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My ears perked when I first heard about Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort, set to launch in November 2019. While the Four Seasons name has grown synonymous with terms like “luxury,” “relaxation,” and “restoration,” this Hawaiian resort is the brand’s first dedicated wellness resort. It’s also a team effort: Sensei was created by Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, who owns 98 percent of Lanai and David Agus, MD, a professor of medicine and engineering whose research focuses on longevity. With the use of new technology, evidence-based practises and therapies, and data, they founded Sensei to “help people live longer, healthier lives.”
To that end, the adult-only resort’s offers are based on the “Sensei Way”: guests can choose one of three leading paths—move, relaxation, or nourishment—as the centre of their trip. The programmes are created by specialists such as nutritionists, psychotherapists, and exercise physiologists; food is available for each meal at the on-site Sensei by Nobu restaurant, with a menu created in collaboration between chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Dr. Agus; and many resort features, such as the 10 heated outdoor spa baths, a botanical sculpture garden, and a fitness centre, are available to guests 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sensei, the Four Seasons’ second property on Lanai—the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii that is open to visitors and home to an estimated 3,000 residents—seems to be on the other side of the globe. Sensei (from $800 per night) is set on 24 acres of lush grounds reminiscent of a jungle, at an elevation so high that the trees touch the clouds at some times of the day, giving the impression of living in the sky.
After a year and a half and a global pandemic, I had the chance to see for myself how soothing and refreshing a data-driven approach to wellness can be when I went to Sensai Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort. Check out how my stay went in the video below.
Prior to my arrival:
I completed a digital pre-arrival questionnaire weeks before my trip to help both the resort and myself identify my goals and aspirations for my time at Sensei Lanai. For example, 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 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 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 reason for this strategy, according to Lori Holland, Director of Public Relations for Four Seasons Lanai, is so that the resort, which offers a wide range of programming, can meet guests where they are. “The pre-arrival questionnaire primarily assists the team in understanding guests’ intents as well as providing background on habits and patterns,” she explains. “If someone indicates they don’t exercise consistently, a vigorous fitness session and classes may not be included in the schedule. Perhaps it’s more light physical labour, such as thinking sessions, that’s required.”
Following the completion of the questionnaire, the Sensei team set up a call with me to discuss what they thought would make for a meaningful agenda for my stay, which would eventually centre on the Sensei Way’s “rest” path.
It’s worth mentioning that this pre-visit practise isn’t required for all guests. Those who sign up for the Sensei Guided Experience or the Optimal Well-Being Package get this personalised service, as well as other benefits like wellness credits redeemable for serenity.
The only full-service restaurant on the site is Sensei Lanai, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While the eating environment at Sensei lacks variety in terms of ambiance, it’s difficult to complain about being compelled to eat three meals a day at Nobu.
The cuisine at Sensei by Nobu is divided into two sections for each meal: Sensei Nourish and Sensei by Nobu. If you’re looking for good meals, the difference between the two is minor. “There are basically Nobu standard dishes that you can find and enjoy at other Nobu locations,” Holland explains. “Sensei Nourish features Nobu’s recipes developed in collaboration with Sensei nutritionists to maximise flavour and nutritional content. As a result, quinoa may be used as a flour in croissants and monk fruit can be utilised as a sweetener in sweets.”
During my stay, my favourite meals were a combination of Sensei Nourish and Sensei Nobu menu items: gazpacho from the Nourish menu, made with hydroponically grown tomatoes from Sensei’s own farm on Lanai; a yellowtail jalapeo appetiser 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 for sashimi.
The poolside Koele Garden Bar serves shishito peppers and grilled skewers, as well as creative drinks and non-alcoholic beverages, all of which can be enjoyed at the bar, on the outdoor terrace, or while sitting by the pool. There is also the option of dining in your accommodation. It’s also worth noting that guests can take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service that runs between the long-standing Four Seasons beach resort and Sensei to dine at the other property’s restaurants, which include another Nobu restaurant with a different menu, Malibu Farm, and One Forty, a steakhouse.
The property consists of:
In addition to Sensei’s main pool, the resort has another water feature, the Onsen Garden, which is my favourite part of the resort. Onsen means “hot spring” in Japanese, and the Onsen spa element at Sensei consists of ten semi-private heated soaking pools. (They’re semi-private because they’re tucked away among a botanical garden’s numerous walkways.) All are available to all guests, although with ten little tubs to pick from, you’re likely to locate one that’s empty and use it without interruption.) The Onsen Garden is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so guests may enjoy an after-dinner dip for the most soothing stargazing experience you’ve ever imagined. Early risers or those suffering from jet lag can also take a morning swim.
If you’d rather stay in your room, sleepless or not, that wouldn’t be an option. The 96 guest rooms are equipped with amenities such as a large television, a Dyson hair dryer, a Toto smart toilet, and robes.
The following are the services:
The goal of Sensei’s services and treatments is to promote longevity through the use of technology. In my first Sensei session, titled “My Intention,” I met with Nikola Hamilton, a nutritionist and Sensei Guide, who discussed my trip goals with me. We talked about what’s going on in my personal life and how Sensei might be able to assist, and then we went over my schedule.
Then I walked on a Seca machine, which is a medical body composition analyzer that evaluates variables such as BMI (body mass index), FMI (fat mass index), hydration, muscle mass, and more. What is the goal? Not to diagnose, congratulate, or shame me, but to assist me become more conscious of where I am in my health path. Of course, such material can be overwhelming and distressing for some people, especially when it is not presented in the context of a diagnosis. While information is a guiding concept at Sensei, depending on your personal comfort levels, you may want to avoid this session or at least this data-generating phase of the session.
The thermal body mapping massage is another data-driven treatment at Sensei. Following a consultation with an accredited practitioner, I lay down on the massage table while she scanned my body—first the back, then the front—with a thermographic body-mapping machine, which generated a heat map. The map showed “red” where heat was concentrated on my body, which dictated how the massage would proceed. Basically, it was the most effective massage I’ve ever received, focusing on the places that required the greatest attention.
Following the massage, I was allowed to spend approximately an hour relaxing in the spa hale, one of ten private 1,000-square-foot spa houses on the property that serve as a playground for healing and relaxation. Each has a steam shower, an outdoor rain shower, an infrared sauna, a soaking tub, and a plunge pool and hot tub side by side.
The rest is as follows:
In addition to individual treatments, Sensei offers a comprehensive schedule of complimentary daily exercise and wellness sessions to all visitors. Filling a day with such options, from a sunrise hike to a midday foam-rolling session to a sunset art walk to see the property’s 21 (and counting) sculptures, gives it a wellness summer camp vibe—if summer camp served Nobu, that is.
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