Oahu may offer up the prototypical postcard vacation spot of Waikiki and the increasingly vibrant big-city energy and attractions of Honolulu. Sure, the Big Island blends lush country landscapes, active volcanoes and expansive luxury resorts and golf. And Kauai mixes upscale with a downhome country style and a topographic diversity that is unrivaled in its density.
Maui, though, has it all—except for stress.
“We’re more of a relaxed feel here,” says Sherry Duong, director of meetings, when comparing Maui with Oahu. “Once they’re here, the attendees are relaxed—it sticks to them a little more. And over here we have choices in different types of properties and service levels—as much or as little as you want—and large to small meeting spaces. With our food and cuisine, we have a lot of chefs that do a farm-to-table concept, and there’s a small-town feel.”
Maui indeed has a towering volcano in Haleakala—thrill-inducing mountain bike rides down its slope are a popular group activity. There’s also the rural upcountry dotted with small towns and farms; the jaw-dropping scenery along the Road to Hana; world-class golfing and manicured resort-town experiences; and a cuisine scene one could argue is the most sophisticated in the Islands.
On the northwest end of the island, Lahaina, a former whaling town that was the first capital of Hawaii, offers a thoroughly walkable two-mile stretch of restaurants, museums and retail. About 30 miles south is Wailea, which boasts some of the most upscale properties on the island, including the Four Seasons Maui, Grand Wailea, Fairmont Kea Lani, Makena Beach & Golf Resort and the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Wailea will also welcome a high-end Hyatt-brand Andaz Hotel in July.
Kaanapali, just north of Lahaina, has a more-active profile, where groups can pick up catamaran tours and enjoy action water sports such as jet-skiing.
Also part of Maui County is the untamed island of Molokai and the former Dole pineapple plantation island of Lanai, which was recently purchased by Oracle multi-billionaire Larry Ellison and houses two luxe Four Seasons resorts.