(Pictured) Groups will find plenty of jaw-dropping vistas on Oahu
WHERE TO HAWAII ISLAND
PLAY - Punaluu Black Sand Beach
A result of volcanic activity, this famous black sand beach on Hawaii Island's Kau coast is a unique delight. Fringed with coconut palms, the beach is also popular with sea turtles. But it's against the law to touch them or to take any of the black sand, as tempting as that might be.
SEE - Pu'uhonua o Honaunau
Ancient Hawaiians lived by sacred kapu laws; breaking them meant death. The only chance of survival was to reach the Pu'uhonua, a place of refuge. Located on Hawaii Island's Kona coast, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is still one of Hawaii's most sacred sites, where early Hawaiian culture is palpable.
DRINK - Kona Coffee
Considered one of the best gourmet coffees in the world, Kona coffee grows on the slopes of the Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes in the Kona district on Hawaii Island. Its unique taste comes from the rich, volcanic soil combined with the area's climate of sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons that naturally shade the beans.
Great weather and stunning scenery, enhanced with the captivating Polynesian culture, make Oahu and Hawaii Island excellent destinations for a meeting or convention. In addition to meeting space in the various hotels, both islands have venues that give your attendees a taste of the local culture in unique settings.
As Melissa Sullivan of Bob Jane T-Marts, Australia's largest independent tire retailer, which held an event at the destination recently, points out: "It's hard to beat the announcement impact for a conference of 'We're going to Hawaii!'"
When you imagine Hawaii, it's the island of Oahu you're thinking of: Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, and the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
Nikki Shutkowski, group general manager of Appliance Connexion, New Zealand's largest independent appliance buying group, describes their experience: "Our annual conference is one of our key industry events; hence, we have extremely high expectations of our venue and service providers to make it a smashing success. We did site inspections of several properties, but the fabulous Sheraton Waikiki stood out from the rest. Their friendly, efficient, professional assistance -- and the sun-drenched Waikiki Beach -- made this our best conference yet."
Oahu's new luxury offering is the five-star Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. In addition to two ballrooms and numerous function spaces, ranging from 432 to 14,960 square feet, the oceanfront resort includes the 10-acre Lanikuhonua Cultural Estate for exceptional events.
A number of Oahu properties are renovating and/or expanding: The Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Club has undergone a $55.4 million renovation. New meeting space options include a 6,960-square-foot ballroom, a 408-square-foot boardroom, and more. The Pacific Beach Hotel plans a $115 million redevelopment and will re-brand as the Alohilani Resort at Waikiki Beach. The Turtle Bay Resort, on 850 acres of stunning shoreline, has expansion plans that include a spa, golf courses and a clubhouse, and horse stables. The Hilton Hawaiian Village, with 150,000 square feet of meetings space, recently refreshed The Ali'i, a hotel-within-a-hotel, which includes a private library and pool services.
There's also a sensational mix of activities for groups of any size. As Sullivan relates: "With a group of 300 people, we needed a location that would cater to everyone's interests. At the Royal Hawaiian, attendees could relax on the beach or take a five-minute walk to the hustle-and-bustle of the city. Working with the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was an absolute delight."
ESSENTIAL Tool Box
CONVENTION CENTERS & FACILITIESOahu:
Hawaii Convention Center (1.1 million sf); Hilton Hawaiian Village, A Waikiki Beach Resort (150,000 sf); The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (80,000 sf); Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa (55,000 sf); Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii (50,000 sf); Sheraton Waikiki (46,000 sf)
Hawaii Island: Hilton Waikoloa Village (235,000 sf); Fairmont Orchid Hawaii (106,000 sf); Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (90,000 sf); Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay (75,000 sf); Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (55,000 sf)
13.96 percent on Oahu
13.41 percent on Hawaii Island
PINNACLE AWARDS GO TO:
• Hilton Hawaiian Village
• The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort
• Hilton Waikoloa Village
• Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa
• Sheraton Waikiki
Sometimes referred to as the "Big Island," Hawaii Island is simply incredible with several different climate zones, five volcanoes, and some of Hawaii's most important sacred sites. The island's top resorts are along the western Kohala Coast and in Kailua-Kona, but if you have a small meeting, consider taking over The Volcano House Hotel right on a crater of the Kilauea volcano.
Bill Chambers, meeting planner for Far West Athletic Trainers Association, Nevada, whose group booked 1,200 room nights at the Sheraton Kona Resort, reports that, "We had an awesome meeting at the Sheraton Kona because the staff went above and beyond the call of duty to see that our program specifications were met. The meeting was so successful that our attendees didn't want it to end. We would return there in a heartbeat."
At the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, the resort's new meeting space includes a tech-updated boardroom and a nearly 3,500-square-foot ballroom with floor-to-ceiling views of Kauna'oa Bay. The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel has some 85,000 square feet of newly renovated meeting space: the 8,428-square-foot ballroom; six newly furnished conference rooms including two executive boardrooms; and an open-air courtyard for functions. Both hotels are offering special promotional packages for groups.
The Fairmont Orchid's 76,000 square feet of oceanfront meeting space is perfect for conferences, with three garden-terraced ballrooms, a full-size amphitheater, and seven conference rooms. For conventions, the Hilton Waikoloa Village has a state-of-the-art Convention Center and more than 235,000 square feet of pre-function, meeting, and exhibit space.
Hawaii Island is truly a natural wonderland of activities for groups, from snorkeling off the Kona coast to sunrise hikes in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Tour coffee plantations, visit sacred Hawaiian sites, or just play a round of golf. Let your group stargaze at the Imiloa Astronomy Center and participate in some outdoor adventures at the working Kahua Ranch. Attendees will be inspired by this marvelous island.
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This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.