In the last decade, “wellness” has become a kind of buzzword that’s used to describe everything from protein powder and essential oils to house paint. And when it comes to wellness retreats, there’s no shortage of destinations and gurus willing to put guests on a vegan cleanse and guide them through beachfront yoga and meditation. So, when the Four Seasons announced last fall that its Four Seasons Lanai at Koele was set to become the first Sensei retreat, you might have thought it was just another destination spa. Think again.
Sensei is the wellness brand from Larry Ellison and Dr. David Agus. The two met through mutual friend Steve Jobs (Agus was his physician) and bonded over their mutual loss after Jobs’ death. From that grew their desire to create a forum for people to pursue preventive health. While the brand has plans to expand to other locations—both destination retreats and urban centers—the debut property is on Lanai, which Ellison owns 98 percent of. (The island also hosts another Four Seasons property, a more traditional beach resort, located about 20 minutes south.)
“Larry and I wanted to do something unique using his skills with technology and data and my skills with health,” says Agus. “What’s different about Sensei is that we’re using data-driven decisions to drive health. All too often people ‘believe’ things work, but we’re actually able to look at data and apply that data to lifestyle for real results.”
Everything at Sensei is customized. For instance, guests have access to diagnostic testing, where body data is collected through functional-movement tests, wearables, and a Sensei-developed thermal body-mapping system that uses infrared cameras to detect variations in the body indicative of muscle tightness and inflammation. A massage therapist might target those areas, then a yoga class afterward will emphasize how to make those areas better.
“We have built-in feedback loops too, where each guest is assigned to a guide,” says Agus. “In the morning, guests will meet with their guide and talk about their sleep the night before, so that they can have a better night’s sleep the next night. Eventually we hope to use technology to analyze sleep patterns, so we are able to show people how things like having one glass of wine verses two glasses of wine before bed affects them.”
Everything at Sensei is customized to the guest, and not all guests have to have an ailment. The stunning property is a relaxing getaway on its own, complete with 96 rooms, ten 1,000 square-foot private spa hales, indoor and outdoor yoga spaces, two movement studios, an outdoor pool, and onsen baths. A 25-acre sculpture garden weaves throughout and houses pieces by Fernando Botero and Robert Indiana from Ellison’s personal art collection. However, frequent guest concerns include sleep, work/life balance, and with the recent coronavirus outbreak, preventative care.
“The US Surgeon General came out with a study 10 years ago that 70 percent of world disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices. We see that around problems like diabetes, obesity—things that are making people vulnerable with COVID—all of the conditions that put us at risk can be greatly diminished by promoting healthier living,” says Sensei’s CEO, Kevin Kelly. “Dr. Agus has a great background in seeing how people can be healthier to prevent getting cancer.”
While the property has a well-trained wellness team, many with masters or PhD’s on anything from nutrition to sports psychology, it also has the privilege of an entire menu overseen by chef Nobu Matsuhisa. There is also a sustainable, solar-powered farm on the island that uses 90 percent less water and is slated to generate 1 million pounds of produce per year. (The goal is to replicate the sustainable model around the world to shorten the distance from harvest to grocery aisles, reducing emissions from transportation and extending shelf life.)
Beyond programming, staff, and cuisine, the resort is every bit as stunning as one would expect from Four Seasons and Ellison, who was highly involved with the years-long renovation of the 75-acre property.
Although COVID-19 caused the resort to temporarily close, the property anticipates reopening in late summer. Rates start at about $2,000/night, inclusive of round-trip air transfer from Honolulu on Lanai Air, all meals and beverages, a dedicated Sensei Guide, private guided sessions with a highly trained wellness team, spa treatments and group classes.
Typical stays are suggested for a week to allow for guests to immerse themselves fully, but shorter stays are also possible. fourseasons.com/sensei