. Hawaii | Northstar Meetings Group

Guide to Meeting & Event Planning in

Hawaii

Learn why you should host your next meeting, event or conference in Hawaii.

Why Hawaii for Your Next Meeting or Event?

Abundant and unspoiled nature, near-perfect weather, authentic culture, and gorgeous and varied beaches add to the timeless and enchanting appeal of the Hawaiian Islands for meeting, incentive and convention groups.

Only in Hawaii

Catch these waves: Some of most spectacular breakers — and top surfers — in the world can be found during Hawaii’s giant wave season (November to February). Check out the action during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a world-class competition held every autumn on Oahu’s North Shore.

Transportation

• Oahu: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, eight miles west of the Hawaii Convention Center; transfer cost by taxi, $35; by shuttle, $25 
 
• Island of Hawaii: Kona International Airport, seven miles from Kailua-Kona; Transfer cost by taxi, $25; by shuttle, $20. Hilo International Airport, two miles east of Hilo; Transfer cost by taxi, $12

• Kauai: Lihue Kauai Airport, six miles from Lihue; Transfer cost by taxi, about $11; to Princeville (28 miles from airport), about $100

• Lanai: Lanai Airport, four miles from Lanai city; no public transport or taxi service available

• Southwest Airlines has launched service from Oakland and San Jose, Calif., to Oahu. The inaugural flight from Oakland International Airport to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Oahu, took place in March. Southwest's interisland service between Honolulu and Maui and between Honolulu and the island of Hawaii will begin this spring.


Travel Essentials

Taxes: Oahu room tax, 10.25%; sales tax, 4.71%; total tax on hotel rooms, 14.96%
Other islands: Room tax, 10.25%; sales tax, 4.16%; total tax on hotel rooms, 14.41%
 
Convention Center: Hawaii Convention Center; exhibit space, 202,249 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 47; (808) 943-3500

Contact: Meet Hawaii

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Maui

Looking to Plan a Meeting in Hawaii?
Learn everything you need to know about this sunny locale at Destination Hawaii, Northstar's premier event for meetings and incentive pros looking to book biz in the area.

 

Why Maui for Your Next Meeting or Event?

Maui, at 48 miles long the second largest Hawaiian island, is world renowned for its golden beaches, forested mountains, endless sunshine, charming small towns and airy resorts. The island lures travelers with its perfect balance of wild nature and beachfront luxury. Whether hiking the volcanic landscape at Haleakala National Park at sunset or strolling down lively Front Street of historic Lahaina town, Maui offers diverse experiences for groups.

Only in Maui

Towering emerald peaks guard the lush valley floor of Iao Valley State Park. Located in central Maui, just west of Wailuku, this peaceful park is home to the 1,200-foot-tall Iao Needle, an iconic green-mantled rock outcropping overlooking Iao stream and an ideal spot for easy hikes and sightseeing.

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Island at a Glance

Head west to find the hotels and resorts of Kaanapali, Kapalua and Lahaina, with their luxurious spas and a wide range of dining options close at hand. Among the group properties here are the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa; the Kaanapali Beach Hotel; the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua; the Westin Maui Resort & Spa; the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, and the Royal Lahaina Resort.
 
Tucked along the crescent-shaped beaches and stellar golf courses in south Maui is Wailea, home to opulent resorts and meeting properties like the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, the Fairmont Kea Lani, the Andaz Maui at Wailea and the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, each offering idea settings for incentive programs.

Transportation

Kahului Airport, approximate transfer cost by taxi: From Kapalua, about 33 miles, $100. From Kaanapali, about 28 miles, $87. From Kahului Town, about 3 miles, $13. From Kihei, about 10 miles, $33-$55. From Lahaina, about 23 miles,$78. From Maalea, about 11 miles, $33. From Makena, about 18 miles, $65. From Wailea, about 16 miles, $57. From Wailuku, about 6 miles, $20. Transfer cost by shuttle: Direct shuttle service is available from Kahului Airport to Honokawai, Kaanapali, Kahana, Kahului, Kapalua, Kihei, Lahaina, Makena, Napili and Wailea. Fares run $10-$45 based on location.
 
Southwest Airlines service from Oakland and San Jose, Calif., to Maui begins this spring. 

Travel Essentials

Event venue: Maui Arts & Cultural Center; exhibit space, 115,502 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 9
 
Contact: Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau

Recent Hotel & Venue Additions in Maui

The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa at Puu Kekaa on Kaanapali Beach has unveiled a $26.5 million upgrade of its 508 guest rooms that included modernizing the bathrooms and living spaces. Also on-site, a new signature restaurant, Rocksalt, led by executive chef Lyndon Honda, serves globally inspired dishes that combine fresh local Hawaiian produce with exotic spices and ingredients, available in small and large plates. Now celebrating its 55th anniversary, the resort recently instituted new sustainability measures, banning single-use plastic straws and introducing eco-safe sunscreen, which is complimentary for guests who wish to help preserve the health of the region's coral reef. The resort has 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a business center, a fitness center and a spa.
 
• The Montage Kapalua Bay resort on Maui has completed a redesign of 50 luxury, residential-style accommodations. Overseen by Dallas-based interior- and architectural-design firm Wilson Associates, the new décor draws inspiration from the land and sea around it, using native koawood and natural-color flooring balanced with accents of taupe, beige and whites. The property also offers a full-service Spa Montage and more than 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
 
•The 463-room Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua recently unveiled a propertywide renovation. The resort has 12 meeting rooms and more than 173,000 square feet of outdoor function space.

Getting Active & Outdoors

• Head out on the water with Maui Eco Tours for kayaking and snorkeling tours or surfside standup paddle-board lessons. From December through April, kayak excursions offer the opportunity to spot humpback whales during their annual migration. Snorkeling promises sightings of turtles, rays and colorful coral.

Things to Do in Maui

• Native Hawaiian culture is revered throughout the islands and woven into the fiber of meetings and conferences in Maui’s four major resort areas – Kaanapali, Kapalua, Lahaina and Wailea. Among the many activities offered for families traveling with attendees are learning to hula, stringing a lei, weaving a lauhala fan, enjoying vivid tales of the ancient voyaging peoples of the Pacific Islands and embracing the Hawaiian concept of hooponopono (problem solving).

• Groups don't need to get their feet wet to explore the beautiful underwater vistas that surround the Hawaiian Islands. Private after- hours events at the Maui Ocean Center can put them right in the middle of it all. The walk-through deep ocean experience features interactive exhibits including the 3D Humpback Whales of Hawaii exhibit and a unique keyboard that lets attendees craft their own tunes using actual whale sounds.

La Hana Lanai works with groups looking to give back. The organization is a community-stewardship program for volunteers to care for the environment and learn about the island's sacred places. Offered one day each month, stewardship events allow visitors to explore the culture and heritage of Lanai while working on the land or at the seashore. Attendees can learn how to rebuild a traditional Hawaiian fishpond at the Waiaopae Fishpond restoration project or spend a day in the uplands to help protect a native Koa forest by removing invasive plants and replanting seedlings of Acacia koa trees

Lanai and Kauai Updates

 

• On Kauai, Koloa Rum Company recently broke ground on its new headquarters on Maluhia Road in Koloa town. The expansion will more than double the size of its current facilities, creating a 45,000 square-foot distillery and warehouse, which will also include a tasting room, company store and cafe. To recognize and honor the agricultural heritage of Koloa town — where Hawai'i commercial sugar production operations were first introduced in 1835 — expansion plans also include the planting and cultivation of 10 to 12 acres of sugar cane fields. Koloa Rum will also refurbish old plantation camp structures into workforce housing and a museum that will share the rich history of sugarcane production in the area. Completion of the project is currently projected for September 2020.

 

Maverick Helicopters recently expanded its Hawaii operations, adding air tours to the island of Kauai with flights departing daily from the company’s facility at Port Allen Airport. Located on Kauai‘s south shore, minutes away from Poipu, the airport is an ideal starting point for air tours highlighting the island’s spectacular landscapes, including the Waimea Canyon, the iconic Napali Coast and Manawaiopuna (aka Jurassic) Falls. On each excursion, guests are flown in the Airbus EC130 ECO-Star, rated one of the world’s safest and most comfortable touring helicopters with a spacious cabin seating up to seven passengers, voice-activated headsets, theater-style leather seating and wraparound windows for better visibility.

• All meeting spaces at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa have been refreshed and modernized. The property also added two brand-new meeting spaces; one is a an outdoor garden for small receptions. Additional guest-room renovations will be completed in 2020.

• Kona Coffee has long been prized by java junkies the world over. But the island of Hawaii is not the only place where groups can find a great cup of joe. Kauai Coffee will be soon introducing motorized tram tours of its 3,100-acre coffee orchard, one of the largest in the United States. Visitors will learn the origin and history of coffee farming on the island, as well as how the company’s coffee is sustainably grown, harvested and roasted, as the excursion glides past some of the estate’s more than 4 million trees. Post-tour, attendees can relax on Kauai Coffee’s lanai, sample its estate-grown java and take in panoramic views of picturesque fields of coffee trees stretching downslope to the ocean. 

 

 

Meeting & Event Venues

New & Coming Soon to Hawaii

Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative has announced the launch of a partnership with Jet-Set Offset. Through the partnership, individuals and businesses will have the opportunity to offset the carbon footprint of their commercial air travel while simultaneously helping to reforest the islands of Oahu and Island of Hawaii. Jet-Set Offset’s online platform automatically calculates the air mileage traveled and HLRI will receive the tax-deductible donation. Each donation will go toward the purchase of Gold Standard-certified carbon credits for offsetting the carbon footprint of the flight and toward the planting of endemic legacy trees like koa in the Hawaiian Legacy Forest.

• As part of Hilton Waikoloa Village’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact, the island of Hawaii resort recently announced the conversion of four of its canal boats to fully-electric propulsion systems upgraded with new features. Operating on full electric power, the canal boats will no longer require the 4,320 gallons of gas consumed annually by each boat. Operating on zero carbon emissions, the canal boats will also welcome guests with improved air and water quality, and nearly-silent motors as they navigate the resort’s tropical surroundings.

Espacio The Jewel of Waikiki, which aims to “redefine the luxury hotel experience in Waikiki for guests who seek the ultra-exclusive with personalized service and privacy,” has debuted on Oahu. Each of the hotel’s nine floors offer a single three-bedroom suite with a dedicated butler, Italian-marble bathrooms and dry sauna, to name a few of the amenities. The incentive-caliber hotel’s public spaces include a restaurant and a rooftop infinity pool and spa. 

• Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will manage Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort, on the island of Hawaii when the property reopens in 2022 following a complete renovation. The former Kona Village Resort, which has been closed since it was damaged by a tsunami in 2011, will feature 150 standalone guest hales (thatched cottages), reminiscent of the original property's iconic accommodations. Several dining venues, including the original resort's Shipwreck Bar and Talk Story Bar, will be among the offerings. Other amenities at the Kona Coast resort will include Sense, A Rosewood Spa; a fitness center, and multiple pools and tennis courts. A cultural center dedicated to preserving and highlighting the heritage of Kona Coast, along with a diverse outdoor recreational program will also be part of the 81-acre resort when it reopens. 

• The 496-room Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger recently completed a $35 million property renovation that updated all guest rooms and public spaces.

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach — the newly completed luxury residential-style resort — has launched a “Well-Rested in Waikiki” wellness program. Features include a curated menu of unique wellness experiences designed to help promote better rest and sleep, including a “Midnight Meditation” session in the resort’s private yoga studio, designed to help combat jet lag.
 
• The 563-room Prince Waikiki has completed a $55 million renovation. The hotel also upgraded its meeting space, including the 6,960-square-foot Piinaio Ballroom, and added two meeting rooms.

• Following a $60 million renovation, the former Aqua Wave Waikiki is now the 251-room Laylow, part of Marriott's Autograph Collection. Upgrades include a rooftop restaurant.

• The 791-room Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki Beach, has completed a $20 million refresh. Guest rooms and the Beach Club have been upgraded. The hotel has a 10,782-square-foot conference area. 

• The 405-room luxury Alii Tower has debuted at the 3,400-room Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. The tower has its own front desk, concierge and fitness center, and offers guests priority seating at the resort's 20 restaurants and bars.
 
• The 232-room Hapuna Beach Resort Prince Hotel, on the island of Hawaii, became the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort this spring, following a $46 million overhaul. The  property, which has 85,000 square feet of meeting and event space, provides an array of new offerings, including four dining spots: Meridia, Naupaka Beach Grill, Ikena Landing and Piko Coffee+Bar. The redesigned guest rooms offer signature Westin-brand furnishings, including Westin Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Showers. Among other enhancements are an adults-only pool; a lobby that include a "living wall" vertical garden and interactive check-in pods; and a variety of new wellness-based areas such as a Crossfit studio, a Westin Workout gym, the Westin Kids' Club and the Hapuna Spa.

Venue Additions & Renovations


• Mandarin Oriental will be returning to Oahu with a hotel featuring 125 guest rooms and 100 private residences. Scheduled to open in 2020 at the Ala Moana Center, the property will have a rooftop restaurant and bar with views of the ocean, Honolulu and Diamond Head from its terraces. Other offerings include a fitness center and swimming pool, a lobby lounge and event spaces. 

• The 1,310-room Waikiki Beach Marriott is putting the finishing touches on a multiyear, $100 million revamp. All rooms in both towers currently are being renovated, with the work scheduled to be completed by year’s end. The beach-themed room redesign features new larger closets, a coffee and tea station, brighter bathrooms and 55-inch TVs.

Hotel Renew, one of Waikiki’s first boutique properties, will reopen this summer following the completion of a head-to-toe renovation. Rebranded as simply Renew, the 72-room hotel, at Waikiki’s east end and within walking distance of Waikiki Beach, will feature new amenities focused on holistic healing.
 
• The 288-room Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani, a boutique sister hotel to the neighboring Halekulani resort, has debuted. The property, the former Waikiki Parc Hotel, underwent $60 million transformation before reopening in October 2019. Halepuna offers an eighth-floor pool deck and bar, a fitness center and a hospitality lounge and a restaurant. The new lobby features custom light fixtures, vaulted ceilings and artwork in partnership with the Honolulu Museum of Art.
 
• The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is undergoing a $5 million refresh that includes upgrades to its 1,000 guest rooms. The property has a total of 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
 
• The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows on on the island of Hawaii will become the Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, joining that notable portfolio following a $100 million redesign and renovation set to finish in late 2019. As part of the revamp, the total number of hotel rooms will be reduced, and oceanfront and oceanview suites will be added. The Mauna Lani Bungalows, with their own private pools, butler service and a secluded resort-within-a-resort setting, also will be refreshed.

Hawaii Convention Center

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• The Hawaii Convention Center offers a combination of breathtaking beauty, cutting-edge technology, and a highly experienced and dedicated staff. The center’s striking architecture brings the outside in, with natural light and stunning landscapes in its public areas, giving attendees a unique meeting experience. With its diverse roster of meeting space, this 1.1 million-square-foot facility can host a wide variety of events including meetings, trade shows, banquets, corporate or special events, and everything in between. The centrally located and spacious venue also offers convenient parking.

• The Hawaii Convention Center gets in the holiday spirit with a new festival and ice skating rink. The Center’s 56,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall space will be transformed into “Winter Wishes – A Holiday Festiva,l” from Nov. 29-Dec. 24. Following are highlights of the month-long festival:  

  • An opening celebration with tree-lighting ceremony and special guest Kristi Yamaguchi
  • An expansive 82’ x 50’ indoor ice-skating rink featuring themed events for up to 164 skaters
  • Winter Wishes Marketplace with 50 vendors
  • Photos with Santa
  • Winter Wishes Christmas Tree Forest decorating contest
  • Gingerbread House competition
  • Musical entertainment
  • Holiday craft workshops
  • Children’s activities and attractions
  • Festive holiday cuisine and beverages
  • Special ticketed events

• The Hawaii Convention Center has received the 2019 Venue Excellence Award from the International Association of Venue Managers. The award recognizes five IAVM member public assembly venues for excellence in management. This includes amphitheaters, arenas, auditoriums, casinos, complexes, convention centers, exhibit halls, fair/festival grounds, performing arts centers, race tracks, stadiums and university venues.

• The Hawaii Convention Center is taking the digital needs of planners and attendees seriously with the recent addition of several high-tech amenities and services. Complementary light-use WiFi is now available in all public spaces throughout the facility, and two secure charging-station locker bays are now located at key points throughout the building. Large conventions are running much smoother with the assistance of an online interactive map and 3-D floor plans that allow planners and attendees to view and tour center services and spaces from their laptops or iPhones. Eye-catching digital signage in high-traffic locations make it easier for planners to promote sessions and exhibits, and for attendees to find the venues in which they are being held.

• Hawaii has made the latest list of the U.S. Green Building Council's Top 10 States for LEED. USGBC calculates the list using per capita figures to allow for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and number of overall buildings. According to the Council, the Aloha State earned a place on the list thanks largely to the Hawaii Convention Center, which achieved LEED Gold certification. The facility is focused on measuring its environmental performance to improve visitor experience and has adopted Arc, a new digital platform that uses various data to help measure and improve its sustainability efforts. In related news, the Hawaii Convention Center has launched an environmental initiative called Hoomaluo, meaning "to conserve, to use or manage wisely" to reduce waste and conserve resources in each stage of the event process. The program also includes the One Million Trees effort, which lets attendees sponsor trees for reforestation in the state.

• This may be hard to believe, given the beautiful tropical landscapes that the Aloha State is famous for, but fewer than 10 percent of Hawaii’s old-growth native and endemic forests remain. The Hawaii Convention Center wants to change that. Through the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, a nonprofit organization that has led the planting of more than 400,000 native and endemic trees on Oahu and the island of Hawaii, the Hawaii Convention Center has committed to planting one million Legacy Trees across the state. The HCC has created a program that offers meeting planners and attendees the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture, history and environment of Hawaii during their events by supporting these vital reforestation efforts. With a few clicks on a website, attendees can sponsor and dedicate a Legacy Tree and track its development. Recently, groups such as the American Dental Association and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology have worked with the HCC to enhance their meetings through program participation. Planners and attendees are invited to visit onemillion.legacytrees.org to sponsor and dedicate an individual koa Legacy Tree or group of trees. Each sponsor will receive a high-quality certificate with RFID tracking information and dedication details. They can then watch their tree as it grows via a regularly updated, high-quality aerial map supported by Tree Tracker technology. Groups can also visit the Oahu and island of Hawaii Legacy Forests to plant their own trees through Hawaiian Legacy Tours.

Things to Do in Hawaii

Getting Active & Outdoors

• Get the adrenaline flowing when the stars appear with the twilight stand-up paddleboard activity offered by Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore. An expert from Hans Hedemann Surf Guides leads participants -- who can rent or use their own equipment -- around the calm waters of protected Kawela Bay.

• Hit the boards: Every island offers surfing lessons, where you can learn the basics of the sport that has its roots in the state. Waikiki Beach is still one of the best spots in Hawaii to get on your feet and ride your first wave; one firm to try is Surf SNL.
 
• Climb an icon: Hike to the top of Leahi (Diamond Head), Hawaii's most recognized landmark, for panoramic views of Waikiki and Honolulu.

Roberts Hawaii has launched a sweet new adventure: the "Oahu Sugar Tour,” which tells the story of the cane crop dating back to the arrival of early Polynesians, all the way to contemporary island society. Highlights include a visit to Hawaii’s Plantation Village, an educational site dedicated to preserving Oahu’s multiethnic plantation history.

• Rum Fun: Groups can to visit Ko Hana’s distillery in the former pineapple plantation village of Kunia on Oahu. The facility offers tastings of its agricole (made from sugar cane juice) rums, and tours of its operations and native Hawaiian sugar cane garden. Kyle Reutner, brand manager, Ko Hana Hawaiian Agricole, partners with mixologists from legendary Hawaii bars, Harry’s Hardware Emporium, Bar Leather Apron and The Pig and the Lady to tell the story of the island's distinctive potable.

• The island of Hawaii's bikeshare program will soon expand: A $5,400 grant to People Advocacy Trails Hawaii, will extend the program to  Kailua-Kona. Visitors can sign up online for unlimited 60-minute or 30-minute trips or purchase one-time rides at kiosks. A map of bikeshare locations can be found here.

 

Extending Your Hawaiian Trip 

• Kilauea, the active volcano on the island of Hawaii, gets most of the attention, but there are great group experiences to be found atop the dormant Maunakea, also located here. Hawaii Forest and Trail now offers groups an opportunity to see the day begin from the latter’s 13,803-foot summit with its Maunakea Sunrise Experience. Meeting attendees who take the land-based tour will learn about the cultural and scientific significance of Hawaii’s tallest mountain as they visit the world-class astronomical observatories dotting its slopes. Pick up spots for the excursion are located on both sides of the island in Kona, Waikoloa and Hilo. Those who might be skittish about joining this tour due to last year’s highly publicized Kilauea eruptions should be comforted by the recent low activity levels reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, whose USGS Volcano Hazards Program monitors active and potentially active volcanoes, issuing timely warnings when necessary. 

• The USS Arizona Memorial has reopened following a $2.1 million project that improved the dock’s anchoring system and addressed a critical infrastructure need. The enhancements allow visitors to Pearl Harbor to more closely understand the story and pay their respects to the men aboard the Arizona.

• The premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific region, Oahu's Bishop Museum is renowned for its cultural collections, research projects, public education programs and Native Hawaiian artifacts. 

• Once the residence of Hawaii's reigning monarchs, the Oahu's Iolani Palace's grounds and galleries are open to the public.

Hawaii's Festival Scene

• The first Hula Girl Festival will be held in Waikiki, Nov. 7-10, 2019. The main drag of Kalakaua Avenue will be blocked off for a half-mile of stages, hula booths, exhibitions, hula supplies, live performances, Hawaiian food, music and crafts. Dancers from around the world will be attending to celebrate the world of hula. Not to be missed is the Miss Hula Girl Pageant and Competition on day one.

• The annual Ukulele Festival, held each July at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand in Waikiki, celebrates that most Hawaiian of instruments, which actually came to the islands via Portuguese immigrants who settled here in the 19th century

Top Restaurants in Hawaii

Hawaiian cuisine at Tin Roof restaurant
Hawaiian cuisine at Tin Roof restaurant

Some the best local cuisine can be found in hole-in-the-wall spots throughout the islands. A few to try:
 
• Sample loco moco — white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and brown gravy — at Café 100 in Hilo, the island of Hawaii town where this comfort-food dish was invented.

• Maui locals head to Tin Roof, owner-chef Sheldon Simeon's version of a mom-and-pop takeout place, for the mochiko fried chicken and pork-belly bowls.
 
• Honolulu's no-frills Ono Seafood (808-732-4806) is worth a stop for its made-to-order shoyu (fermented soy sauce) and spicy ahi poke.
 
• Cool off with a rainbow-hued shave ice at Matsumoto, a legendary confectioner on Oahu's North Shore.