A fresh look for a laid-back Lanai


POSTED: Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who says nothing ever changes on Lanai? Exciting cultural, historical, artistic, delicious and just plain fun things have been introduced there recently, most of them in little Lanai City. Here's a wrap-up of what's new.


Lanai Culture & Heritage Center

In 1987, Castle & Cooke, which owns 97 percent of Lanai, committed to establishing a program to preserve the island's rich heritage, including its 70-year history as a pineapple plantation. Steps to bring the nonprofit Lanai Culture & Heritage Center (LCHC) to fruition began in earnest three years ago under the direction of Kepa Maly, a respected cultural historian who was hired as its executive director. Maly grew up on Lanai as a keiki hanai (adopted child) of elder members of the Kaopuiki family.

Set for a soft opening tomorrow, LCHC's beautifully renovated, 1,200-square-foot space in the old Dole Administration Building is double the size of its current home down the hall. Its official opening at noon on Jan. 16 will be a festive community event.

Most of LCHC's exhibits focus on the period from 1000 A.D., when the first Hawaiians settled on Lanai, to the end of the plantation era in 1992. Especially noteworthy are a 4-feet-6-inch-wide by 3-feet-8-inch-high painting of Lanai by former resident John Wullbrandt that shows many traditional place names and land boundaries; videotaped oral histories of beloved Lanai kupuna (elders); ancient poi pounders, adzes, tapa beaters, and wood and stone carvings; and plantation artifacts, including bango (workers' metal identification tags).

Maly has worked to engage Lanai's families as stewards of their heritage, and donations of artifacts continue to stream into LCHC. “;It's wonderful that people who feel a connection to Lanai are helping to give the museum life,”; he said. “;If we don't do this, nobody will, and we will lose an invaluable chapter in Hawaii's history.”;

Initially, LCHC will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free; donations are gratefully accepted. 565-7177; www.lanaichc.org.


Lanai Art Center

Lance Anderson, executive director of the Lanai Art Center (LAC), wants visitors to get sm”;art.”; For starters, you're welcome to browse in the new library set in a corner of the center's gallery. “;We've always had a nice collection of art books, but they were locked in a closet in the office before,”; Anderson said. “;They're great resources, and it's nice to see people reading them.”;

He also encourages visitors to attend LAC's classes, which include the Beading Hui on Sunday afternoons. Each session costs $10 plus whatever supplies you need to make a necklace or bracelet. Monday evening oil painting workshops run on a monthly cycle. The fee is $40 for four lessons, and you must bring your own paints and brushes.

If you're lucky, a silk scarf painting class might be planned during your stay. The $40 fee includes the materials for your take-home creation. During digital photography classes, which also are offered on an irregular basis, students learn how to use Adobe Photoshop to improve the quality of their pictures. For $45 you receive up to five prints and ample practice time on computers.

In addition, private lessons in silk screening; silk fabric painting; pencil and pen-and-ink drawing; and oil, watercolor and acrylic painting can be arranged. Cost runs about $35 per hour plus materials. Art classes for groups staying at the Four Seasons resorts are set to begin in January. 565-7503; www.lanaiart.org.


Hotel Lanai

In 1923 James Dole, dubbed the Pineapple King, built a modest wood-frame structure to house executives and guests of Hawaiian Pineapple Co., which he had established on Lanai the year before. Now known as Hotel Lanai, this retreat will delight travelers looking for a homey, laid-back experience.

A 400-square-foot cottage, which became available to guests in October, was originally constructed in the early 1950s to house offices for the hotel. Situated behind the main building, it provides amenities not available in the 10 other rooms, including a flat-screen TV; DVD player; Wi-Fi access; minirefrigerator; and a deck with a covered table, chairs and hammock.

It took three weeks to complete the cottage's floor-to-ceiling renovations, which, among other things, involved replacing tile floors with wood; installing new plumbing with a pedestal sink and period bathroom fixtures; and landscaping with anthuriums, hapuu ferns, crotons, ti, jasmine, gardenias and other tropical plants.

“;The cottage sleeps four and is great for families,”; said Mary Charles, who owns Hotel Lanai with her husband, Tom Kiely, and her nephew Mike Charles. “;It provides the quiet, comfortable ambience of a real home away from home.”; Nightly rate is $179; book six nights and you'll get the seventh night free. 565-7211 on Lanai, (800) 795-7211 from the other islands; www.hotellanai.com.


Lanai Ohana Poke Market

Got a penchant for poke? Ciso Lagmay, wife Donna Stokes and their daughter Roselani Kahoohalahala can satisfy your cravings. Their Lanai Ohana Poke Market sells a dozen varieties of the popular pupu, including spicy tuna, Maui onion, limu kohu (seaweed) and baby tako (octopus). Prices range from $7.75 to $13.95 per pound.

Lagmay makes all the poke himself. Rose has become known for her ono sushi, which is usually gone by noon (the sushi balls and “;tunari”; are her original creations). The two daily specials vary, depending on what Lagmay feels like making; think dishes such as salmon cakes, smoked marlin veggie wraps, mahimahi piccata, roast pork, shepherd's pie and shoyu chicken. Every Friday, he makes a hefty Hawaiian plate, and on Saturday, crowds come for the box lunch filled with teriyaki beef, shrimp tempura, fried chicken and other favorites.

Although Lanai Ohana Poke Market also earns high points for maintaining a native Hawaiian garden and using biodegradable plates, containers, utensils and trash bags, it's the food that folks are raving about. “;I try to kick things up a notch,”; Lagmay said. “;Customers wonder what I'm going to do next. I tell them they have to keep coming back to see all the surprises.”;

Lanai Ohana Poke Market is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m Saturday. 559-6265.


Four Seasons Resorts Lanai

» Carriage Trade. Seventy-year-old Vivian Eskaran came out of retirement to escort visitors on leisurely horse-drawn carriage tours of upcountry Lanai. An expert horsewoman, she loves “;talking story”; about the island that has been her home for 50 years.

On the one-hour City tour, you'll traverse a road lined with Cook pines and ironwood trees that was formerly used to haul pineapple from the fields. The road skirts Cavendish Golf Course, a nine-hole public course that opened in the early 1930s. Anyone can play it for free.

Eskaran guides the carriage through posh subdivisions that border the championship Experience at Koele course designed by golf great Greg Norman and golf course architect Ted Robinson. From there you'll head into Lanai City, where residents pause from shopping, gardening and hanging laundry to smile and wave hello.

The price for the City and one-hour Scenic tours, which goes to a lookout revealing a spectacular panorama encompassing Maui and Molokai, is $50 per person. It costs $25 per person for the 30-minute ride to the Experience at Koele's clubhouse. Tours leave from the Stables at Koele and are scheduled daily upon request. 565-4555.

» Yo ho ho and a bottle of ... Mike Yacoub, beverage manager of Four Seasons Resorts Lanai, above, views rum in the same way a pastry chef regards chocolate—the start of endless pleasures for the palate. Reputedly born in Barbados in the 17th century, the molasses- or sugar cane juice-based liquor is the key ingredient for several popular tropical drinks, including the Pina Colada, Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Mojito and Mai Tai.

Yacoub has launched a rum program at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay that features 25 kinds of rum from 13 different countries, including Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago. “;The program is well suited for the hotel's tropical ambience,”; Yacoub said. “;It inspired my bartenders and me to create dozens of new rum cocktails, and we're constantly experimenting to come up with more. Because of that, our drink menus are always changing. If guests tell us what flavors they like, we can even tailor-make a drink for them on the spot.”;

The Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge distributes a souvenir Rum Passport, which includes a brief history of rum, tasting notes on various rums and recommendations for their use (for example, Coruba is great in a Cuba Libre, while Oronoco makes a memorable Mojito). Rum aficionados will want to try the three rum flights mentioned in the Passport. Each flight is composed of three carefully chosen samples that allow them to compare the rums' cultural influences, aromas, styles, flavors and ages.

The longer rum ages in oak barrels, the more unique and rare it becomes. English Harbour 1981, a 25-year-old rum that was distilled in 1981 and bottled in 2006, sells for $45 a shot at Hale Ahe Ahe.

Yacoub occasionally conducts free tasting seminars on rum and other spirits. Private sessions can be arranged for groups with at least two days' advance notice. 565-2387.

» Seaside Indulgences. Erect three cabanas on a prime spot overlooking Hulopoe Bay. Open them to the gorgeous view and tradewinds; furnish them with a stereo, sofa, table and comfortable chairs; provide a personal attendant, and what do you have? The epitome of pleasure.

Private massages and food service at these Ocean Hale at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay are available daily. The massages, one of which employs warm shells, cost $185 for 50 minutes and $250 for 80 minutes.

Up to four guests can reserve a hale between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Prices start at $200 per couple, including food presentations appropriate to the time of day and amenities such as binoculars, periodicals and Evian facial spritzes.

Sweethearts can savor a romantic sunset dinner, complete with candlelight, soft background music, a trail of fresh flowers leading to the table, fine china and linens, and the use of a hand-held stargazing device. Choices for the five-course gourmet meal include Big Island Oysters with Bloody Mary Granite, Pan-Seared Tenderloin in a Red Wine Sauce, and Flourless Chocolate Cake with pistachio ice cream and rose-scented raspberries.

For an additional fee, you can enhance the experience with a solo guitarist, hula dancer, and/or conch shell blower and a tiki torch lighting ceremony. 565-2088 to book a massage; 565-2388 to arrange a dinner; www.fourseasons.com/lanai.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.