I watch as my son catches a wave on Hawaii’s most famous beach. It’s hard to keep track of him among the multitude of multi-coloured boards that skim the Waikiki waves. Apparently ancient Hawaiian royalty used to balance on boards here and so surfing was born. My son doesn’t care about any of this of course. He’s just enjoying himself having a surf lesson and dreaming of braving the big waves at the legendary Pipeline on the island’s north shore. However, Hawaii is about so much more than just hanging ten, as we discover plane-hopping around the 50th US state’s idyllic islands.
Lanai they say is what Oahu was 30 years ago before the tower blocks and the tourism. Certainly it is a very peaceful place. Luxury-wise, Four Seasons has the island covered. We spend the first couple of days on the edge of the water at Four Seasons Manele Bay. Then change venues and head to Four Seasons Koele Lodge in the centre of the island.
It is paradise for all of us, Manele Bay; an 18-hole championship golf course for dad, a massage in an outdoor cabana listening to the sound of the ocean for mum, and Hulopoe Beach just a stroll down a winding path for the kids. Our son, Alex, is taught to paddleboard (a sport that originated in Hawaii) by a local surfing champion and we all go snuba diving, which is midway between snorkelling and scuba diving. Connected by a 10 metre airline to a moveable raft, we are securely attached yet free to follow the fluro-coloured fish beneath the ocean’s surface without a heavy tank on our backs.
As we leave the beach for our 20 minute transfer to Koele Lodge, it is like entering a different world. The centre of the tiny island has a cool climate with shady trees and cloud cover. The lodge is like a grand country house; surrounded by a golf course, croquet lawns and a tranquil lake it is the perfect place to sit on one of the porch rocking chairs or have traditional afternoon tea.
A highlight of Lanai is a visit to the Lanai Animal Rescue Centre (LARC). We drive down a bumpy track to commune with dozens of cats rescued by local resident, Kathy Carroll. They curl round our legs in a purring mass of ginger, black & white furriness. My son is enthralled when a shy little tabby finally jumps on his lap. Four Seasons can organise for children to help out at the sanctuary through one of the resort’s fantastic voluntourism programs.
Kathy’s husband, Mike, owns an art gallery in Lanai city. A misleading name since the island’s capital is more of a village with a few tiny streets around a central square and quaint colourfully painted weatherboard houses. Kids will love the pizza at the Pele’s Other Garden diner.
The island has only 40 kilometres of paved roads so it is great for 4WD adventures and we have great fun bouncing around in our tiny rented Jeep Wrangler. We find deserted beaches and visit the red landscape of the Garden of the Gods in the island’s centre, which looks like a mini version of the Australian outback.
The Hunger Games sequel is currently being filmed in Hawaii and so young Alex is thrilled to copy movie-heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and learn to shoot a bow and arrow at the Lanai Pine Sporting Clays adventure centre, which also organises horse riding and clay pigeon shooting.