LANA’I Hawaii — You expect swaying palm trees.
You expect pounding surf. You expect sun (and a sunburn).
What you don’t expect when you visit Hawaii is to play croquet, shoot clay pigeons and enjoy afternoon tea in front of a roaring fire.
“It’s our answer to a mountain retreat,” says one Maui resident when explaining to me why islanders love the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, Lodge at Koele.
It’s easy to understand the attraction.
Set among manicured gardens and imported Cook Island pines at nearly 600 metres above sea level, this highlands oasis feels far removed from Hawaii’s white sand beaches and azure seas, although both are just a 20-minute drive away.
For decades the island of Lana’i, a 40-minute ferry ride from Maui, was a pineapple plantation. Then pineapples started being grown more cheaply elsewhere and the island reinvented itself.
Now it is home to two championship golf courses, two Four Seasons resorts — the Manele Bay on the ocean’s edge and the Lodge at Koele in the highlands — and Lana’i City, the island’s plantation-era town of 3,000 people.
Stepping into the Lodge at Koele’s great hall reminds me of stepping into a national park lodge — a really, really fancy one. High-beamed ceiling, two large stone fireplaces, elegant wood chandeliers, overstuffed furniture and an art collection that leans toward Asian antiquities: This place is distinctly deluxe.
My travelling partner and I reach our room via a long verandah lined with cane chairs that look perfect for curling up in. Tempting, but the padded window seat in our room becomes a favourite place to unwind, as do the soaking tub in the marble bathroom and the two-poster bed with its carved pineapple finials.
We never turn on the TV, preferring to sit in our window seat or on the broad lana’i (porch) and watch, well, not much. The biggest flurry of activity we witness is a line of horses and riders kicking up red dust as they return from the trails.
But this need not be a slothful holiday. There are many activities, and most have a British feel: golf, croquet, tennis, shooting clays and lawn bowling. Or one can simply walk through the resort’s lush gardens.
To my ear there’s no sweeter sound than the thwack of a wooden mallet on a wooden ball, so I convince my partner to join me in a rousing game of croquet.
Later, we head to the Lana’i Pine Sporting Clays and Archery Range to make more noise shooting clay targets. I’ve never held a gun and am not interested in killing things, but I have an absolute blast (pun intended) attempting to break the rust-coloured disks.
After all this excitement, we retire to the Tea Room Bar for afternoon beverages. Our server, Charlotte, brings us a box of teas from which we choose traditional English blends. These are followed by a three-tier plate piled with fancy little sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and raspberry jam, and a selection of sweets.
“Almost like being in England,” Charlotte says. Indeed — except for the sunburn.
For more information on the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, Lodge at Koele, visit the resort website at www.fourseasons.com/koele.
For information on travel to Lana’i visit the Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau website at gohawaii/lanai.