Travelling to Lanai, Hawaii

Perfect weather, a languid pace – Lanai is the insider’s Hawaiian island of choice.

Credit: Waynette Kwon

Travelling to Lanai: Lanai is an island that seduces you, a fresh reminder of how it feels to fall in love.

Travelling to Lanai, Hawaii: Perfect weather, a languid pace (did we mention world-class golf?) – Lanai is the insider’s Hawaiian island of choice.

I have a friend who won’t go to Hawaii. She made a girlhood pledge that it would remain virgin territory until her honeymoon, so at 40 she’s travelled the world and is still waiting to get lei’d. Having been to nearly all the Hawaiian islands, I have two pieces of advice: Go to Lanai, now. And go with somebody you adore, because there’s almost nothing to do but love the one you’re with.

The 360-square-kilometre, privately owned Lanai was bought by U.S. industrialist James Dole in 1922 and became the planet’s biggest pineapple plantation. When Dole’s new parent company Castle & Cook started growing real estate values instead of spiky bromeliads about 20 years ago, it built a beachside resort and a cosy hill-country lodge, turning Lanai’s white-sand crescents from best-kept Maui day-trip secret to global jet-set destination. 

Hawaiian mythology holds that the island was occupied by man-eating spirits until the son of a chief, banished there, defeated them. I was prepared to take my chances when I went to Lanai with a new boyfriend who – hair slicked and wearing an orchid lei and an L.A. smirk – looked like a Blue Hawaii-era Elvis as we disembarked the ferry at Manele harbour.

Lanai is more pines than palms, with brown fields of pineapple-plant stubs and hilly terrain that turns lush and green along the manicured fairways of its two highly rated golf courses, the Challenge at Manele Bay and the Experience at Koele. But there would be no golf for us; romance and golf don’t mix, a fact confirmed by my starter marriage and later by a haggard-looking woman we encountered in the gift shop. Her sun visor might as well have been emblazoned “golf widow.” Watching us giggle over kitschy souvenirs, she said hopefully, “Please tell me you two are on your honeymoon.” 

“Even better,” the BF replied. “We’re having uncommitted fun.” I resisted the urge to kick him. 

Instead, I picked up a gun. Maybe target shooting is an odd thing to do with a loved one, but the island’s Lanai Pines is a slick range with an elaborate clay-pigeon course – wicked good fun on a cloudy day. The “pineapple of my eye” almost, but not quite, pierced a perfect target to win me a coveted crystal pineapple trophy. 

Oh, we tried to stay not busy, really we did. Told there was a quaint movie theatre in Lanai “City” (pop: 3,000), I called, only to get a recorded message saying it was closed “for lack of a movie.” Perfect: room service. One day the restless BF went for a two-hour horseback ride, returning breathless and bragging of a view all the way to the nearby island of Molokai. But for the most part, afternoons went by in a blur of bottomless lemonade, chilled towels and fruit kebabs delivered by helpful beach and pool attendants. 

Did I mention Lanai is mostly privately owned? Meaning that while Four Seasons staff is spoiling you, you might find backpackers pitching a tent or a few savvy Maui families picnicking right beside you on the beach. It’s an authentic reminder of what a sun holiday used to be, before shopping malls, celebrity-chef restaurants and parrot bars gave them a bad name. Lanai is an island that seduces you, a fresh reminder of how it feels to fall in love.

My Secret Place

Who: Simon Jackson, founder and chair, Spirit Bear Youth Coalition Where: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Why: Yellowstone is a magical space where I first discovered my passion for bears while on a family camping trip at age seven; I still try to get there once a year with family. Yellowstone’s beauty is something that cannot be described – more of a feeling that lingers in one’s soul. Whenever I visit, I feel I can break free from my BlackBerry and politics and, through photographing its diverse wealth of animals, recharge for the year ahead.