Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last summer, I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands, where I had a wonderful time. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco
- Review: United Airlines B777 domestic First Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
- Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Honolulu
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai (today)
- Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
- Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class from Honolulu to San Francisco
- Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich
Today (November 22, 2017): Review of Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Hawaii, USA).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Four Seasons Resort Lanai
- Tip: get free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
On the southeastern shores of Hawaii’s last unspoiled island, Four Seasons Resort Lanai is your gateway to an exotic, private paradise where opportunities for adventure and relaxation abound. The ultraluxe resort – which reopened in 2016 after undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation – offers dazzling views over the gold crescent of Hulopo’e Beach to the blue-green waters of a protected marine preserve. Inspired by Hawaii’s diverse and storied influences, the interiors showcase walls of teak and zebra wood edging artisan-produced Nepalese lokta paper and floors of mahogany laid with wool hand-woven area rugs. Verdant botanical gardens, two lagoon-style pools and cascading waterfalls serve as a beautiful backdrop for outdoor art and sculpture. Four Seasons Lanai offers 213 over-sized guest rooms & suites, each with a private lanai, two restaurants (including a NOBU), a full-service spa, and two legendary golf courses. It’s sister resort, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele will reopen later this year.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels & resorts in Hawaii and the best Four Seasons hotels & resorts in the world.
In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Hawaii with my online Hawaii travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Four Seasons Resort Lanai is located on the southeastern shores of Hawaii’s last unspoiled island, Lanai. The smallest publicly accessible island in the archipelago feels a world away from its more famous and touristy siblings Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Here, visitors can still find serenity, privacy and adventure among lunar landscapes, mist-shrouded mountains, forests of Cook Island pines, red lava coastal cliffs, and magnificent beaches. Lanai is also known as the Pineapple Island because the island’s now closed pineapple plantations once produced up to 75% of the world’s pineapple supply. In 2012, Larry Ellison – a Silicon Valley billionaire and one of the world’s wealthiest persons – bought a 97% share in the island for $300 million USD and also became owner of the Four Seasons Lanai property.
- Most guests will reach the resort with a direct scenic flight from Honolulu, followed by a 15 minute complimentary shared ride on the resort’s luxury van (you can also request a private transfer for a fee). Flights to Lanai last 20 minutes and are operated by Empire Airlines, which flies with a small fleet of ATR 42-500 turboprop aircraft for Hawaiian Airlines under the name of ‘Ohana by Hawaiian’. The small planes seat 48 passengers each and feature surprisingly wide seats and roomy overhead bins. When the weather is clear, you ‘ll be treated to wonderful views of Waikiki beachfront, Honolulu’s defining volcanic feature of Diamond Head, and the cliffs of Molokai island. If you don’t like to fly, you can also reach the resort by a 45 minute ferry ride from Maui, which is located just 9 miles (14 km) from Lanai.
- Guests of the resort traveling through Honolulu’s International Airport have access to the resort’s luxurious airport lounge while waiting for their flight. To the best of my knowledge, the Four Seasons Lanai is the only hotel in the world that has a private lounge located within a major airport (not taking into account the airport lounges at the Maldives). The lounge offers a spacious and quiet retreat offering food and beverages, entertainment, luggage holding areas, and Wi-Fi access. The airport lounge is situated near gate 24 on the second floor of the overseas terminal, so it’s mainly of interest to guests that are in transit to/from the USA mainland or an international destination. Travelers can also relax in the lounge on their return trip.
- Originally a Sheraton hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel Group took over the management of the Lanai resort in 2005, transforming the property into an upscale spot with loads of amenities. The resort used to be known as one of more underwhelming and affordable Four Seasons properties but that all changed in 2016, when the hotel re-openened after an unprecedented eight month, multi-million USD renovation, transforming the Four Seasons Resort Lanai into the most exclusive and opulent property in the Hawaiian archipelago. The impressive metamorphosis included re-landscaping the pool area, opening up the resort towards the ocean views, decreasing the number of rooms (from 286 to 213), refurbishing all accommodations and public areas, replanting the gardens, adding all new restaurants, and lending the property a much more Hawaiian look. Larry Ellison was personally involved in every element of the renovation, which was managed by international hotel and resort designer Todd Avery Lenahan.
The resort’s two-storey grand lobby features an open, sophisticated and airy design that not only reflects the tones and textures of Lanai, but also adds a Hawaiian aesthetic, featuring rich colours from the earth, sand and brush. Although the lavish refurbishment of 2015 gave a sleek twist to this elegant space, the decor definitely remains tropical with shining mahogany floors, colorful Polynesian paintings and towering palm trees. The upper lobby features two reception desks on one side and an upscale boutique shop on the other side, with two staircases leading down to the refreshed lower lobby which wows with a perfectly framed view of the lush gardens, the beach, and Pacific Ocean beyond. The lobby’s upper level houses the resort’s casual eatery ‘The Sports & Bar Grill’, while the entrances to the resort’s two fine dining venues (Nobu and One Forty) are located on opposite sides of the lower lobby.
- Thoughtfully curated artwork from across Polynesia, Micronesia and Hawaii is found throughout the resort, especially in the lower lobby. Worn only by those of chiefly status, a late 19th-early 20th century wasekaseka sperm whale tooth necklace is on display here, along with a mid-20th century billum feather dag often worn as a dance ornament during celebrations. Additional pieces include a vintage Hawaiian ivory pikake blossom lei as well as 19th century Micronesian Gilbert Island shark tooth swords. The lower lobby’s eyecatcher though is a 19th century Koa Hawaiian outrigger canoe that points south, the way to the ancient Hawaiian homeland of Tahiti. The authentic Hawaiian touches can be felt throughout the hotel corridors and accommodations as well, with a number of custom designed art pieces, such as triptychs depicting vivid scenes of the ocean, hula dancers, fishermen and rowers.
Four Seasons Lanai has 213 spacious accommodations in total – 168 guest rooms and 45 suites – which can be accessed from the central lobby via a maze of tranquil, open hallways that criss-cross the botanical gardens. During my visit, I stayed in a so-called partial ocean view room, which featured a heavenly king-sized bed, a giant 75-inch platinum bezel LED televisions, two desks, a woven sofa with linen cushions, and a private lanai (or balcony) with a view of the gardens and a glimpse of the sea. Inspired by Hawaii’s unique landscape and Ellison’s passion for Japan, the room’s sleek interior showcased walls of teak and zebra wood, artisan-made Nepalese lokta wallpaper and sleek mahogany flooring laid with wool hand-woven area rugs. The spacious, zen-like bathroom was enveloped in slate floors, teak-panelled walls, and artisan tiles, and features two sinks, a deep soaking bath rub, seperate shower, and a Toto bidet toilet.
- The resort features some of the best state-of-the-art technology I have ever encountered at a hotel. An iPad Air in every room is the equivalent of a butler and lets you do everything, from summoning room service and house keeping to reading more than 3,000 newspapers, and controlling the lighting in the bedroom, bathroom and lanai. The lighting control panel comes with a bewildering array of settings, such as ‘nightlight’,’sunset’ or ‘relax’. Rooms have multiple power outlets and USB ports, so you won’t have any problem charging your personal devices here. Even the bathrooms are outfitted with high tech features such as a motion-sensing toilet and a TV embedded in the vanity mirror. Instead of key cards, guests get flexible, waterproof RFID wristbands, so that they don’t have to worry about losing keys while swimming in the ocean or doing an excursion.
Although Lanai is one of Hawaii’s driest island, covered in desert-like terrain, the resort is set in verdant botanical gardens that offer spectacular vistas of the blue Pacific Ocean. The dozens of swaying palms and a couple of lushly landscaped koi ponds not only serve as a magnificent backdrop for commissioned works of outdoor art and sculpture, but they also demarcate several intimate enclaves where collections of comfortable chaise lounges are perfect to lounge the day away.
The beautiful gardens also house two pools that are open day and night. A lagoon-style, free-form family pool, complete with whirlpools, is set below the lobby and features a cascading waterfall. The adults-only pool is located in a quiet corner of the resort (the so-called ‘adults-only retreat’) and showcases waterfalls and lava rock grottos mimicking Lanai’s dramatic cliffs.
Perched on a red-lava bluff, the resort affords magnificent vistas of Hulopoe Bay and its pristine beach. This stunning expanse of gold sand and crystal blue waters is located a 5 minute stroll from the hotel’s lobby via meandering pathways. Hulopoe Bay is a protected marine reserve, where schools of acrobatic spinner dolphins can often be seen in summer, while the winter months bring breaching humpback whales close to shore. One of the attractions of Hulopoe Bay are the tide pools located at the eastern side of the bay, where calm waters are ideal for exploring. Although the beach is public (but never crowded), the hotel reserves the western side of the beach for its guests, offering beach services – including complimentary use of snorkeling equipment, showers, lounge chairs and towels (from sunrise to sunset).
Be sure to venture beyond Hulopoe Bay and hike the 15-minute trail along the tide pools towards one of Lanai’s most famous natural landmarks and Instagrammed sights, Puu Pehe or Sweetheart Rock. The latter is a red-lava rock rising majestically 25 m (80 ft) out of the blue water, commanding stunning views of Hulopoe Bay with the Four Seasons resort in the background. Puu Pehe is also deeply steeped in Hawaiian folklore as legend says a heartbroken warrior – named Maka Kehau – buried here his wife who died in a surge of the storm waves; overcome with grief after his lover’s passing, he then jumped from this summit into the pounding surf below.
- Authentic Hawaiian cuisine, international flavors, and the freshest seafood take center stage at the resort’s four excellent dining venues. Nobu Lanai is the hotel’s signature restaurant and the first Nobu outpost in the Four Seasons chain. Offering teppanyaki (where food is cooked tableside) as well as an intimate sushi counter, this restaurant showcases the innovative Japanese-Peruvian cuisine of world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Across the lobby is the property’s second all-day dining restaurant, One Forty, which specializes in steak and seafood with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, prime and Wagyu beef, as well as seasonal Hawaiian fish. On the lobby’s top level, you find the resort’s more casual eatery, the Sport’s Bar & Grill, which offers a selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, dishes from the grill, and hand-rolled pastas. The newest culinary addition is Malibu Farm, which sits out by the pool, and serves organic salads, sandwiches and other plates at lunch time.
The superb breakfast buffet – served at One Forty restaurant from 6 am to 11 am – is the most lavish buffet spread offered by any hotel in the Hawaiian archipelago. Not only does it serve all the usual breakfast items you can possibly think of (including an egg and juice station), but it also comprises a large selection of Japanese and Korean delicacies, such as tamago (sweet omelet), sushi, sashimi, and black miso cod. The buffet is complemented by an extensive à la carte menu.
- Located above the hotel and the shimmering waters of Hulopoe Bay, the astonishing Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course is not only Lanai’s premier 18-hole layout but also the only golf course in Hawaii that affords breathtaking ocean views at every hole. Built on lava outcroppings along the rugged oceanside cliffs, its par-3 12th hole is particularly scenic and famous as one of the most beautiful holes in the world; it’s also the spot where Bill Gates married his wife Melinda in 1994 (and the Gates couple returned to Lanai in 2015 to celebrate their 20th anniversary). During the winter months, you can spot humpback whales right from the fairways. The golf course is open to hotel guests and Hawaii residents only, which means you’ll feel like you have the entire course to yourself. The golf course offers a terrific restaurant, although there is no need to leave the course as you can order food to be delivered to you on the green at any time by pressing a button in the GPS-equipped golf carts.
Located one level below the lobby, the Hawanawana Spa at Four Seasons Resort Lanai is a clean contemporary Zen-like space with treatments inspired by the healing powers of the ocean. The spa features 8 treatment rooms, plus 4 couples’ suites. The spa’s signature treatment is the Ocean Ritual, which incorporates wild seaweed and undaria algae oil. Even when not booking a treatment, guests can enjoy complimentary use of the spa’s facilities, including a lavender steam room (women), an eucalyptus steam room (men), red cedar dry saunas, and refreshments. Poolside spa treatments are available as well.
- Following its multi-million-dollar transformation, the hotel also has introduced a radical new approach towards the island experience that it offers its guest. Instead of relying on third-party operators, the hotel manages all on-site activities and off-site excursions itself, ensuring the highest level of service throughout your stay. And although it will be difficult to stray from the property given all the amenities that the resort offers, I highly recommend to explore the island. Whether you book yourself a seat on the unforgettable catamaran sunset sail or spend the day off-roading in a 4×4 made for off-the-beaten-path adventure, the island of Lanai offers numerous opportunities for adventure and relaxation. The resort also offers complimentary shuttle service to Lanai City, where you can explore the shops and art galleries that surround Dole Park, whose name evokes the island’s history as a Dole pineapple plantation.
- Despite the massive scale of the property and the large number of guests, the unmatched personal service is part of the resort’s DNA, as you would expect from one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands. As with all Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts worldwide, the staff knows your name from day one. They will go out of their way to please you and nothing is too much trouble.
An exciting development is that the resort’s sister property, Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, will reopen as a spa and wellness destination late 2018 after undergoing a renovation program. This serene hotel, nesteld among lush greenery and Cook Island pines, will offer upcountry elegance for a distinctive Hawaiian escape. Both Four Seasons properties will offer a different type of experience and make a trip to Lanai a bucket list item for many discerning travelers.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Four Seasons Lanai ranks among Hawaii’s most exclusive resorts and the world’s best Four Seasons hotels. The quiet setting on Lanai island, sublime golf amenities, spectacular beach, verdant gardens, incredible restaurants and amazing room product guarantee a word-class travel experience. It’s hard, if not impossible, to fault the hotel, but you need to know the following when considering a stay here:
- Set in the lush gardens, the resort’s two pools are disappointingly small and shallow, and in fact much smaller than the sole giant pool that took center stage in the gardens before the renovation took place. However, one has to keep in mind that reducing the size of the pool (although there are now two of them instead of one) was done as a water conservation measure, to meet a demand from local authorities.
Since the pools are more suitable for a dip than for real exercise, swimmers are better off in the delightfully warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Summer conditions are especially prime for swimming in the waters of nearby Hulopoe Bay. Surf and current tend to pick up during the winter months, though, so swimmers should avoid rough conditions during that season.
- The resort is tucked away in what seems like the middle of nowhere, but, in a way, that is what makes it so unique in the Hawaiian archipelago. Discerning travelers are attracted by the serene, private, and quiet resort with its own amazing beach, great dining options, and exclusive facilities. Although the secluded location is part of the appeal for most guests, it’s important to emphasize that the resort is removed from almost everything, so you won’t find any restaurants, shops or night life nearby and depend entirely on the hotel facilities for the duration of your stay.
Since its major overhaul in 2015, the Four Seasons Lanai instantly became known as Hawaii’s most exclusive resort, and with good reason. Unfortunately, this is reflected by the high room rate, with the lowest room categories now selling at more $1000 USD per night. The resort also houses Hawaii’s most expensive accommodation, a lavish two-bedroom, $10,000-a-night indulgence called Alii Royal Suite. While you should know that going in, it’s also good to keep in mind that everything at the hotel is very expensive, from spa treatments to food at the restaurants. For example, when it’s not included with your package, the breakfast buffet is charged at more than $50 USD per person (excluding taxes), although there’s always the alternative to grab one of the cheaper breakfast items at the Sport’s Bar & Grill breakfast corner.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 6/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Four Seasons Resort Lanai, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Save money: enjoy free VIP perks at Four Seasons Resort Lanai when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, welcome cocktail, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Save money: Four Seasons guarantees that every reservation booked through its websites will have the lowest room price (including all taxes and fees) publicly available on the internet. If you find a lower rate within 24 hours of making a booking, Four Seasons will be happy to match the rate. All you need to do is submit a claim form.
- Room tip: if your budget allows, book a room with a sea view.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Hawaii’s off-season – when the best rates are available and the islands are less crowded – is spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) – a paradox because these are the best seasons to be in Hawaii, in terms of reliably great weather. Winter (December to March) can be a surprisingly cloudy and wet affair, although Lanai is one of the driest and sunniest islands in the archipelago.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai can be reached via either Holonulu (by plane) or the island of Maui (by boat):
- Ohana by Hawaiian Airlines offers a number of flights daily from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to Lanai Airport (LNY), located just west of Lanai City. Flights take 20 minutes, after which guests are transfered to the resort by complimentary shared luxury shuttle service. Guests have access to the resort’s private lounge at Honolulu airport. Check the Wikipedia page of Honolulu International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Honolulu.
- The Expeditions passenger ferry offers daily services between Lahaina, Maui and the Manele Small Boat Harbor on Lanai, just a three-minute complimentary drive from the resort. The scenic ferry ride is 45 minutes, and there are five round-trip ferries throughout the day. Reservations at least 24 hours prior to departure are required and can be booked online or by calling 1-800-695-2624.
Private arrival and departure options are also available for a fee. Private plane transfers and helicopter charters from Honolulu and other neighbouring island airports are also available.
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