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 to locate the island than it is to book visitors to the island.
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 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.
Secondly (and most unfortunately), Lanai is a Four Season’s operation at both of its lodging venues. This 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 start at about $1,000 per-night. There is also a problem getting to and from Lanai, with limited air service only from Island Air and a $25 charge for each golf bag to and from Lanai. 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 $500 for two persons.
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 crafting yet another reinvention of the island.
Lanai boasts two luxury resorts—one a beachfront hotel and the other is a lodge in the upcountry, which is also closed indefinitely. Along with the two resorts came some interesting attractions and amenities, like 36 holes of world-class golf (now reduced to 18 holes), a half-dozen dining venues, Lanai Pines Sporting Clays (one of Hawaii’s hippest attractions with clay shooting, air rifle target range and archery), plus a limited array of resort goodies.
Even with the emergence of the posh hotel and lodge, 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 for breakfast and lunch).
Ellison is trying to change the “lift” situation, by acquiring Island Air and shaking things up with more flights and new aircraft. It’s a wait-and-see right now, but with only 18 holes, the question becomes, do you really want to fork over the dough for a visit?
Unfortunately, we can’t help you (nor it seems can anyone else) with anything regarding Lanai—and for that reason, plus the extraordinarily high costs and the fact that there are only 18 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 varied, unique and sensational!
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