In search of a well-earned break, Richard Bunting finds the perfect balance of family and downtime in the idyllic surroundings of Hawaii’s Lanai Island
LANAI ISLAND, A PATCH OF HAWAIIAN PARADISE, IS FAVOURED by A-listers from Jessica Alba and Cindy Crawford to Bill and Melinda Gates. Without a lick of remorse, we were about to take the celebrity factor down a notch. It had been 15 months – 15 beautiful, challenging months – since my wife and I made our parenting debut and we were thrilled to be taking our new-found and ever-developing parenting skills on the road.
It was our first adventure as a family of three, and Lanai Island, located off the west coast of Maui, seemed a fitting reward. The journey began with some trepidation when we realised our 45-minute flight from Honolulu to Maui would be courtesy of a Cessna Grand Caravan. The single-engine turboprop, which seats 14 at capacity but carried just four passengers on this occasion, didn’t promise the sturdiest of rides. But our concerns were soon forgotten as the spectacular views of Honolulu, Waikiki and Molokai unfolded as we cruised at around 4500 metres.
Excitement officially building, we met our transfer at Maui’s Kahului Airport for the 50-minute drive to Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, for our ferry to Lanai Island. The ferry ride, across beautiful blue waters to Lanai Harbour, was over in a heartbeat and in only a few more minutes we had arrived at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai.
Someone at the resort sure knows what life with a toddler is like. As we entered our Ocean Front King Room, we spotted a bed big enough for five – or, in our case, one ‘Emma’ who likes to sleep diagonally. We were also quick to notice the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, not surprisingly, and the perfectly sized balcony to enjoy a morning coffee or afternoon drink. The highlight for me, however, was in the bathroom. The automated toilet may be commonplace in Japan but for me, it had the wow-factor.
With just three days to enjoy this remote resort, our problem was deciding what we should and shouldn’t do. The activities and experiences on offer are seemingly endless. Mix this with the outstanding dining options and must-have pool time, and we had to choose carefully. The resort has two pools. One is adults-only, which we stared at longingly from a distance, but the alternative quickly quashed such feelings. Located at the front of the resort overlooking the ocean and Hulopoe Beach, the beautiful family- friendly pool is adorned with blossoming gardens and deck chairs and boasts a pool bar with staff who seem to appear like magic just when you need them. Spending lost hours poolside in an exotic destination with service you can’t fault was hard to leave, but meals are a feature at the Four Seasons, too. We headed off to the resort’s headline restaurant One Forty, the American Steakhouse and Hawaiian Seafood restaurant.
We dined early, as I am learning a toddler brings new challenges at dinner. While we battled with climbing, shrieks and several attempts to start a food fight, we managed to enjoy a meal that we will both remember. I selected the Prime Steak Wagyu from Snake River Farms in New York and it was the best steak I have ever had. It was cooked medium rare with braised chestnuts, apple-smoked bacon, bone marrow, caramelised Maui onions, and roasted mushrooms. It is a must for any steak lover visiting the Four Seasons. Entrée and dessert were also superb even if I did find myself eating alone by the third course!
The next day we had booked in to visit Lanai City. The main town is only a 30-minute drive away and a pleasant way to spend a morning. We slowly made our way in and out of quaint cottage- style shops with traditional Hawaiian and locally made clothes, artefacts and souvenirs. The town was quiet and easy to roam, with a large park in the centre and a number of coffee shops.
As early afternoon arrived, my wife couldn’t have been happier as her spa booking was only minutes away. The resort spa offers a wide variety of treatments and, from what I am told, the Oceanic Stone Lomi Lomi is an experience that will rest the mind and body. We saw the day out by boarding a sunset cruise on a 21-metre catamaran. The crew were jovial and fun and ensured we were never thirsty, hungry or unaware of the history of the waters we were sailing. The cruise was the perfect way to cap off another day and with a sunset for the ages.
The next day we introduced Emma to miniature ponies, donkeys, goats and horses at the Four Seasons-managed ranch in Lanai City. The ranch is fully operational with a full-time Rancher and also offers horse riding experiences for riders of most levels. Judging by the smiles and giggles we saw, this is a must if you’re travelling with kids.
As had become standard on this trip, we had no need for lunch after overindulging at breakfast. Soon enough it is time for my ‘spa’ treatment, which took place on the signature Jack Nicholas- designed 18-hole Manele Golf Course. Only a couple of minutes away, the course offers spectacular views from every hole. It is designed to be a little forgiving for the weekend hacker and challenging for the more experienced golfer with tee placements positioned for all skill levels.
Our final duty before leaving was to dine at the in-house Nobu, and I use the term ‘duty’ as loosely as possible. A memorable meal at one of the world’s most iconic Japanese-style restaurants – this was a brilliant way to finish our stay. But more than the food, more than the room, the bed or the ocean views, it is the people that provided the real magic on our travels. All the staff we encountered made us feel welcome and valued. Sharing that experience with Emma made for a holiday we will never forget.