Aloha, Lana’i: Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

by Chris on February 22, 2011

For such a small island, Lana’i has it made in the luxury department, with two Four Seasons to choose from. A look at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele.


Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

My time as a New Media Artist in Residence on Lana’i allowed me to experience not just one of Four Seasons resort, but two.  After our nights by the beach at Manele Bay, we moved up to The Lodge at Koele for two nights.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

To be honest, I wasn’t sure about The Lodge when we first pulled up. A Hawaiian vacation without the beach? What’s the point of that? And I’m not sure how I feel about an English plantation vibe on a private island where one company still makes most of the decisions.

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

But there’s much to like about the moody pine atmosphere of the up-country Lodge.

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

There are the incredible trees that surround every inch of the property. We particularly liked this banyan tree that wrapped itself around the Cook Island pine (see the tree sticking out of the top?)

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

And there’s the historic atmosphere of Koele. This part of the island served as the headquarters of Lana’i Ranch, founded by Walter Murray Gibson who was the one of the leaders of the large colony of Mormons who came to the island in the mid-1800s. The Ranch existed well into the 1950s, when Dole turned it (and much of the Lana’i) into pineapple fields.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

The Lodge itself builds upon that ranching past and gives it a luxe gloss, as you’d expect from the Four Seasons. The Lodge’s Great Hall is truly spectacular, with a fireplace that’s always burning (hey, it gets down into the high 50s in the upcountry at night, chilly by Hawaiian standards). It’s the type of place that makes you want to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate, an indulgence that the Lodge cultivates with a special cocoa menu.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

We were given a Koele Deluxe Room, overlooking the croquet fields and facing west toward sunset. Our first-floor room had a wraparound porch, which proved perfect for star-gazing (up here, there’s very little light pollution). The rate for this room runs around $395 per night (rooms overlooking the Gardens in the back are $100 less) – reasonable, given the Four Seasons service that you receive. Even our housekeeping staff greeted us by name.

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

The grounds outside are an interesting combination of an English garden party and a Japanese botanic garden. You’ve got people playing croquet with a view of a pagoda on the hillside. And ultimately, that mash-up is what makes the Lodge at Koele feel Hawaiian. One of my favorite things about the islands, and Lana’i in particular, is how different nationalities have contributed to make the culture so unique.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

The Lodge also has an Orchid House on site, where you can browse the delicate flowers to your heart’s content.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

I’m not a golfer, but even I could see the Experience at Koele, designed by Greg Norman, is a first-rate course. Don and I sneaked onto the course one morning, following the cart path (I don’t think we were supposed to do this, but it made a gorgeous walk). Looking at the water features and artful sandtraps, you just know that pictures of this course are up on the walls of CEO offices around the world.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

Besides the Experience, there’s also an 18-hole executive putting course that guests can use (you just ask the concierge for a putter and balls). We meant to do this, but ran out of time.

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

We did make time for the Lodge Afternoon tea, served daily. You can take it in the tea room bar, but we chose to stay in the Great Hall near the fire.

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

I’ve brought Don to tea before, but this is the first time that there’s been a menu as appealing as the Golfers Tea. Instead of crustless tea sandwiches, this “man tea” offers mini pulled pork sandwiches,a fancy hot dog, jalapeno corn bread and apple pie tart. He loved it.

Lanai Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele

The tea was the culinary highlight of Koele, however. We found the food in the Dining Room to have more ambition than execution, especially when compared to the restaurants at Manele Bay (we both ordered the tasting menu). A better bet for guests may be the light snack menu available in the Great Hall. I can personally recommend the truffled popcorn; I could have eaten a bushel of it.

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

To continue the comparisons to the Four Seasons’ other Lana’i property at Manele Bay, I’d point out that Lodge’s atmosphere attracts a slightly different type of guest. People on the average seemed older than the Manele clientele by a decade, and there were very few children around (and those that we did see were quietly reading books by the fire. If this isn’t your kid, you might want to choose another place to stay). At 9:39 p.m., we were one of the few couples left in the restaurant and the lobby clears out soon after. One night, we actually played shuffleboard. A window into our future?

Lanai Four Seasons Lodge at Koele

By the end of the two nights, the Lodge at Koele won me over. While I’m not sure that Don and I will ever give up the beach as our preferred vacation, the quiet elegance of the Lodge really allowed us to relax. An ideal Lana’i vacation, I think, includes time spent at both Four Seasons resorts. You just can’t go wrong with either.

Thanks to the LVB for sponsoring my New Media Artist in Residence stay.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila from GoVisitHawaii February 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Chris – you’ve got me really excited about my upcoming stay at the Lodge at Koele, now. The photos rock!

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Chris February 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm

@Sheila – Can’t wait to read about your experiences!

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Kent @ NVR February 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Wonderful pictures!

I think the vastly different experiences at the two resorts is what sold us on Lanai. How awesome to be basking in the sun at the beach one day, and then up in the mountains the next. Not bad choices to have when on vacation :)

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Chris February 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm

@Kent – Yes, having the choice is key. I think it’s nice to split the time between the two.

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bamboo February 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Lovely depiction of the Lodge!!!
We pretty much followed in your footsteps…we just got back from Lana’i.

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Chris February 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

@bamboo – Then you are probably missing Lana’i as much as I am :) Great island, can’t wait to go back.

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Monica May 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Wonderful post, Chris! I’ll be following your blog.
I live on ‘Oahu and I’m a Koele Lodge fan. I stay there whenever I can get to Lanai – which is not as often as I’d like. Of course, I get the option of Kama’aina rates (for locals, you have to have a Hawaii id for those rates), so I have a little advantage.

If any of you have a chance of going there in December you can experience the Lodge in all its Christmas splendor, with stockings hanging on the two fireplaces and all!
Best time to do this at better rates (and less crowds) is early in December, so after Thanksgiving and before December 16th or so, as after that the Christmas vacationers come in.

The reception staff have told me the story of how each guest who is staying at the Lodge at Christmas will have their own assigned stocking hanging on the hall fireplaces, and that – early on Christmas morning – they would see not children, but their older male guests tiptoeing excitedly to the hall in their pj to get to their stockings.
Haha! You can tell I love the place! :-)

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Chris May 23, 2011 at 8:49 am

@Monica Koele at Christmas? Sign me up :) It sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

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