Is Larry Ellison buying the island of Lana'i? If you have ever ventured to Lana'i, the lovely, 90,000 acre, 18 mile long, 13 mile wide, sixth largest Hawaiian island with 47 miles of coastline, you would have heard that the current owner, 89 year old Californian, David Murdock, has the "For Sale" sign up. Depending on who you talk to in Lana'i City or on the beach, the name that surfaces the most as a possible buyer, is San Francisco area resident, and Oracle king, Larry Ellison.
Why not Bill and Melinda Gates, you ask? After all, they got married there in 1994. Not to mention the fact that Bill Gates and Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal are co-owners of the Four Seasons hotel chain that manages Murdock's two hotels, The Lodge at Koele in Lana'i city, and the Resort at Manele Bay. They might as well buy up the island, right?
Why not Oprah? She visited Lana'i and reportedly stayed for the entire Hawaiian Sunday service held in the sweet little chapel up at the The Lodge at Koele. One could assume she has a spiritual connection to the island...
Well, if I had the money, I'd buy it! Lana'i certainly reached into my soul while I was there. Every resident that I talked to was so "centered" and had time. Don't you find so many people don't have time to speak with you in that present kind of way? Well, they do in Lana'i. Perhaps it is that there are less distractions there so you can breathe, and listen better. Afterall, there are no traffic lights, nor traffic for that matter, and there is only one town on the whole island, Lana'i City. The slogan in the Lana'i Properties brochure reads: "Live in a place this quiet, and suddenly you hear everything." Lana'i time allows for a different way of experiencing time.
Paradoxically there isn't much to the island, yet there is a lot you can do. There are endless choices just between the two Lana'i resorts! If you go to The Lodge at Koele you feel like you are in Montana, Colorado or Wyoming. There are huge pine trees everywhere. You get the feeling you are at a ranch, as there are stables nearby and horses in the paddock. You can go horseback riding, or hike along 12 miles of the Munro trail. Upon entering the Lodge, you walk into an enormous living room with massively high ceilings, huge stone fireplaces bookended with mattresses covered in native American fabric to lounge on. They serve full tea in the afternoon. There is a formal garden, pond and orchid house out back. There is croquet set-up so that you can just walk out and play!
Since you are in town anyway when you are visiting the Lodge, stroll down to Main Street and view art at the Mike Carroll Gallery, head into The Local Gentry and buy some "island attire", or cross over the Town Green to Dis 'n Dat shop for jewelry and all kinds of things. Yes, you can get a great latte at Coffee Works, too. At the Hotel Lana'i, you can catch the shuttle down to the resort at Manele Bay.
Looking out the car window as you journey down to the beach, you leave the tin-roof soft-hued bungalows in town and head out onto a road overlooking the plains of Lana'i. Looking over your shoulder in one direction you see mountains dappled with Cook pines, Monterey pines, California redwoods, eucalyptus, jacaranda, kukui and bamboo. The road that leads down to Manele Bay is lined with single tall pines looking almost awkward as they stand alone one after the other. Looking away from the mountains on the other side are vast stretches of fields that were once part of the world's largest pineapple plantation owned by James Dole.
Before you know it, the road drops down and the Pacific Ocean opens right up to you and there before you is Manele Bay. The Resort at Manele Bay hugs this mesmerizing body of water. Imagine standing at this beautiful site, where the hill rolls down to this shimmering favorite dolphin feeding area. All the focus from the main lobby dropping down to the vast living room below pulls your eye across to the pool and then right out to the captivating Manele Bay beyond. Once you enter the hotel, the design has you embracing the beautiful scene outside from wherever you are standing. Just up the hill to the right of the hotel is a 36 hole championship golf course positioned on the edge of the Pacific and the blue sky above.
Talk-story is the way the history and heart of Lana'i is passed along. I would highly recommend going on a walk with Joe West, the enormously talented photographer, who took the final two photos included below as lasting images of the beauty of the island. Joe knows so much about the fauna, the flora, the history, and the land. He is one of those "centered" people I was referring to above who is rooted to the island, and within himself, making what he is communicating about Lana'i deeply connecting.
I would also recommend going for a drive around the island with Garrett to see Keahikawelo ("Garden of the Gods") and Kaiolohia ("Shipwreck Beach") across the channel from Moloka'i island. You might be tempted to rent a shack on that remote side of the island and spend your days fishing, eating your catch that night and surrendering to the rhythm of the waves. Garrett will give you the richest tour as only a Lana'i native can.
Take a "Snorkeling Sail" or "Sunset Sail" on a Trilogy catamaran. See the location where the world's two highest dive challenges takes place. Oh, and let's not forget, you can always surf! After all, this is Hawaii!
Have a massage through the Resort Spa and have it in one of the private cabanas overlooking Manele Bay with the transcendent sound of the waves caressing your consciousness... Every now and then look up to remind yourself where you are.
This all can be yours for the right price! Maui Council member, Riki Hokama, represents the island of Lana'i. The price range is purportedly between 500 to 600 million, small price for your own Hawaiian island! This little island has gone from one set of hands to another starting with Maui Prince Kaulula'au to the China-born sugar cane entrepreneur Wu Tsin followed by three cattle ranchers one after the other, Walter Murray Gibson, Charles Gay and then Henry Baldwin who made the famous sale to James Dole, the pineapple King. In 1986, David Murdock, the Californian and his management company, Castle and Cooke, took over the throne and brought the island to where it is today, up for grabs!
Will the next visionary, wizard, rain man (or woman!), please come forward and be a modern dayhero! Yes, you will have to step in and sort out the Wind Farm debate that is currently at play as it does have the residents, homeowners and tourists concerned. (260 foot high wind towers with blades extending to 410 feet to be spread over 12,800 acres of spiritual and historic grounds covering roughly 15 percent of the island, to create energy for O'ahu but none actually going to Lana'i.) The state's agenda for 70 percent clean energy for electricity and ground transportation by 2030 is making a push at a pivotal and vulnerable moment for Lana'i's future. Understandably David Murdock offered up his island Lana'i as a possible location for the Wind Farm to help pay the roughly 20 million in losses he has been incurring to run the island. His two resorts (Four Seasons Keole and Manele) are running at a loss. On the one hand, that makes sense, but what would the Wind Farm do to the island though? Would it overwhelm the very essence of the island's nature and actually present far greater problems? These are modern day dilemnas for a small Hawaiian island and it is hard to know just where the wind will blow through this. See why Lana'i needs a hero?
All I know is that I am another Californian deeply moved by the spirit and soul of this island, and by the 3,000 residents who are struggling to keep alive a quiet culture where you can hear things and enjoy a simple way of life rare to come by these days. I want the best for them and for this lovely Hawaiian island. It is a special place and I want to go back to this uniquely centered oasis.
What will be the fate of Lana'i? Mr. Ellison, are you going to save the day?
Last two photos courtesy of Joe West.
All other photos: Sally Fay.