During my previous two visits to Lana'i, more than 17 years ago, I'd really enjoyed checking out the Lodge at Koele. Located on the former site of the Lana'i Company Ranch and Headquarters "the Lodge" is located maybe a half mile from the center of Lana'i City. Of course, it's pretty much impossible to get lost near the city so we decided to walk to the Lodge. You basically take Lana'i Road until it ends. The area looks very "upcountry" as we call it.
You then take a right and head up the pine lined road.......
And you'll soon see the Lodge at Koele.....
The hotel stands in stark contrast to the Manele Bay Resort, the Lodge has an "old English" feel to it.......
The grounds are wonderfully manicured....wild turkeys and all.
Actually, I just wanted the Missus to see one thing at the lodge.
It's the orchid house, which overlooks the lake and some of the golf course.......
There's a little table and chairs in the greenhouse which is so very calm and relaxing if no one else is there.
Wouldn't it make a great place for your morning tea or coffee?
There are only 102 rooms at the Lodge, so it has a feel of real exclusivity.....
Later that evening, we decided to check out a restaurant called Pele's Other Garden in Lana'i City. The dinner turned out fine, though the guy managing the front was pretty much a jerk. We got there at about 5pm and walked in. The guy leaning on the counter looked at us and said, "yeah....". I asked if they were open, he said, "does it look like we're open?" Geeez, what a putz. Next thing out of his mouth, "do you have reservations?" I said "no." He said, "can you read?" There seemed to be reservation signs on almost every table. Ok, fine, I turned to leave....he interrupted our exit by pointing to a corner table and said "there...." And here I thought they called this the hospitality industry? Whatever....the young lady who served us was very nice and friendly. The jerk seemed to treat everyone he knew nice, but everyone else was fair game.
Our dinner was decent. The smoked salmon appetizer had a generous amount of salmon.
And the bruschetta was nice, tough the balsamic reduction was very strong.
The vegetarian pizza had too much cheese and the crust was gummy.
During our meal, we saw the guy insult several other customers, even those with reservations. I later asked someone local whether the dude suffered from severe bowel obstructions or terminal lemon sucking syndrome. I got the best explanation from her, 'ah, he's just a bitter Haole from New York who couldn't make it anywhere else."
By the time we walked back to our room, the Missus had already moved on to Her next thing. She had some app that did constellations and stood there like a doufus in the parking lot of the Hotel Lana'i pointing Her iPhone to the sky.......
Then She got an even better idea....."why don't we walk back to the Lodge? I think the sky there is clearer!" So we ended up walking back, and there we were standing in the darkness in the back of the Lodge at Koele. While the Missus was busy staring at the now cloud covered sky and tripping over stuff, I took some photos.
The place is photogenic...even at night.
Funny thing happened while we were walking around. They locked the back door to the lobby area of the hotel.
That wasn't a problem though, as we just walked to one of the hallways and entered that way.
While walking back in the very quiet darkness, I told the Missus that according to legend, the island of Lana'i was home to evil, man-eating spirits........ We did end up back to our cottage, with all limbs and digits intact.
The next morning we partook of the free breakfast spread at the hotel, then caught the shuttle and out flight back to Oahu. Here are some photos with a couple of familiar landmarks in them.
Because we were staying at the Hotel Lana'i, it only made sense that we had dinner at the Lana'i City Grille, since it's located in the Hotel Lana'i.
After all, the restaurant's menu is designed by Beverly Gannon, one of the 12 original members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine Movement. I'd missed out eating at the Haliimaile General Store a couple of years ago, so this was about as close as I'd get for a while......
The dining area has a nice relaxed and warm feel...
Sorry to say, that photo was taken the next morning......the following photos just don't do the food justice, mainly because it was so darned dark in the room during dinner. Also, I'm pretty discrete, in other words no giant DSLR and especially no flash. I really don't like the attention.....
Anyway, the dishes seemed a bit heavy, so we went with just entrees, which turned out to be a good move. The Missus went with the Pecan Crusted Catch of the Day ($34) which was Ono, served with chorizo mashed potatoes and a chipotle honey butter sauce.
The fish was dry and overcooked, the pecan crust under seasoned and bland. We really enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which were smooth, but not too creamy. The spices of the chorizo came through as the the sauce balanced out the spiciness with a touch of sweetness.
I ordered the Pan Roasted Venison Loin ($38).
The venison was cooked perfectly, it was a loin cut which meant that we were talking about a lean cut of already lean venison. Yet this was toothsome, but not tough. Loved the venison flavor as did the Missus. We were worried that the fruit compote would kill the dish with sweetness, but unlike that now defunct San Diego restaurant that used to dump so much fruit on protein it looked like a fruit cocktail, the stewed fruit appropriately complemented the gamey venison. The mushroom risotto had more than a few hard grains, it was obviously cooked ahead and heated to order. The flavor was very mild and the Missus didn't care for it. Of course, before we left on the trip, I'd been making mushroom risotto just about every week at home. In other words, there wasn't any porcini in this......
Overall, this was a good meal, but nothing particularly outstanding. Our favorite part of the evening was when we got around to chatting with our server, who had a distinct Eastern European accent. We found out that she was from Poland! So how did a young woman from Poland end up working at the Lana'i City Grille? It turns out she came to visit some friends working at the resorts...and ended up staying! As often happens, the food is important, but it's the people and their stories that make the moment. We talked about the very small town/small island life, which is not for everyone, to which she lent insight..."we usually go camping or hiking on our day off....and there's the ferry to Maui. You would not believe how fantastic Costco sounds when you've been here for a while!" She actually made our night.......
Lana'i City Grille located in the Hotel Lana'i Open Wed - Sun 5pm - 9pm
One morning, while the Missus was taking a nap, I walked over to the old Dole Administration Building. The Lana'i Cultural and Heritage Center is now located in the building.
There's no entrance fee, but donations are welcome. The little two room display area show photos and artifacts in a timeline fashion form the days of the original inhabitants to now. The young woman here was very friendly and took time out to chat with me....she also knew my family as well.
I'm old enough to remember using some of the items in displays....which I guess makes me sort of an artifact as well?
I found this aerial photo of Lana'i taken in 1929 to be very fascinating. Even though the now tall pine trees look like, and were tiny plants, you can still make out what today's Lana'i City still looks like.
What was even more funny is that I saw a photo of my Aunt and Uncle posted on one wall!
Love this sign........actually I believe it used to be posted on the way to Lana'i City from the airport.
The Missus must have felt really comfortable at the Hotel Lana'i. As usual I got up pretty early....She was still counting, sheep, or maybe opihi.... I decided to walk down and grab a bite to eat. Having another meal at Canoe's sounded tempting, but I decided to walk a few more feet, right next door actually and grab a bite at Blue Ginger. There were a lot of old timers hanging out in front drinking coffee. I went to the counter and ordered a "regular breakfast" which consists of your choice of protein (Portuguese Sausage of course), two eggs (over easy), fried rice, and toast. I grabbed a cup of coffee (serve yourself) took a seat at one of the tables adorned with blue vinyl checkerboard tablecloths, and took a look around. I recall someone telling me this used to be the dry cleaners and looking at the pipe fittings hanging from ceiling, I'm thinking they were right.
I quickly figured out why this place was popular with the old-timers. The coffee was serve yourself, the cups were quite large, and you can just keep your caffeine buzz going....
My breakfast was not quite as good as what I had the previous morning. The sausage and eggs were good, but the fried rice was a bit too mushy for me and the toast was loaded with margarine.
As I walked back to our cottage I noticed an interesting vehicle in the parking lot.
I hung out and watched the TV until the Missus woke. She, of course, instantly wanted to head back to Hulopo'e Beach...of course. But first She needed Her caffeine fix, so we headed down the hill and got a cup of coffee for Her. Wouldn't you know it....as we headed back up Seventh Street, we saw one of the shuttles driving up to the front of Hotel Lana'i. The Missus determined not to miss a single moment of beach time decided to run up the hill to the shuttle. Of course, She first handed me Her scalding hot cup of coffee yelling at me to hurry up as She took off up the hill. Somehow, my stumbling attracted a dog who decided it would be great fun chasing me nipping at my heels. So there I was looking like some pupule (crazy) tourist being chased up the hill by a dog spilling hot coffee all over himself....only to find that the shuttle we were chasing was the one to the airport. The other folks waiting around for the shuttle to Manele were treated to a bit of morning slap-stick courtesy of your truly and his first degree burns.
Now the last time I was in Lana'i the resort at Manele Bay wasn't open yet. So I was interested to see what it looked like. The shuttle drops you off right in front of the hotel and you walk through the lobby and down the trail to the beach. Unlike many other resorts, you're not bothered much at all...in fact the staff was giving us water and even asked us if we needed towels? Well, there are only the two big resorts and the Hotel Lana'i on the island, so I guess they figure you must be staying at one of them......
The lobby of the hotel is beautiful with a strong Asian theme.
There's a sense of quiet and exclusivity on mst of the hotel grounds. The Manale Bay Resport only has 236 rooms so things really don't seem very crowded.
I'm wondering what the staff to customer ratio is......as there seemed to be quite a few people working.
Here's a view of the pool area and Hulopo'e Bay below.......
To get to the beach, you simply walk past the pool and head down the trail past the foundations of a old fishing village.....
I tell folks I know who are going to Lana'i to "look out for all the turkeys." They think I'm joking, but there are folks of wild Rio Grande Turkeys flourishing on Lana'i. I've heard they have to be brined before cooking because they've learned to catch and eat crab and other crustaceans and there's no real above ground freshwater source on Lana'i so they drink brackish water making the meat fairly funky. Sorry to say I've never had it....though I did taste wild venison from Lana'i years ago. Still, it's quite a sight seeing flocks of wild turkey roaming the golf courses...more on that later.
As I mentioned before, the beach here is lovely and the Missus loved it.
After swimming I took Her past the camping area to the tide pools, which are great fun. There's even a stairway built going down to the tide pools.
Hike a bit further up the dirt path and you'll see one of Lana'i's landmarks, the Puupehe rock, also known as the Sweetheart Rock and the Tomb of Puupehe.
Several variations of the story exist, but the gist of it is the same. A young warrior from Lana'i fell in love with a beautiful girl from Maui. He was so jealous and afraid he would lose her that he hid her away in a sea cave near the rock. One day, the weather turned bad, he rushed back to the cave to find she had drowned. He managed to retrieve her body, and with the help of the gods scaled the rock carrying the body of the woman. When he reached the summit, he buried her on top of the rock.
There is an actual rock structure on the top of the rock! The late Archaeologist and Anthropologist Kenneth Emory actually scaled the rock and investigated the platform. He concluded that this wasn't a tomb, but more likely a altar. Nice story though!
I have a special place in my heart for Lana'i, though I really haven't visited much since "small kid time" and having not visited for probably about 17 years. My dad was from the island and I still have family there, though I kept this visit on the "down low". Over the years, I've taken the Missus to just about all of the main 8 islands, I'd been to all of them, well except for Kahoolawe, though I've set foot on Niihau. I've taken friends to Lana'i a couple of times, once we rented four wheel drive vehicles and drove to various sites and beaches on the island through the Garden of the Gods all the way to the beautiful and secluded Polihua Beach. In a couple of days we managed to hit all the places, Shipwreck Beach, pass the ruins of abandoned Keomoku Village, even making it to King Kamehameha's Summer Retreat, the remnants of the fishing village of Kaunolu. Still the Missus hasn't been to Moloka'i or Lana'i so I thought a nice relaxing getaway of two days or so might be just the right thing. In the old days, only cessnas made the flights to Lana'i, now larger planes do, but I thought the Missus might just enjoy flying in one of these.
Of course it all kind of starts getting fun when they ask you to jump on the scale to see how much you weigh....in case they have to balance the plane. And then of course, they take you out to the tarmac to board. This is when the Missus said, "that plane looks so tiny....."
Other than the pilot and co-pilot (on the way back there was only a pilot) there were only two other people on the flight.
One of the benefits of having a light load and being early was that the really nice folks took us on a extra pass and we went over and past Shipwreck Beach.
Yes, there really is a "shipwreck" stuck on the merciless reefs of Shipwreck Beach. However, even though the reefs here have been the end of many a sailing vessel, this one is not technically a shipwreck. It is a World War II vintage "Liberty Ship", a concrete ship that was wrecked on the reef along with several others as a means of disposal. While the others broke up and eventually became one with the reef, this one decided that resting on the reef would be its fate for now.
It proves to be a rather haunting landmark, or perhaps I should say "seamark"?
As for Lana'i Airport? Well, here it is.......
You don't really need a car on Lana'i if you want to just hang out and visit th two resorts or the beach. There's a shuttle that runs between the Lodge at Koele about a half mile out of Lana'i City, the Hotel Lana'i, and The resort at Manele Bay. You pay a one time fee of $35 per person, usually tacked on to your hotel bill and you get unlimited use of the shuttle during your entire stay.
I heard that the two Four Seasons Resorts were wonderful places to stay, but I wanted something a bit more, well, unique, in more of a Lana'i sort of way. I booked two nights at the Hotel Lana'i. We used to call this the "lodge" and I think many old-timers still do. It was built in 1924, originally to house Hawaii Pine management and visitors to the island.
But instead of staying in a regular room at the hotel, I went ahead and booked the cottage, located to the left of the hotel building.
Being a couple of yards away from the main hotel, up the walk and separated by hedges from the parking lot, it provided some wonderful privacy.
There was even a deck.......
There's a nice living area and a separate bedroom.....and as another big plus; this was the only room in the entire complex that had a television! The woman at the front desk jokes about the possibility of having me rent out TV time to the other guests. If you've never been to Lana'i, you'll quickly notice that Lana'i City, at the elevation of 1600 feet is a bit cooler than many other locations.
The main businesses in Lana'i City run along two streets, Seventh and Eighth, with Dole Park between them.
One thing you'll notice right away are all the pine trees on Lana'i. That in itself is a quite a story. Perhaps I'll tell it one day.
It's hard for me describe life's pace in Lana'i, so I tend to use examples; like the speed limit is 20 miles an hour, there are no traffic lights, only 17 miles of paved road, 10 of which is from Lana'i City to the Four Seasons Manele Bay!
Even though I hadn't been here in almost two decades, things looked eerily the same. Timeless in a way...... I could easily say these photos of Eighth and Seventh avenues came from a different generation.
We had arrived fairly early and I thought a nice breakfast was in order. I knew just the place I wanted to check out.
This place is now known as Canoes Lana'i Restaurant, but growing up it was the location of S&T Properties. It was probably the most well known and popular diner on the island.
The Miisus and I decided to spilt a Delux Loco Moco, not cheap at almost $13, but this was Lana'i. It arrived looking quite good.
Deluxe because it came with fried rice, very local style with calrose rice and full of goodies. The Missus really enjoy the fried rice. But there was another reason for me coming here......the hamburger patty.
You see, the Tanigawa family had a secret recipe for their burgers and it was sold to the current proprietors of Canoes. I was told many years ago that this was the first burger I ever ate, so of course I had to try it. The burger is very soft and moist, very, very soft, like a good part of it is filler and mayo. In a way it makes sense, after all, Lana'i was fairly isolated back then and beef was probably quite expensive. You needed to figure out a way to stretch things while still keeping it sworth a couple of bucks. The patty literally melts in your mouth. The Missus ended up loving this as well, so after a couple of bites, I let Her have the rest. I'd had a couple of bites of my history, it was only right that the Missus get some too........
Even though our trip was a mere ten days, we made sure to get in as much Poke as possible. The Missus, who by now is a full fledged poke-phile and I would often discuss the merits of the poke we ate during our trip. We tried five different shops during our stay and here's the consensus, in reverse order of our favorites. I think our favorite will be a bit of a surprise.
#5 - Poke Stop
On our previous trip I had the pleasure of chatting with a former coworker of my MIL and lifetime Leeward resident Melissa, whom I also had a great time sharing dinner with on her subsequent trip to San Diego. It was really great getting her feedback on a number of places in the Ewa/Waipahu area.Poke Stop was one of the really hyped up places, but Melissa told me that the poke was very salty and perhaps not her favorite, so we passed. On this visit, the Missus and I stopped by the little shop for a light lunch. We enjoyed the "trio" of cooked items which I'll post on later, but unfortunately, the poke here was our least favorite, that's not to say it was bad, but someone had to be numba five. The shop is rather small and the choices rather limited, some of which looked like it had been sitting around for a while, but we ended up getting two different poke along with our plate lunch, a Primo, and headed outside to one of the tables overlooking Farrington Highway.
The two poke were totally at different ends of the spectrum.....
The Sesame Ahi Poke, really didn't look much like what I usually consider to be Ahi (Big Eye or Yellowfin Tuna) at all as it was really pale in color...it was almost like Tombo Ahi, aka Albacore.
But Tombo tends to be kinda mushy and this was firm, so I'm not sure. Overall, this was really bland and the fish, though firm didn't have the richness nor oil content to carry the poke on its own. You could barely make out a whiff of sesame oil on this.
At the other end, the Kimchi Tako Poke was super salty.
The Tako (octopus) was prepared well, chewy, but not too tough. It was just much too salty. We did like the service here; the older woman and her younger counterpart were very friendly. When we said we'd be eating at the tables outside, they told us to go ahead and have a seat and brought our food to us.
Poke Stop 94 -050 Farrington Hwy, E4 Waipahu, HI 96797
#4 - Alicia's Market
This little market on Mokauea in Kalihi is known for sparse parking and great poke and roast pork.
I was really lucky, as I was driving up a car left one of the maybe ten stalls in front of the market (and drive in next door), talk about good luck!
This being a football Saturday the place was packed.
You get into one of the free-form pseudo lines and when you think you're next you tell one of the folks behind the counter what you want....and there's no need for long explanations like "one pound of spicy masago ahi poke" as simple "half spicy masago" will do. If you don't notice when it's your turn one of the other customers will likely let you know...after all, this is Hawaii, and "you no cut in line" here. On busy days you can just pay cash at the fish counter, bypassing the single cash register in the front. It just works better that way.
Of the three we bought on this day, my favorite was the Sweet Onion Ahi, which seemed very fresh, with just enough saltiness for my taste. The onions were indeed "almost Maui" in sweetness.
The Spicy Ahi had too much mayonnaise for the Missus and I, though my MIL enjoyed it.
This one also got on the bad side of the Missus...more on that later on.
There was a lot of "suji"(tough tendon/fishing line like tissue) in the Spicy Masago Ahi Poke. You really couldn't tell by looking at it. It seems like they used the cuts with the most tough connective tissue hiding under all that masago.
Did you notice the banner for Alicia's read "Broke the Mouth"? Well the spicy poke almost broke the Missus' teeth...twice She pulled bones from the poke. I chewed on a couple of scales in the masago poke, which made it not only too tough, but also scaly as well.
Not much else to say.......
Alicia's Market 267 Mokauea St Honolulu, HI 96819
#3 - Tanioka's Seafood and Catering
We dropped by twice....once right after getting off the plane and once I braved the Saturday line out the door and down the sidewalk. The Missus and I were looking forward to the poke from Tanioka's since our previous visit.
On both visits we were lucky as the Ahi Limu was brought out fresh both times and ended up being my favorite.
It was quite good both times, nice balance of flavor, fresh fish, everything you need.....
For some reason, I found the dried aku poke much too salty this time around.
While the Pipikaula (dried beef) Poke seemed much too tame and mild.
The main reason for the revisit is that the Missus' cousins love Ocean/Seaweed Salad, something I find kinda, well, mundane....but I was told that this stuff is really expensive in China.
They could eat this by the pound....but didn't care much for poke, or poi for that matter.
The lines were long, but moves fast. The security guard who doubles as a doorman to handle the weekend crowd is very nice as well.
Tanioka's did come up numba' one on another list, stay tuned for that post.
Tanioka's Seafoods & Catering 94-903 Farrington Hwy Waipahu, HI 96797
#2 - Ono Seafood
This one is located in my old stomping grounds; Kapahulu. It's actually in what I believe used to be the manager's studio/office for this apartment complex, apartment numba' 4. Just look for the blue apartment.....
The poke here is a couple of dollars cheaper a pound and some of the items they make up fresh for each order. The interior is tiny. This being a two person operation means that you don't move along quite as fast.
The poke here is fresh and unfettered from too many sauces and salt.
The Missus enjoyed the Wasabi Ahi:
The fish was wonderful, bright in color and with a firmness at first bite which gave way to an almost melt in the mouth texture. I did feel that it was made a bit too much restraint with regards to the "whisper of wasabi".
I enjoyed the simple Ahi Limu, except that I found the limu to be really hard.
Other then that, I thought the flavor was really balanced.
We saved the Smoked Tako for my FIL, who loves the stuff.
If I had my druthers, I might have put Tanioka's number two since I thought eating the poke at Diamond Head Look-out affected our opinions a bit.
Still, the Missus wants to make sure to revisit Ono Seafood on our next trip.
Ono Seafood 747 Kapahulu Ave.Apt 4 Honolulu, HI 96816
#1 Lana'i Ohana Poke Market
This one was a nice surprise for us. I'd heard that there was a nice little poke shop on Gay street right off of 8th. Unfortunately we arrived on a Wednesday when it was closed. I returned the next day......
The little shop was pretty busy when I arrived....three fire fighters and probably half of the police force (two officers) were either eating or waiting for their food. The woman working the front counter was really nice. I found out that even though there's a 5pm closing time posted, they make one pan of everything a day and once that's gone it's pau hana time.
The Missus has been eating a lot of brown rice recently, and has been overjoyed to see that many Honolulu restaurant are now serving brown rice as an option. I really didn't think the brown rice movement had made it to Lana'i, but I was wrong. When I hesitantly asked the woman if they served brown rice in their poke bowls she said "of course we do". Ha....teach me a lesson.....
The Missus absolutely loved the Spicy Poke bowl with brown rice.
Not overdressed, this had a mild kick, the fish really stood out. This was Her favorite until.....
She sampled the furikake-masago ahi poke.
Put together with a restrained hand, you could make out the flavor of the furikake without it overpowering the poke. The masago added a nice crunch to everything.
Still, my favorite was the shoyu poke.
Again, the flavor didn't take over the poke. I believe there was even oyster sauce in this adding a touch of extra savory flavor. I'm not a big fan of oyster sauce in my poke since it takes over the dish, but here it was used in just the right amount. There was even a slight sweetness to the whole thing as well. The fish literally sparkled......
Much like Ono Seafood, perhaps eating our poke at lovely Hulopo'e Beach might have something to do with our enjoyment.
This was taken at about noon.........the Missus and I would joke about over-crowding when there were more then ten people on the beach.
Doesn't this look like the perfect place for one of those Corona Beer commercials?
And the view when you turn around ain't so bad either.......
We actually caught the shuttle back to Lana'i City a bit early to see if we could grab some poke to stick in the fridge for dinner. Unfortunately, they had run out of poke before we returned at two pm. You can't win them all......
Lana'i 'Ohana Poke Market 834 A Gay St Lanai City, HI 96763
Never would I have thought that'd we'd find poke this good on Lana'i.
OK, I'm getting close to the 1700 word mark, time for bed.
Thanks for reading....I gotta go check my blood mercury levels!