Lanai made a very positive impression on my wife and me. There are only 2600 people who reside there, and the island is 98% owned by Castle & Cook, a company in turn owned, or controlled by a fellow named Murdock, a billionaire who resides in California.
Of course, this is just a continuation of Lanai's history, in which it has changed from all ranching to all sugar to all pineapples, to all tourism. There is just one town, Lanai City, a tidy but very compact community of small homes and businesses confined to a very small portion of a fairly large island.
We stayed at the Four Seasons Manele Bay. We booked through a preferred travel agent, which is important because we were able to obtain breakfast included each day, one included lunch, and, best of all, an upgrade from our garden view room to a partial ocean view. We also received the 4th day free promotion. We were in the ginger wing, at the far side of the complex, in room 2511. The view from the lanai was fabulous, and it is hard to imagine how much better a full ocean view could be.
The room was very spacious, especially the bathroom, although it is hard to why, as it just has the usual components. There is a separate tub and shower. The bed was very large and comfortable and there was ample seating room. Little is really needed, though, because we spent our time on the lanai, which includes a little settee as well as a table and chairs.
The gardens around the resort are extremely attractive. We arrived early from Maui, and spent the time before our room was ready wondering from one to another. Somewhere there had been a reference to a guided garden tour, so we inquired at the concierge, and the result was a private 90 minute walk through with Gloria, the horticultural manager. As Gloria knew every plant, this was a real treat, and one of the highlights of the trip.
The service was generally very good, and we couldn't ask for more from the pool or beach staff. The pool is large and attractive, while the beach, (Hulopo'e Bay) features chairs, water, towels and even snorkeling equipment. This is a very beautiful beach, easily as good as the ones on Maui, although the surf was fairly rough when we were there.
Transportation is supplied by the resort, shuttles that went anywhere there was a paved road. It was really nice to leave the driving to them, not that there is any traffic to speak of, as too often In Hawaii, it seems we are driving somewhere, often in congested conditions. You pay for this per visit, and I think it was $45 per person. It took us up to Lanai City and the sister resort, the Lodge at Koele, as well as providing transportation to and from the hotel. They meet every ferry and each flight.
We had actually intended to stay at the Lodge, but a wedding scheduled for one of our days had booked the entire hotel. We did go and visit their gardens, and to play on their picturesque putting course, which is free of charge. In Lanai City, we bought some food, which was not as bad price-wise as I expected, and to got to the cultural center. This has been in operation for a short time in the former Dole Administration Building, and presents an outstanding depiction of the history of the island. The staff member was helpful and provided some input on what it was like to member of this obviously close knit community. This too is free (donations accepted), and more than worth a visit.
This time around, we didn't rent a jeep or get into the back country. We did the walks and hikes around the resort. The fisherman's trial, they say, should be done around dawn, and they weren't kidding. We got out there before 8 a.m. but as soon as the sun comes up, it gets very warm. The hike is good, but I actually preferred the views from the Pu'u pehe (sweetheart rock) trail.
Otherwise, the only other activity was the mammal watch trip offered by Trilogy. This turned out to be outstanding, as after about 30 minutes the crew found an active pod of humpbacks. The captain killed the engine, and the whale came right over for awhile. On the way back to Lanai, we encountered another group, including a baby whale, and bottle nosed dolphins. By taking the trip from Lanai, we were out and about before the boats from Maui, and the small size of the boat meant everybody could see.
Now for the bad part of visiting Lanai, the cost of eating. As it happened, we only ate at our resort, and everything was expensive. Breakfast was included, which saved something like $40 per person per day. It was buffet style, and included some Japanese items. I thought it was very good, although I suppose it could get repetitious after more than 4 days.
Lunch was alright, though not special. The cost, however was around $50 for two. We did cut out lunch on a couple of occasions by buying yogurt and bread and fruit. This would be a first breakfast, followed later, hobbit style, with the buffet. We were then good to go until an early dinner.
We had dinner at the Ocean Grill on one night. It was OK, but certainly not worth the $100 we spent. The view was nice, of course, but the other nights, we simply had room service. The first night this was a very nice Cobb Salad. Not quite so successful were a cheeseburger, and a pizza. The upside was price (about half the cost at either restaurant) , and the fact that the view from our lanai was better.
We actually tried to go to the dining room at the Lodge, but although I could satisfy the requirement of a collared shirt and long pants, I had no closed toed shoes, so according to the staff, I didn't meet the dress code. As we were traveling light, this was an item omitted.
On our last day, we took the shuttle to the airport to take the first plane to Honolulu for our flight back to Canada. For some reason, this shuttle gets to the airport way before necessary. We got there almost 90 minutes before the plane left, while the locals seemed arrive almost minutes before. The good news is that Island Air let us shuffle some weight in our bags so that we didn't have to check anything. This meant when we got to Honolulu, we didn't have to go through security. They do check bags through on some airlines, but as we were flying Westjet, we didn't qualify.
Lanai was a great spot, and we were sorry to say goodbye. I think another couple of days at least would be ideal. Rating the islands I would put it just behind Kauai, and just ahead of the big island, followed by Maui and Oahu.