Of all the press trips, of all the hotels, of all the countries: Hawaii Four Seasons took the biscuit. Hands down the best holiday I have ever been on in over ten years of writing travel features. In fact, the best holiday I have ever been on period. How’s that for an opener.
I’ve ridden horses across the plains in Montana, lived with a gaucho in a concrete hut on a sheep farm in Patagonia, skied the snowboard-free slopes of Utah’s Deer Valley and freaked out at an all-inclusive swingers resort in Jamaica. Nothing however comes close to my five nights spent on the islands of Oahu and Lanai, staying at the Four Seasons on both.
Oh, and my girlfriend and I made friends with newlywed Brittany Daniel, the child star of 1990s hit TV show Sweet Valley High, and her husband Adam as they honeymooned alongside us. But we’ll get to that later.
Room with a view: This is what guests staying in the Penthouse Suite wake to each morning. Located on the 17th floor it offers stunning views from every angle. The suite’s main feature is the expansive terrace measuring 800 square feet which serves as the perfect setting for morning yoga, evening cocktails or a private dinner for family or friends. During the winter months, the terrace offers uninterrupted views for whale watching
To infinity and beyond: Located on the western side of the resort, the adult-only infinity pool offers a quiet retreat for enjoying Oahu’s fabulous sunsets. Relax on a lounge chair with an expertly-mixed cocktail or slip into the cool waters of the pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Inside the Penthouse Suite is wrapped in luxurious Hawaiian interiors. Its two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms provide a home away from home for travelling groups. Unwind in the master bedroom’s intimate living room, or entertain in the suite’s main living room and dining room. The suite also boasts a service kitchen for dinner parties. Pictured right, Lisa and I enjoying the terrace.
Brittany Daniel, the star (along with her twin sister) of 90s TV show Sweet Valley High, chose Four Seasons Oahu as her honeymoon destination with her husband Adam. The pair loved it so much they extended their stay and didn’t want to leave
Brittany Daniel and my good self overlooking Jurassic Park. The Circle Island Experience is the
only full circle tour of O‘ahu by helicopter. It starts with a taste of history over Pearl Harbor, the WWII the Arizona Memorial, and Battleship Missouri. Next we soared above the bustling Honolulu harbor, beautiful Waikīkī, and Diamond Head Crater. Heading further east, we went over Koko Head Crater and Hanauma Bay before Sandy Beach and Makapu‘u Lighthouse. Heading north, we came across the fantastic coral formations of Kāne‘ohe Bay, Mokoli‘i (Chinaman’s Hat) and ‘Jurassic Park’ or, as it has been known locally for hundreds of years, Ka‘a‘awa Valley. Lastly came the thousand foot cascade of Kaliuwa‘a (Sacred Falls), accessible only by air
Jurassic Park was filmed at 12 locations across this island and visitors can explore on foot, horseback, zipline or by chopper the iconic valley where a herd of Gallimimus famously fled from a T-Rex in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster classic
Giant dinosaur bones (made out of Styrofoam) remain to this day and form part of the tours
Restricted air space! Our island helicopter ride took in Pearl Harbor
Four Seasons on Oahu: The gleaming, all-white hotel hasn’t long been reopened after closing for an 18-month, $250 million refurbishment. It has 358 light-filled rooms and suites, five restaurants and lounges, four pools, tennis courts, a multi-level spa with a lap pool and outdoor treatment rooms and a golf club. Rooms are decorated in a modern Hawaiian style with local woods and banana-leaf wall coverings; they all come with a lanai, and face the ocean or a lagoon
The itinerary for the stay was three nights on Oahu before a 30-minute island hopper flight over to Lanai for two nights.
The Oahu leg would include an island helicopter tour, a Tesla hire car for the day, a trip to the island’s surfing mecca North Shore and a hike to a tide pool at Kaena Point from where recently deceased Hawaiian spirits are said to leap.
On Lanai, the private island bought for a reported $300 million by billionaire Larry Edelson in 2012, we would be horse riding, off-roading in a jeep along the deserted beaches, and dining at the hotel’s Nobu.
Oahu is Hawaii’s third largest island and home to the state capital, Honolulu. It is also the home of surfing, where the towering, glassy winter waves draw the best surfers in the world for the annual Vans Triple Crown competition.
Saturday, August 12
Arrival, at leisure
8 pm Dinner at Noe
Sunday, August 13
10 am La Hiki Brunch for All Seasons, meet Yvonne Hunter, PRD
2 pm Circle Island Heli Tour
4-8 pm At leisure, sunset at adult infinity pool. Please inquire at Activities Hale about outrigger canoe paddle
8:00 pm Dinner at Fish House
Monday, August 14
Tesla Drive and Delight (Drive Around the Island) I suggest leaving at dawn for Kaena Point and then heading to Haliewa on the North Shore
4:45 House car transfer to Ko Olina Marina
5 pm – 7:30 pm Serendipity Sunset Yacht Cruise
8:30 pm Dinner at La Hiki Kitchen
9 am Naupaka Spa Treatments 80 min Lomi Lomi Massage (confirmation to follow under separate cover. Please arrive 15 minutes early for your appointments.
Light lunch and departure to HNL International for flight to Lanai
Jurassic Park was filmed at 12 locations across this island and visitors can explore on foot, horseback, zipline or by chopper the iconic valley where a herd of Gallimimus famously fled from a T-Rex in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster classic. Giant dinosaur bones (made out of Styrofoam) remain to this day and form part of the tours.
Oh, and Oahu boasts the world’s largest outdoor shopping mall if that’s your thing.
My girlfriend and I are both British but have been living in New York for the last three years. We flew out of JFK and via a stop in Minneapolis we arrived some 12 hours at Oahu airport.
Neither of us had ever been to Hawaii and like many of our countrymen had little idea what it would be like as a holiday destination.
Our knowledge was limited to Elvis Presley films, Pearl Harbor history lessons, surfing clips shown in those annoyingly trendy UK pubs and news footage of the Obamas eating shaved ice during their yearly vacation on Oahu. We were about to learn a lot, very quickly about a chain of islands where we both now want to retire to as soon as possible.
We were met at Oahu’s Four Seasons hotel in Ko ‘Olina with garlands and freshly squeezed juice before being whisked through an open-air, marble-floored lobby where the soft notes from a ukulele floated up and over the balconies of the 17-floor atrium.
The gleaming all-white hotel hasn’t long been reopened after closing for an 18-month, $250 million refurbishment. The new adult infinity-pool is regarded as one of the world’s finest and where we found ourselves within 20 minutes of arriving.
Dutiful staff waited on us hand and foot. Our Margarita cocktail order was taken as we floated in the the salt-water pool while complimentary sun cream was delivered to our sides as we lay on loungers toasting our good fortune. It was a comfortable 80 degrees, the sun was making its dip towards the horizon and we were booked in for dinner at the hotel’s Noe restaurant ‘where Capri meets Oahu’ and where dishes are prepared by Michelin starred Chef Ryo Takasuka. Cheers indeed.
We both felt giddy to be there. It was testament to the vibe and service at the Four Seasons that we had just spent 16hrs travelling yet felt this good.
We showered and had a beer on our balcony before heading to Noe for dinner. Sat outside amid the Asian-inspired landscaped gardens connected by mini wooden bridges, we ate Ahi Tuna with snap pea, tomato and caper oil before sharing a Branzino Acqua Pazza with clams, olives and tomato. All of this was matched perfectly with a South African Sauvignon Blanc.
Outdoor dining at Noe. Southern Italy’s characteristic light flavors shape dishes inspired by local seafood, top quality meats and homemade pastas accompanied by Italian wines – many never before available in Hawaii
Now, I’m pretty sure guests at the hotel get up around 7am and are in bed no later than 11pm not just to make the most of the day, but to make the most of the night. As we soon discovered, a sleep in a Four Seasons bed is a vacation in its own right. We laughed each night as our heads sank slowly into these giant soft cushions – both asleep within minutes. So popular, in fact are these pillows, that the hotel now sells them online, along with their beds and duvets for guests desperate to recreate the experience in their own homes.
We woke for our first full day with no sense of jet-lag and took a swim before the famous Sunday brunch at La Hiki. We drank Bloody Mary’s and made repeated trips to the various food stations where steaks and lamb chops were grilled to order; lobster, oysters, crab claws and shrimp cocktails were nestled on chipped ice and pretty much everything else of supreme quality sat waiting for you to try.
We had an hour to digest by the pool before we were driven to the nearby airfield for the island heli-tour, captained by Mooch Reynoso, an Air Force veteran who went on to pilot Marine One for Bill Clinton. In between giving us a fascinating aerial tour of Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, Jurassic Valley and everything else of note below us, Mooch offered up a little anecdote from his time working with about Bill Clinton.
Brittany Daniel and her Tesla: Specialty suite guests get access to a complimentary Model X or Model S Tesla for 48 hours of cruising around the island. The car is exceedingly fast and was recently filmed beating a Lamborghini. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience (unless of course you buy one!)
Whenever he was being flown alone, that’s to say without Hillary, Bill would always invite his pilots to eat with him, drink beer and watch a film.
‘He was the friendliest President you could expect to work for’, said Mooch. ‘Except when Hillary was there. Then the mood changed. She wasn’t so friendly’.
It was aboard this chopper for four people that we met Brittany Daniel, one of the twins from the 1990s show Sweet Valley High. She went on to date Leonardo DiCaprio and star in a number of films before overcoming Stage4 cancer and then marrying the love of her life Adam.
Paradise: The tide pool at Kaena Point from where recently deceased Hawaiian spirits are said to leap, we preferred to float
Instagram worthy: According to island tradition the secluded pools are where a dying soul leaves the body, I however was clearly living life to the full
Never checking out: The serene suites are world beating
HAWAII FOUR SEASONS DEALS
Stay Longer – Fourth Night Free
Receive a complimentary fourth night with every three consecutive paid nights. Enjoy a USD 400 credit with all suite bookings.
Family Getaway – 50% Off a Second Room
Gather up the ones you love. Here’s your opportunity to have fun, make memories and reconnect. Include the whole family with 50% off your second room.
They were honeymooning at the Four Seasons, Oahu, and were enjoying all the hotel had to offer. Like us they had a Tesla to cruise the island, were booked in for a sunset yacht trip and were singing the praises of the masseuses who did their 80-minute Lomi Lomi massage. So why did they choose the Four Seasons, Oahu, for their honeymoon?
‘Adam and I chose Hawaii to honeymoon because after such an intense three months leading up to the wedding all we wanted to do after our big day was to rest and relax pool side sipping umbrella drinks.
We selected the Four Seasons Ko Olina because it was recommended to us by a good friend of ours in the hotel business. He said the property, service, location and food at the hotel was exceptional and he was spot on.
‘We’ve been long time Four Season customers . Nothing tops Four Season service. The moment you arrive they have thought of everything for you. In fact, we extended our trip after we got there because we having too much fun to leave!
Honeymoon bliss! The resort is a newlyweds dream, but it’s also a fantastic family pick too thanks to the numerous on-site activities available
Sunset cocktails: The infinity pool was the perfect place to watch the sunset with a strong cocktail in hand, of course. Here we are enjoying the pool and our new friends, Brittany and Daniel on their honeymoon
15 PM: Private Sunset Horseback Riding
7:30PM: Dinner at ONE FORTY
Breakfast at leisure
9 AM: Jeep Rental – pick-up at Adventure Center when ready
5 PM: Sunset Sail – meet at Island Adventure Center at 4:30 PM –
8 PM: Dinner at NOBU
‘Some highlights from the Four Seasons was the adults only pool with the longest infinity pool on the islands. We also loved being picked up in a Maybach Mercedes and escorted to the marina for our private sunset cruise, all of which was arranged by the hotel’.
After the trip we made our way back to hotel for a dip in the pool before dinner at the Fish House, another one of the hotel’s amazing restaurants. Service here was impeccable. The waiter took us through all the fresh fish choices and then I ordered steak. Lisa rolled her eyes. We had one drink each and then back to the room, absolutely shattered and excited for that Four Seasons bed and slumber.
Our last day on Oahu was our favorite. Up early we had simple breakfast of coffee, toast and fresh fruit before hitting the road in a battery-powered Model X Tesla. As part of the hotel’s commitment to sustainability and green living it rents out this magnificent beast of a car. Specialty suite guests can have access it for free for up to 48-hours and I would highly recommend it.
On one charge it can r
un up to approximately 250miles and it goes from 0-60 in 3.3 seconds. The Tesla X is the world’s fastest SUV and can beat a Lamborghini in a drag race. Shame Oahu has a 45mph speed limit!
We drove north east through the heart of the island all the way to Ka’ena Point -the ‘jumping off’ place for souls, according to Hawaiian folklore.
The drive took us an hour – an hour I spent laughing and smiling at the ridiculous acceleration of this incredible car while Lisa spent it screaming and shouting at me to slow down as we lurched forwards from every set of traffic lights.
Fish House restaurant: We spent our penultimate night eating here at the Fish House. NY strip steak for me, seafood chowder for Lisa. The vibe was just right.
The hotel offers a packed lunch which you can take with you for the hike to Kaena Point. We had set our hearts on lunch from one of the famous shrimp trucks on the way home through North Shore so just packed water and sun cream and our swimming gear.
Once parked the hike is about 3.5 miles through a nature reserve – a protected area harboring some of the last vestiges of coastal sand dune habitat on the island, and home to native plants, seabirds and the rare Monk seal. But really the allure is in the spirituality of the place.
According to island tradition, when a person is dying, his soul leaves his body. The wandering spirit first arrives at a fishing shrine, known as hauone. There, the fulfillment of one’s worldly obligations is assessed. If all is well the soul is obligated to cross over.
The soul then arrives at Kaena Point where it meets two gods. These gods toss the wandering soul into a gigantic pit known as Lua a Kehena, whereupon death finally strikes the person’s body. The spirit’s journey continues toward Na ulu o lei walu for final judgment -the good go right, while the bad go left.
Once we arrived at Kaena Point we climbed down to one of the many rock pools, floated in the water and allowed one of Hawaii’s most sacred places to wash over us. Lisa said the experience left her felling like she was ‘holding a special secret’.
We walked back to the car feeling rejuvenated and at peace. A peace that was soon shattered when I got behind the wheel of that Tesla again and tore off in the direction of Hawaii’s surfing mecca, North Shore. Poor Lisa.
Special place: There’s a mysterious, magic feel to Hawaii, it’s in the salty wet air and the warm sand between the toes
Stretching for more than 7 miles, the beaches of the North Shore host the world’s premier surfing competitions during the peak winter months, including the biggest of them all, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Along this stretch you find laid-back surf towns filled with cool surf shops and boutiques, charming art galleries and understated restaurants housed in plantation-era buildings.
We stopped in Haleiwa, now the social and artistic hub of the North Shore, and did what the locals (and the Obamas) do, which was to fill upon shrimp from a shrimp truck followed by a shaved ice. Just perfect after our hike and swim.
We returned the Tesla, raced to the pool for another dip and a Margarita and met two sets of wonderful couples in the hot tub. Everyone, except us, it seemed, were returning guests and it wasn’t hard to see why.
We ate our final dinner, sun tanned and windswept, at the hotel’s Waterman bar and grill, a surf-style restaurant the ‘pays homage to Hawaii’s legendary watermen and their exceptional connection with the sea’. We started with a Lychee martini cocktail before Lisa tucked into giant fresh crab cakes and I ate the deep fried maui. Spectacular.
We left early in the morning for the 30-minute flight to Four Seasons Lanai on Hawaii’s last unspoiled island and interestingly one of its most Instagrammed spots. No filter needed.
It was bought by tech billionaire Larry Ellison for a reported $300,000,000 in 2012 and is an 88,000-acre, 140-square-mile wild paradise with only 3,000 inhabitants, no traffic lights and the majority of landmarks accessible only by dirt roads that require a four-wheel drive vehicle.
At the Lanai Four Seasons, Ellison has really gone to town. Every floor and walkway has been resurfaced in rich woods, and all the gardens replanted with lush tropical and Hawaiian plants.
In the 217 mahogany-floored guest rooms 75-inch platinum bezel TVs hang discreetly on teak and zebra wood walls. The walk-in steam showers with riverstone floors are designed for two people, the lavatory is electric with various sensors and buttons and there’s even a hidden TV in the mirror of each of the vast bathrooms. Not that you are there to watch TV. This is paradise like no other.
No expense spared. No, really: Lanai is the last word in 5 star privacy, absolute comfort and style. Every floor and walkway has been resurfaced in rich wo
ods, and all the gardens replanted with lush tropical and Hawaiian plants
Ultimate sanctuary: The resort makes good use of its natural surroundings with the adults-only section of the grotto-style pools overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Not bad, eh!
Ultimate seclusion: The resort marries sleek modern architecture with traditional Hawaiian details. The lush tropical gardens help with finding your Zen – and smell great when you wake up and head for coffee
The rooms open up with giant glass doors to patios built into the tropical gardens and each with breathtaking views of this rugged, volcanic landscape that runs down to the Pacific.
Approximately one quarter of the rooms are now suites, topped by the Alii Royalty Suite which sits above the adults-only section of the grotto-style pools with waterfalls and hot tubs.
Within minutes of arriving in our room, room service delivered a selection of fresh fruit. We had one hour to relax before we were picked up by Joel, a California cowboy who worked at the nearby Koele horse riding stables.
He kitted us out and took us out into Lanai’s red mountains full of guava groves and forests of ironwood trees. The trail takes in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Aloha State and once we reached the top we were able to see all of Lanai City and the neighboring islands of Maui and Molokai.
Back at the hotel we freshened up and went down for dinner at One Forty, a four diamond AAA restaurant specializing in prime and Wagyu beef, as well as seasonal Hawaiian fish. We shared a seafood tower and toasted our new island with champagne cocktails.
Our last day was spent exploring the island in a sparkling white 4×4 jeep. We headed for Kaiolohia, also known as Shipwreck Beach, where remains of ships can be seen along the coral reef. While it was too rocky and rough for swimming, we enjoyed the drive and the fact that we felt like we had this off-road paradise to ourselves and didn’t see another soul the entire drive.
Our afternoon was spent dipping between the two pools and the stunning beach with giant waves. As soon as we set foot on the sand we had Four Seasons staff walk us out to the sun loungers and made us up two beds, adjusting the umbrellas to ensure we were sufficiently shaded. It was just perfect. And we still had Nobu to come.
Overlooking the protected marine waters of Hulopoe Bay, with sweeping views of the Pacific shoreline, we shared Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, Soft Shell Crab Cut Roll, Black cod, and Wagyu Beef Special on a 500 degree lava rock. And lots of sake. It was a perfect ending to what was a truly unforgettable vacation.
Off roading: The winding, deserted dirt roads offer a fun contrast to the pristine resort
I want to finish with something that sums up the Four Seasons for me. I got back to JFK and stood with my girlfriend waiting for our Uber back to Manhattan.
It was a strange feeling being back in a busy, noisy, dirty city after five days in Hawaii. As we stood with our bags, I felt for my silver medallion on my neck – something that belonged to my grandfather and something I treasure dearly. It has a tiny image of three heads engraved on a silver square which sits on top of the medallion . It measures no more than one centimeter by one centimeter and it was gone. My heart missed a beat. Somehow it must have worked loose – the glue or soldering that held it to middle of the medallion must have weakened with all the swimming, bashing about in the waves – who knows. But it was gone and I was devastated. I felt sure when I felt it last, the day before, it was there. And phone pictures from our last day proved indeed it was. So I had lost it somewhere in Lanai, that much we could be certain of.
My girlfriend got straight on the phone to the hotel and explained what had happened. We could not have hoped for a better response. They immediately dispatched a team to our room where they turned it upside down searching for this tiny silver square that meant so much to me.
And guess what? They found it! It was on the floor somewhere in our huge room. The Gods were smiling on me that day – but so too was the Four Seasons. They took our address, wrapped it up with great care and had it sent recorded delivery. This for me sums up the Four Seasons. The staff go above and beyond. They treat you so well that you don’t want to leave and can’t wait to go back. Nowhere else will ever quite match it I fear.
The most desirable destinations: Fou
r Seasons Lanai and Oahu offer the ultimate in Hawaii adventure and relaxation