Waikoloa Marriott Courts Stargazers

Deluxe resort is located at doorstep to Mauna Kea Observatory

By: Dawna Robertson

In ancient times, Polynesian voyagers were drawn to Hawaii’s Big Island by a bright star. Today, astronomers and other stargazers are drawn to the island’s snowcapped summit of Mauna Kea for what is considered by experts as the world’s best viewing site of the universe.

The summit’s distance from city lights and an island-wide outdoor lighting ordinance ensure a very dark sky. Add to this the island’s dry, stable and cloud-free atmosphere, and Mauna Kea is an astronomical observation site known by viewers around the world.

At Mauna Kea’s summit is the world’s largest astronomical observatory, where 13 telescopes are currently operated by astronomers from 11 countries. The Waikoloa Beach Marriott is offering incentives to encourage groups of star searchers to visit this 13,796-foot mountain and see what the experts see.

Located a two-hour drive from the Mauna Kea summit, the Waikoloa Beach Marriott is one of only a handful of resort hotels so close to a major observation site.

"There is such a strong cultural association between Waikoloa and Mauna Kea," said Pam Child, associate sales director for the Waikoloa Marriott. "People learn about the spirit, scientific and archeological value of Mauna Kea that's linked to Waikoloa, while still enjoying the scinece of astronomy."

In addition to its location, the resort appeals to meeting planners and astronomers with 29,500-square-feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and high-speed Internet access ideal for astronomy conferences.

"What makes this all come into place so well here at Waikoloa is that we have the second international runway in the state nearby, pluis the close proximity of our resort to the summit of Mauna Kea. It's a natural shoe-in for international astronomy conferences," said Child.

The property can accommodate a range of events, from a meeting for 14 to a conference for 700. Hotel staff coordinate every aspect of the event room reservations, shipping and receiving of materials, transportation, program formulation, technical and audiovisual support, catering, menu and theme event planning, recreational activities, spouse and guest programs, special VIP arrangements, business center needs and group billing.

"The astronomy business is huge, especially on the island of Hawaii," said Child. "There's no denying that the top half of 1 percent of astronomers are making worldwide discoveries often. These discoveries are attracting the need for conferences in which they can share their discoveries."

A special accommodations rate for such meetings is $165 nightly for an oceanview room, based on double occupancy. A minimum of 25 rooms must be booked for a three-night stay. The resort will also host an hour of cocktails and upgrade one VIP to a one-bedroom suite. As a bonus, a meeting booked at the hotel earns the meeting planner up to six Marriott Reward Points (with a maximum of 100,000 points) for every dollar spent through Dec. 24.

For guests not associated with larger groups, the property’s concierge can arrange for individual stargazing adventures to Mauna Kea through one of the island’s tour companies.

The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort is the recipient of the 2003 Meetings and Conventions Magazine Gold Key Award and was named a winner in Travel + Leisure’s 2003 World’s Best Awards. Located on historic Anaehoomalu Bay, it is surrounded by 17 acres of palm trees, flower-filled gardens and dramatic lava fields with ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs. Activities include 36 holes of championship golf, tennis, the Hawaiian Rainforest Spa, tours of the petroglyph fields, whale watching and a variety of watersports.

800-922-5533, ext. 7426