First discovered by Captain Cook’s crew in 1779, The Island of Lanai is also known as the Aloha state’s most exclusive island. Hawaii’s 6th largest island in size (and population) is home to about 3,000 residents, who live mostly in Lanai City (now, there’s a misnomer).
Truth be told, it appears it was easier for Cook’s Brits to locate the island than it is to book visitors there.
First and foremost, with the Experience at Koele Golf Course now shuttered indefinitely, only the Challenge at Manele Golf Course (designed by Jack Nicklaus) remains viable and playable, but apparently only if one stays at the hotel. The golf course overlooks the ocean, is generally quite warm and dry, and features a multitude of Nicklaus signatures along the cliffs hanging above the blue Pacific.
When Four Seasons is in the picture, it generally means service and amenities, but it also means prices so lofty you’ll need to consult your banker (or take a second mortgage) before making reservations. Rooms at the Manele Bay Hotel start at about $1,000 per-night. The cost of Four Seasons dining may well have those perusing menus thinking the world is coming to an end and food has become scarce. There is also a problem getting to and from Lanai, with very limited air service. In other words, getting to and from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) and back, combined with your ground transportation to and from your Lanai lodging, can easily cost more than $600 for two persons.
The exquisite Lodge at Koele was closed from 2015 through the end of 2019. It appears it has reopened as of January 2020 and we just discovered rates on the Four Seasons’ website to be over $4,500 per-night.
Lanai set its sights—in the late 1980s—on becoming a high-end retreat for the well-healed. The transformation was successful in a number of ways that transcend the obvious intention. Now, Hawaii’s “private” island is owned principally by Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who is constantly crafting yet another reinvention of the island.
Even with the emergence of posh accommodations, Lanai has not completely lost the charm of a small island. Lanai City’s public square still hosts a Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning and is home to a handful of nifty shops and galleries, three food markets and a few eateries (most only open for breakfast and lunch).
Getting there is a real problem. Cost is another. It’s a wait-and-see right now, but with only 18 holes in operation, the question becomes, do you really want to fork over the dough for a visit?
Unfortunately, we can’t help you (nor can most others in the travel industry) with anything regarding Lanai—and for that reason, plus the extraordinarily high costs and limited holes of golf currently in the mix, we suggest you visit Hawaii’s Big Island—The Golf Capital of Hawaii, where the golf, lodging and dining options are abundant, varied, unique and a pretty good value!
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