I chose a few days at the beginning of December to make sure all the decorations would be up, while at the same time avoiding the Thanksgiving and Christmas crowds (and rates).
Located upcountry on the Island of Lana’i in the Hawaiian Islands, the Lodge is a uniquely beautiful place at any time of the year, but in December the staff transforms it into a Christmas magic land. I cannot say ‘wonderland’ because that word conjures visions of snowy landscapes and, in Hawai’i, that’s something you only get on top of Mauna Kea – and it doesn’t last long either.
On Lana’i the most you will get is cooler temperatures upcountry – enough to make us island dwellers shiver and desire some extra heating in the room, but still warm for most visitors escaping true winter.
The main hall at the Lodge is huge… ok, extra large, impressive, and comfortably furnished with lots of plushy seating that inspire naps. The room, defined by two majestic stone fireplaces placed one at each end, is very welcoming all year round, and in December it looks like a Christmas Frontgate catalogue. If I were Santa Claus, this is where I’d camp out once my wild flight through the layers of time was accomplished. You’d find me snoozing by the fireplace, hoping someone would bring me more than just milk and cookies.
A big Norfolk Pine gets all dressed up for the Holidays; twinkly, festive trimmings decorate the balustrades, sparkling wreaths and stockings highlight each fireplace.
Ah, yes, the story of the stockings… A long time member of the Koele staff shared with me that each one of the guests staying at the Lodge over Christmas has an assigned stocking hanging on either of the two fireplaces. The stockings are filled with presents on Christmas Eve and, on Christmas morning, the guests can dig into their personal stocking to find out what Santa has left for them.
As I listened, I had visions of tiny tots excitedly sneaking around, but I found out that it’s the big tots who, early on Christmas morning, are the first to tiptoe to the lobby in their pajamas to check on their stocking. Don’t you just love that!
If my family weren’t so far away (Italy) – and if my dad wasn’t so paranoid about not stepping on a plane – I would get them to Koele for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Not that one is needed, but a good excuse to hang in the lobby and soak up all this Christmasy-ness is high tea in the afternoon – which is to drool for at the Lodge, or drinks and pupus (pupus means appetizers in Hawaiian) by the fireplace before dinner, or even in place of dinner. Or maybe you can start with one and finish with the other and then just doze off right there to the sound of gentle Hawaiian songs strummed on a Ukulele by local musicians.
The Lodge at Koele is a Four Seasons Resort, so you can expect all the quality, good food and pampering that goes with the name. On top of that, this is not just Hawai’i, but the island of Lana’i. There is a quality of Aloha that belongs to old Hawai’i that this little island has retained in abundance and that imbues the experience at the Lodge. Most of the staff is local and has worked at the Lodge for many years. They are warm and friendly people, and not just because it is part of their job description.
The grounds are exquisite: a true photographer’s paradise. I don’t photograph weddings, but I would photograph one here – a small one.
I am also not a golfer, but I might be tempted to take a few lessons for a legitimate excuse to walk the visually stunning course of the Lodge. And I might even get back on a horse…. or maybe just take it for a walk, side by side, like buddies.
Leisurely strolls in the garden, maybe stopping at the pagoda for a rest, feeding the koi in the pond, a game of croquet on the lawn by the pool, a nap in one of the oversize loungers under the wrap-around porch, a romantic dinner in the orchid house, a glass of wine and a starry night by the outdoor fire pits… these are just some of the things you can enjoy at Koele. By the way: Koele is also the name of the resident cat. Koele is not shy, so you are very likely to see her around the lanai by the main entrance.
Click on the image below to enlarge it and view more images of the Lodge’s exquisite grounds.
For those of you who come to Hawai’i yearning for sunshine, balmy breezes, sandy beaches and palm trees there is always the spectacular Manele Bay Resort, the other Four Seasons on the island that sits right by the ocean. A regular shuttle service runs between the two resorts, so you won’t even need to rent one of the expensive Jeeps offered by the only car rental in town.
And for the gourmands among you: all the restaurants at both resorts are excellent. In another post I will supply more information on them, and also on the local restaurants and eateries I recommend on Lana’i.
You can reach Lana’i via ferry from Lahaina (on Maui), or via direct flight from Honolulu and other Hawaiian islands with Island Air or Mokulele Airlines. Considering the short hop, these flights are rather expensive, more so with Island Air. Mokulele offers better rates, but the airplanes are 8-10 seaters, with luggage in the back of the cabin.
I have flown with them a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed the ride, but I’m letting you know because I realize that such flight experience may be too real for someone.
If you are a Kama’aina (a resident of Hawai’i with a Hawai’i drivers’ license – you will be asked for it at check-in, so, sorry, no cheating), you can ask for a Kama’aina rate. In Hawai’i, hotels and art galleries offer discounts to local residents. I wish airlines did the same.
One more bit of interesting information about Lana’i: the island has recently been purchased by a private investor (90% of it anyway), a gentleman by the name of Larry Ellison. When I first heard about this I didn’t know what to make of it. Recently I have been delighted to discover that Mr. Ellison intends to turn Lanai into a “model for sustainable enterprise using all the latest eco-friendly technology for power and organic farming”. You can read more about it by clicking here. We shall wait and see, of course, but for now: kudos to you Mr. Ellison!
All the people I have talked to who have been to Lana’i, and particularly to the Lodge, can’t help but rave about it and go back. If you decide to go, do let me know how you like it, but I am sure you are going to looooove it!