This Luxury Resort on a Gorgeous Hawaiian Island Offers the Perfect Wellness Retreat — Calming Horse Therapy Included

Tropical surroundings and equine interaction combine for a memorable, uplifting experience.

A pathway through Four Seasons Sensei Lanai in Hawaii
Photo: Pat Doherty

Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort, is located on the secluded Pineapple Island, named for its plantation past. Today, the resort's upcountry setting with mature trees, fragrant flowers, and exquisitely tended gardens welcomes guests to a serene landscape with opportunities for wellness and relaxation. Guided individual sessions and group classes include yoga, meditation, fitness, balance, nutrition, and more, while many guests visit for therapeutic massages, spa treatments, or simply to enjoy the landscape, soak in the warm waters of the tucked-away onsen, and dine on fresh local produce from Sensei Farm.

The resort recently hosted its first Unbridled Retreat, a wellness experience for women, presented by globally recognized equine coach Devon Combs. In her own words, Combs "specializes in helping women heal from their pasts, get clear on where they're headed, and find the courage to move forward in their lives." She accomplishes this through equine coaching, which she describes as "healing and awakening through horses," combining her personal experience, training, and intuition.

At Lanai Ranch, a short walk from the resort's entrance, well-tended horses, ponies, and goats make their home, as pampered as the guests at Sensei Lanai. As one of six participants in the recent retreat, I met about seven resident horses, who were seemingly as curious as I was about what our next days together would bring. As it turned out, each of us in the group, with guidance and encouragement from Combs, would share our goals, challenges, and hopes, along with some laughs, tears, and hugs, during the three-hour morning sessions and group gatherings.

The Four Seasons Sensei Lanai in Hawaii and Unbridled Retreat horses
Pat Doherty

Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical about the role horses would play in the retreat. The beautiful creatures waited patiently while we learned their names and became comfortable with them. We all seemed to find favorites, felt their huge hearts beating, and looked into their faces. In their presence, Combs facilitated individual and group conversations, and the horses almost seemed attentive and involved.

One morning, Combs set up two chairs facing each other about 10 feet apart in a large corral. One participant shared a personal story, skillfully and sensitively guided by Combs. A single, untethered horse stood by during most of the conversation, and as it became more poignant and somewhat emotional, the animal gradually moved toward the speaker, finally standing quietly and gently against her back. It was touching to see — the horse was offering comfort and encouragement.

The Four Seasons Sensei Lanai in Hawaii and Unbridled Retreat horses
Pat Doherty

We all became quite attached to the horses, and leaving my favorite one after the final morning session was sad. I said my goodbye, and, to my surprise, he licked my hand, nuzzled my face, and offered a nice big smile for our photo together.

On our last evening, our small group enjoyed a lovely dinner at Sensei by Nobu. I expect at least a few are planning to participate in another Unbridled Retreat. In fact, two group members had been through the retreat with Combs before — one five times and the other three times. Each experience is different, they told me, from the size and makeup of the group to the location.

"My Unbridled Retreats take place in a variety of places, from traditional ranches to luxury ranch-style environments in Arizona, Colorado, and California," Combs told Travel + Leisure. "This was the first in Hawaii, and another is planned at Sensei Lanai (on July 2023). For some participants, the ranch, cattle roundups, and rustic, cowgirl-style atmosphere are ideal. At Sensei, the plush surroundings and additional wellness options are great for the experience."

I took advantage of a delightful massage in one of the 10 spa hales, each with its own steam room, shower, teak bathtub, and outdoor area, including a private garden, shower, hot tub, and cold plunge. I also joined a relaxation/mindfulness class and had a private session with a fitness expert, while other went horseback riding and indulged in pedicures and facials. We all relaxed on a sunset cruise, and on another evening, enjoyed dinner at the beachfront Four Seasons Resort Lanai.

The Four Seasons Sensei Lanai in Hawaii
Pat Doherty

I asked Combs how the environment at Sensei Lanai affected the retreat from her viewpoint. "It seemed that as soon as guests arrived, they immediately felt immersed in a healing environment," she said. "The adults-only, art-filled tropical setting provided a beautiful backdrop for equine wellness, with a nurturing environment for both mind and body."

Whether you visit Sensei Lanai for an Unbridled Retreat or your own personal getaway, you'll find opportunities for enhancing your health through consultations with experts, guidance on self-care, and experiences that will contribute to your well-being during your vacation and beyond.

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