Outrigger’s Signature Experiences program includes a sunset ceremony drawing from Hawaiian traditions. // © 2017 Outrigger Hotels & Resorts
Feature image (above): The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas will feature plenty of pools. // © 2017 The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Kaanapali
Brag-worthy. That’s how Robyn Basso describes the experiences that today’s Hawaii visitors are seeking.
“People are looking for personal moments that are unique to the destination,” said Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
“They want distinctive activities, such as hiking to the active lava flow on Hawaii Island or rappelling down tropical cliffs on Maui’s east side.”
Visitors also wish to immerse themselves in Hawaii’s cultural and culinary worlds, Basso says. In addition, reports point toward a surging interest in multigenerational travel and wellness vacations.
With these and other trends in mind, here’s a look at how Hawaii is moving forward in 2017 and how travel agents can create meaningful — and brag-worthy — trips for their clients.
Oahu’s Coral Crater Adventure Park, a new adventure-based attraction, features challenges, obstacles and games for all ages. Highlights include a thrilling 40-mph zipline; off-road, side-by-side ATV rides; and a swing over a steep cliff.
Hawaii Forest & Trail ushered in 2017 with two new tours on Hawaii Island. One takes visitors on a sunrise excursion to Mauna Kea, the tallest volcano on earth. The other starts with a doors-off helicopter flyover of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, followed by swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding under a private 120-foot waterfall.
Lanai Archery and Shooting Range has reopened in the island’s upland forests. Clients of all skill levels can take aim at the eight-station archery course or 14-station sporting clay circuit.
The new 230-room Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach bills itself as a "kipuka" (oasis) in the heart of Waikiki. Underscoring that concept is its secluded eighth-floor pool deck, restaurant and bar where guests can unwind.
Opening in March, The Okina, Autograph Collection is revitalizing the former Aqua Waikiki Wave. Vintage touches such as Hawaiian bark cloth patterns inspire the decor of its 251 guestrooms, which promise to provide modern comforts.
Tapping the hotel-within-a-hotel trend, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has refreshed its Alii Tower, now simply called The Alii. Guests here receive upgraded in-room amenities, a private pool terrace, an exclusive fitness center and resort-wide privileges.
On Hawaii Island, Hilton Waikoloa Village has unveiled Hale Ike, a new, elevated experience within its Palace Tower. Emphasizing Hawaii’s sensory gifts, its 369 renovated rooms feature high-tech perks.
Outrigger Resorts’ new Signature Experiences focus on activities imbued with Hawaiian traditions, from lessons in ukulele, hula and lei-making to a sunset ceremony on the beach.
On Maui, Kaanapali Alii guests can strum the ukulele and tune into some local lore courtesy of cultural advisor Fred Torres, who is on hand every Friday morning. And, during The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s new Na Hoku Moolelo (Story of the Stars), clients learn about celestial navigation in Hawaii while gazing at the night sky.
Aqua Kauai Beach Resort is positioning itself as a cultural hub by introducing on-site guest experiences such as lei-making, hula lessons and a Polynesian revue.
Dining With Roots
Hawaii’s most talked-about chefs are using local ingredients and cooking styles that reflect the destination’s multicultural makeup. For example, the menu at Humble Market Kitchin, Roy Yamaguchi’s latest venture, is inspired by Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and Hawaiian cuisines. It’s part of Wailea Beach Resort - Marriott, Maui.
The new Moku Kitchen, the brainchild of chef Peter Merriman, brings Hawaii’s farming and ranching heritage to downtown Honolulu. In Waikiki, meanwhile, The Royal Hawaiian now boasts a bakery showcasing local treats such as pink haupia cake and its award-winning banana bread.
On Kauai, the open-air The Lanai Restaurant & Bar is luring diners to The Shops at Kukuiula. Its dishes — such as miso-baked mahimahi seasoned with coconut and lemongrass — are crafted with island-grown products.
Vacationing families will find the space they crave at Maui’s newest resort, The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Kaanapali. Opening this summer in north Kaanapali, it will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom villas with full kitchens and washer-dryers.
Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club will make a spring debut on Hawaii Island. A booking in one of its 112 one- and two-bedroom suites comes with amenities that appeal to all ages, such as pools, a golf course, tennis courts and a luau.
Several Oahu hotels are going through major overhauls that are slated for completion this year. In early 2017, for instance, the renovated Maile Sky Court will emerge as the world’s largest Holiday Inn Express.
Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki’s $55.4 million makeover will culminate in its new identity as Prince Waikiki. Watch for a spring opening of its 563 transformed rooms, restaurants, infinity pool and meeting space.
Alohilani Resort, a $115 million restoration of Pacific Beach Hotel, will unveil the results of its ambitious redevelopment this fall.
Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu is launching full-moon paddle sessions on the protected waters of Kawela Bay. By day, clients can train with a running coach.
Maui’s Hotel Wailea has introduced aerial yoga and dance classes using suspended silks and trapezes. And Spa Montage has partnered with Swiss skin care authority Jacqueline Piotaz for facial treatments offered nowhere else in Hawaii.