February 2015

Six great ways for groups to experience Maui's magic

by Maria Lenhart

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    Outrigger canoe

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    Maui Hawaiian Village

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    Old Lahaina Luau

How many out-of-the ordinary experiences can one island lend to a meeting program? When it comes to Maui, not even the sky is the limit. Along with star gazing, this diverse island is the ideal place to paddle an outrigger canoe through an ancient Hawaiian fishpond, sip vodka distilled from ocean waters, hike to a hidden valley where ancient arts are practiced in thatched hale (shelters), or dance the night away in Mick Fleetwood’s rooftop bar.

The following are some memorable ways that groups can discover facets of Maui that are sure to delight and surprise.

The Sky's the Limit
With its mid-Pacific locale and absence of city lights, the night skies of Maui are truly a dazzling sight to behold. Among the ways groups can enjoy them are on stargazing cruises with Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventures, which offers both scheduled night excursions and charters that include cocktails and appetizers. Coinciding with the new moon lunar cycle, the cruises feature astronomer Harriet Witt, who provides commentary about the constellations, including their significance to ancient Hawaiian navigation and culture. From December through April, a hydrophone is lowered into the sea so passengers can listen to the songs of humpback whales as they gaze at the stars.

Plenty of options for stargazing on land abound as well, including the Hyatt Regency Maui’s signature Tour of the Stars, which presents stargazing evenings on the hotel rooftop with an astronomer and a reflector telescope. Stargazing can also be part of many customized outdoor evenings in beach and mountain locations on the island.

“One place we love for stargazing is Sugar Beach in Kihei, a new venue with a great chef,” says Kurt Wright of The Wright Company, a Maui-based DMC. “You can bring in astronomers and telescopes and enjoy stargazing along with a farm-to-table dinner.”

Waterborne Wonders
Exploring Maui waters by outrigger canoe is a fun and inspiring way to combine teambuilding with a cultural experience, says Kanara Woodford, director of sales for Weill & Associates, a local DMC.

“One thing that groups really enjoy is an outrigger canoe regatta as a teambuilding event,” she says. “We work with local canoe clubs who supply the canoes as well as two crew members for each canoe. You can have two or three hours of races, often right from the hotel beach, where there’s competitive fun and the chance to learn about traditional Hawaiian navigation.”

A more unusual twist is to paddle outrigger canoes on Kalepolepo Fishpond, an ancient Hawaiian site in Kihei that is currently undergoing restoration. During the activity a cultural advisor explains how the Hawaiians built and maintained fishponds, which feed into the ocean, to raise and harvest fish through sustainable methods.

“They also get to participate in the restoration of the pond by finding and placing a stone in a rock wall being built to protect the pond,” Woodford says.

Maui Heritage
Waihee Valley, a hidden valley deep in the heart of West Maui, is the scene of the island’s newest visitor attraction, Maui Hawaiian Village, which combines a short hike along a stream with a cultural experience. At the head of the lush valley is a replica of a traditional village of taro patches and palm-thatched hale where interpreters demonstrate crafts such as poi pounding and the making of kapa (cloth). Designed for small groups, participants also have the option of helping with the village’s efforts to clear invasive plants from the site.

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