Hawaiians have a word that is now familiar around the world. “Aloha” is often used as a synonym for “hello” or “greetings”, but it literally translates as “breath of presence”, and its true meaning is often thought to be untranslatable. “It means come forward, be in unity and harmony with your real self, God and mankind,” wrote the Hawaiian philosopher and “kahuna” David Kaonohiokala Bray. “It means the joyful sharing of life energy in the present. It is a celebration of the energy on this beautiful island.”
It is the concept of Aloha that helps visitors to understand Hawaii, to immerse themselves in local culture and observe the islands as if they were one of its residents. There are few better places to do this than on Lana‘i, the sixth-largest island in Hawaii and one of the most fascinating and diverse, both in terms of culture and of landscape.
This unique getaway feels like a private island. It is home to around 3,000 people, many of whom live in the major settlement of Lana‘i City, a place so small it has no traffic lights or shopping malls. Just 30 of the island’s 400 miles of road are paved, making Lana‘i perfect for travellers who love veering off the beaten path and really getting to grips with the local culture and heritage of a place.
What Lana‘i also offers is one of the most diverse natural environments on the planet. A journey around Lana‘i can take visitors into numerous different temperate zones, each one as exciting and memorable as the last. In the northwest of the island is the remarkable landscape of Keahiakawelo, also known as The Fires of Kawelo or the Garden Of The Gods. This extraordinary volcanic rock garden is like a lunar landscape or the surface of Mars, featuring rock towers and sand so red that photographers are forced to desaturate the colours to avoid them looking fake.
You don’t have to travel too far from Keahiakawelo to discover numerous other beautiful landscapes within this 140 square miles of paradise. There is the island’s highest mountain Lanai Hale, deep green lush valleys and other areas that are almost like rainforests. There are areas reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, with pine forests shrouded in white mist, and others that resemble parts of East Africa, with great parched plains of yellow grass. There are also, of course, stunning beaches, with perfect sand, crystal blue water and corals crammed with aquatic colour and life.
The preferred means of travel from Honolulu International Airport is by Lana‘i Air, a luxurious way to begin an island adventure. The waters around Lana‘i are so bountiful that day trippers come from other islands to explore them, but those staying at the island’s solitary resort, the luxury Four Seasons near Hulopo‘e Bay, have access to their own private beach. For residents, a fleet of boats is available for ocean sports, sunset cruises and scuba diving and snorkelling among the clear waters and abundant coral reefs. As a protected marine sanctuary, Hulopo‘e Bay doesn’t allow fast boats or jet skis, and it is not unusual to see spinner dolphins close to the beach. For those who love whale watching, the channel between Lana‘i and Maui offers rewarding sightings between November and April.
Guests can enjoy horse-riding, play the Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course and eat and drink in a variety of bars and restaurants. Those eager to explore the island’s interior can explore the Munro Trail, a 12.8-mile hiking trail named after a naturalist from New Zealand who introduced the majestic pine trees. The trail takes you through a rain forest of ohia lehua, ironwood and eucalyptus trees and along the canyon of Maunalei Gulch, from which on a clear day you can see six of the surrounding islands. If you are feeling energetic, you can continue to the top of Lanai Hale. And guests really shouldn’t miss the sunset from Kaumalapau Harbour, or the iconic landmark of Pu‘upehe, a beautiful and romantic spot that comes with its own tragic legend of lost lovers.
“When you are visiting the island, it’s the cultural experience that is so memorable and should be shared,” explains Joe LaBreche, Director of Marketing for Four Seasons Resorts Lana‘i. “It’s this rich history of Lana‘i that is so important. These are the experiential elements that accompany the comforts of Four Seasons. You can explore and discover the island with the locals and understand their culture and learn from it, whether it’s eating or fishing or history or how to see and understand the different sites.”
Lana‘i was known for most of the 20th century as Pineapple Island, as it once produced three-quarters of the world’s pineapple crop. These days it is more like a private unspoilt paradise, where visitors feel like fortunate guests of the welcoming locals. As well as the resort at Hulopo‘e Bay, Four Seasons is also opening a wellness retreat to the north of the island in autumn 2019. This is located in a pine forest and will offer treatments that draw on traditional methods.
“All the experiences that Four Seasons offers on Lana‘i have that thread and are rich in traditional culture because it’s such an important part of who the people are,” says Joe. “It’s natural to embrace and celebrate that. This is, after all, the only place in the world you can find this culture.”