It’s easy to understand why the phrase “Maui no ka oi” (Maui is the best) is so popular when you visit this Hawaiian gem—a trio of islands known for everything from Haleakala crater to quaint upcountry towns to breeching humpback whales, not to mention some of the best resorts around.
“You have just about everything you need to satisfy any group in one destination,” said Randy Parker, director of sales, international, convention, meetings and incentives for the Maui Visitors Bureau. “We have several very unique resort areas, hotels across all levels and activities that range from watching the sunrise at the top of Haleakala to taking the 620-curve drive to Hana to discovering hundreds of species of flora and fauna on land and sea. And it just gets better every year.”
Indeed it does. The destination, which encompasses the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai, has unveiled impressive renovations at several hotels, while the list of intriguing diversions is ever-evolving. From distilleries, wineries and breweries to organic farms and estates, the unique ways for groups to experience Maui continues to surprise attendees.
Parker said two special off-site experiences for groups are Lona Ridge and O’o Farm.
“Lona Ridge is a private residence on a mountain, and it’s spectacular,” he said. “The whole estate is an agricultural reserve, so there are very unique things that are being grown there, including some of the rarest trees. We had a group there for a tour, lunch and a honey tasting.”
Lona Ridge is located atop Wailuku Heights and offers tours and lunches for groups of up to 50 people.
In the upcountry farming community of Kula, O’o Farm is another standout for group tours and customized events of up to 100 people. The farm is nestled on eight acres and grows fruits, vegetables and coffee for several upscale restaurants in Lahaina. Garden and food workshops, luncheons and tours, and wine dinners are among the offerings.
“We brought a group of 15 meeting planners there recently and had a blast,” Parker said. “We toured the farm, met with the chef in the kitchen and picked the vegetables for our lunch right from the gardens and put them in a basket. It’s these unusual experiences that are so memorable for groups, and three of those planners have already booked programs there.”
Kula is also home to two other unique group options that Meetings Today had the opportunity to experience on a recent visit: Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery and Surfing Goat Dairy.
The cool and distinctive round blue bottle that holds Ocean Organic Vodka is reason enough to head to Hawaii Sea Spirits, and once you arrive, the setting overlooking the slopes of Haleakala is the perfect complement to outdoor tastings following a tour of the distillery. Ocean is the only vodka in the world distilled from organic sugar cane (several types grown right on the farm) and blended with deep ocean mineral water.
The company also produces Deep Island Hawaiian Rum, but the vodka steals the show, particularly when there’s a fun “Martini Garden” to explore, including local lavender, citrus, passion fruit and pineapple. The venue is available for group events, and the views are spectacular.