The lineup of offsite venues across Hawai`i showcases the best attributes of Kaua`i, Island of Hawai`i, Maui and O`ahu, namely their natural beauty and history.
Attending a reception or a meal function at, among other options, an astronomy center, a historic palace, a botanical garden or an aquarium where a meet-and-greet with majestic Hawaiian green sea turtles can be arranged, will add serious inspiration and wow factors to any meeting itinerary.
Planners on the lookout for a truly special Hawaiian experience and a gathering spot away from the host hotel or resort are likely to find an ideal candidate in the following unique offsite venues.
King Kalākaua built Iolani Palace in 1882 when Hawai`i was a sovereign kingdom, and it remained the home of Hawai`i’s last reigning monarchs until 1893.
Today the palace is a must-see historic attraction that also accommodates memorable gatherings for up to 8,000 guests, from small business luncheons and intimate cocktail receptions to large formal dinners and galas.
One of its event spaces is the Coronation Pavilion and Lawn, which accommodates 1,000 guests for seated dinners or up to 4,000 for standing receptions.
“For evening events, the view of Iolani Palace lit up in all its splendor will certainly be unforgettable,” said Executive Director Paula Akana.
There is also the Kanaina Building Conference Room, which is available for business meetings, lectures, workshops and informal meals, and Banyan Terrace, a special space under the boughs of a large Indian banyan tree that accommodates seated dinners for up to 200 guests.
“All events at Iolani Palace include tours, which can be customized depending on group size, theme or interest area,” Akana added. “For example, a behind-the-scenes look at items not currently on display, a lecture from the palace historian or a specialized tour focusing on a particular monarch can all be arranged.”
Photo: The Iolani Palace Coronation Lawn on O`ahu; Credit: Friends of Iolani Palace
SKY Waikiki, a rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking downtown Honolulu, offers group dining experiences featuring stunning ocean and sunset views.
The 7,000-square-foot venue, which accommodates groups of 30 people to a 400-person buyout, offers both outdoor and indoor spaces, including the 240-person SKY deck, a 130-person lounge and a 30-person private room.
Lobster roll sliders, champagne-yuzu scallops and citrus salad are some of the items on the main menu, which also features delicious signature cocktails, including the SKYtai, Kohana daiquiri and pina colada.
There are also several banquet and “social bites” menus for private events, including everything from green papaya salad and Big Island smoked pork pizza to soy miso-braised short ribs. Planners may also choose to create a personalized menu and signature group cocktail with the SKY Waikiki team.
Maui Tropical Plantation hosts group gatherings of all sizes in a picturesque setting with incredible views of the West Maui Mountains.
“Natural beauty and compelling architectural elements blend together seamlessly to highlight Maui’s sugarcane history and its unique scenery, with over a dozen event venues to choose from,” said Pam Shepard-Henderson, director of sales and events.
Indoor and outdoor spaces here mingle tropical scenery with rustic charm, including the Mill House Sugar Room for up to 120 people and the Grand View Lawn for up to 400.
“The local, sustainable and ‘farm-driven dining’ aspects of our property are featured in our catering offerings from the Mill House Maui,” Shepard-Henderson said. “We offer plated meals, buffet-style service or action stations, such as paella, and can include media capabilities for presentations.”
Maui Tropical Plantation also offers group activities such as an open-air tram Tropical Express Tour of the grounds with a coconut husking demonstration, team-bonding yard games and ziplining.
Hawai`i’s marine life is on display at Maui Ocean Center, otherwise known as the Aquarium of Hawai`i.
According to Group Sales Manager Ann Pascua, at the close of business, Maui Ocean Center transforms into a magical setting for group receptions or dinners for up to 700 people.
“Seating can be done in our restaurant overlooking the harbor for up to 200 people or outdoors under the stars with a beautiful ocean view, comfortably seating up to 450 people,” she said. “During whale season, whales are often seen frolicking just a few hundred feet away.”
Smaller groups of up to 100 people often choose to dine in the Open Ocean exhibit, which houses larger sharks and rays.
Photo: Event at Maui Ocean Center; Credit: Maui Ocean Center
Exclusive use of the aquarium, tours and presentations are all available, and planners can also arrange fun add-ons, including dive presentations during which the diver holds custom signs addressing the group, and stations for up-close-and-personal encounters with Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Food is prepared in the onsite Seascape Restaurant by Executive Chef Henry Tariga, who was nominated as a “Rising Star Chef” by the James Beard Foundation.
Anna Ranch Heritage Center, a working ranch and National Historic Place situated in Waimea, accommodates groups of up to 300 people.
“Visiting groups enjoy exclusive use of seven acres of the ranch headquarters, which are accentuated by beautifully landscaped gardens and unparalleled views of Kohala mountains,” said Steve Bess, trustee of Anna Ranch.
He added any use of the property can include a tour of the old ranch house, activities such as lei making and ukulele lessons, and teambuilding exercises utilizing the ranch’s 100 acres of trails and pastures, including mountain biking.
Photo: Anna Ranch Heritage Center; Credit: Anna Ranch Heritage Center
Smaller meetings, private meals and cocktail receptions often occur in the onsite Teahouse, and for larger gatherings in excess of 90 people, tents are set up on the front lawn.
While there is no onsite catering at the ranch, there is a kitchen and a list of local caterers to call on.
Groups will enjoy daily planetarium shows and interactive exhibits at 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, a popular attraction that also hosts inspired events in unique onsite facilities.
'Imiloa accommodates receptions, meal functions and meetings in spaces that include the planetarium, which accommodates up to 120 people, the 160-person Moanahoku Hall, a versatile audiovisual-equipped banquet room, and the 100-person Sky Garden Restaurant, which has floor-to-ceiling glass walls showcasing panoramic views of 'Imiloa’s native plant landscaping and Hilo Bay, according to Yu Yok Pearring, director of marketing.
The Exhibit Hall, which accommodates up to 300 people with highboy tables placed throughout, is available for after-hours receptions.
During an Exhibit Hall event, attendees can explore the intriguing variety of interactive and educational displays, including the state-of-the-art Science on a Sphere globe that shows images of atmospheric storms, climate change, ocean temperature and planetary surfaces.
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Holo Holo Charters facilitates private tours for groups who’d prefer a waterborne offsite event complete with beautiful scenery and a locally sourced menu.
According to Cindy Kauanui, sales and private charters manager, small groups are accommodated on vessels that seat 49, 37 and 25 passengers.
“We offer morning snorkel tours and afternoon sunset sightseeing tours that basically take visitors to Kaua`i’s dramatic locations that are not accessible by car,” she said.
Two popular tours aboard the vessels, which were custom-built on Kaua`i for Kaua`i waters, include the signature seven-hour Ni’ihau and Napali Super Tour and the 5.5-hour Napali Exploration and Snorkel Tour.
Shorter afternoon and sunset sails are also available, and food, drinks, sunscreen and snorkeling equipment are all provided.
National Tropical Botanical Garden offers a variety of venues to accommodate all types of events and, according to Gwen Silva, special events manager, “each one encompasses the lush tropical paradise that is the Garden Island.”
Dramatic ocean views, waterfalls and magnificent valleys are all on display for groups of three to 350-plus attendees during receptions and meal functions in spaces such as Canoe Plant Garden, Waihulili Waterfall and Breadfruit Orchard.
Photo: National Tropical Botanical Garden tented event on Kaua`i; Credit: National Tropical Botanical Garden
“Combine any of these venues with customizable, award-winning, exclusive walking tours of Allerton Garden and/or McBryde Garden, including visits to the iconic Jurassic Park trees and the Allerton Estate at Lawai Kai near the beach,” Silva said.
Interested groups can also arrange a service project in the garden with options tailored to all ability levels.
Meet Hawai`i | 808.923.1811
Alison Regenold // President // Alison Regenold Executive Events
(Photo: Alison Renegold)
Briefly state what your job entails.
We are a full-service corporate event company based in the San Francisco Bay Area that produces events with a concierge approach to our client services.
We partner with our clients on initial research and development of destinations and venues, marketing experience, registration process and all logistics related to meetings, production, food and beverage, evening and special events, keynote and guest speaker procurement, entertainment and all things that touch the event.
What type of meeting did you hold on Island of Hawai`i?
We have been fortunate to site many of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, yet our business returns to Island of Hawaii time and time again. We help produce a global corporate meeting there for over 1,000 people that is similar to a full-blown incentive program as families are invited.
There is a meeting portion with robust production and guest speakers, and attendees and their guests are invited to participate in optional activities daily.
Early morning activities include paddleboarding, canoe rides, mindfulness exercises and yoga, followed by breakfast for everyone. In the evenings everyone gathers again for festivities that appeal to all ages and feature native Hawaiian sounds, sights and flavors.
Was anyone particularly helpful in executing your event?
Due to the size and scope of this event, there are so many businesses that we engage to transport, entertain, cater and support this experience. It is truly a communal effort.
We would not want to do this event without our partners Colleen Reyes, Tatiana von Oelhoffen and their team at Island Style Innovations. They gather and secure all that we need to transport and warmly greet our attendees, and help bring a lot of our vision to life through the activities, evening events and special experiences.
What did your attendees seem to enjoy the most about Island of Hawai`i?
At first impression, it can come as a surprise. The land immediately surrounding the airport runway is dark lava rock. Often, one only thinks of lush palm trees, colorful flowers and sand when thinking of Hawai`i. But Island of Hawai`i is a volcanic island where you can see volcanic topography and affects it has had all over the island.
There are sandy beaches, too, white and black, and also rainforests, carved mountain planes, waterfalls and long stretches of land with nothing around. The juxtaposition of all of these adds to the uniqueness of the island.
As groups begin their journey on the island, they can take off the tie, perhaps put the cell phone on silent—really take in the experience even if it is a corporate meeting. And to their surprise, they may connect with colleagues in new ways and return home feeling refreshed, inspired and happy.
Are there any experiences you recommend for groups meeting there?
There is something for everyone. A waterfall or adventure hike is great for both adults and kids. A Waimea bike tour, horseback riding and ziplining are also available. A dolphin tour is a must, and who visits Hawai’i without having a surf lesson? A deep-sea fishing contest is great for teambuilding, and sailing and snorkeling provide a beautiful perspective of life in the gorgeous tropical waters.
Of course, you can’t go wrong staying poolside, tasting ahi tuna recipes and Mai Tais, and enjoying a lavish lomi massage at one of the many resort hotels and spas.
How does Island of Hawai`i compare to other destinations where you have hosted meetings?
We keep returning for many reasons, including the vast beauty, the community, amazing stargazing and no crowds. Also, it is convenient for most with regard to travel. I highly recommend planning programs on Hawai`i.
Latest Hotel Openings and Renovations in Hawai`i (2020)
Island of Hawai`i
The 333-room Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection debuted in January following a resort-wide renovation that included updates to guest rooms and suites. The property features five restaurants and lounges, three pools, a signature spa and 42,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.
Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, which offers 39,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, recently introduced the new 12,000-square-foot Koloa Grand Ballroom. The ballroom accommodates up to 1,000 people and extends out to the East Event Lawn, adding 8,000 square feet to accommodate an additional 800 guests.
As of November 2019, Courtyard Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach has converted to a full-service property and has rebranded as the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort. The 309-room resort, which has nearly 8,000 square feet of meeting space, underwent a complete renovation, including updates to guest rooms, public spaces and restaurants.
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa recently embarked on the second phase of its transformation with a multimillion-dollar renovation of its lobby, slated for completion in November. The project includes a new lobby bar and cafe, lounge and reception area in an open-air setting, as well as a new family game room.
In winter 2019, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa embarked on a multimillion-dollar renovation that at press time was scheduled for completion by the end of 2020. The project will revamp guest rooms, implement energy saving systems and upgrade technology.
Kā’anapali Beach Hotel announced the “Kealaula” property enhancement project, launching construction this spring. The property renaissance is projected at $65 million and will unveil transformative enhancements to the entire property, including a significant redesign to the 180-room Kauaʻi Wing, a refresh of the sweeping courtyard, the launch of a new beachfront restaurant, Huihui, and an additional floor of parking. Alika Guerrero, Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel’s director of Poʻokela, is overseeing all cultural aspects of the renovation process, which is being guided with Hawaiian culture at its core. Poʻokela, which means "excellence" in Hawai`ian, is the hotel's Hawai`ian cultural program, which provides education and experiences for guests and staff to enhance understanding of Hawai`ian culture.
ʻAlohilani Resort debuted its brand-new ʻAlohilani Ballroom in October 2019. The ballroom is Waikiki’s third-largest ballroom, with space for 1,000 people for standing receptions and 700 for banquet-style seating.
The 288-room Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani, formerly Waikiki Parc Hotel, underwent a $60 million transformation before reopening in October 2019. The new lobby features custom light fixtures, vaulted ceilings and artwork in partnership with the Honolulu Museum of Art.
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About the Author: Carolyn has been writing and editing professionally for nearly 20 years. Her relationship with Meetings Today began as an on-staff features editor, and since 2006 she has been a contributing writer covering meetings destinations, news and trends.