Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort doubles down on wellness: Travel Weekly

Lanai’s newest property, a first-of-its kind fusion of Four Seasons hospitality and Sensei, a new well-being company founded by Dr. David Argus and Larry Ellison, the Oracle founder and owner of the vast majority of the Pineapple Isle, debuted in November 2019. After an opening holiday season, 2020 would be the year the world got to meet the new concept. Then the pandemic hit.

After shutting down in mid-March, the resort team commissioned market research and huddled up to see how they could reopen even better positioned to meet travelers’ needs and wishes. Now, the property has chosen a new moniker and refined its offerings around wellness and increased accessibility.

Previously known as Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele, A Sensei Retreat, the property is now dubbed Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort. Part of the name change was to avoid confusion with Four Seasons Resort Lanai, a separate property on Hulopoe Bay, but Sensei CEO Kevin Kelly says the decision was driven by an effort to put wellness front and center. 

“This has certainly been a challenging and intriguing time, and in a lot of ways it has stimulated our innovation,” Kelly said. “We found in our market research that many people who would be our core customers are coming out of this with heightened awareness and prioritization of their well being. What’s important to them is family relationships, spending more time contemplatively, and on their emotional and physical health. Coming out of this, we believe we’ll have greater demand with our target market than before.”

When the adults-only (all guests must be 16 or older) Sensei Lanai first opened, the resort only offered all-inclusive packages with accommodations, the Sensei wellness program including a personal guide, and activities included. Upon reopening, the property introduced two main booking options, the “Guided Sensei Experience” and a “Select-Choice” a la carte plan.

The full experience starts at $1,610 per night for double occupancy, including room, personal guide, and $1,200 in daily wellness credits to use toward the “Experiences Menu” of spa services, one-on-one wellness and fitness consultations, sports and island activities. The new “Select Choice Experience” starts at $650 per night for double occupancy and offers guests the freedom to pick and choose as they go. Both packages include access to up to a dozen complimentary wellbeing classes each day, such as small-group tours, instructor-led hikes, yoga, fitness and meditation. The “Experience Menu” includes private spa treatments, fitness, yoga, and meditation instruction by experienced practitioners, nutrition and mindfulness sessions, and island activities like UTV tours, ocean sports, golf, tennis, and horseback riding. Both plans can be booked during a single stay, so a guest can arrive and relax on the island for a day or two on the a la carte option before diving into the full program, or vice versa.

“By adjusting the pricing, number one we’ve made it more attainable for a larger audience, and, number two, it’s now more accessible to the people who are not quite sure what they want yet and want to use this as a place of discovery,” Kelly said.

All stays at Sensei Lanai also include transfer from the Honolulu International Airport to Lanai on Lanai Air.

“The cost of the flight is included with the room,” Kelly said. “It’s a private terminal, and you get semi-private air travel so you avoid crowds and reduce exposure.”

The Sensei Guides, who all have master’s degrees and doctorates in nutrition, fitness or a related field, communicate with each guest prior to arrival to craft an itinerary based on their interests and focus, while also incorporating input from Sensei’s team of nutritionists, chefs, fitness experts and spa therapists.

The property spent four years in development prior to its November opening, and features a fitness facility, two movement studios, yoga pavilion, outdoor yoga spaces, salon, outdoor pool with lap lanes, an outdoor sculpture garden, 18-hole short golf course, and an adventure park with ziplines and ropes course. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who also helms a restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, has created a brand new concept, Sensei by Nobu, for the new resort that employs numerous products from an on-island sustainable farm.

“With our full experience package 75 cents of every dollar is available for use as credit, and I think that’s the best value in the world in one of the most luxurious, calming, tropical settings you can find,” Kelly said. 

Meanwhile, the Sensei team is continuing to refine its technology and programming to add additional options and improve the experience. Sensei co-founder Agus is founding CEO of USC’s Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine and has written extensively on data-driven approaches to a healthier life. Eventually, Ellison and Agus plan to develop a global network of Sensei retreats.  

The 96-room Sensei Lanai opened one of its two wings on July 1, and plans to fully reopen on Sept. 1, when a pre-travel testing program is scheduled to begin in Hawaii. Currently, all trans-Pacific arrivals to the islands are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. With pre-testing, travelers who produce a negative coronavirus result within 72 hours of arriving in the state can bypass the quarantine. However, that program has already been delayed once, from Aug. 1 to Sept 1. In addition to implementing new cleaning, health and safety protocols, some programming at Sensei Lanai has been adapted to meet new health and safety measures, including fewer group classes and activities and more personalized experiences.

“We were already thinking in February about how we could better delineate ourselves and lead with well being. We want to be the premier wellness expression in Hawaii, but also compete globally with some of the best wellness resorts in the world,” Kelly said. “We’ve used this downtime to more properly compete and position ourselves.”