Sensei Lanai: Beyond the Spa

At Sensei Lanai, rest and recovery are just as important as fitness and nutrition.

The week before I was set to leave for Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, I was racing through life at what felt like a million miles an hour, and I pulled a muscle in my back. It wasn’t the kind of pain you get from doing too many renegade rows or reverse flies. It was the kind of lame injury that sneaks up on you and targets a difficult-to-pinpoint muscle. I was doing the cooldown part of a gym class when something just pinched in my lower back. I couldn’t massage it out myself, and no kind of stretching seemed to help, but it hurt. This is exactly the kind of thing I’d been told Sensei could help with.

Set on 24 acres 20 minutes from the shores of Lanai, where the Four Seasons also operates a more typical Hawaiian beach resort, Sensei Lanai opened in 2019, taking over the former Four Seasons Lodge at Koele. Although it may feel strange to come to Hawaii and not be on the beach, the property’s stunning gardens are truly an escape to another world, their rich colors and surreal reflections over koi-filled lakes reminiscent of the sci-fi movie Avatar.

There’s also a Sensei by Nobu restaurant with a special wellness-focused menu (you can still order things like the miso-glazed black cod and Yellowtail Jalapeno, but items like the Sensei Farms Tomato Taste and vegetable and tofu scramble take advantage of locally grown produce and are specific to Sensei), as well as activities like hiking, golf, sporting clays, archery, zip lines, and 4×4 off-roading. A series of onsen soaking pools are interspersed throughout a section of the landscape and are open for 24 hours a day (soaking under the stars is encouraged). There are also highly educated Sensei guides, who act as wellness concierges to lead guests through customized sessions and activities that promote rest, nutrition, and movement.

However, I’m most looking forward to the Thermal Body Mapping and Massage, which uses Sensei-developed thermographic technology to show areas of inflammation in the body, after which a massage therapist can work to target the specific areas—exactly what I need for this injury.

When I arrive for my treatment, I see that there is no central spa structure. Instead, the spa is comprised of 10 “hales,” each offering 1,000 square feet of private space, complete with Japanese ofuro tub, steam room, sauna, dual indoor showers, outdoor rain shower, and outdoor hot and cold plunge pools. It’s truly stunning.

The body scanner hovers over one of the massage tables but isn’t imposing—imagine a larger version of the light that hangs over a dentist’s chair. The scan takes a few minutes and then I’m given an iPad to see the results. Areas around my neck and upper back and down my spine are lit up in dark orange, highlighting areas of inflammation likely caused by hours spent behind a desk—but there’s also a streak of green (medium inflammation) cutting through the otherwise blue (low inflammation) section of my lower right back. The massage therapist gets an image of the full state of my body and knows exactly how to create the perfect massage to target these areas.

It’s everything I had imagined and more. While I knew these areas were causing me pain, seeing them lit up is truly eye opening. While a single massage can’t cure decades of stress, it’s a reminder to treat myself better, slow down, and take time to recover. Sensei Lanai is a spectacular place to begin that process.
From $800/night.