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Say the word Hawaii and you’ll likely conjure up images of beautiful beaches rimmed with picturesque palms. However, the state also serves as a bona fide destination for meetings and conventions, and many Hawaii hotels stand ready to welcome large business gatherings.
While critics have been known to call Hawaii a boondoggle for groups, Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie refuted the tag during his recent speech to the National Conference on Public Employment Retirement Systems in Waikiki.
“Hawaii stands on its own merits as a premier location to host meetings and conventions,” said Abercrombie. “And when it’s done in Hawaii, planners are assured of the value they are getting. They know their events will be invigorating while allowing attendees to relax, think clearly, collaborate and, most importantly, fulfill their business objectives.”
Hawaii’s visitor industry has reinforced that message with the creation of Meet Hawaii, a new initiative designed to generate buzz for the state as an ideal site to do business.
Dozens of facilities across the islands accommodate meetings of various sizes, but the following five Hawaii hotels are particularly well suited for big groups.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and SpaThe seaside south Kauai luxury resort boasts the 14,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, notable for its sparkling chandeliers, handsome murals, walls of windows and glass doors. The ballroom is flanked by tropical gardens and a promenade perfect for coffee breaks, buffets or pre-event registration tables. Underscoring its eco-friendly emphasis, Grand Hyatt is giving groups a three percent discount when they agree to take 10 steps to reduce their meeting’s environmental impact. www.kauai.hyatt.com
Grand Wailea, MauiThe Grand Wailea could sell itself simply by its location on Wailea Beach. But groups find plenty more to love at this mega-resort, like its 28,000-square-foot Haleakala Ballroom — the largest on Maui — with handcrafted chandeliers imported from Murano, Italy, and 12,000 square feet of adjacent outdoor space for mixers and evening receptions. Planners can line up memorable theme parties such as a luau, jazz under the stars and a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy)-style bash. www.grandwailea.com
Hilton Hawaiian Village, OahuHome to the Mid-Pacific Conference Center — Hawaii's largest resort convention, meeting and banquet facility — Hilton Hawaiian Village has what it takes to coordinate major functions. Its 27,054-square-foot Coral Ballroom, decorated in a shell motif, is supported by the 5,848-square-foot South Pacific Ballroom. Meanwhile, in the hotel’s Tapa Tower, the Tapa Conference Center showcases the 16,536-square-foot Tapa Ballroom and adjoining 8,250-square-foot Palace Lounge.www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com
Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hawaii IslandWith size to its advantage, this is Hawaii Island’s most spacious convention hotel. In its 24,744-square-foot Grand Ballroom, a stepped design makes it easy for all participants to see the stage. Other gathering places include the 9,822-square-foot Kohala Ballroom, 8,517-square-foot Kona Ballroom and circular 14,000-square-foot Water's Edge Ballroom with floor-to-ceiling views of the resort’s trademark lagoons and waterfalls. Far East artwork adds an exotic allure to the pre-function areas.www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com
Sheraton Waikiki, OahuFrom top-of-the-line audio-visual services to the biggest ballroom on Oahu, Sheraton Waikiki acts as an admirable host for doing business on a grand scale. Its 25,900-square-foot Hawaii Ballroom has a complete sound system, removable carpets and portable stages, while the 4,000-square-foot ballroom lobby is adequate for receptions and exhibits. Outside, the 17,000-square-foot Diamond Head Lawn earns nods as a site for theme parties.www.sheraton-waikiki.com