Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort, Wants To Help Guests Live Longer

Photos: Sensei; Graphic: W+G Creative
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When I first learned about Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort, around its November of 2019 opening, my ears perked. While the Four Seasons itself has become evocative of words likes "luxury" and "relaxing" and "restorative," this Hawaiian property is the brand's first dedicated wellness resort. It's also a collaborative one: Sensei is the brainchild of Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, who notably has owned 98 percent of Lanai since 2012, and David Agus, MD, a professor of medicine and engineering whose research focuses on longevity. Together, they created Sensei to "to help people live longer, healthier lives" with the help of innovative technology, evidence-based practices and treatments, and data.

To do so, the offerings at the adults-only resort are created with the "Sensei Way" in mind: Guests can pick three guiding paths—move, rest, or nourish— as the focus for their trip. Specialists like nutritionists, psychotherapists, and exercise physiologists construct the programs; food is available for each meal at the on-site Sensei by Nobu restaurant, with a menu created as a collaboration between chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Dr. Agus; and many resort features are available for use by guests 24/7, like the 10 heated outdoor spa baths, a botanical sculpture garden, and a fitness studio.

And while Sensei is the Four Seasons' second property on Lanai—the smallest inhabited island of Hawaii that is open to visitors and home to around an estimated 3,000 residents—it might as well be on the opposite end the world. Sensei (from $800 per night) is situated on 24 acres of verdant land that's evocative of a rainforest, with an elevation so high that at certain points during the day, the trees touch the clouds, giving way to a feeling that you're living in the sky.

And a year and a half and a global pandemic later, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand just how relaxing and rejuvenating the data-driven approach to wellness could be when I visited Sensai Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort for myself. Below, check out how my stay went.

Before I arrived:

Weeks before my trip, I filled out a digital pre-arrival questionnaire aimed to help both the resort and myself pinpoint my goals and intentions for my stay at Sensei Lanai. For instance, based on my answers to questions about how much sleep I get per night, how much sleep I would like to get per night, and how early I like to wake up, the Sensei team got a sense of my current habits, what I'd like to work on, and how I might best accomplish it during my stay.

According to Lori Holland, Director of Public Relations for Four Seasons Lanai, the reason for this approach is so the resort, which offers a breadth of programming, can help meet guests where they are. "The pre-arrival questionnaire helps the team primarily understand guests' intentions as well as provide background on habits and patterns," she says. "For example, if someone says they don't really exercise regularly, a robust fitness session and classes may not be put on the itinerary. [Rather,] maybe it's more gentle physical work, like mindset sessions."

After completing the questionnaire, the Sensei team scheduled a call with me to go over what they believed might add up to a meaningful itinerary for my stay, which would ultimately focus on the "rest" path of the Sensei Way.

It's worth noting that not every guest need complete this pre-visit exercise. Sensei offers several packages for its retreats (one of which is a "Room Only" rate, which carries a two-night minimum stay and allows guests to sign up for complimentary daily activities at the resort), and those who sign up for the Sensei Guided Experience or Optimal Well-Being Package have access to this personalized service, along with other features, like wellness credits redeemable for services like spa treatments, one-on-one mindfulness-expert sessions, island activities like golf, and more.

The food:

Sensei Lanai has just one full-service restaurant on property, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But while variety of ambiance is slim in the dining sphere at Sensei, it’s hard to complain about being forced to eat three meals a day at Nobu.

For each meal, the menu at Sensei by Nobu is split in two: Sensei Nourish and Sensei by Nobu. The difference between the two is negligible if what concerns you is delicious food. "Basically, there are Nobu classic dishes, which you may find and enjoy at Nobus in other locations," Holland says. "Sensei Nourish showcases dishes created by Nobu in conjunction with Sensei nutritionists, designed to maximize flavor and nutritional value. So, quinoa may be used as flour in a croissant, monk fruit as a sweetener in desserts."

My favorite meals during my stay were a mix of Sensei Nourish and Sensei Nobu menu items: gazpacho off the Nourish menu, featuring hydroponically grown tomatoes from Sensei's own farm on Lanai; a yellowtail jalapeño appetizer from the Nobu menu; and a smoked salmon and eggs breakfast item from the Nobu menu, with salmon so thick and fresh, it could pass as sashimi.

While not a full-service restaurant, the pool-adjacent Koele Garden Bar offers bites like shishito peppers and grilled skewers in addition to craft cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, all of which can be enjoyed at the bar, on the outdoor patio, or while lounging at the pool. In-room dining is also available. It also bears mentioning that guests can use the complimentary shuttle that runs between the longstanding Four Seasons beach resort and Sensei to enjoy the other property’s dining options, including another Nobu restaurant with different menu offerings, Malibu Farm, and a steakhouse called One Forty.

The property:

In addition to Sensei’s main pool, the resort features another water feature, which is my absolute favorite offering of the resort: the Onsen Garden. In Japanese, onsen means "hot spring," and at Sensei, the Onsen spa feature takes the form of 10 semi-private heated soaking tubs. (They're semi-private because they're nestled within various paths along a botanical garden. All are open to all guests to use but with 10 small tubs to choose from, you're likely to find one vacant and use it, undisturbed.) The Onsen Garden is open 24/7, so guests can—as I did—opt to take an after-dinner dip for the most relaxing star-gazing experience you never even thought to dream of having. Or, early-risers or those battling jet lag can take a sunrise dip.

If you'd rather stay in the room, that wouldn't be a choice either, sleepless or not. Each of the 96 guest rooms is outfitted with creature comforts like a large television, a Dyson hair dryer, a Toto smart toilet, and  robes.

The services:

Sensei's intent to promote longevity with the help of technology extends to its services and treatments. In my very first session at Sensei, called “My Intention” I met with Nikola Hamilton, a nutritionist and Sensei Guide who talked with me about my goals for the trip. We spoke about what’s going on in my personal life and how Sensei may be able to help, then talked through my itinerary.

Next, I stepped on a Seca machine, which is a medical body composition analyzer that measures metrics like BMI (body mass index), FMI (fat mass index), hydration levels, muscle mass, and more. The goal? To help me bring awareness to where I am in my health journey, not diagnose or celebrate or shame. Of course, information of this sort can also be overwhelming and triggering for some—especially without the context of intent to diagnose. While information is a guiding principle at Sensei, it may be advisable to skip this session or at least this data-generating portion of the session depending on your personal comfort levels.

Another data-driven treatment at Sensei is the thermal body mapping massage. After a consultation with an accredited practitioner, I laid on the massage table as she scanned my body—first back, then front—with a thermographic body-mapping machine, which produced a heat map. The map showed "red" where heat centered on my body, and that informed how the massage would take shape. Basically it was the most efficient massage I’ve ever had, targeting the areas that needed it most.

Following the massage, I was able to spend about an hour enjoying the spa hale, one of 10 private 1,000-foot spa houses on-site that are each basically a playground for recovery and relaxation. Each includes a steam shower, outdoor rain shower, infrared sauna, a soaking tub, and a side-by-side plunge pool and hot tub.

The rest:

In addition to personalized services, Sensei offers a full slate of daily fitness and wellness classes that all guests can sign up to join at no added cost. From a sunrise hike, to a midday foam-rolling class, to a sunset art walk to tour the property's 21 (and counting) sculptures, filling a day with such offerings lends itself to a wellness summer camp vibe—if summer camp served Nobu, that is.

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