The Lodge at Koele: A unique Hawaii resort experience

By Lottie Tagupa, Contributor

Lana'i was for many years a pineapple plantation run by the Dole Company. Since then, golf courses have replaced pineapple fields, on this former "Pineapple Island", and tourism is now the focus. The families from Lana'i's pineapple days have remained to work in the island two resorts. The Lana'i Company which runs almost everything on the island has managed to transform this island from a plantation community into an excellent destination that is not only uniquely Hawaiian, but uniquely Lana'i.

As the island's only runway rises to meet the weight of the small propeller driven aircraft, one senses that this island is quite different from most places on earth. Disembarking onto the warm and breezy tarmac, passengers walk toward the airport terminal to claim their luggage. The terminal building is no larger than most convenience stores and what is most noticeable is that it lacks the sounds and sights of your typical airport passenger terminal.

There are no baggage carousels, scurrying passengers or long ticket lines. Instead, one finds a crisply dressed representative of the Lodge at Koele ready to assist passengers as they arrive. The representative quickly checks off names and collects luggage and directs passengers to the cool and clean hotel shuttle van. Once done, the shuttle doors are closed and the van turns toward the highway for the short drive to the resort.

This is where the transformation begins. This is where your typical harried and tired airline passenger is transformed into a pampered guest of one of Hawaii's most unique resorts. It begins with the smallest of things. It could be noticing that the etiquette on this island makes a friendly wave to drivers of oncoming traffic necessary. Or it could be noticing that the island has no traffic lights or that there are no fast food restaurants.

As the van makes it way through Lanai City and onward and upward toward Koele, the feeling of stillness and privacy is all enveloping. The plantation-style cottages give way to pastureland as the main building comes into view ahead.

The Lodge at Koele is not your typical beach front resort. It is located in the highlands of Lanai among tropical rain forests and Cook Island Pines. Koele is more a mountain retreat than a place for sun seekers. The upland setting frequently presents fog covered mornings and dark cloudless night skies that are jeweled with tropical stars.

The Lodge at Koele has 88 guest rooms, 10 suites and 4 fireplace suites. It's located at 1,600 feet above sea level and about a 25 minute drive to the nearest beach. With the charm and ambiance of an exclusive English clubhouse, Koele is a gathering of sportsmen and golfers.

A fresh flower lei greets you along with a warm greeting. Bags are whisked off to rooms and guests are escorted into the intimate registration area. Once checked in, guests are escorted to their rooms by a representative who outlines the facilities, amenities and services offered. It's a personal touch that allows guests to ask their questions and express their needs in private on a one to one basis.

The guest rooms at The Lodge at Koele are done up in bright hues, with a pineapple motif carved into the posts Italian-made bed. The bathrooms are large and roomy with beautiful blue marble floors and an array of fine toiletries. Wonderful country windows overlook the garden and rain forest grounds. The cottage decor is heavenly and cozy. The pineapple accents are a remembrance of Lanai's early plantation days.

Walking sticks can be found in the closet, presumably to enjoy The Lodge at Koele's breathtaking grounds or nearby Munro Trail. In addition to daily maid service, complimentary ice and turn down service is available daily.

The main gathering spot at The Lodge at Koele is The Great Hall. It features two of the largest natural stone fireplaces in the State of Hawaii and is tastefully decorated with antiques that designer Joszi Meskan of San Francisco spent more than two years collecting.

Fresh flowers, many of which are collected on a daily basis from the greenhouse located near the freshwater pond at the rear of the Lodge, are a mainstay throughout the property. It is the perfect location for someone who just wants to enjoy a much-needed retreat.

The Lodge at Koele's large veranda encompasses the main building making it the perfect transition from the beamed ceilings of the interior hall to the beautifully manicured gardens surrounding the resort. It's also a perfect spot to enjoy complimentary morning coffee, afternoon tea, or a place to gather before venturing out to explore the island.

Along with such amenities as complimentary morning coffee and afternoon tea, The Lodge at Koele also has a nice selection of books and videos in the resort library and complimentary board games for guests to enjoy. Other complimentary activities include croquet, evening entertainment, lawn bowling, tennis, and executive putting green.

Other guest activities include deep sea fishing, guided deer hunting, clay shooting, four wheel drive excursions, hiking, horse-drawn carriage rides, horseback riding, mountain biking, and golf. And what an experience golf is.

The Lodge at Koele's golf course, The Experience at Koele, was designed by the notable Greg Norman and fairway architect Ted Robinson as a par 72 championship course. Resident Pro Brendan Moynahan has been at Koele just under a year after a stint at world famous Kapalua.

When asked what makes a Koele an experience Brendan says that "the ambience along with the unhurried and relaxed play make it enjoyable for most levels of players." Brendan goes on to say that only "60-70 rounds are played at Koele per day."

The forested golf course progresses through a series of micro-environments that range from pine and eucalyptus forested plateaus enveloped in morning mist to thick rain forest vegetation amidst freshwater streams and waterfalls. Views of the pacific Ocean and the islands of Maui and Molokai in the distance are truly fantastic as is the occasional sighting of wild turkeys and deer.

The eighth hole is Koele's signature. Called the most spectacular in Hawaii it is a 396 yard, par 4 with a 250 foot elevation drop through ravines wooded with pine, koa, and eucalyptus. Koele's final hole is a par five whose green is bordered by waterfalls flowing into a larger lake. Overall, this golf course is not only an experience, but a uniquely unexpected one at that.

One of the nicest perks of spending time at The Lodge at Koele is the relationship it has with it's sister resort at Manele Bay. For those who just absolutely need a beach fix, or want to spend a day in the surf, a complimentary shuttle service is available between the hotels all day long at no charge. Although rental cars are available on a limited basis, this perk makes a rental car on this island almost completely unnecessary.

Lanai in general is a popular destination for local big game hunters. During hunting season, the additional traffic to/from Lanai airport can sometimes stress the capacity of the commuter airlines that service the island regularly.

Nine consecutive weekends beginning in March are set aside for rifle hunting. Archery hunters are typically scheduled for the third week in February and muzzle loading hunters are usually on the island during the first week of March. For travel during these periods, advance air, resort, and especially car reservations are highly recommended.

Lanai has attracted a wide range of upscale guests, from corporate gatherings for Nike, to Bill Gates' wedding. The experience of The Lodge at Koele is one that values personalized service, privacy, and sportsmanship. Koele's service is consistently superior and the facilities are intimate, Luxurious, and comfortable.

Lottie Tagupa, Contributor

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