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Story by Karoline Cullen, Photography by Cullen Photos
(For Travel Writers' Tales)

Feeling as though I am in the movies, I brace the gun more firmly on my shoulder and yell "Pull!" A small sporting clay zips in an arc above the trees. As instructor Frankie directs, I point, wait, and fire. Frankie cheers as the disk shatters and I can hardly believe it has. I would not have bet on me hitting a barn door.

I am on the island of Lana'i, a forty-five minute ferry ride from Maui. While on both these islands, the aim, pardon the pun, is to seek beyond sand and surf for Hawaiian experiences novel or cultural.

Photo 1 The author on the grounds of the Lodge at Koele, Lana'i

Clay shooting certainly fits in the novel category. Under Frankie's patient tutelage, this rank beginner hits clays at more than one station on the range. I contemplate my new sharp shooter status as I swagger back to the Lodge at Keole. Tucked at the end of a driveway lined with stately Norfolk pines, the Lodge with its croquet courts, pagoda, pond, and orchid house, resembles an English country manor. Sitting in the great hall by an immense rock fireplace, I sip hot chocolate, and listen to a serenading cowboy. I could be somewhere in the Rockies but no, this is a peaceful upcountry retreat, Hawaiian style.

Photo 2 The red rock landscape of the Garden of the Gods, Lana'i.

There is a sister retreat ocean side only a twenty minute drive away. Passing through the scrubby, red rock landscape, it is hardly evident the island was once Hawaii's largest pineapple plantation. Bumpy dirt roads make for great jeep exploring and we detour to untrammeled spots with exotic names like Shipwreck Beach and Garden of the Gods. Stopping at Lana'i City, we browse art galleries, restaurants, and shops. A gallery owner tells how he impulsively bought a house on a visit, promptly moved here, and never looked back. Our trip to the coast continues along a winding road edged with pines lined up like an honour guard.

Photo 3 Lomi lomi massage ocean side, Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lana'i.

At the Four Seasons Manele Bay, perched above the enchanting curve of white sand along Hulopoe Beach, I wander through lush themed gardens. In the ocean side spa tent, the relaxing sound of waves is all I hear while Amy begins a Hawaiian Lomi lomi massage. It is an ancient technique she learned from teachers on Maui and the name means "to break down the tissues." With long flowing strokes of her hands and forearms, she reduces me to a state of contented butteriness.

Lomi lomi is not the only Hawaiian I hear this trip. At the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Rance starts his cultural garden tour with a low, sonorous chant to the gods. The ancients knew the beneficial effects of plants: ginger as a natural antibiotic, mamaki for cleansing teas, naupaka leaves to treat jellyfish stings. As for mosquito repellent, Rance laughs and says the ancients had no need -- mosquitoes only came to the islands relatively recently in the barrels of water on whaling ships. Pride gleams on Rance's face as he shows us the traditional canoe standing in the garden. Built by the employees as a cultural project, it is named for a young child who pointed to a tree in the forest and asked his father to build a canoe from it. The child has since passed away but the canoe bears his name.

Photo 4 A carver of tiki masks at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Maui

I learn about the traditional Hawaiian land division called ahupua'a. Long skinny land parcels, running in strips from the ocean and agricultural lowlands to forested mountain tops, guaranteed villagers access to resources for all their needs. In a nod to the past, a graphic depiction of ahupua'a decorates the exterior of the Honua Kai Resort.

Photo 5 Overlooking the pool at the Honua Kai Resort, Maui.

After a departure chant to the gods and the gift of a traditional kukui nut lei, we meander over fifty-nine one lane bridges along the winding road to remote Hana on the east coast. The lush green hills contrast a deep blue sky and the black lava coastline. We pass cliff sides covered with ferns, waterfalls pouring down, taro plantings and a black sand beach. Installed in a spacious Sea Ranch Cottage at the Travaasa Hana Hotel, we watch horses graze ocean side as the sunset paints the sky pink and purple. The view alone is a lush relaxation treatment.

Photo 6 The author on the deck of a Sea Ranch Cottage, Travaasa Hana, Maui.

Despite a myriad of wellness and cultural choices ranging from yoga to lei making to the art of the cocktail, another Lomi lomi massage beckons. Relaxing on a teak lounge in the spa's garden overlooking the ocean is an ideal preface to my massage. An hour later, I am blissfully "tenderized."

Getting to know this Hawaiian stuff is addictive!

ON THE WEB: -- Expeditions Ferry Note that Lana'i is pretty pricey -- bring a well-padded wallet! -- Accommodation can be on an all-inclusive basis, if desired.


1. The author on the grounds of the Lodge at Koele, Lana'i. G. Cullen photo
2. The red rock landscape of the Garden of the Gods, Lana'i. K. Cullen photo
3. Lomi lomi massage ocean side, Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lana'i. G. Cullen photo
4. A carver of tiki masks at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Maui. K. Cullen photo
5. Overlooking the pool at the Honua Kai Resort, Maui. K. Cullen photo
6. The author on the deck of a Sea Ranch Cottage, Travaasa Hana, Maui. G. Cullen photo

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