When describing Maui, the second-largest island in the Hawaiian island chain, the word “paradise” is an understatement. Located 2,300 miles (five hours by plane) from San Francisco, Maui feels like a world unto itself — a world groups will have a hard time leaving.
“Maui is a desirable destination for group travelers,” said Charlene Ka’uhane, Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Maui’s natural beauty, history, culture, accommodations, cuisine and activities allow groups to plan trips that appeal to a wide range of people. There’s everything from luaus to volunteering at taro farms to outdoor adventure. Maui truly is an ideal destination for its offerings and, as history shows, for its high participation.”
Groups will find a variety of experiences packed within Maui’s 727 square miles. The island is smaller than most counties on the mainland, but its topography is much more diverse. In Maui, groups can zip line over mountain terrain, visit a volcano summit, pose for a photo in front a waterfall and swim in an ocean — all in the same day.
West Maui is home to world-famous beaches, including the beautiful Ka’anapali Beach, and is known for historic Lahaina, popular for shopping, dining and entertainment. In East Maui, visitors will find the lush Iao Valley, the scenic Road to Hana, upcountry farms and gardens and the soaring summit of Haleakala National Park.
The Road to Hana
The peaceful town of Hana lies on Maui’s rugged eastern coastline and is considered one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers. But, in order to get to “heavenly Hana,” visitors must journey along the 52-mile Hana Highway.
Don’t let the word “highway” deceive — the road has 620 turns (many of them hairpin) and 59 one-way bridges. The incredible island views are worth the two- to four-hour travel time to reach Hana. Sights along the way include the Garden of Eden Arboretum, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Ho’okipa lookout and Wailua Falls.
Food stops are sparse along the Road to Hana, but the few that do exist will not disappoint. The Halfway to Hana roadside stand sells delicious banana bread, ice cream, sandwiches and drinks. Nahiku Marketplace is home to small outdoor dining stands, including Nahiku Cafe, Island Chef, Island Style Tacos, Hana Highway Sorbet and My Thai. Nahiku Marketplace also offers shopping from several local vendors.
To fully enjoy the journey, it’s best to dedicate a whole day to experience the Road to Hana. A variety of tour companies offer Road to Hana tours, so groups can relax and enjoy the views.
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park spans from sea level to 10,023 feet and encompasses diverse ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to alpine deserts. By day, groups can explore the park to experience the culture, history, geology and unique biological wonders of the world’s largest dormant volcano.
Early-rising members of the group can begin a day with a breathtaking sunrise tour atop Haleakala, which means “the house of the sun” in Hawaiian. The 4 a.m. alarm and 40-degree mountain air is well worth the dreamlike views groups witness when the sun slowly peaks above a sea of clouds.
Many Maui tour companies offer Haleakala tours. The tour offered by Roberts Hawaii continues after the sun rises. The tour bus takes groups to Pu’u ‘Ula’ula Summit, also known as Red Hill, 10,023 feet above sea level. With the sun higher in
the sky, groups see sweeping views of Maui, the West Maui Mountains, and the summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes on the Big Island.
After leaving Haleakala, the tour ventures through Kula and Upcountry Maui, with green pastures and farms full of lavender and protea. The tour concludes in the town of Makawao, famous for its Hawaiian cowboys, or “paniolo.”
MauiWine is the largest winery on the Hawaiian Islands and the only one on Maui. The vineyards and winery are located in Ulupalakua, Maui’s upcountry on the southern slopes of Haleakala volcano. Its 23-acre vineyard grows six varietals including syrah, malbec, grenache, viognier, chenin blanc and gewürztraminer.
Groups visiting the winery can tour the cellar and historic grounds, as well as sample wines that capture the essence of Maui. MauiWine produces three collections of wine: estate, made entirely from MauiWine grapes; rose ranch, made with blends of raspberries and grapes; and pineapple, made from fresh, Maui Gold pineapples.
A new offering for small, private groups takes place in the historic “Old Jail,” a stone building that resides on the property. The building once served as the private office of Captain James Makee, the owner of the most productive sugar plantation on Maui. The building was later used as a jail in the late 1800s.
After being closed for 20 years, the building recently underwent a yearlong historical restoration. The tour experience, called the King’s Visit in the Old Jail, includes a tour of the winery including the cellar and bottling line, an inside look and conversation on how MauiWine works with Maui’s unique soil and weather and tastings of small production and estate-grown wines.
MauiWine can ship cases of wine for visitors wishing to enjoy sips of Maui back home.
For more information, contact Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau at 800-525-6284 or visit gohawaii.com/en/maui.