"What people conjure up to be Hawaii is really Maui," says Barry Tomlinson, meetings executive from Optimum Travel in Montreal. With its swaying palm trees, warm waters, and tropical appearance, Maui symbolizes the best of the Hawaiian Islands.
For that reason, Maui is wildly popular with incentive and meeting planners who fill its four resort areas, Kapalua, Kaanapali, Wailea, and Makena, year-round. Because of the protective chain of islands ringing its coast, Maui is the only major Hawaiian island offering travel by sailboat or ferry to another island.
Many agree Maui is best for watersports--and one of the best in that class is the one-day beach and snorkel cruise to Lanai offered by Trilogy Excursions. For 25 years, Trilogy's catamarans have raced across the nine-mile channel, landing at their exclusive site at Hulopoe Beach by 8:30 a.m. There is snorkeling in protected waters, tidepools to investigate, shade trees for respite from the sun, volleyball, beach mats, and back rests--a "deserted isle" luxury-style.
Other favorites with meeting and incentive attendees are the twice-daily helicopter flights, called Sky Treks, from Temptation Tours that take passengers on flights high above Hana, land, and then return the passengers over the famous 50-mile serpentine road via customized limo van.
Sky Treks are offered twice daily, with the afternoon journey doing the trip in reverse. In between, the land tour includes lunch at a black sand beach and swimming at the freshwater pools in Hana.
Other one-hour helicopter flights from Hawaii Helicopters combine views of the Haleakala crater with vistas of the waterfalls and pools near Hana. The air cruise then moves to the West Mountains near Lahaina, home of the spectacular Wall of Tears waterfall. It ends with a view of the 1,200-foot green monolith known as Iao Needle.
If a single activity were voted "best" by the numerous DMCs and meeting planners working in Maui, it would be the bicycle ride down the dormant Haleakala volcano. The ride is a 38-mile long sweep on a bicycle down Haleakala's flanks. Each day, dozens of eager riders rouse themselves from bed by the light of the moon--or simply give up on sleep altogether. Leaving at 3 a.m. via bus to Kula, the downslope ride itself takes just two hours, but is interrupted by frequent rest breaks and breakfast.