Have you ever had a vacation where it started off great, and continued to get better day by day....that is how I would have to describe our stay at the Four Seasons Manele Bay and Lodge at Koele on the Island of Lanai. This was without a doubt the most incredible trip my family has ever taken, which is amazing considering this was our 10th trip to the Hawaiian Islands in the last nine years. In addition to my review of the resort, I have included details of our trip that I thought might be interesting. The following are the highlights of our trip to Lanai:
- Service at the Resorts
- Swimming at Hulopoe Bay
- Dinner at the Dining Room (Koele)
- Managers Reception
- Lanai City
- Golf at Manele Bay and Koele
- Shooting Range with my Son
- Snorkeling amidst Dolphins
- View from Room 2907
- Kitchen Tour at Dining Room with Chef Oliver
Our vacation to Lanai (myself, wife, children 6 and 10) was from June 1st through June 9th. Our trip began with an early morning nonstop flight from San Jose, CA to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines, followed by a trip on Island Air to Lanai. The whole Island Air experience was a little fun and unique. The Island Air gates are located in the far reaches of the same terminal used by Hawaiian and Aloha Airlines. When we arrived at the Island Air gate, there were not any representatives, just a phone with a note to call for assistance. Upon calling the number, an Island Air representative came and picked us up and took us to another section of the terminal where Island Air, Go, and Pacific Wings gates were located. Upon being seating on the plane (twin-prop plane that holds about 34 people), the stewardess announced that the plane was a little on the heavy side, and asked my son and wife to move from row 2 to row 5 to help distribute the weight more evenly. Needless to say, that made the 25 minute flight over to Lanai very quite as people wondered whether they should shift their weight in the own seat or if that might impact the success of the flight (hello sharks).
Upon arrival at the Lanai Airport, we took a small shuttle (20 people or so) down to the Four Seasons Manele Bay Resort, about a 30 minute ride that passes through the outskirts of Lanai City. The ride takes you from an elevation of roughly 1,800 feet near Lanai City down to sea level. As we approached the resort, we were treated to fantastic views of the islands of Kahoolawe and Maui to the south and southeast. We were warmly greeted at the resort by Patrick Loo, who provided us with a nice tour of the hotel grounds and facilities.
The Room: We stayed six (6) nights in Room 2907 of the Dolphin Wing in a ground-floor ocean-front room. The view from our room was the most beautiful view I have ever had in hotel room, with expansive views of Hulopoe Bay, the island of Kahoolawe, and the Pacific Ocean. The room itself was well decorated and spacious at almost 600 square feet. The marble-tiled bathroom was quite large, and included a separate tub and shower. A nice piece of asian artwork was framed above the tub and provided a classy touch. As is the case at other four season’s resorts, our children’s names were spelled out in sponge letters and placed on the tub. Our children really enjoyed this and thought is was the coolest thing. We had two beds that were very comfortable and also had a neat pineapple design in the frame itself. We had a private lanai outside the room which included a comfy sofa, two chairs, and a table. We spent countless hours out on the lanai starring out into the bay and the ocean. We also enjoyed a room service dinner and breakfast on the lanai as well.
Water fun: We spent countless hours using the beach at Hulopoe Bay and the swimming pool facilities at the resort. The beach was a short 3-5 minute walk from our room in the Dolphin Wing, probably a 5-10 minute walk for other wings within the resort. The crescent shaped beach had the most perfect sand, shaped on the edges by rock outcroppings and tide pools. The resort had a shack at the beach that provided complimentary snorkel gear, beach toys, sunscreen, and water/lemonade. The shack was typically staffed by two employees who would set up beach chairs and umbrellas for you. The ocean temperature was comfortable somewhere between 76-78 degrees. My children and I built countless sand castles, only to have them knocked down over and over again. My son and I bodysurfed as well which was fun. One note of caution, the beach has a very steep slope so the waves crash almost directly onto the beach, and there is also a strong surge of water back out as well. For the younger children (under 7) I would recommend a floatation device just as a precaution. I spent a good deal of time snorkeling in the bay, the best area for snorkeling is along the rocks on the left side of the beach. Many people who snorkeled in the bay went straight out to see the dolphins. I did have an opportunity to see the dolphins while snorkeling one day, it was the most unbelievable experience to have fifty to sixty dolphins swim past while snorkeling, something I will never forget. For those who like tide pooling, there is a set of stairs along the west side Hulopoe Bay that takes you right down onto the rocks depending on the tide. I was able to walk all the way out to the promontory one morning and view incredible tide pools with lots of sea life. Be sure to take a ratty pair of tennis shoes because the rocks and be sharp and very slippery.
The resort has a picturesque swimming pool over looking Hulopoe Bay. We spent time winding down from the beach at the pool almost every day. The pool has two hot tubs located within the pool itself. I never found the pool too crowded or impacted in a negative way by children. In fact, I would say that half of the people lounging around the pool never actually got into the water. If you spend time at the pool, be sure to take time to introduce yourself to Tony (one of the attendants), Tony is a native of Lanai and one of the nicest people I met at the resort.
Hiking and Exercise: For those of you trying to stay fit while on vacation, there are two really fun hikes that you can take directly from the resort. One morning I took a hike along Fisherman’s Trail which takes you from the resort east along the water towards the Manele Bay Golf Clubhouse. This winding trail takes you up and down to the ocean and beautiful tide pools. The second walk/hike I took was along the ocean to the west up to Sweetheart Rock, this walk gives great views back towards the resort and also a close up look at Sweetheart Rock.. For those who are more regimented, there is a beautiful indoor exercise room that has windows that look directly out onto the ocean. I will admit I never utilized these facilities but my wife did a couple of times.
Dining: We had the opportunity to try every one of the restaurants at the Four Seasons Manele Bay resorts and were generally pleased with the food and the service at each one. We had breakfast at Hulopoe Court on numerous occasions (only restaurant open for breakfast) and dinner one night. My children thought the breakfast buffet at Hulopoe Court was awesome. We had dinner at the Ocean Grill on two occasions. I enjoyed the fact that the Ocean Grill was located outside and provided a nice ambiance. The food and presentation at the Ocean Grill was good and the service was probably a little better than that of Hulopoe Court. We tried the clubhouse at the Challenge at Manele for lunch and really enjoyed the setting overlooking the bay, fantastic views. I would also say that the food was very good and this was our favorite place for lunch at the resort. Our favorite place for dinner was Ihilani restaurant which has an Italian theme. The Ihilani in my opinion provided the best quality food, ambiance, and service for dinner of any of the restaurants at Manele Bay. We also had the pleasure of attending a manager’s reception on evening in the upstairs lounge. At the reception I had the opportunity to meet Chef Oliver, who is responsible for operation of all of the Four Seasons restaurants on the island, a truly nice gentleman.
Golf: As an avid golfer I must say that the two golf courses (Challenge at Manele, and Experience at Koele) are two of the best courses I have played. In all, I was able to play 36 holes at Manele and 63 holes at Koele. One of the nice things about the courses is that they are not very crowded, thus the pace of play was fantastic. On one day I was able to play 36 holes in less than six hours, allowing me to get back to my family by 1:00 in the afternoon. The Challenge is probably the most scenic course I have ever played with outstanding views of the ocean on each hole. In particular, holes 12 and 17 were my favorite because you were required to hit your ball over the cliffs and the ocean. The Experience at Koele was also a beautiful course, but totally different than Manele. Koele was a mixture of a tropical course and a mountain course. The front nine at Koele was a more tropical setting with varied trees, lakes, and waterfalls. The back nine at Koele is at a slightly higher elevation thus there were more pine trees and mountain views. Manele was a slightly more difficult course than Koele, but both were enjoyable to play.
Children’s Program: As a parent of two children, the program provided fun activities for our kids and a much needed break for mom and dad. The kids program had a friendly staff of four young women and one young man. The first few days our kids were in the program there were the only children there. My daughter (Age 6) did a variety of art projects, built sand castles at the beach, and hunted for geckos with nets. On our last day, we went back three times to pick her up and she said she would rather stay and do activities with the teachers. The most memorable moment was when my wife, son, and I were swimming in the pool and we saw my daughter walk by with a net searching for geckos followed by four teachers with nets in either hand, priceless. My son enjoyed the teen center, which is a separate location from the Children’s program, especially the pool table and the video game section. My son and I also enjoyed the games in the lounge area including a type of shuffleboard, foos-ball, and darts.
Lanai City: Our family fell in love with the little town of Lanai City and its residents. On one Saturday morning, we attended the Farmer’s Market in Dole Park and had the chance to meet local residents and view all the interesting items they were selling. Our favorite stores were Dis N Dat, the Mike Carroll Gallery, and the Blue Ginger Café. Dis N Dat is the cutest, smallest, store I have been in. We had the chance to meet Mike Carroll, great little gallery. Blue Ginger provided a nice break from eating at the resort every day, really enjoy their Chicken Katsu lunch and their burgers.
Service at the Four Seasons Manele Bay: After reading many trip advisor reviews and comments regarding service at the Four Seasons Manele Bay resort I thought I would offer up my opinion on this topic. As a preface to this, my family has stayed at a variety of resorts in the Hawaiian Islands including the Four Seasons Maui, Mauna Kea Hotel, Mauna Lani Resort, Fairmont Orchid, Outrigger Waikiki, Turtle Bay Resort, and the Grand Wailea. One of the primary reasons we enjoyed our trip to Lanai so much was the incredible level of service we received throughout our stay at both resorts. Individuals such as Patrick Loo, Alastair McAlpine, Mark Hellrung, Tony at the Pool, Jay at Koele, and Chef Oliver exhibited a level of professionalism and friendliness that the Four Seasons has become known for.
The Four Seasons Maui has traditionally been the gold standard for which other Hawaiian resorts are compared with regard to service. The Four Seasons Maui has the advantage of having been established for a substantial period of time, and also the advantage of being able to draw talented individuals to work there from all over the world. The Four Seasons at Manele Bay the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele will never attract the number and type of service employees who might work at the Four Seasons Maui, nor should they be expected to.
The Four Seasons at Manele Bay and Koele are able to offer a level and type of service that perhaps you might not receive at a larger resort such as the Four Seasons Maui. For instance, many of the employees who are longtime residents of Lanai City (such as Tony/Manele and Jay/Koele), shared their knowledge and spirit of the islands with us on our visit. On many of our shuttle rides I had incredible conversations with the driver about the history of Lanai and its people. This type of service is unique to the residents of Lanai, not something that can be taught in a school, or in a training program. When you combine this unique talent of Lanai residents, with the expertise and experience of the management team at both the resorts, I think the result will be an incredible visitor experience and a place people will enjoy going back to over and over again. Is the service the same as at the Four Seasons Maui- No. Is the service excellent and unique in a special way- Yes.
Our trip to Lanai was a special and memorable trip that we will never forget. It is a special island, with two outstanding resorts, and many special people to help you share the experience. We look forward to our next visit.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.