When a destination gives you chills every time you visit, welcomes you like a long-lost family member, and is the place you dream about when you escape to your happy place, there’s more to it than design, location, or service. It’s magic. It’s heaven. And a great hotel can make it even better.
This is why I adore the Hawaiian Island of Lana’i.
The place: Lana’i
Lana’i lives the saying, “So close yet so far away.” Only nine miles from Maui by boat (or a quick inter-island flight from Oahu), Hawaii’s most exclusive (yet approachable) island is much more accessible than you’d think. Literally, you can see it from Maui! Yet, the billionaire-owned isle (Larry Ellison, he of Oracle fame, bought almost all of the island in 2012), dubbed the “Private Island,” remains the mid-Pacific’s little secret. And the island is open to travelers for exploration and escape.
The hotel: Four Seasons Resort Lana’i
It’s rare for me to gush over a hotel to the point where I get butterflies in my stomach. The phenomenon only has happened a few times in my career, even after spending the better part of the last decade traveling the world and writing about the world’s most stunning stays.
Viewfinder Tip: Be sure to get out and explore the different ecosystems around Lana’i.
But there’s just something about the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i that keeps me smiling from ear-to-ear; something that moves my soul; something that makes me want to become pen pals with the staff.
Maybe it’s the location; the hotel is perched on a sloping hill overlooking Hulopoe Bay (photo at top), a protected marine sanctuary where Spinner dolphins “Twist and Shout“ in pods so plentiful it’s as if the whole ocean is dancing. Maybe it’s the living and breathing botanical gardens that drape every corner of the digs and turn even the most gardening-averse guests into green-thumb wannabes. Or maybe it’s the inside-outside design where best-in-class materials such as live-edge teak tables and one-of-a-kind bark wall-coverings are natural odes to the environs.
What it comes down to is the fact that this so-close-yet-so-far-away Four Seasons with all the fixings (and then some) has nothing to prove. It is like someone whose confidence comes from within. The hotel completed one of the world’s most impressive updos at the end of January 2016—a multimillion-dollar renovation that resulted in a multimonth shut-down. During the refresh, crews took the hotel to its studs and added features such as a new lagoon-style water oasis complete with waterfalls, grottos, and an adults-only retreat. Now, the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i’s version of luxury is so mindful and quality-driven, it’s actually understated.
This next-level physique adds to the cachet. Book a table at the hotel’s NOBU LANAI, one of Nobu’s crown jewel restaurants and his only self-named outpost with its own garden. When you’re done with what undoubtedly will be the best sushi of your life, stroll the beach, listen to the crashing surf and marvel at the stars above. Or don’t, and just luxuriate in your posh room. All told, the hotel has 51 suites, 217 guest rooms, and a cliff-side Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course. No matter how you roll, At this Four Seasons, you’re treated like family.
In Hawaiian, the word for family is ohana. To locals, the concept of ohana goes beyond the typical care and obligations you’d give to family; instead, they believe that when you become part of an ohana—which is not limited to blood relatives—you are family for life, and your circle always looks out for you.
This tradition of ohana, coupled with Lana’i’s small-town earnestness that takes the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i from an already exemplary 10 out of 10 to a step above: That’s the property’s “something more.” And it’s heaven.
What hotels have you visited that rise above excellence?
Images courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Lana’i