The smallest publicly accessible inhabited island in the Hawaiian Islands chain and strikingly underdeveloped, Lanai feels like a remote island getaway, yet it’s only a 45-minute ferry ride from Maui. With few accommodation possibilities and 3,000 inhabitants, there are large stretches of the island without anyone on it. Translation: a family vacation in Lanai, Hawaii is truly an escape from urban life and chaos of any kind.
Lanai is exclusive to the extent that there are just four accommodation choices: two Four Seasons hotels, the 11-room Hotel Lanai, and a limited amount of camping. There may also be home rentals available in Lanai City.
If you follow Ciao Bambino you know we love family-friendly luxury hotels. Lanai has two Four Seasons Hotels within a 20-minute drive of one another. Pinch me. These two properties are radically different from one another and offer two very distinct ways to experience the beauty of Lanai.
Perched over a protected marine preserve, Hulopo’e Bay, the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay is a view-lovers dream. It’s not unusual to see Spinner Dolphins swim right into the bay for a morning respite or to watch whales breach in the distance. The dramatic position of the resort is pure magic.
The pristine beach at Hulopo’e Bay has soft, white sand and calm surf (typically). The bay is protected and swimmers enjoy a huge expanse of open-ocean for laps, frolicking, and snorkeling.
Best of all for families, the set up is absolutely ideal for teaching younger kids to body surf. I’m not a big ocean swimmer but I couldn’t resist lingering in these waves.
The Four Seasons has beach chairs, umbrellas, and free snorkels for guests. Our 10-year-old, Devon, took a shoreline fishing lesson right on the beach from a local. Although they weren’t successful in catching fish, Devon had a blast learning about how Hawaiians fish and rely so heavily on the ocean as their food source.
The staff at the beach and the hotel overall includes many locals who grew up on Lanai. Part of the fun is chatting with them about their experience living through the years in this remote setting.
Four Seasons Pool Experience
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay has one pool for all of their guests and as a result the ambiance is very social. Four Seasons does pool service so well. Need sunscreen? No problem, Dr. Lotion will be around to provide a selection. Need your greasy sunglasses cleaned? No problem, Dr. Shades will be around to spray and wipe them for you — not to mention the constant flow of treats like fresh fruit offered throughout the day.
We loved having the best of a pool and beach experience within such short proximity of one another. There’s a big grassy knoll with additional sun-beds and seating — although there is just one pool area, there’s plenty of room for guests to spread out.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay Resort Set Up
Opened in 1991 and managed by the Four Seasons since 2005, Manele Bay is a traditional multi-level hotel with 236 rooms and suites. The Silicon Valley software icon, Larry Ellison, purchased the entire island of Lanai in October 2012 and is making vast upgrades in record time to both properties.
The main lounge and terrace is light and airy with floor-to-ceiling pool, ocean, and coastal views. Rescued tropical birds sit at both ends of the lounge. We loved stopping every morning to say “aloha” to the Cockatoo who would occasionally give us an answer.
The indoor highlight for families is without-a-doubt The Sports Bar, an open-air space overlooking the ocean with pool tables, shuffleboard, a large bar, and seating with big screen televisions. During cocktail hour it’s filled with families. They also serve a light snack and meal menu with enough on it to have an informal dinner while playing games.
Guest rooms at Manele Bay feature traditional furnishings and either a private terrace or balcony. Our room opened up to an expansive lawn with wonderful coastal views. The rooms are in excellent condition but due for a style upgrade; thanks to the new owner, a plan to do just that is in the works.
There’s a full service spa offering a long list of treatments. A massage in one of their Oceanside Hales is a must-do experience while at Manele Bay. Full body pampering with a fresh breeze and the sound of the ocean in the background? An out-of-body experience.
I indulged in a very special treatment when I was at Manele Bay where a trained esthetician created a signature perfume, just for me, comprised of high quality essential oils. I’m picky about fragrances and buy things I end up shelving all the time.
But this experience was different than shopping via random bottle sniffing. The esthetician asked questions and presented various scents in a methodical way until we arrived at a custom blend just for me. I’m wearing it … the session worked!
Kids For All Seasons
There is a full Kids for All Seasons program here for ages 5-12. It is complimentary and easy to use as parents can drop kids off and pick them up at any time during club hours. It’s so nice not to have to plan out and schedule a kids club.
We only had the opportunity to do this for a few hours but the facility is full of games and toys. It is particularly optimized for little kids with a cute indoor/outdoor play zone.
Dining Options at Manele Bay
There are four full-service restaurants onsite at Manele Bay including the restaurant at the golf clubhouse. Kailani is their poolside restaurant and offers Italian food using local ingredients. It’s casual and perfect with kids any time of day.
One Forty is a steakhouse with a more sophisticated modern atmosphere and ocean views. We didn’t have dinner here but enjoyed the space for breakfast each morning. And, best of all, Four Seasons Manele Bay is the first Four Seasons hotel anywhere in the world to host a Nobu restaurant! The space it occupies as been thoroughly renovated just for Chef Matsuhisa’s wondrous Lanai outlet and it does not disappoint.
We had dinner on cozy sofas overlooking the resort, a perfect way to have a long dinner with kids and not have them get restless.
A peek at our Nobu culinary extravaganza:
Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno
Whitefish Sashimi with Dried Miso
Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna
Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce and Butter Ponzu
Lobster with Wasabi Pepper Sauce
Wagyu Beef Tartar
Wagyu Beef Tataki
Toro Scallion Roll
Soft Shell Crab Roll
Chocolate Bento Box with Green tea ice cream
A-m-a-z-i-n-g. And, if your kids are not adventurous eaters, they have a kids’ menu which must be a Nobu first.
Jack Nicklaus-Designed Golf Course
We are not golfers but the Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Manele Bay is set right on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. I can’t imagine a more glorious setting for a golf game. Here’s a link to details for this top-rated course.
There’s a complimentary resort shuttles that runs every 30 minutes and goes to Lanai City and the Lodge at Koele. In 20-minutes guests can be in a an entirely different world. Stay tuned for the upcoming review of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lodge at Koele Bay located 1,700 feet in a lush countryside setting above Manele Bay
Starting rates for a family of four at Manele Bay are $479 per night. The Ciao Bambino Travel Advising Team can help you get the best room and rate. If you’d like our help, Connect with a Family Travel Advisor.
Editorial Note: Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay provided complimentary and discounted accommodations and services. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
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