Although the Hawaiian Islands enjoy very consistent weather throughout the year, the warm temperatures and tropical beauty seem even better when you’re escaping the cold. This winter, Melanie Bianco from Covington Meetings & Events got an opportunity for continuing education in Maui. Of course, she took advantage of it! While on Maui, she enjoyed these six authentic experiences and recommends them as fun and engaging for both groups and individual vacationers.
Diving into Maui’s Water Culture
When our group of meeting professionals arrived at Wailea Beach Resort, a gorgeous welcome reception awaited us. Hawaiian singers and Keiki (children) performed and danced, introducing us to the spirit of Aloha.
The next day, we visited Ko’ie’ie Fishpond and learned about the history of the ancient site and the cultural importance of fishing. This particular manmade pond provided fish for Hawaiian royalty as far back as the 1500s. By the 1800s, the area was a bustling site for trade between whalers and farmers. We were supposed to canoe in the fishpond and help restore part of the stacked stone wall, but unfortunately, bacteria in the water prohibited us from getting in.
Next, we visited the Maui Ocean Center, which is the Aquarium of Hawaii. The Hawaiian culture maintains a close relationship with the sea and the center conveys that reverence for marine life through education and conservancy. We enjoyed a great lunch there and got to see the honu (green sea turtle), stingrays, sharks, and all sorts of marine life. Melanie’s tip: With their emphasis on Hawaiian history and respect for natural resources, both of these attractions are an inspiring way for groups, families or individuals to understand more of the Hawaiian culture.
Digging into Maui’s Upcountry Farming
Another day, we visited O’o Farm in Waipoli. Their gourmet lunch and farm tour was my favorite experience of the week because it was so unique. O’o is a small working farm that only produces for the farm itself and its restaurant in Lahaina Town. They have a large variety of produce from all sorts of greens, to citrus, carrots, onions, and more. They also produce coffee beans. We walked with the guide who told us about the farm and then we walked through the various garden beds picking ingredients as a group. Meanwhile, the chef prepared other courses for our family-style lunch in the outdoor dining area. Our lunch was fabulous! Melanie’s tip: Wear good walking shoes and take a jacket because the farm is at 3,500 feet elevation. Plan for five to six hours for the full experience, including driving time.
We also visited the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm in the Upcountry to walk the farm and learn about lavender. Who knew there were so many types of lavender?! The lavender farm was created by agriculturist and horticulturist Ali’I Chang in the early 2000s. He never planned to create the gardens but over time it morphed into this huge botanical garden with thousands of lavender plants, but also protea from South Africa, hydrangea, olive trees, citrus trees, succulents galore, and so much more. Buddha statues abound, and you can find many trellises and benches scattered throughout. Melanie’s tip: It’s a great location for weddings and celebratory events. The lavender shop on the property was a lot of fun to explore too.
Back down in the foothills of Haleakala, we visited yet another kind of farm – sugar cane. Ocean Vodka Distillery makes organic vodka onsite using the farm’s sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water from 3,000 feet below the Kona coast. The final product is unique because that special water is full of magnesium, potassium, and calcium, plus the bottle is super cool! Melanie’s tip: They also distill gin, rum, and bourbon. Ocean Vodka is sold in all 50 states, but the other spirits are not distributed nationally.
Flying High Over Maui’s Tropical Rainforest
My final sightseeing expedition was the Hana Rainforest Experience helicopter tour with Maverick Helicopter. We flew over the ocean on the way out, seeing gorgeous cliffs, Jurassic Rock, and just beautiful views. The helicopter landed in the Hana rainforest where we enjoyed some champagne, explored the grounds, and dipped our feet in the refreshing creek, all the while learning about the rainforest vegetation. On the return, we flew over the island and saw lots of dramatic waterfalls and green valleys. The pilot was very friendly and gave us a great tour while making us feel safe. Melanie’s tip: Maverick is the only company to land in the rainforest, as they own private property there.
The rest of my week was spent in a rigorous schedule of hotel site inspections, meeting with individual travel suppliers, and attending educational presentations. Now I have the personal experience, connections, and knowledge to design your perfect meeting or event in Maui.
If you have questions about group travel to Maui, you can reach Melanie in our Covington Meetings & Events division. For individual vacation travel, one of our expert vacation advisors will be happy to help.