1. Luxury – With two of the three hotels on the island belonging to Four Seasons, luxury is no doubt part of the agenda on Lanai. But it’s a different kind of luxury, a more homey, enjoyable Lanai luxury that’s really hard to find. Yes, there are Evian spritzes by the pool and super gourmet hot chocolate (gotta love my two choices of luxury) but it’s much more than that. It’s the luxury of getting away from it all, even the hustle and bustle of other Hawaiian islands. The luxury of doing nothing, or doing it all. It’s the luxury of knowing, from reservations to arrival, that every moment of your stay is going to be perfect. Service, quality and piece of mind, that’s luxury to me.
2. Quirky – Lanai is not defined by two of its hotels though, it retains a very real, very quirky personality all of its own. Home to just 3,000 people and some mouflon, Lanai is the last remaining company island in Hawaii. The island, all of it, is owned by one company, just as it was during the days when Lanai was the largest producer of pineapples in the world. The company town still exists in its street grids (there are only a few streets in truth) and even some of the original buildings and houses are still used. It also feels like stepping into a TV show, a cross between Northern Exposure and Cheers. It’s a place where everyone knows everybody else, but that’s ok. It’s a place of expats and dreamers, of people who can trace back their heritage on the island for generations, but overall it’s a place of pride. Everyone I’ve ever met on Lanai was proud to live there, and that can’t but help wear off on those of us who love to visit.
3. Nature – Hawaii isn’t exactly known as a concrete jungle, and yet Lanai manages to take nature to new, and of course strange levels. For a tiny island (18 miles long) I’ve never been anywhere that includes so many diverse ecosystems. Along the beach it can be hot and dusty in the dry season, but just a few miles away in the foothills of the mountains, it’s cold and many times foggy. There were moments, surrounded by thousands of Cook pines and a rolling fog, when it looked and felt more like Oregon than Hawaii. With these altering climes come opportunities for adventure and outdoor fun. Along the coast you can enjoy the beaches, go SCUBA diving or snorkeling, or take a boat ride out and look for whales and spinner dolphins. Inland there are 4WD adventure trails, hikes, horseback riding, even archeological sites you can visit. The most bizarre is the Garden of the Gods, a Mars-like terrain of dust and boulders that seems completely out of place with the nearby forest and beaches. Just another reason to love this strange little island.
4. Still a quiet escape – Hawaii is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US and certainly the world and it would seem that every inch of these tropical islands would be overrun. Not so in Lanai. Perhaps its the size, lack of infrastructure or reputation, but Lanai still remains a quiet little island. Not many people live there, there are hotels but they’re modest, not mega-resorts and no one seems to be in any hurry to change of of this, thank God. For me, Lanai is a refuge, a way to relax, an all too rare event, and a way to connect with my significant other. Sure, our iPhones and blackberries are on, but they don’t matter here like they do elsewhere in the world. As soon as I cross the entrance to the Four Seasons Manele, accept the gift of kokua bead leis, I’m transfixed. The world melts away and I enter a cocoon of comfort and contentment.