Maui has a way of grabbing you and never letting go. I still associate one of the most memorable experiences of my life with this magical island.

I was visiting for the first time, walking down a path toward the ocean, suddenly startled by what appeared before me: a giant humpback whale breaching in the distance in what seemed like slo-mo.

It was such a beautiful display of nature, it almost brought me to tears.

Humpback Whale Sighting in Maui
Humpback Whale Sighting in Maui

“You see, 20 years later and that experience still holds a special place in your heart,” said Randy Parker, director of sales, CMI and international for the Maui Visitors Bureau. “That’s just it: There’s a connection people make with Maui that’s unbreakable.”

This could be the reason Maui has the most repeat visitors of any of the Hawaiian Islands, according to Parker. Those connections visitors make with both the people and the culture through the diversity of group experiences make Maui a sought-after meetings destination.

Whether it’s seeing a humpback breach on a whale-watching tour, heading to the top of Mount Haleakala to see the sunrise, exploring the beautiful reefs on snorkeling excursions or visiting the farms of Upcountry Maui, lasting memories are almost guaranteed for attendees.

“Maui is such a special place that is on so many people’s bucket list, and the great thing is that it has the exoticness, but it’s easy to get to, it’s very safe, and the infrastructure is all in place to make your meetings successful,” Parker said.

Maui Delivers on Experiential Travel for Groups

Parker said groups are increasingly interested in Maui’s cultural and experiential travel opportunities.

“You can still enjoy a day at the beach or the spa or an exhilarating zipline over the cliffs and into the water, but there’s a new focus on integrating more with the culture,” he said.

“It’s everything from learning about how language was communicated through hula to how important fish ponds have historically been to the people of Hawaii.”

Maui Lavender Farm
Maui Lavender Farm

Groups are also paying more attention to corporate social responsibility, Parker added.

“They’re very interested in leaving a legacy through planting trees, cleaning up the watershed or revitalizing the fish ponds, for example,” he said. “One group helped build several houses while they were here, and another did a program with Maui Ocean Center where they were not only snorkeling but helping to repair the reef and learning why it’s important to us.”

Planners can take advantage of new corporate group eco tours with Hawaiian Paddle Sports, which was named 2018 Hawaii Sustainable Tour Operator of the Year by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association. The customized teambuilding programs begin with a mini beach cleanup and tips on how to make a smaller travel footprint. Tailored tours range from kayaking and snorkeling adventures to outrigger canoe regattas, and all programs are designed to teach participants about Hawaii’s culture, environment and marine life along the way.

[Related Content: 3 Ways Experienced Staff Bring Waikiki Meetings to Life]

Another great way for groups to engage with the ecological side of Hawaii is with the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment Whale Watch. Participants see humpback whales off the Maui coast from a 12-passenger private boat. Each adventure is led by a Cousteau-trained naturalist who provides insight into the biology and social behaviors of humpback whales, and the song of the whales can be heard via the boat’s hydrophone.

Culinary and Agritourism Opportunities in Maui

The culinary scene and agritourism are other popular ways for groups to immerse themselves in the culture of Maui nowadays, according to Parker.

“We have an incredible array of culinary experiences—from Lineage by chef Sheldon Simeon, which was just named a James Beard Award semifinalist for ‘Best New Restaurant,’ to food trucks where you can get a fabulous plate lunch," he said.

"It’s as diverse as you want to get here."

One of Many Food Trucks That Operate in Maui
One of Many Food Trucks That Operate in Maui

With Maui’s abundance of farms, eating locally grown food has become expected, Parker added, and groups are indulging in unique experiences directly on the farms.

“One great example is O’o Farm in Upcountry Maui, which is a fabulous place with great views everywhere you look,” he said. “They do a farm experience and lunch for groups in which the attendees pick vegetables while touring the farm, then sit down to watch them prepare and serve lunch with what was just harvested.”

Other great Upcountry Maui farm experiences for groups include:

Hawaii Sea Spirits is an organic farm and distillery situated on 80 acres along the slopes of Haleakala. The company produces vodka and rum, and its most famous product is Ocean Organic Vodka, with unique packaging in a round glass bottle that makes a great attendee gift. Ocean is distilled from organic sugar cane and blended with deep-ocean mineral water.

Hawaii Sea Spirits, Aerial Shot, Maui
Hawaii Sea Spirits, Maui

Tours and tastings are available for groups, and private events can also be booked.

The outdoor setting includes a wonderful “Martini Garden” with lavender, citrus and pineapple, as well as an expansive lawn that is available for private events with extraordinary views.

Nearby, Surfing Goat Dairy, named after the many old surfboards that are placed throughout the property, is another popular Upcountry Maui experience for groups.

During tours, groups get acquainted with the dairy’s fun-loving goats, learn about the cheese-making process and taste the many goat cheeses produced at the dairy, as well as truffles.

The cheeses and truffles are available in baskets that are ideal for gifting attendees.

[Related Content: 4 Tips to Plan Unforgettable Events Infused With Hawaiian Culture]

Nearby is Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, a beautiful mountain haven where groups can host private events, take farm tours, learn about the health benefits of lavender and take cooking classes incorporating lavender. Another unforgettable experience is Maui Goat Yoga at Ali’i Kula, in which participants stretch and strike poses alongside playful goats, some of which often climb onto them in the process. Lavender products can be purchased and make nice attendee gifts.

Maui Goat Yoga at Ali’I Kula
Maui Goat Yoga at Ali’i Kula (Photo courtesty of Ali'i Kula's Instagram page)

Take an Excursion to Nearby Molokai and Lanai

The nearby, less-developed islands of Molokai and Lanai also provide unique cultural experiences of Hawaii. Molokai embraces its old Hawaiian customs and features a wealth of beautiful natural attractions. Groups can experience Molokai on day trips from Maui.

Lanai is also an ideal excursion option that allows groups to experience natural wonders on programs such as a snorkeling and dolphin watch adventure.

MAUI AREA CVB CONTACT INFORMATION

Lanai Visitors Bureau
808.565.7600

Maui VCB
808.244.3530

Find Additional Maui Meeting Resources at:
http://mauimeetings.net/

Molokai Visitors Association
808.553.3876