The marine-rich waters surrounding Maui, Molokai and Lanai offer no end of ways for groups to experience the natural environment along with a dash of Hawaiian culture and traditions.
Getting out on the water, whether it’s participating in an outrigger canoe regatta or sailing across the channel from Maui to Lanai in a graceful catamaran, can easily be the highlight of any meetings program.
Among the most memorable water-related events for groups is a canoe regatta, which combines teambuilding with a Hawaiian cultural experience, according to Kanara Woodford, director of sales for Weil & Associates, a Maui-based DMC.
“We work with a number of local canoe clubs that provide the canoes and experts stationed in each canoe along with the participants,” she said. “You can often do it on the beach right at the hotel where the group is based. It’s a really fun event where groups can take part in a race and also learn about traditional Hawaiian navigation.”
Hawaiian Paddle Sports is a Maui-based water sports company that provides numerous ways to experience outrigger canoes. The company offers guided outrigger canoe tours, including some in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s “Ambassadors of the Environment” program, which include the chance to participate in the launching and landing of the canoe. The tours can also include cultural activities such as learning to make a rope from coconut fibers.
Hawaiian Paddle Sports also features guided canoe surfing, enabling participants to ride the waves in four-person “surfing canoes” that are shorter and more maneuverable than traditional outrigger canoes.
Other options provided by the company include whale-watching, snorkeling and kayak tours.
A favorite way for groups to experience the island of Lanai while staying on Maui is through excursions provided by Sail Trilogy on a high-tech sailing catamaran. The full-day tour can include snorkeling and, depending on the time of year, whale watching, along with exploring Lanai’s pristine beaches and rugged red-earth terrain by jeep.
The company maintains an events pavilion overlooking Lanai’s Manele Bay that is available for meetings, theme parties and sunset dinners.
Whale watching is a highly popular activity from December through the end of April when thousands of humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the waters of the Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
The nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation offers excursions departing from Lahaina or Maalaea harbors in vessels that include catamarans and rigid-hull inflatable rafts. Participants learn about whale behavior from certified marine naturalists and can hear whales sing courtesy of underwater hydrophones.
Maui’s marine life can also be enjoyed on land at the Maui Ocean Center, an aquarium that includes one of the largest collections of Pacific coral in the world and an Open Ocean exhibit with a 240-degree view acrylic tunnel.
The versatile venue, which accommodates up to 700 guests, has several indoor and outdoor event spaces.