Lanai is Open for Business

In the wake of an ownership change, the little island still touts big vacation fun By: Marty Wentzel
A family with Trilogy Excursions poses at Hulopoe Bay, in front of Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. // © 2012 Trilogy Excursions
A family with Trilogy Excursions poses at Hulopoe Bay, in front of Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. // © 2012 Trilogy Excursions

The Details

Lanai Visitors Bureau

When Oracle Corp. chief executive Larry Ellison bought Lanai in June, several travel agents asked me what the move meant for the island’s visitor industry. Since then, I’ve monitored the scene on Lanai, noting that Ellison has kept mum on his plans. The one exception came recently, when he told CNBC that he wanted to turn the 140-square-mile island into a “model for sustainable enterprise.”

While Ellison hasn’t mentioned Lanai’s future tourism scene, the hotels, restaurants and activities on Hawaii’s sixth largest island — part of Maui County — say they are continuing to welcome guests with open arms.

“The new ownership has renewed excitement about Lanai within the tourism industry both in Hawaii and beyond,” said Maui Visitors Bureau executive director Terryl Vencl. “We believe that this partnership will increase opportunities and open doors for tourism to grow and thrive, while remaining true to our unique sense of place.”

The island’s two Four Seasons Resorts — Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay — have updated their public areas to maintain a luxurious experience imbued with Lanai hospitality. For instance, both hotels have installed a private fine-art collection created by Hawaii artists. And at Hotel Lanai, a 1920’s renovated gem, the live music program is expanding with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Little Albert’s acoustic shows on Saturday nights.

The island’s singular town of Lanai City, with a population of 3,100, charms visitors with its home-grown shops and restaurants. New on the scene are Lanai Ohana Poke Market with fresh, marinated raw fish and plate lunch specials, and No Ka Oi Grindz, with local favorites such as teriyaki beef and edamame fried rice.

One of the newest outdoor activities awaiting visitors is Lanai Grand Adventures’ Ride and Shoot tour, combining four-wheeling in a UTV with aim-and-shoot action at Lanai Pine Sporting Clays. Lanai is also a big draw for golfers, so I’m guessing the new owner will prioritize its two championship courses.

For day-trippers, Trilogy Excursions is continuing its longstanding sailing excursions from Maui to Lanai. The firm ferries clients to the island for snorkeling, scuba, snuba, a beach barbecue and an island tour, including a stop at the Lanai Cultural Center. Trilogy spokesman Kyle Ellison (unrelated to Oracle’s Ellison) said the island’s new ownership won’t affect their offerings.

“For the time being, we are operating as usual on the island of Lanai, and we are looking forward to busy and exciting winter and spring seasons,” said Trilogy’s Ellison.

Larry Ellison’s vision of Lanai as a visitor destination may be a mystery, but for now I can safely say that the little island is open for clients’ business in a big way.

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