A Whole Other Hawaii

Business Jet Traveler » October 2011
Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 6:00am

If your idea of vacationing in Hawaii includes staying in a Honolulu high-rise and roaming through the "lifestyle" shops lining the Waikiki Beach Walk, allow me to suggest an alternate vision: exploring an entrancing island called Lãna’i, only 20 minutes from the glitz and the gaggle.

Pronounced Lah-nye-ee by the mere 3,000 people who live on this 18-mile-long, 13-mile-wide dormant volcano, this wild Pacific island has not a traffic light or fast-food franchise cluttering the calm. Hidden in plain sight, it’s a place where movie stars walk around without being bothered. It’s no accident that Bill Gates, who could have gotten married anywhere in the world, chose a spectacular oceanside cliff on Lãna’i for the ceremony.

Although Lãna’i is tranquil and rural, that doesn’t mean a lack of interesting things to do and see. The island boasts two championship 18-hole golf courses, sporting clays and riding stables at Ko’ele. Its unspoiled reefs draw divers and snorkelers to crystalline water featuring a remarkable 80 feet of visibility. Its wild turkeys, pheasants, grouse, Axis deer and mouflon sheep attract hunters in season to field and forest. Magnificent 50-ton humpback whales appear here in January to bear their young. And you’ll find hiking and Jeep trails and the miles of pristine beaches–all without a single sign warning against trespassing.

"Hawaii is the most remote land mass in the world," tour guide and naturalist Bruce Harvey told me, "and ours is the most preserved of all the islands." He stopped his Jeep along the Munro Trail, and we looked down on Shipwreck Beach and across the wind-lashed Auau Channel to the mist-shrouded island of Maui. Bruce picked ripe yellow fruits from wild guava trees and handed me one.

It is the fishing that drew me here. Joining Captain Jason Allen aboard his 36-foot multi-hull catamaran-style Twin Vee, I motored out of Manele Small Boat Harbor on the island’s southern coast early one morning. We passed Hulopo’e Bay, home to pods of spinner dolphins, where the afternoon before on the white-sand beach I had donned fins and mask. With surf crashing against nearby ragged rock cliffs and filling surging tidal pools with foam, I floated over the rolling tide and watched as gorgeous blue and yellow pale-nose parrotfish cavorted through coral.

The cobalt-blue waters around Lãna’i are migratory paths to some of the globe’s most-sought game species, including ono or wahoo, mahi-mahi or dolphin fish, ahi or yellowfin tuna (under 100 pounds they are called shibi), short-billed spearfish, striped and blue marlin.

As Jason’s mate Marty released prescribed lengths of line into the wash of the stern and secured six stout rods armed with gold Penn International 130-class reels in their holders, Jason pointed out that they are the largest allowed under International Game Fish Association rules. "Some may think it’s overkill," he told me, "but when you’re out here on a blind troll, I’d rather have a chance when that 800-pound marlin hits."

"What’s that dollar bill tucked into the monofilament?" I asked Marty. "That," he said with a wink and a pull of his cigarette, "is the money reel." I looked around–they all had it.

The Pineapple Past

The caravan of Model-T Fords came to a halt on the rocky road. Official-looking men in suits stepped out. Harvard-educated James D. Dole reached down for a handful of reddish earth. He sniffed it and, turning to the Hawaiian territorial governor, ­pronounced, "Pineapple will grow here." The year was 1926.

In the coming decades, Dole transformed Lãna'i into a vast plantation producing, at its apex, three-quarters of the world's pineapples. By the 1980s, facing increasing competition from cheap labor in Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines, what is now Dole Food Company saw the future and sold out. By 1992, all that remained of Dole's dream of an agricultural empire was a pineapple plot of several acres designed to supply local appetites.

In place of the once-sprawling pineapple flats as driver of the island's economy were two new first-class tourist resorts: one at Mãnelee Bay, the other, called the Lodge at Koel'e, offering echoes of a lavish English manor house.

General information (Including traveler's kit and island map) www.gohawaii.com/lanai, (800) 525-6284.

Airport: Lãna’i Airport has a 5,000-foot paved runway. Aircraft parking and
a lounge (but no fuel) are provided by AirServiceHawaii, www.airservicehawaii.com, (800) 578-8405.

Lodging: (Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and/or The Lodge at Koele): www.fourseasons.com/lanai, (800) 321-4666.

Deep-sea fishing: www.sportfishing lanai.com, (808) 565-7676.

Water and land sports (including surfboard, kayak, mountain bike and jeep rentals): www.adventurelanaiislandclub.com, (808) 565-7373.

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““When I made the film The Invention of Lying, they gave me a private jet for getting back and forth between New York and London. I thought, ‘I will never use it’ but I ended up using it every weekend. You turn up, right, and the airport is completely empty. I mean, there’s just someone at the desk and then the pilot, who says, ‘Are you ready to go?’ and you say, ‘Don’t you want to see my passport?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better.’” ”

-—actor and comedian Ricky Gervais