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Meeting and Incentive Options in Maui for Memorable Group Experiences

March 31, 2021
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

Ahead of Meetings Today LIVE! Hawai`i, which took place March 7-10, Maui Visitor’s Bureau (VCB) hosted a small group of LIVE! attendees for a FAM tour of Maui, a Hawaiian island long celebrated for its leisure and incentive offerings. Here's what we experienced.

Host Hotel: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Lahaina, which recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of all of its 810 guest rooms, including 31 suites, and lobby, was home base for the group. Lahaina—once known as “Lele” which translates to “relentless sun” in Hawaiian—promises reliably sunny weather and is home to a mile-long stretch of beachfront hotels and resorts.. 

The resort has the expansive spaces needed for traditionally large meetings, including a 18,375-square-foot ballroom, but has creatively pivoted during the pandemic to cater to small groups, too. 

“We have reimagined our offerings and spaces to cater to smaller, more intimate groups, which we will see more of as restrictions on gatherings begin to lift,” said David MacLean, the resort’s director of marketing and sales. 

He offered Japengo Restaurant as an example, which can now be transformed into an open-air conference room with socially distanced seating and beautiful ocean views, plus available high-speed Wi-Fi and AV packages. 

Japengo meeting space at Hyatt Regency Maui
Japengo meeting space setup. Credit: Ryan Siphers Photography

‘Umalu, the poolside restaurant and bar, is another example. “It features a new concept for groups  that would like to lounge in an exclusive area near the pool,” McLean said. “Aptly named The Sun Lounge, this area includes private daybeds with an open space that can be utilized for multiple purposes, such as lawn game add-ons, additional seating or tables, or teambuilding activities. Various food and beverage packages can be included, along with Hawaiian hospitality from a dedicated server.”

'Umalu event space at Hyatt Regency Maui
'Ulamu meeting space. Credit: Ryan Siphers Photography

MacLean also noted that Maui’s quintessential luaus are still possible during the pandemic—the Hyatt has modified its program to align with social distancing requirements.

“The award-winning Drums of the Pacific Luau has been reimagined to fit the needs of today’s travelers,” he said. “To maintain social distancing, the Polynesian feast is plated and served to the table by the luau servers and each table is exclusive for seating of up to six adults. The newly reformatted forward-facing arrangement also offers a spectacular view of the stage for every table and is coupled with a brand-new surround sound system. 

“Private group buyouts and customizable programs are available for the entire dinner and show. For smaller groups, specific sections of the luau grounds may be reserved.”

[Related: What Is Hawai`i's Safe Travels Program?]

Property Tours

Throughout our FAM tour, our group of meeting and incentive planners had a chance to conduct additional site inspections outside of our host hotel. 

Fairmont Kea Lani

Fairmont Kea Lani exterior
Fairmont Kea Lani. Credit: Danielle LeBreck

Steps from the beach on Maui’s southern Wailea coast, the Fairmont Kea Lani is an ideal incentive option, being the only all-suite property in Maui, with 413 suites and 37 villas. About 80% of that inventory has an ocean view.

The property recently renovated its 8,400-square-foot ballroom and is home to 42,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor space. 

Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui 

Wailea Beach Resort sunset view
Sunset view from Humble Market Kitchin at Wailea Beach Resort. Credit: Danielle LeBreck

The 22-acre Wailea Beach Resort also impressed, showing off over $100 million in renovations to its guest rooms, meeting spaces and more in recent years. It was originally built in 1976 as the first resort in Wailea. 

Situated at the ocean’s edge, it provides a stunning backdrop for meeting and event functions, with 70,000 square feet of outdoor space, including a rooftop terrace atop the Aulani ballroom. Our group enjoyed a sunset dinner overlooking the ocean in a private dining space at the resort’s signature restaurant, Humble Market Kitchin by Hawaiian cuisine innovator and celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi.

[Related: What You Need to Know About Planning Meetings in Hawai`i Right Now]

Offsite Venue: Maui Ocean Center

Many of Maui’s hotels and resorts offer exceptional onsite venues, but for groups that want to get off site for banquets and learn more about the highly unique marine life that calls the Hawaiian Island waters home, Maui Ocean Center is an intriguing option.

Nearly 25% of all marine animals in these waters are found nowhere else in the world, and the Maui Ocean Center has one of the world’s largest displays of live Pacific Corals and only exhibits marine animals found in Hawai`i, according to General Manager Tapani Vuori.

Maui Ocean Center is an easy-to-access option, about halfway between the popular resort destinations of Wailea and Lahaina. 

Coffee berries grown at O'o Farms in Upcountry Maui
Coffee berries grown at O'o Farms in Upcountry Maui. Credit: Danielle LeBreck

Upcountry Maui

Maui’s agriculture traditions and eye-popping natural attractions make it an ideal incentive destination, and the FAM put many of these on display in Upcountry. 

Our first stop was at the 8.5-acre O’o Farms, a farm-to-fork dining experience for up to 50 people where 95% of the menu ingredients are grown onsite. Prior to our meal, we toured the gardens, spotting coffee berries, root vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, fruits and avocado trees. The farm sits at a 3,500-foot elevation, providing wide views of the island.

Nearby Aliʻi Kula Lavender farm was next on the Upcountry tour, which is home to 55,000 lavender plants from 20 varieties. Guided and self-guided tours are possible, and special events can be held in the gardens.

We rounded out the Upcountry trip at Hawaii Sea Spirits Distillery, an 80-acre organic farm and distillery that’s famous for its Ocean Vodka made from organic sugar cane and deep ocean water. Groups can tour the farm and participate in a tasting of the distillery’s famed vodka, plus rum and whiskey products. Private events can be held on its massive lawn, which can host up to 350 people.

Lawn at Hawaiian Sea Spirits
Lawn at Hawaiian Sea Spirits Distillery, which can be reserved for private events. Credit: Danielle LeBreck

Unforgettable Experiences

To bookend the trip, we participated in two once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

To start, we canoed through the 400-year-old Kōʻieʻie native fishpond, which is an area that was used by early native Hawaiians to harvest fish in confined areas and constructed of rocks and boulders. Fishponds and their remnants can be found throughout the islands, but Kōʻieʻie is one of the most accessible and open to the public.

Canoe through native fishpond
View from the canoe through Kōʻieʻie fishpond. Credit: Danielle LeBreck

Our guided canoe tour through ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui is available to small groups and can educate participants on fishpond history and culture. Groups can also help rebuild and maintain the fishpond.

We ended our Maui tour with a breathtaking helicopter ride over the Hana Rainforest with Maverick Helicopters, which included a pitstop on Maverick's exclusive site in the forest (it's the only company that lands in the Hana Rainforest in Maui) for a champagne toast—an experience available for small groups, and one that will have them talking about it long after they leave Maui.

Landing in Hana Rainforest with Maverick Helicopters
Landing in Hana Rainforest with Maverick Helicopters on state-of-the-art, ECO-Star helicopters. Credit: Danielle LeBreck

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About the author
Danielle LeBreck | Lead Destinations Content Strategist

Danielle started at Meetings Today in March 2019 after seven years of editorial experience in the travel and food industries. She oversees all of the destination content for Meetings Today and collaborates with the team on digital content strategy and content marketing initiatives.