Little-known Lanai a slice of private paradise


Software magnate Bill Gates was married at the signature hole at the Challenge at Manele on Lanai.

Software magnate Bill Gates was married at the signature hole at the Challenge at Manele on Lanai.


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Keep buying those LottoMax tickets, but chances are you’ll never have an entire island to yourself. 

This could be as close as you get.

While Maui is always a hubbub of tourist activity, the tiny island of Lanai — accessible by a 45-minute passenger ferry from Lahaina or on a regional flight from Kahului Airport or from Honolulu — is exactly the opposite.

What the two islands do have in common is great golf.

“For the most part, people come out here and feel like they’ve got the courses all to themselves,” said Emmett Markulis, the head pro at the Challenge at Manele.

“That’s one thing that people always comment on. They love that.”

Lanai was once owned by Dole, with about three-quarters of the world’s pineapples grown on this island. Measuring about 30 km long and 20 km wide, it’s now an ideal spot for vacationers seeking a bit of peace and quiet.

There are no movie theatres, shopping malls or sporting arenas. There are no traffic headaches. In fact, there are no stop-lights.

What you will find is two world-class hotels — the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele — and two equally impressive golf courses.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Challenge at Manele features three holes that trace the cliff-tops above the ocean. The signature No. 12 is so stunning, billionaire Bill Gates had his wedding on the tee-box.

The Experience at Koele was designed by Greg Norman and is cut out of the forest about 2,000 feet above sea level. It will likely remind Calgarians a bit of the mountain courses back home, especially with a 200-foot drop from the elevated tees to the fairway below on the much-hyped 17th hole.

Golf Digest listed both the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele (T-14) and Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay (18) among its top-20 golf resorts in North America last year, and you should stick around a while to lounge on the quiet beach or take an off-road tour. But if you already have accommodations on Maui, you can catch the ferry bright and early and play 36 holes before the sun goes down.

“It's such a unique experience,” Markulis said. “I tell people all the time, 'It's the best one day golf experience you can find, at least in Hawaii.' You can't go too many places and get two completely different golf courses, two completely different climates, two totally different landscapes. You do here. I really think it's one of a kind. That's what, to me, sets us apart.”  

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