Elegant, calm, refined, comfortable, caring, charming, relaxing, peaceful, impressive.
Those are the words that first come to my mind when I reflect on my stay at the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele.
I had just spent a week on O'ahu, an island visit every year and appreciate more every time. It was an extremely busy week primarily covering the first annual Na Hoku O Hawaii Music Festival and then spending three days driving leeward, windward and to the North Shore.
Journey to Lana'i
By the morning I sat in the commuter terminal of Honolulu International Airport awaiting my Island Air flight to Lana'i, I was exhausted. I was also a bit skeptical about my Lana'i visit, having only ever been to the island for a quick day trip via the Expeditions Lahaina - Lanai Ferry over eight years ago and having been somewhat under-impressed by what the island had to offer. I am pleased to say that by the end of my three day stay at The Lodge at Koele and with time to explore the island in more detail; my opinion of Lana'i had drastically changed.
The Four Seasons experience on Lana'i begins the moment you arrive at island's airport. Right in the airport's lobby is a kiosk operated by Four Seasons where guests are greeted and directed to a waiting Castle & Cooke shuttle while your luggage is retrieved and loaded for the short drive to either of the two Four Seasons' resorts on the island - the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele and the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay.
Before I continue, let me take a moment to explain the players here. About 98% of the island of Lana'i is owned by Oracle Corporation co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison who purchased the island in June 2012 from Castle & Cooke whose CEO is David H. Murdock. Also, over a third of the island's people work for Mr. Ellison or the hospitality company that manages their two resorts, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
The shuttle dropped me off at Dollar Rent a Car, located behind the Lanai Plantation Store, in Lana'i City, where I picked up my Jeep Wrangler. From their office it was only a drive of a few minutes to The Lodge at Koele. The shuttle driver had already transported my luggage where it was transferred to the resorts bell staff for delivery to my room.
I parked in the Lodge's guest parking area and made the short walk to the lobby where I was greeted by the staff with a kukui nut lei. Much to my delight, I was told that my room would be available shortly (it was only 9:00 a.m.) but that they would hold my carry-on's and I was welcome to enjoy a glass of juice and rest in the lobby, have some breakfast or do some exploring of the Lodge and its grounds. I chose to do some exploring.
The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele
Built by Castle & Cooke, and opened in 1990, the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele, is unlike any resort you'll find in Hawaii. The Lodge building itself resembles a grand lodge that you'd expect to find somewhere in the American west, perhaps in one of the National Parks such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Yosemite.
A beautiful lobby, or Great Room, framed by two-story stone fireplaces at each end, dark Eucalyptus floors, 35-foot wooden-beam ceiling, comfortable seating and lovely Asian and Hawaiian art serves as the hub from which two spokes lead to guestroom wings separated from the lobby by open air lanais, each with plenty of comfortable rattan seating each with Hawaiian-quilted pillows. Also off the lobby are the resort's dining room, library, music room, Tea Room Bar, trophy/game room, and a number of small nooks to explore, most filled with seating and beautiful art much of which was obtained by Mr. Murdock in one of his trips to Asia.
The lobbies of most Hawaii resorts are merely areas that you walk through on your way to and from your guestroom. Such is not the case with The Lodge at Koele. The Great Room at the Lodge is a destination in itself where you can sit, relax, enjoy a glass of wine, high tea and crumpets or other libation and just take in the ambiance of this great room with friends and family.
While a number of the Lodge's 102 guestrooms are located on the second floor of the main building, most of the Lodge's rooms are located in either the north and south wing, each of which is separated from the main building by the open air covered lanai. As you enter either of the wings, you are can't help but be impressed by the woodwork. Large wooden staircases and banisters are each capped with a pineapple finial that brings to mind the island's past when Lana'i was the largest pineapple plantation in the world.
The guestrooms are large (400+ sq. ft.) and luxurious, with the feel of room at a high end bed and breakfast reminiscent of Lana'i's plantation era. My Koele Deluxe Room was a corner room with great views of the stables and surrounding area. The spacious lanai (balcony) was the perfect place to sit and enjoy sunset.
The room itself was decorated in cool blue tones with yellow accents. Similar rooms are decorated in warm gold tones with red accents. The room featured an upholstered window seat, Roman shades with lovely floral prints, crewel-style tapestry upholstery and carved pineapple finials on a two-poster king bed that completed the Hawaiian plantation era theme.
The living area featured an entertainment centre with 40-inch LCD flat-screen television and DVD player, writing desk, private bar, coffee maker, in-room safe, dual-line telephone and high-speed Internet access. The large full marble bathroom features a lavish vanity and deep soaking tub with shower.
The Lodge's grounds are expansive and visually stunning. When Mr. Murdock built the Lodge, he did so with great respect for the land, saving many of the existing old trees, many of which tower over the Lodge - a decision that paid off handsomely. The Lodge's garden area is replete with flora and fauna surrounding a beautiful reflecting pond.
Signs of Murdock's love for Asian art are omnipresent, most impressively in the form of a large Japanese pagoda. The grounds include an orchid house, two croquet and one lawn bowling lawn, a pineapple fountain in a partially covered area surrounded by coral trees, an executive putting course and swimming pool as well as numerous seating areas. Near the Lodge's front entrance sits an old Hawaiian church which is still used today.