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Upcountry Hawaii

Lanai, Hawaii

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Lanai is one of the least known of the Hawaiian Islands. For years – even before the former Cook Islands became the U.S. State of Hawaii as we know it in 1959 – the island was known for one thing: pineapples. For virtually the whole length of its association with the Americas, Lanai was known exclusively for this crop. Then, as now, the island was almost completely privately owned, and then, as now, it was a very quiet backwater.

But when the bottom fell out of the pineapple market, Lanai’s owners had to find something else to do with their island. These days it’s almost entirely given over to tourism. But that doesn’t mean tourism of the industrial, noisy, rapacious kind. Lanai is one of the last truly genteel destinations – ideal for those will a little more to spend who wish to enjoy a vacation in true peace and quite.

Four Seasons Resorts own the two major destinations on the island, and of these probably the most unique and interesting is The Lodge at Koele. This resort is very nearly unique among Hawaiian vacation destinations, as it doesn’t have a beautiful beachside setting. In fact, it doesn’t have a beach at all. The Lodge at Koele is set right in the middle of the island of Lanai, in the so-called ‘upcountry’ or highlands.

You might be forgiven for wondering exactly what use is a vacation resort that’s miles from the nearest beach and doesn’t seem to have any other major draw like skiing. If you ever visit the place you won’t be wondering for long. For a start, Lanai isn’t a big island at all, so you’re never actually very far from beautiful shoreline if beaches are what you crave. But what The Lodge at Koele really offers is something very simple: peace and quiet in perfect surroundings.

The lodge, its restaurants and all the associated accommodation is contained within a group of low-rise, traditionally-built buildings surrounding a beautiful still lake and several acres of landscaped English gardens. The rooms and suites are, as you might expect, on the luxurious side, with advanced levels of comfort and room service.

There’s no shortage of things to do at The Lodge at Koele, either. The resort tends to cater for those who, although liking their vacations a little more upmarket, also favor a greater degree of activity than simply lying around on the beach. Hiking and horse riding activities are available in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding hills, and there are a variety of sea-based watersports available to those who want them at The Lodge at Koele’s sister resort on the island’s western coast.

If you’re a golfer, this is about as close to paradise as you’ll get unless you inherit a castle within driving range of the Old Course at St. Andrews. The Lodge at Koele claims not one, but two world-ranked courses – one at the Lodge itself and the other a little further away on the coast. They were rated, respectively, second and third in Condé Nast Traveler’s world review of resort golf courses. The Gold Experience at Koele itself was designed by Greg Norman, and must be one of the world’s most spectacular top-rated golf courses, easily rivaling the best in Scotland or the California/Nevada Rockies. The course winds through rich, forested ravines and wide valleys, and offers spectacular views of the surrounding hills and sea to compensate if you’re having an unlucky day with your putts. If you’re a serious golfer, this is one course that you absolutely must play.

The quality of the dining experience available at The Lodge at Koele reflects the ambience of the rest of the resort, and should be more than adequate to satisfy large appetites that have been worked up by a strenuous day’s activity. The most relaxed of the resort’s restaurants is probably the Terrace Dining Room, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It serves a mixture of contemporary and traditional American cuisines with a spicing of local Hawaiian dishes thrown in for a little variety. The Dining Room, which features a large open fire to ward off the chilly highland night air, is open for dinner every day and serves and eclectic mix of contemporary cooking styles. None of the restaurants are too stiffly formal, and if you want to avoid other people altogether you can make arrangements for dining in your room or suite. If you feel like a light, mid-afternoon break or a little quiet relaxation in the evenings you can visit the Tea Room Bar, which serves a good selection of wines, beers and cocktails.

This is a resort with a difference for vacationers who appreciate quality and the finer things in life. The Lodge at Koele isn’t like other Hawaiian resorts, but in terms of pure class it leads the pack.

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