Karen Hughes, v.p., Meet Hawaii and travel industry partnerships, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, hits it right on point when she says that “great dining experiences are at the forefront of any successful vacation.”
More and more, travelers are eager to learn about the best dining spots, about cooking classes, about the local markets—they want to sample the dishes (and sometimes learn to make them) that the locals are eating. And if you think you have to steer clients away from the hotels’ restaurants in order for them to sample the best in the destination’s culinary offerings, think again. According to Hughes, “Hotels in Hawaii are doing a fabulous job serving thoughtful, locally sourced meals,” and it’s even luring the locals. “The combination of amazing meals, unbeatable settings and fun social events are helping draw locals to these hotels,” notes Hughes.
Hughes points to a couple of options, including Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort’s Chef Bloc Maui collaboration dinners at Kaana Kitchen. It’s an experience that has executive chef Isaac Bancaco teaming up with another Maui chef to create a locavore menu for just 12 people. “The diners can interact with the chefs and culinary team and even help plate the dishes if they’d like. Intimate experiences like these are really memorable and help clients earn that ‘merit badge’—doing something that locals do, that not every visitor gets to experience,” says Hughes.
Locavores and sustainable enthusiasts will also appreciate the new hydroponic garden at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. The hotel actually converted one of its tennis courts into a hydroponic garden to grow lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and more to supply the resort’s restaurant and events with fresh produce grown on-site. The goal is to supply the hotel about 120 pounds of greens per week.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii, meanwhile, offers visitors the chance to hang with the locals with its Table to Farm dinner. Hughes notes that the dinner “gets clients out to experience the destination.” This 2-part experience includes a meal at the hotel on the first day, and an excursion to the farm that the food came from on the following day. “It’s a great way to meet Hawaii’s local farmers, sample fresh produce, and see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state—that aren’t in any guidebooks,” points out Hughes.
Travaasa Hana on Maui offers a couple of culinary-focused packages, as well, including a Healthy Regional Cuisine experience that has guests learning about Hawaii’s traditional foods and the islands’ diverse ethnic flavors; guests will try their hand at cooking some of the islands’ local delicacies. The Four Seasons Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu has a menu of epicurean options, too, including the Chef’s Counter, set inside the kitchen of the Beach Tree beachside restaurant—which has the feel of a Hawaiian beach house—where participants interact with the chefs, create a menu and cook up a meal.
“There’s an authentic sense of excitement for these special dining experiences,” notes Hughes, “not just for visitors but for locals as well.”
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa: kauai.hyatt.com
Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau: agents.gohawaii.com