Sylvan Serenity: Sensei Lana’i, a Four Seasons Resort

To fully express the characteristics of Sensei Lāna’i, it helps to explain what the Hawaiian resort is not. Though located within the tropical isles, Sensei Lāna’i is far from the beach. Though blessed with a spectacular swimming pool, the typical “7 a.m. race to save chaise lounges” is not an issue. Guests will never hear the squeals of young children, nor will they be subjected to a piped-in playlist with an incessant disco beat.

At Sensei Lāna’i, the sound of birdsong fills the fragrant air. Significant works of art speckle the lush landscape. A Zen-like vibe permeates the 24-acre property, within which are walking paths that meander through colorful gardens and groves that ring a central, koi-filled lake. A waterfall cascades beside and between 10 private hot tubs hidden among the verdant flora.

Jaume Plensa’s Talaia. Photo by Robb Gordon

One of two Four Seasons resorts on the tiny and exceedingly authentic island of Lāna’i where pineapple fields once dominated the landscape, (the other resort fronts picturesque Hulopo’e Beach, a 25-mile shuttle ride away, where guests can sign food and beverage to their Sensei room), Sensei is about wellness and renewal. It’s about personal growth. And it’s most definitely about rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

Sensei is about wellness and renewal. It’s about personal growth. And it’s most definitely about rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

Located in Lāna’i’s “up country” at 1,600 feet above sea level where temperatures are routinely a refreshing 10 degrees cooler than those beachfront, Sensei features a boutique-like 96 rooms within its light-filled, 2-story, plantation-style structure. A recent and extensive remodel transformed the former The Lodge at Koele into an inspirational wellness enclave. The founders envisioned a retreat so captivating and enchanting as to innately initiate positive change in its guests. Larry Ellison and renowned oncologist, author, and University of Southern California professor of medicine Dr. David Agus have more than succeeded.

Sensei Lānaʻi onsen garden hot pool

The duo’s goal for guest well-being is demonstrated not only in the resort’s inherent beauty and its luxe facilities which include a 24-hour fitness room, two movement studios, and a calming yoga pavilion, but also in its “Sensei Way” programming that inspires and kickstarts healthy habits. Based on a 3-path focus of “move, nourish, and rest,” the Sensei Way helps guests to familiarize themselves and maintain a healthy relationship with body and mind. Through varied, curated experiences and classes with the resort’s health experts who can collect baseline health markers such as blood pressure, body composition, hydration, and a functional-movement screen, guests gather and absorb tips to address particular intentions. An action plan is then created for life back at home. And whatever that intention (e.g., better sleep habits, adding more movement into daily life, lowering cholesterol, addressing a screen addiction, etc.), Sensei offers bespoke experiences guided by caring specialists who motivate.

But even those who chose the á la carte option will find themselves transformed by the surroundings, the delicious and healthy food, and the chance to unplug, if only for a few days. The 10 Onsen Garden hot tubs, over which the night sky shines most brightly, certainly help, as do the 10 Spa Hales in which a variety of pampering treatments are offered. Each is 1,000 square feet of pure indulgence, featuring individual gardens, Japanese Ofuro soaking tubs, outdoor rain showers, infrared saunas, hot and cold pools, and steam showers.

Sensei Lānaʻi Spa Hale. Photo by Robb Gordon

The property’s artworks and sculptures, several of which were commissioned expressly for the resort, help to impart a meditative aura. Even those not inclined toward art appreciation find surprise and delight in the monumental, mountainside-placed “Talaia” by Spanish sculpture Jaume Plensa, the resort’s magnificent focal point. Fernando Botero’s zaftig figures provide a welcome greeting, and British contemporary artist Marc Quinn’s bronze sculpture “Burning Desire”reflects its brilliant red in the lake. Inside, Jeff Koons’ stainless steel “Aphrodite” is the lobby’s stunning centerpiece. Additional featured artists include Baltasar Lobo, Robert Indiana, David Ellis, Miya Ando, Haure Shimomoto, Sky Pape, Brooks Shane Salzwedel, and Lauren Collin. The art alone truly is worth a visit.

Even those not inclined toward art appreciation find surprise and delight in the monumental, mountainside-placed “Talaia” by Spanish sculpture Jaume Plensa, the resort’s magnificent focal point.

Donna Seduta by Fernando Botero. Photo by Aleks Danielle

Sensei features one restaurant, Nobu, for which repeat visits become an anticipatory ritual and not at all routine. The large, atrium-like spot with interior palms overlooks the lake and gardens and offers indoor and outdoor seating. The menu features specifically wellness-focused dishes utilizing the bounty of the resort’s nearby hydroponic farm, as well as Nobu classics such as miso marinated black cod and A5 wagyu. And though wellness is emphasized here and throughout the resort, sweet-toothed guests will find much to love on the dessert menu, such as the coffee hazelnut millefuille with gianduja feuilletine, candied hazelnuts, and bitter chocolate sorbet.

Sensei Lānaʻi Nobu. Photo by Robb Gordon

One of the most decadent aspects of a Sensei Lāna’i stay is the effortless travel. Included with each booking made by Aug 31, for arrivals by Dec 31, 2022, are concierge transfers from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to Lāna’i via luxurious charter air service Lāna’i Air (a 25-minute flight). Staff members greet guests upon arrival in Honolulu and provide escort to the Lāna’i Air tarmac via luxury SUV. Upon arrival in Lāna’i, a staff-driven Tesla awaits for the 10-minute drive to the resort. It’s the perfect, care-free start to a serene Sensei Way stay.

Main photo by Robb Gordon

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.