The most popular of the neighbor islands for visitors, Maui is a true gem with its 120 miles of beaches, picture-perfect waterfalls, verdant jungles, and the daunting presence of Haleakala, an extinct volcano that rises up more than 10,000 feet.
Maui is ideal for meetings because it has so much to offer groups. The second-largest in the Hawaiian chain, it is called the Magic Isle, and not without cause.
Many hotels and resorts are within an easy drive of Lahaina, Maui's oldest city and a royal seat during the 16th century. There are more than 30 designated historic sites in this seaside village, once the haunt of rowdy mainland whalers who came here to stock up on provisions and, while they were at it, paint the town red. Today, Lahaina is a bit quieter but still loaded with charm, especially at night when the twinkling lights of Front Street make the port look particularly enchanting. The town is a great place to take the group for dinner and shopping excursions.
Another excellent outing for groups is a trip to Haleakala, the extinct volcano. Groups should consider coming early enough to catch the sunrise over the 3,000-foot-deep crater, a famed island tradition. The adventurous can ride bikes down from the summit.
Also well worth exploration is Hana, where getting there on the narrow, sinuous Hana Highway ("the wacky road to Hana," as T-shirts proclaim) is half the fun. The two-lane road hugs the coast tightly, with the azure Pacific glistening beneath sheer cliffs on one side and a thriving rain forest on the other. Plan plenty of stops to let your group take a dip in a roadside pond or snap a photo of a cascading waterfall.
There's not much to Hana itself; it's a small, close-knit community that many consider the state's "most Hawaiian place." In fact, legend says it is here where Hawaii was born, when the demigod Maui pulled the islands up from the ocean floor.
Beyond the town is Haleakala National Park's Oheo Gulch, where waterfalls create seven pools perfect for a refreshing dip.
Another recommended group outing is a trip Upcountry, as the area on the southwestern flank of Haleakala is known. All seems idyllic up here, with softly sloping fields framed in lava-stone walls and magnificent views of the coast far below. Each of the area's small hamlets has its own personality, many with a decided New Age slant. A good place to stop for lunch is Tedeschi Vineyard, Maui's only winery.
Another good day-trip awaits at the Iao Valley, a state park tucked into the heart of the West Maui Mountains. The Iao Needle, a volcanic cinder cone that soars up 1,200 feet, is one of Maui's most-photographed sights.
Hotel News Near Lahaina is Maui's main resort area, Kaanapali, which stretches along a three-mile beach that acts as front yard to myriad luxury hotels. It was here that Maui's tourism industry began 30 years ago.
The big news in hotels is the November 1996 reopening of the Sheraton Maui after a two-year, $150 million redevelopment. Virtually all the original buildings at the resort were demolished, so nearly half of the 510 guest rooms are brand new, while the remaining were completely refurbished. Meeting space has been expanded for a total of 17,000 square feet. The focal point of the resort is a 142-yard, fresh-water swimming lagoon with lava-rock waterways.
Among other properties of interest to groups are the Embassy Suites Resort, which has 413 one- and two-bedroom suites (each with a work area) and 13,000 square feet of meeting space; the 815-room Hyatt Regency Maui; the 720-room Maui Marriott; and the 761-room Westin Maui. The area is also home to two 18-hole golf courses that rise from the beach into the foothills of the West Maui Mountains, their greens surrounded by picturesque fields of sugarcane.
Further north, the resort area of Kapalua offers 54 holes of golf and two luxury hotels: the 191-room Kapalua Bay and the 492-room Ritz-Carlton, each with meeting space.
South Maui includes the resort communities of Wailea and Makena. Wailea is a well-planned development of five beaches, two championship golf courses, and some of Maui's most luxurious hotels, including the 516-room Aston Wailea
Resort (formerly the Maui Inter-Continental), which offers 29 meeting rooms with more than 45,000 square feet of space, most of it in a three-story conference pavilion. New is a business center with secretary services and three private workstations, each with a modem-equipped computer, printer, and telephone. Aston gave the resort an extensive renovation when it acquired the property in February 1996.
The Kea Lani, where each of the 450 units is a two-room suite, has 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including ten meeting rooms. Nearby are Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, and Renaissance properties.
In the less-developed Makena area, the Maui Prince offers 310 guest rooms and seven meeting rooms, including a 5,200-square-foot ballroom. The hotel is notable for its formal Japanese gardens, wide beach, and 18-hole golf course.