By Kristen Shirley
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
While it’s only a quick 30-minute flight from the hustle-and-bustle of Honolulu, once you step off your plane in Lanai, you will feel like time has stopped. Formerly the world’s largest pineapple plantation, the 90,000-acre island has a population of 3,000, just 30 miles of paved roads, no stoplights and one gas station.
But don’t think you will be roughing it; Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, purchased 98 percent of the island in 2012 and has spared no expense in his quest to turn the sleepy island into a sustainable, world-class tourist destination. One of his first steps was renovating the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, creating a nearly unrecognizable property in Hulopoe Bay that boasts the most expensive suite in Hawaii.
Check into the 5,000 sq ft three-bedroom Alii Royal Suite that includes formal living room, dining room, media room and bathroom with double Japanese soaking tub. There are panoramic views throughout. The decor is exotic but contemporary and includes commissioned art from Cypriot Yorgos Kypris and local artists.
Spend your days exploring the island. The red-dirt terrain is spectacular seen from a Polaris UTV, either on a tour or on your own, or horse rides are a more gentle way to see the sights. Of course, there are hiking trails galore; stop by the adventure center and plan your own custom route.
Be sure to spend an afternoon in Lanai City perusing the small shops and grabbing a bite with the locals at the Blue Ginger Café. And don’t miss exploring the ocean while on Lanai. Hulopoe Bay is a marine preserve, and spinner dolphins are a frequent sight from the beach.
There’s beginner-level snorkeling just off shore as well. For the more experienced, organize a charter with Trilogy Ocean Sports and explore Lanai’s cathedrals, considered to be among the best dive sites in the world, where light streams through the sides of underwater lava tubes, creating an effect similar to light passing through a stained glass window in a cathedral.
If you play golf, the Jack Nicklaus course is unmissable; but beware, the ocean is used as a water hazard! While you would need a week just to explore Hawaii Island, Lanai makes a great starting point for a helicopter tour. Paradise Copters offers bespoke tours of the islands, but our favorite is an all-day Big Island charter exploring Kilauea volcano.
An expert volcanologist accompanies you giving in-depth information (in an easy-to-understand way) on the volcano and islands while the pilot shows rifts, mountains and lava activity. After the tour, the helicopter lands near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where an expert leads you on a hike.
Enjoy a gourmet lunch, then take off for your final stop, a waterfall on the shoreline of the Kohala valleys where you will toast the view with a bottle of Dom Pérignon before returning to Lanai.