How a Personalized Hawaiian Wellness Retreat Helped Reshape My Lifestyle Back Home
A pre-arrival questionnaire was the first clue that my upcoming wellness experience at the Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele, a Sensei Retreat was going to be something special — way beyond a massage, facial, and appetizer-sized meals. The phone call from my sensei guide confirmed that impression. She asked about my wellness goals, treatments I wished to experience, and what I hoped to accomplish during my brief visit. I was not sure at that point, but the life of a writer involves much sitting and probably not the best posture or eating habits, so I knew I had some work ahead of me.
My adventure began in Honolulu, where I was greeted by a young woman who led me through the terminal to a luxury vehicle for a short drive to Lanai Air's terminal for the quick flight to Lanai. (The flight from Honolulu is included in the price for the hotel's guests.) After a drive past Lanai City with its vintage homes and small town atmosphere, then along a narrow road lined with tall, pointed Cook's pines, we arrived at the hotel to be greeted by bronze Botero sculptures set amid lush landscaping, flowers, and a massive banyan tree. Those voluptuous figures, just a few examples of the property's extensive art collection, immediately made me feel especially welcome.
The completely redesigned main building — the hotel was formerly a rustic-style lodge — features an elegant lobby, decorated in shades of cream with high ceilings, wood beams, and cozy furniture groupings accented by orchids, sculptures, and stylish lighting. My room's white shutters opened to a private lanai with views of palms, exotic flowers, and a banana tree laden with bunches of fruit.
I soon met my sensei guide, and she was the ideal blend of friendly, professional, and informative. In a room equipped with various high-tech devices, I went through a series of measurements and tests, the prelude to my personalized program. We viewed wall-sized screens describing the three practices of the Sensei Way: Move, Nourish, and Rest. According to Sensei literature, movement is how we interact with our environment. Nourishment is what fuels us. Rest is how we recover and grow. The feedback and individualized plan motivated and inspired me to get started.
Sensei was created by best-selling author Dr. David Agus and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, combining evidence-based knowledge and the doctor's philosophy on food, health, and lifestyle. Lanai, the Hawaiian island owned by Ellison, is the perfect setting for experiencing the program in the midst of its gardens, nature, flowing waters, chirping birds, and island culture. Depending on each guest's plan, activities might include a hike, morning meditation and yoga, resistance training, core work, and strength circuit, among many others. All this with five-star service, luscious meals, and interaction with caring professionals.
During a guided tour of the grounds, we were shown the Onsen Garden, eight secluded 102-degree soaking tubs hidden among rock formations, plantings, and winding paths. We were encouraged to enjoy an onsen soak at any time, and I put that idea right on top of my mental to-do list. The 10 spa hales, 1,000-square-foot structures with saunas, steam showers, Ofuru tubs, massage tables, and outdoor pools, are the places for individual therapeutic treatments. The temperature-controlled "pool" is so naturally integrated into the environment that I took it to be a large pond meandering through the property.
Sensei by Nobu offers all-day dining in a lovely glass pavilion set above a reflecting pool with both indoor and outdoor tables. Menus include ingredients from nearby sustainable Sensei Farms, source of many of the fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables served to guests. Deliciously creative cocktails and outstanding wines are included. Dinners consist of five courses with choices that include lobster, scallops, finfish, beef, or lamb, and each dish is beautifully prepared and presented. I was never hungry, and my glass of bubbly was graciously refilled, sometimes several times.
Although there wasn't enough time during this visit, there's a small putting golf course on the property and an Adventure Park nearby with ziplines and outdoor activities. Guests can play golf at the Jack Nicklaus designed Manele Golf Course, take a horseback ride, scuba dive, hike, or take a Jeep tour. There's tennis, archery, deep sea fishing, sporting clay shooting, and a 24-hour fitness center with the latest equipment.
During my morning walk towards the stables, I passed goats, horses, and miniature ponies in the serene setting of the expansive stable area. We enjoyed a sunset sailing excursion, and my days were spent on individual yoga sessions, meditation, massage therapy, walking on stone paths through the gardens, and sitting in warm water wishing time would slow down or that my three-day visit would magically turn into a week.
Alas, that didn't happen, but even after just three days, I felt encouraged about continuing the yoga, stretching, and daily activity I had started. A final meeting with my sensei guide was a review of my visit, and she promised to email the details of my physical evaluations and some suggestions to help me continue my wellness journey. She did her part, and now I'm working on mine.