Home » Resort Review / Feature

The Lodge and Experience at Koele in Hawaii: A truly tranquil experience on Lanai

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
Lodge at Koele - Four Seasons
View large image
| More photos
The Lodge at Koele, a Four Seasons property on Lanai, really is away from it all. (Courtesy of the Four Seasons)

LANAI CITY, Hawaii -- Getting to and living on one of the most peaceful spots on earth isn't easy. Most come to Lanai, also known as the Pineapple Isle, on a ferry, while others might fly in via Island Air. And those who choose to stay at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele are looking at a 45-minute shuttle ride from the harbor up a couple thousand feet to something that looks anything but Hawaii.

The Lodge, which is one of two resorts by the Four Seasons on this island of 3,000 people (most of them, it seems, work for the resort or in support of it), is as isolated as it gets. With only around 100 rooms, The Lodge is the ultimate getaway. Quiet only begins to describe it. There's a pool, a fitness center, a fine-dining restaurant, pool tables, chess and tastefully decorated rooms -- understated, yet luxurious, matching the peaceful surroundings.

There's also a golf course, designed by Greg Norman and Ted Robinson, with some of the most stunning holes you'll find anywhere on the planet.

The Experience at Koele golf course

At 7,000 yards, The Experience at Koele is a championship golf course with shot values usually reserved for the mountain courses of the Rockies. It's also one of the last remaining courses in Hawaii with bentgrass greens. In short, it's nothing like its sister course, The Challenge at Manele, a Jack Nicklaus design down on the coast of Lanai, which offers constant views of the ocean, whales and a little elevation change of its own.

But while The Experience at Koele has no ocean views, it has a mystic feel, especially when the golf course seems to be sitting in the clouds, with mist hanging over the greens. It's also noticeable cooler because it's 1,500 feet above sea level.

"It's really peaceful," said Doug Daguay, professional at The Experience at Koele. "It doesn't feel like Hawaii."

The only drawback these days is that water is hard to come by on Lanai. When the course opened in 1990, the ponds were filled. Not so anymore, but things might be looking up for the premium course that has lost a little of its luster.

A new era on Lanai

The golf course may in fact close down in the near future for some improvements. The reason is the new owner. Last summer, billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle pretty much bought the island and the resorts for $500 million. He has a plan that includes building desalination plants that would provide more water for the island. Not only would it open the door for a restoration of the golf course, but for further development as well. Among future considerations is a third 100-room hotel on the eastern side of the island.

For now, however, The Lodge remains the quaint resort of the two Four Seasons properties on the island. It's definitely the more laid back of the two, which also includes The Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay, which is four times the size of The Lodge.

At The Lodge, guests can also enjoy croquet, an 18-hole putting course, tennis, hiking, biking and acres of lush landscaping.

In addition, resort guests at The Lodge have access to everything at the other resort, including the spa, and vice-versa.

The Lodge at Koele: The verdict

Maui is one of Hawaii's most popular islands, but it can also be one of its most hectic during high season. Lanai is just the opposite. Taking the 45-minute ferry ride over to the island might seem a bit daunting, but the staff at the Four Seasons makes it seamless, greeting guests with leis, loading their bags and quickly whisking them to their respective resorts.

For those who make it up to The Lodge, relaxation is the first and last order of business. The Experience at Koele is such that most players will hardly see another soul on the course, primarily because the other course, The Challenge at Manele, probably gets three times as much play. At The Lodge, guests can truly get lost, and that's a good thing.

More photos

Experience at Koele - hole 17Lodge at Koele - putting courseLodge at Koele - restaurantExperience at Koele golf course - 3rd

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment