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Old-time Lanai enters a new era.

The three main roads still have no stoplights, just a couple of stop signs. Locals still gather every morning for coffee at the Formica counter in S&T Properties. The best (well, the only) locally baked pastries are still sold at the glass counter of the Blue Ginger Cafe.

Yes, you can still enjoy the slow-paced ease of Lanai City, the sole up-country town of the old Pineapple Isle. But now you can also enjoy the comforts of two posh hotels that are quickly propelling the smallest developed Hawaiian island into the state's tourism mainstream.

And this is only the beginning: Castle & Cooke Properties, a subsidiary of Dole Food Company and owner of the new hotels (and nearly everything else on the island), has big plans for future development.

Just 10 years ago, Dole ran Lanai as the world's largest pineapple plantation, with 14,000 planted acres and 60 percent of U.S. production. Today production on Lanai can't compete with cheaper labor costs in Asia and Latin America, and soon will be just enough to supply local needs.

In place of pineapple, the company wants cattle ranching and a more diversified agricultural mix, plus more tourism. The Pineapple Isle of brochure fame is now reclaiming its billing as Hawaii's Pine Island, a reference to its distinctive planted groves of Norfolk Island pines.

Future changes promise to be more dramatic: plans exist for a major residential development and a second golf course.

Two luxury resorts, one old hotel

The Lodge at Koele and the Manele Bay Hotel, both managed by Rockresorts, offer all the amenities you'd find at top-end properties in other destination resorts. What makes Lanai's new hotels distinctive are their isolated locations--one on the coast, the other up-country. Right now, guests at both are a captive, if pampered, audience.

A short walk from the center of Lanai City and 8 miles from the beach, you'll find a place unlike any other in the Islands. Tucked into the pines at 1,700 feet--where the weather is pleasantly cool and the fire in the great hall feels good at night--the 102-room Lodge at Koele has the ambience of a country estate.

The 250-room Manele Bay Hotel, topping a bluff overlooking the broad crescent of Hulopoe Beach, is more what you'd expect of a Hawaiian resort. Its architecture reflects a Mediterranean influence that is theatrically formal close up, yet still manages to fit into the sloping, arid landscape.

The one other hotel option, in downtown Lanai City, is the 10-room Hotel Lanai, which dates from the 1920s and was recently spruced up. It's often booked months in advance. The bar is a local gathering place, and since it offers the only evening dining alternative to pricey restaurants at the new hotels (apart from pizza at the Blue Ginger), it is often busy.

The new hotels offer golf, tennis, and horseback riding, and are starting to lead a few organized programs like guided hikes and snorkeling tours. Otherwise, Lanai is still the kind of place where you either strike out on your own or bring a good book.

Choices for outings

Beaches. Hulopoe Beach, a state marine preserve, is the island's only beach with rest rooms and picnic tables. The reefs on the left edge of the bay, as you face the ocean, offer outstanding snorkeling on calm days (only hotel guests can use equipment from the beach kiosk; others must bring their own). On days when a south swell rolls into the bay, there can be an undertow; leave bodysurfing to the experts.

Four-wheeling. Some of the best adventure is found along the dusty, spine-jarring jeep tracks that lead to Lanai's most interesting spots. Be forewarned: even when you get good directions from the rental agency, poor maps and the lack of signs mean you'll take plenty of wrong turns.

You can rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle from your hotel or from Dollar or Tropical agencies at service stations in town. Cost is about $100 per day (about $50 for a compact car) with unlimited mileage.

Always carry plenty of water, and wear sturdy shoes for hiking. Here are three good day-trip options:

Kaunolu Bay. Some of the state's best-preserved ancient village ruins edge a bay on Lanai's rugged southern coastline, about a 10-mile drive from Lanai City.

Munro Trail. This 7-mile loop--traversible in dry weather only--takes you along a volcanic ridge to the top of 3,370-foot Lanaihale, where you'll have clear-day views of Molokai and Maui. Leave after breakfast to avoid viewblocking morning and late-afternoon cloud buildup and gusty winds.

Polihua Beach. Its white sands are a dozen slow-going miles from downtown Lanai City. You'll pass through the native forest of Kanepuu, a preservation project by The Nature Conservancy (5 miles beyond pavement's end), and the dramatic volcanic moonscape called Garden of the Gods. Dangerous currents at the beach make swimming unsafe.

Mountain biking. With its miles of rough four-wheel-drive roads, Lanai has tremendous potential for back road biking. Two sure bets: the Munro Trail and the Polihua Beach road as far as Garden of the Gods. Only Rockresorts guests can use bikes available at the Lodge at Koele. Whether you pack your own bike or rent, bring along a patch kit and tire pump.

Horseback riding. Guided trail rides lasting 1 and 2 hours ($25 and $50) leave daily except Mondays from the stables across from the Lodge at Koele. For reservations, call the concierge at the Lodge.

Travel and lodging specifics

Getting to Lanai. Along with daily air service from Oahu and Maui, there is daily ferry service from Lahaina, Maui, to Manele Bay aboard the small boats of the Expeditions company; trips take about an hour and cost $25 each way. Call (808) 661-3756 for reservations, and let your hotel know when to meet you at the dock.

Lodging alternatives. Reservations are essential at all properties.

Rockresorts. Double rooms at the Lodge at Koele and the Manele Bay Hotel start at $295; ask your travel agent about special package rates that include extras such as golf greens fees and car rentals, or discounts for longer stays. Reservation numbers are (808) 565-7300 for the Lodge and 565-7700 for the Manele Bay Hotel; call (800) 321-4666 from the Mainland.

Hotel Lanai. Book far in advance for one of the hotel's 10 rooms. Prices start at $95; call (800) 624-8849 or (808) 565-7211.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Best of the Holidays
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:1063
Previous Article:Up to your snorkel in snow.
Next Article:Holiday doings around the West.
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