It was the headlines that hooked me. Stories like “Tech billionaires battle it out for best Hawaii resort” and “Larry Ellison Wants Lanai to Be the Most Incredible Resort in the World.” As I dug deeper, I learned that in 2012, Ellison, the co-founder of tech giant Oracle, purchased 98 per cent of the island of Lanai for a cool $300 million. Yes, the seventh richest man in the world (according to Forbes) owns one city, a protected marine reserve, 90 thousand acres of overgrown pineapple fields, three golden sand beaches, two championship golf courses and the most idyllic oceanfront hotel I have ever flip-flopped into.
Ellison put $75 million into refurbishing the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, and you can feel it. The inviting common areas and walkways are lined with stunning natural slate, stone and Hawaiian wood. Technicolour tropical plants envelope you at every turn and the sprawling outdoor lounge and pool area has the classy grotto vibe down pat. As you would expect, the 217 luxurious guest rooms feature plenty of Ellison-approved tech: including integrated iPad minis, HD flat screens hidden in mirrors, remote blinds with clever time-of-day settings, and state-of-the-art automated toilets. Don’t laugh; once you go Totos you won’t want to go back.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you’ve stumbled upon another advertisement disguised as a travel article. But I assure you that I’m doing everything in my power to write a balanced piece on this property. The problem is, when I flip through my notes I find zero hospitality slip-ups, missing towel complaints or “whatever you do, don’t order the … ” warnings. Day after perfect day, I noted the staff’s warm and attentive service—“why yes, I would like another frozen grape by the pool”—and I don’t even want to admit to the amount of superlatives I used to describe the views, the ambience and the meals. In fact, dining here was so delightful, I’ve dedicated a whole paragraph to it.
FS Lanai has five unique options for food and drink. At casual One Forty, you can indulge in a well-stocked buffet for breakfast or a local venison steak under the stars. I enjoyed both, but never got around to trying the Petrossian Salmon Caviar with scrambled eggs. Rumour has it Ellison likes to start his day with this decadent dish when entertaining high profile guests like Bill and Melinda Gates. Malibu Farms is perfect for poolside pupus like pokeviché with furikake chips and a smoky mezcal cocktail. For happy hour rosé and views of the calm waters of Hulopoe Bay and the 18th hole, trek to the aptly named Views. But whatever you do, do not miss out on Nobu Lanai. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is known worldwide for innovative Japanese dishes enhanced by South American flavours and local ingredients. At FS Lanai, he brings his A-game with winners like Toro Tartare with caviar, buttery wagyu beef tataki and to-die-for lava cake. Splurge on the Omakase (chef’s choice) and linger. By hour three I was sinking deep into a love seat as a brilliant full moon rose out of the Pacific.
I had done what I thought impossible. I had discovered that illusive state of sheer bliss after just three nights at the Four Seasons Lanai. And that, my fellow travellers, is definitely headline-worthy.
Should you find the strength to tear yourself away from the hotel, I recommend these activities:
Rent a jeep and 4x4 your way to the stunning, (and deserted) Polihua Beach on the North West Shore.
Ask the FS Beach Staff for a snorkel set and explore the marine preserve at Hulopoe Bay.
Follow the trail from Hulopoe Beach Park to take in a sunrise over Puu Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock. The dramatic 80-foot formation is the central character in a Hawaiian legend that plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy.