Mural in the Four Seasons lobby on Lana’i
Humpback whales breech, hurling themselves out of the water and crash down again. The yearly migration drama happens all around us in the channel between Maui and the island of Lana’i. Our forty-five minute ride across the strait between the islands was transport to another realm. I soon discovered that a Lanai adventure is far from the Hawaii I knew of crowded hotels, raucous luaus and flashy Polynesian floor shows.
Lana’i is full of contrasts: spare landscapes and teeming waters, green fields and dusky canyons, red dirt and blue bays. They bless the gentle island with a unique presence. The differences begin with the wind which keeps the island unusually dry. Moist clouds are blocked by the neighboring islands of Maui and Moloka’i. Tradewinds push through the channel between them. Those winds crossed over 2,000 miles of open ocean to squeeze through the seven mile channel between the islands. Still our crossing was surprisingly gentle.
Lana’i has transformed in recent history and continues to. The sloping volcanic landscape is the one constant. Comb-like tips of conifers line the crests again. Most of the trees were cut down when the island was planted with pineapples. The trees are being replanted now that most of the pineapples are gone after markets were flooded with cheaper Indonesian imports.
The original Dole hunting lodge.
Dole Corporation built a plantation town to house workers. A lodge built for hunters and the administration still sits on a slope looking East to the blue horizon. A recent change in ownership has closed the buildings temporarily as housing for contractors working on renovations at the Four Seasons Resort. Above the lodge front entrance a tall pineapple mural faces horses, the golf course and the ocean beyond.
Richard’s Market, Lana’i
One colorful Lanai village shop
The village’s Dole Park and the lodge are most of what’s left of the original developments. The town remains a warren of plantation bungalows and small businesses on a grid of narrow streets. There are no chain stores or even a stoplight. Galleries, cafes, small markets and gift stores line the central park. You can walk it in less than an hour.
While the island has a reputation for luxury, high thread count charm can be found at the Hotel Lana’i. It was built in 1923 by James Dole to house his plantation executives and until 1990 this was the only hotel on the island. National Historic Registry status continues with 11 only guest rooms. Henry Clay’s Rotisserie and Grill hosts live music on Thursday nights.
Four Seasons Lana’i Resort
Lobby in the Four Seasons Lana’i
High end luxury continues at the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai at Manele Bay. There’s a multi-million dollar renovation underway that should be complete by the next holiday season. The resort is set a respectful distance from an ancient burial ground. It offers members and guests exceptional service, state-of-the-art smart suites and villas full of bespoke furnishings and commissioned works. Several restaurants compete on-site with extraordinary culinary experiences. Beyond the newly renovated pools and volcanic cultural site, picture perfect Manele Bay often fills with dolphins in the afternoons. Indigenous birds and wild turkeys feed on the edge of the bramble. The luxury is quiet and complete.
Birds at the Four Seasons Lanai
For those wanting more immersion the Cultural and Heritage Center, the Art Center and the Tourism Board offer classes that visitors won’t find elsewhere. Most come for the restful beauty and return for a Lanai adventure of a different kind of Hawaii. I know I want to come back.
Many schemes have been hatched to bring the island jobs and sustainability. Today residents work in the service and tourism industries. Each year they help hunters keep the Axis deer population under control with lodging, supplies and guides. In the last few years the majority share ownership of the island transferred to Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation billions. His influence has been slowly evolving with hotel renovations and a push to find more sustainable utilities for the community. There’s a wary progression but the locals have a voice and Ellison appears to be listening.
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If you go:
Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center – www.lanaichc.org
Educational and cultural workshops for locals and visitors. Located in the village.
Lana’i Art center – www.lanaiart.org
Art and cultural experiences for vistors and locals.
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Mahalo to the Lana’i Visitors Bureau for hosting my overnight adventure. I look forward to returning. Aloha. Proudly joining a superb group of travel bloggers on the Weekend Wanderlust, Weekend Travel Inspiration and the Weekly Postcard linkups. Explore their posts!