Welcome to Sensei Lanai! We recently took a vacation to this gorgeous Four Seasons property on Lanai island. Is it worth the price? Here are the pros and cons, and insider tips to know before you go.
Where is Sensei Lanai?
Sensei Lanai is located on the island of Lanai.
Lanai is one of the 8 main Hawaiian Islands. It is marketed as both a hotel and a wellness retreat.
Is this a Four Seasons hotel?
Yes! But it can be a little confusing. This hotel is a combination of the Four Seasons brand and the Sensei brand.
The Sensei brand is a newer hotel brand owned by Larry Ellison. Larry Ellison also owns 98% of Lanai island.
Did this used to be another hotel?
Yes. A long time ago this hotel used to be Koele Lodge. Then it was Four Seasons Koele Lodge. And now it is Sensei Lanai.
With each ownership change, the hotel got fancier and fancier. Back in 2012 I stayed at Koele Lodge for $199 with the kama'aina rate (the discounted locals rate). We could only dream of getting those rates nowadays ^_^
Who is Sensei Lanai ideal for?
We saw mainly couples and solo travelers looking for a luxury vacation during our stay. The hotel doesn't allow children, so it was pretty quiet and peaceful.
The hotel seems to be popular for honeymoons and babymoons. It's also a favorite for people looking for a wellness retreat type of hotel.
Pro Tip: For luxury travel with children on the island of Lanai, check out the Four Seasons Lanai.
What makes Sensei Lanai special.
Well first off, the hotel is gorgeous. It's incredibly lush and green, and the air just feels so clean.
It's also very peaceful and zen-like. Even when the hotel is completely full, everything on the property is spaced out so that you never run into many people. It almost felt too quiet.
Free wellness classes! You can book private classes for a fee, but they also offer many types of daily wellness classes for no extra charge.
Free flight to/from Lanai on a private jet. A roundtrip flight from Honolulu to Lanai was included in our booking. They noted this as a limited time promotion when we booked our stay (we visited in early 2023), but based on their website, it looks like they extended the promotion. I know other friends who went in previous years and the roundtrip flight was also included, so the flight seems to be an ongoing promotion.
Free shuttles. Unless you plan to do a lot of exploring on Lanai island, you don't need a car. Given how pricey the hotel is, I wanted to spend most of our time exploring the property. The hotel run free shuttles throughout the day between Sensei Lanai, Lanai City, Four Seasons Lanai, and Manele Golf Course.
Main downside was the price. This is an expensive resort and a definite indulgence for us. Other than that, I can't really think of anything else!
The Private Jet!
The most common way to get to Lanai is from Oahu.
First fly into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu. Then take Lanai Air from HNL to Lanai Airport (LNY).
The best part is that the roundtrip flight from HNL to LNY was included in our booking (make sure to double check they are still offering this at the time you book the stay).
And not only was it included, but it was also on a private jet! Very neat heheh. We joked that this was actually the highlight of the visit ^_^
Once you book the hotel, you'll receive an email from Lanai Air asking about flight preferences. Let them know when you want to fly and they pretty much accommodate the time request! Talk about good service.
If you're flying in from another city to HNL, they will arrange transportation from HNL to the Lanai Air hanger (just a few minutes away).
If you're already in Honolulu, you can drive (there is guest parking for a daily fee) or get dropped off to the Lanai Air hanger. Make sure to arrive 30 minutes before your flight.
P.S. There are multiple ways to get to Lanai, including a 45 minute ferry from Maui...something I'm curious to try in the future.
They'll take your luggage once you arrive at the Lanai Air hanger (the luggage is handled all the way till you arrive to the hotel).
There is a lounge where you can rest, have some drinks and tasty snacks while you wait.
Here's a look at the lounge menu. The tea served at the lounge and at the hotel is from a brand called Ikaati Tea.
I love that they offer good local snacks like shortbread from Honolulu Cookie Company, kettle cooked chips from Kona Chips, and granola bars from Anahola Granola. We were on a morning flight so I had tea and treats.
Pro Tip: Even though check-in time isn't until 3pm, you can book an earlier flight. We did this in hopes of being offered an earlier check-in (which happily worked out!) Even without an early check-in, it's fun to arrive early so you can explore the resort and Lanai City.
After enjoying drinks and snacks, it is time to get on the plane. First you get onto a golf cart and they drive a few minutes to the plane. Then you walk right off the golf cart and right on to the plane. No need for any formal check in, security, etc. It felt so freeing. I wish all flights were like this!
It's a quick 30 minute flight from HNL to LNY. The plane seats about six guests. There was only one other couple on our flight, and they were heading to Four Seasons Lanai.
Once you land, there is a car waiting for you. So you just walk off the plane and right in to the car. They have a Tesla Model X for those heading to Sensei Lanai, and a larger shuttle for those going to Four Seasons Lanai (I'm guessing they use a shuttle for Four Seasons Lanai because it is bigger hotel and generally has more guests).
From LNY, it is about a 20 minute drive to Sensei Lanai where they'll welcome you with chilled black orchid hibiscus tea...
...and beautiful leis. Can you guess which leis they give to men and which to women? 🙂
The property has both rooms and suites. We booked a Koele Room, which is their standard room with lanai and garden views.
We paid about $900 per night...I know friends who paid more and others less, so this felt like an in between type of price.
Considering how expensive Hawaii hotels have gotten in the past few years, and having the round trip flight for both of us included along with all the wellness classes, made the price seem seem fair.
It was a simple and beautiful room. Nothing fancy, but ultimately very clean and relaxing which was all that we wanted.
We kept the lanai door open during the day and that made for a very nice indoor/outdoor living feel that Hawaii is known for.
Here's a look at the in-room coffee and tea set up. Nespresso pods, Ikaati Tea, cups from Heath Ceramics, kettle from Fellow. Very well thought out and organized.
Pool and Onsen Garden
There is a main pool area ...but we skipped the pool on this trip because we wanted to spend all the pool time in the onsens! There are ten outdoor hot tubs spread across an area called the Onsen Garden.
The Onsen Garden is located right in the middle of the property, but thanks to all the surrounding lush greenery, it was super secluded and private. It felt like a little maze where you could discover a private little warm and bubbling onsen at every turn.
Each onsen fits 2-3 people and is open 24 hours. We spent a lot of time in the onsens (even when it was raining!) and this was one of my favorite parts of the property.
Here's a look at the pool if you also want to check that out.
Art is a big part of Sensei Lanai and everywhere you look there is some fabulous piece of work. For those who are interested, the resort offers a walking art tour, or you can also do a self guided tour.
From Jeff Koons to Marc Quinn (his giant flower called Burning Desire is mesmerizing, pictured above), Fernando Botero, and many more, you could make a whole trip out of exploring all the art at the property.
There are three dining options:
Sensei by Nobu.
Sensei Lanai has one main restaurant called Sensei by Nobu. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Think Nobu, but with a slight health/wellness angle.
We had dinner one night...loved the salmon hot pot, beef sukiyaki (pictured above), and Nobu's signature miso black cod, also known as miso butterfish.
But my favorite meal there was the breakfast because they had a Japanese breakfast set! Any time I see a Japanese breakfast set on a hotel menu, I have to order it. It is one of my favorite types of breakfast. They had a fancy version with fish, onsen tamago, vegetable miso soup, pickled vegetables, simmered vegetables, and rice.
Koele Garden Bar.
There is also a casual bar called Koele Garden Bar. In the mornings, this area serves free coffee and tea for guests. They also have housemade pastries for purchase (including a poi doughnut) and grab-and-go breakfast items like yogurt, granola, smoothies. etc.
For lunch/dinner/snack, they serve an all day menu with a cocktail menu and food offerings like kushiyaki, tacos, tempura, and blistered shishito peppers with miso (which one guest was raving to me about). It's a good option when you don't want the formality of a full meal at Sensei by Nobu, but still want something substantial to eat.
In Room Dining.
I confess, this was actually my favorite dining option. One night when we just wanted to relax (isn't that the whole point of the trip?) and not do anything we ordered burgers and fries to the room! It hit the spot.
We devoured the burgers in bed and watched multiple episodes of Law & Order. Best night ever. My only regret was not also ordering sodas heheh.
Yeti Water Bottles
I love how many hotels now give refillable water bottles when you check in! They range from simple versions (like the ones from The Twin Fin Hotel on Oahu) to these fancier custom Yeti bottles at Sensei Lanai. You get to keep them.
They provided two bottles, one per person, and we brought them with us everywhere during our stay. There are water refill stations located throughout the property which was convenient.
The resort offers free cultural activities throughout the day that include everything from lei making workshops to lauhala bracelet weaving classes, and also classes where you can learn about hula.
A daily schedule of classes is posted near the reception desk. The classes take place in the main lobby. Pictured above is a wrist lei from the lei making workshop.
Sensei Lanai also has a nice library (and chess) room where you can sit and read. You can also borrow books to take back to your room.
I liked visiting the library in the morning with a big cup of tea and sitting to read for an hour or so. There was never more than one other person in the library whenever I was there. So nice and quiet.
I love visiting hotel gift shops and this was a fun (and pricey!) one. They had a great selection of clothing, beauty products, and handbags. Definitely make sure to check it out.
Lanai City is the main city in Lanai. It is where all the restaurants, shopping, grocery store, banks, etc is located. It is a 20 minute walk from Sensei Lanai.
We were chatting with a hotel employee about our plans to walk to Ganotisi's (at least three people recommended this restaurant to us) in Lanai City for breakfast one morning...and he was so nice to offer a ride there. We hopped into one of the hotel's Teslas and he drove us to the restaurant. Cool and causal.
We had a great breakfast (check out Ganotisi's loco moco with macaroni salad pictured above!) and then walked back to Sensei Lanai. What a nice morning.
In addition to Ganotisi's, there are a few other popular restaurants on Lanai City including Blue Ginger Cafe and Lanai City Bar & Grill (it's located inside Hotel Lanai and they're supposed to have really good live music in the evenings).
The main grocery store is called Richard's Market and they sell everything from basic groceries and essentials, to fresh poke and even produce and greens grown by Lanai's own Sensei Farms (which they also serve at the hotels).
Four Seasons Lanai
There are two Four Seasons hotels on Lanai: Sensei Lanai and Four Seasons Lanai (pictured above).
Sensei Lanai is known as the "mountain property" and Four Seasons Lanai is known as the "ocean property."
Because we get plenty of ocean in Honolulu, I find Sensei Lanai more intriguing. It shows you a side of Hawaii that people are less familiar with because everyone only pictures sun, sand, and beach when thinking about Hawaii!
Four Seasons Lanai is wonderful though if you're looking for a warm and luxurious beach escape. I last went a few years ago after the most recent renovation and loved it. It's a lot more busy and bustling (also very kid friendly), so there's a very big difference in atmosphere between the two resorts.
There are free shuttles that run between the two hotels (plus Lanai City) throughout the day. You can dine at any of the restaurants in either hotel and charge them to your room.
We took the shuttle to Four Seasons Lanai and had a few meals there. Pictured above is the seared ahi tuna salad at Malibu Farm Restaurant. The weather difference is so funny...I were wearing a sweater and cozy long dress at Sensei Lanai. Once the shuttle arrived to Four Seasons Lanai I had to change to a short dress because it was so much warmer!
Note: Guests at either resort are allowed to dine at the restaurants at either property, but cannot use the pool at the property they're not staying at. So if you stay at Sensei Lanai, you can dine at the Four Seasons Lanai restaurants but you cannot use the pool area.
Manele Golf Course
If you like to golf, the free shuttle can also take you to the famous Manele Golf Course. I never held a golf club before this trip, but decided to sign up for a private beginners golf class on our last day. It was so much fun and now I can sort of understand what people say when they use golf terminology haha. I don't think I'll ever be a regular golfer but it is nice to know what is going on.
Pro Tip: Even if you don't golf, it is worth visiting the golf course just to have a casual lunch at VIEWS Restaurant at Manele Golf Course. I first went here a few years back and woooow the views from the outdoor dining tables are beautiful.
Free Wellness Classes
One of the coolest parts about Sensei Lanai is the daily offering of free wellness classes. These are really good wellness classes. They keep the classes small with a maximum of six students per class.
Some days had a dozen different classes on offer!
They offered everything from a Koloiki Ridge hike (pictured above), to aerial yoga, forest bathing, fascia classes, resistance training, and even silent meditations. So many neat classes.
I wanted to take them all. But I also wanted to relax haha. So I did 2-3 classes per day which was a nice balance. They print out customized schedules and deliver it to your room, a thoughtful touch!
Pro Tip: Sign up for the classes at the concierge desk right after you check-in to the hotel. Some classes can book up fast. I was on the waitlist for Tai Chi, and ended up getting in when one guest didn't show up for the class.
The only way you can pre-book the free wellness classes before you arrive is if you also book a spa treatment (massage, bodywork, facial, etc) ahead of your stay. The spa treatments also give you access to private spa hales which I hear are gorgeous...definitely want to try that next time.
FAQ and Tips
No. All food is a la carte and can be billed to your room.
No. I believe there was a brief period where it was an all inclusive property (at a much higher rate), but it is currently a la carte.
Yes. There is one "main" pool area. There are also 10 heated onsens / outdoor tubs spread across the property in the Onsen Garden.
There are 92 rooms and 4 suites.
Unless you plan on doing activities outside either hotel (Sensei Lanai and Four Seasons Lanai), Lanai City, or Manele Golf Course, I don't feel that you need to rent a car because the hotels run free shuttles between all these places.
Yes! I hope to revisit again one day.
Sensei Lanai: Info
- Sensei Lanai | 1 Keomoku Highway, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763 | 808-565-4500 | sensei.com/retreats/lanai and fourseasons.com/sensei.
Sunday 30th of April 2023
Good post; good info. Back when Koele Lodge first opened, I was working for Fujitsu and we installed their telephone system. But that was a long time ago. For your rate of $900 per night, did this rate include the plane trip to the property? If so, then I guess it was pretty reasonable. I said earlier that we are considering going to the Kona Village for vacation this year, but their rates are like $3500 per night. Auwe!! Hope you enjoyed your adventure. What is there to do at this property?
Wednesday 3rd of May 2023
@Kathy, thanks for the reply. I appreciate it. I will tuck this info into my memory banks for future use when we decide to go back to Hawaii again. Again, thanks!!
Tuesday 2nd of May 2023
Hi Alan! The $900/night rate included roundtrip airfare for both of us, so not bad! We traveled on a weekday, the weekends are priced higher. As for what to do - we took many of the wellness classes (also included in the room rate), enjoyed the onsen, explored the art on the property, and did a lot of relaxing and reading. It was such a good low key holiday and we came home refreshed ^_^ - Kathy