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What's new on Lanai?

THE OPENING, OVER the past two years, of two posh hotels on Lanai has propelled the smallest developed island in the Hawaiian chain 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.

Visitor numbers, while still small, are increasing, and transportation services (air, ferry, and car rental) are expanding. Even so, you can still find the slow-paced ease of the old Pineapple Isle in its sole up-country town, Lanai City; it's a plantation town, a holdover from another era.

BIDDING ALOHA TO THE "PINEAPPLE ISLE"

Just three years ago, Dole ran Lanai as the world's largest pineapple plantation, with 14,000 planted acres and 90 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 down to about a hundred acres, just enough to supply local needs. In place of pineapple, the company wants cattle ranching and a more diversified agricultural mix (including a 10-acre organic vegetable garden to supply stores and hotels), 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.

For the time being, Lanai City's three main roads still have no stoplights, and only 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.

Yet changes are coming. You'll find designer bottled water at both Richard's and Pine Isle groceries. And, at the Hotel Lanai, manager Richard Wood is talking about eventually redoing the rooms in Laura Ashley style (don't do it, Woody).

The new Island Collections gallery features paintings, quilts, and some crafts by Hawaii artists. It is also beginning to display works by promising local artists who often work in the Lanai Art Studio next door and have been enlisted to help produce art for the new hotels. While studio works aren't for sale, you can drop by for a visit. 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, like Wailea on Maui or the Kohala Coast on the Big Island.

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 an elevation of 1,600 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 look and feel 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 Hawaii 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. Recently spruced up, it's often completely 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 (you can also get pizza nearby at the Blue Ginger), it is often busy.

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

CHOICES FOR BEACHES, DRIVING, BIKING, HORSEBACK RIDING

Beaches. Not only is Hulopoe Beach the island's only developed beach park, with rest rooms, water, and picnic tables, but it has been protected as a state marine preserve. 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; only experts should try bodysurfing in the wicked surf.

Four-wheeling. Some of the best adventure is found along the miles of dusty, spine-jarring jeep tracks that lead to Lanai's most interesting spots.

Be forewarned: even with good directions from a local expert at the rental agency, poor maps and a total lack of signing mean you'll take plenty of wrong turns.

You can rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle (unlimited mileage) 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).

Always carry plenty of water, a lunch, and 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 10 miles from Lanai City.

Munro Trail. This 20-mile dry-weather loop, along the top of the volcanic ridge behind Lanai City to the top of 3,370-foot Lanaihale, offers clear-day views of Molokai and Maui. Leave after breakfast to avoid view-blocking morning and late-afternoon cloud buildup and gusty afternoon winds.

Polihua Beach. It's roughly a dozen slow-going miles from downtown Lanai City out to the white sands of Polihua Beach.

You'll pass through the native forest of Kanepuu, a preservation project by The Nature Conservancy (5 miles beyond pavement's end), and the dramatically barren 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 backroad biking. The big limitations now are lack of rentals (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.

Two sure bets: the Munro Trail and the Polihua Beach road as far as Garden of the Gods.

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

TRAVELING 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. Telephone (808) 661-3756 for reservations, and let your hotel know when you can be met at the dock.

Lodging alternatives. Reservations are essential at all properties. Rockresorts. Standard double rooms at the Manele Bay Hotel and the Lodge at Koele start at $295; ask your travel agent about special promotions or packages that include extras such as golf greens fees, car rentals, or discounts for longer stays. Reservation numbers are (808) 5657300 for the Lodge and 565-7700 for the Manele Bay Hotel; call (800) 3214666 from the Mainland.

Hotel Lanai. Book far in advance for one of the hotel's 10 rooms. Prices start at $95; call (808) 565-7211.

Bed and breakfast. We found only one home offering basic bed and breakfast at the time of our visit, but that number is expected to increase. For an update, write or call Destination Lanai, Box 700, Lanai City 96763; (808) 565-7600.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Travel; Hawaii
Author:Phillips, Jeff
Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:1318
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