists and wellness instructors, and nature walks. The Sensei way philosophy is brought to life in the spa with a collection of 120-minute Sensei featured experiences which showcase the practices of movement, nourishment and rest in a peaceful and luxurious setting. “Move” focuses on the importance of mobility and features a choice of a Land or Sea bodywork session. On Land, Thai Stretch massage techniques are applied or take the movement to the Sea in a private pool where a water shiatsu technician floats, rocks, cradles and stretches the body.  “Rest” takes the art of unwinding to a new level, beginning with a soothing, skin-nourishing bath and continuing through breathwork, face and scalp stimulation, and finally, a transformative full body massage.  “Nourish” begins with active, engaging breathwork and peacefully transitions into a full body massage with candle-oil and warm body wrap using locally inspired oils and extracts.

The hale (pronounced HA-LAY and defined as a house on Hawaii) is a can’t-miss therapeutic treat. It’s hosted at your own private Japanese/Hawaiian-inspired studio replete with an ofuro bath, steam room, infrared sauna, outdoor cold plunge, hot tub, and showers, all designed for quiet and private reflection and body therapy. Two of the hales even feature outdoor Watsu pools for unique aquatic bodywork – something that would become a highlight of our stay.  While floating in a body-temperature outdoor pool at our personal hale, we began by setting our intentions and joining in a guided meditation. Next, our therapist cradled our body, gently twisting and pulling to create a continuous flow that eased tension and induced a deep state of waking relaxation. Liran Ozeri, our highly trained practitioner who is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Watsu, led us through a series of intuitive stretches combining elements of massage, joint mobilization, and shiatsu. The treatment also included an aquatic sound bath, which further deepened our state of relaxation.

For those craving more strenuous body movement, the Koloiki Ridge Trail is a five-mile loop adjacent to the property that winds its way through an enchanted forest-like journey under the watchful eyes of hundred-foot trees. You’ll witness breathtaking views of the historical valley Maunalei as well as the Pacific Ocean and the neighboring islands of Molokai and Maui. At the beginning of the hike, you’ll see the Lana’i Adventure Park, an exhilarating experience of ziplining, tree climbing, obstacle courses, and problem solving activities aimed at both the mental and the physical.

Dinner at Nobu is another praiseworthy experience showcasing what the world famous restaurant is all about: Yellowtail Jalapeno; House made Special Sushi Roll with tuna, yellowtail, salmon, hirame, avocado, and cucumber; Prime Ribeye with roasted wild mushrooms and vegetables, purple sweet potatoes and the Nobu Sauce trio; and the delicacy that is A5 Japanese Wagyu Beef Tobanyaki.

And when you head into town – and you must go to town – the charm and authenticity of Lana’i City will live with you forever. Support the local businesses like The Local Gentry for apparel, souvenirs, and other gift ideas for children, teens, and adults. Meet Mike Carroll and his wife Kathy at Mike Carroll Gallery where we couldn’t get out of there without buying half a dozen gorgeous works. For classic Hawaiian cuisine, we fell in love with breakfast at Blue Ginger Café and the Loco Moco Fried Rice at No Ka Oi Grindz Lanai. For dinner, we had an incredible meal at Ganotisi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine.

The only reason we didn’t leave Sensei Lana’i kicking and screaming was because we had a date with the Four Seasons Lana’i beach property for a few days. Perched along gently sloping hillsides that roll to the shores of Hulopo‘e Bay, we arrived through verdant tropical gardens and waterways that revealed spectacular vistas to the Pacific Ocean, framed by Lana’i’s iconic cliffs and dramatic geologic formations. By day, the landscape is a journey through a paradise of color and fragrance serving as a backdrop for commissioned works of outdoor art & sculpture. At night, tree-tops and slate paths lit by the glow of tiki torches lead the way to entirely new rooms that reveal special qualities even before entering.

In the end, however, it was Hulopo’e Bay that was the apple of our eye. Private. Remote. Sand as soft as silk. Some of the best snorkeling anywhere with an underwater marine scene peppered with yellow, blue, black, orange, and white sea life. Nothing seemed more calm and relaxing. The Four Seasons beach staff could not have been more accommodating and welcoming. Meanwhile, when your food source is from the renowned Malibu Farm just up the hill on the resort’s property, it just completes a day full of winning.

You know that the Four Seasons brand takes their spa experiences seriously. This property is no exception. Steam. Sauna. Massage. Meditation. Skin services. Yoga. Hawanawana Spa, whose Hawaiian name translates to whispering ocean, offers a range of treatments inspired by the blue waves just outside its door.

After a day at the spa, prepare for an unforgettable meal at One Forty for steaks and seafood or Nobu Lana’i. Yes, both properties have a Nobu, the beach resort’s following the iconic sushi chef’s more traditional menu. Set cliff side overlooking a protected marine preserve, Nobu draws upon Chef Matsuhisa’s classical training as a sushi chef in Tokyo, his life abroad in South America and his travels around the world. The Lana’i outpost of the world-renowned brand showcases signature new-style Japanese cuisine as well as new creations infusing local ingredients. Sip a cocktail in the lounge, take a seat at the sushi bar or enjoy dinner at one of the outdoor tables as you gaze upon the sand and waters of Hulopo‘e Bay.

All the while, you’ll experience a private island adventure across 90,000 acres of diverse landscape with an incredible array of activities, many managed by Four Seasons. Venture out on horseback with your personal wrangler for a peaceful ride along quiet trails. Manele Golf Course is a golfer’s dream, where ocean views are yours to enjoy from every hole. If you’re seeking an adrenaline charge, climb aboard the Resort’s 65’ catamaran for a snorkeling adventure or a sunset sail.

You’ll also want to rent a Jeep and explore the island. With only 30 miles of paved road, the island of Lana‘i is well suited for off-roading with plenty of rugged terrain. All the while, take in the scenery of Keomoku Village, petrogylphs, Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), Polihua Beach and Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach). The resort even offers chef-prepared picnics to set up at the location of your choice.

Other activities through the resort include whale watching, kayaking, outrigger canoeing and every other water activity you can think of, plus the property’s various pools and the resort’s fitness center that overlooks Hulopo’e Bay.

The Highlights

GETTING THERE A private fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft offer flexible, daily service for travelers.  Each plane seats up to eight passengers in elegant and spacious surroundings. At the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, guests are greeted at their arrival gate and escorted to baggage claim for their luggage (if needed), then to Lana‘i Air for their flight.  Guests can wait in comfort at a new lounge in the private hangar.  Upon landing on Lana‘i, a Four Seasons Resort Host will await to swiftly escort guests to the Koele Retreat where they will be welcomed for the start of their journey.

STAY Four Seasons plays hosts to two distinctive luxury properties on the ultra-private island of Lana’i. Four Seasons Resort Lana’i is a more traditional property, located beachfront on the southernmost part of the island. Sensei Lana’i is a unique wellness retreat located north of the main resort, in the central part of the island where the landscape shifts from beachfront oasis to mountainside serenity.

DINE The clean food philosophy at Sensei is not only about the enjoyment of the meal, but about how an individual feels after the meal. Consuming food the way nature delivered it, with optimal nutritional benefit and flavor, is core to all dishes. Menus have been designed by world-renowned Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his team in close collaboration with Sensei nutritionists, utilizing an evidence-led approach to nutrition within the context of full-body health. The culinary team partners with growers who share a passion for organic, local and seasonal foods. Produce from Sensei Farm is featured, where the distance from farm to table is measured in footsteps.

RELAX Try the art of Watsu with aquatic bodywork, during which you’ll be floated, cradled, rocked, and stretched in the body-temperature outdoor pool of your private hale garden. Also unique to the resort is Thermal Body Mapping. This Sensei-developed thermographic technology creates a visual map of your body, revealing asymmetries, muscle tightness and areas of pain, which can help inform more targeted massage treatments.

RIDE Escape on horseback into the hills surrounding Ko‘ele, once the center of ranching operations on the island and enjoy an alternative way to explore the wooded valleys and trails of the extraordinary upland terrain. Custom tours, carriage rides and private lessons also available.

PLAY High above the crashing surf of Hulopole Bay, the Signature Jack Nicklaus Manele Golf Course offers a premier 18-hole layout with a reputation for excellence in design and playability at sister property Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Built on lava outcroppings, the course features three holes on cliffs, which use the Pacific Ocean as a water hazard. The five-tee concept challenges the best golfers – tee shots over natural gorges and ravines must be precise.  Lessons, complimentary events and driving range are available.

Four Seasons Resort, Lana’i

Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort