by Ann Shepphird | October 26, 2016

True to its moniker “the gathering place,” the island of Oahu holds the majority of the meeting venues in Hawaii. On my recent trip to the island, I was happy to find a renewed focus on Hawaiian history and culture at many of those venues. From the new cultural exhibits at the Hawaii Convention Center and the history wall at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu to the focus on Hawaiian language and traditions at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, and the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina to the Polynesian Cultural Center’s continued updating of its shows, new options abound for meeting planners looking to add a cultural element.

Having attended the opening of the Hawaii Convention Center 18 years ago, it’s always fun for me to stop by and see what’s new. This year, that included three new cultural exhibits presented by AEG Facilities, which is now managing the center. The exhibits highlighted the history of the slack key guitar, the sport of surfing and Hawaii’s high chief Kekuhaupio. AEG Facilities and the Hawaii Convention Center have also partnered with the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative to plant 1 million new koa trees on the island of Hawaii.

Over at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach, which is celebrating its 55th anniversary, a new history wall traces the area’s roots from ancient fishing village to full-service destination resort—and one that has hosted celebrities from Elvis to the stars of “Hawaii Five-O.” In fact, the show will feature the hotel hosting a fictional meeting (and a team-building event at that) that is scheduled to air in December.

I also found the Hawaii Five-O crew during a visit to the Ko’olau Ballrooms & Conference Center on Oahu’s eastern shore, which features meeting space for groups of up to 740 and a top-rated golf course. Farther north, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers a variety of space for groups large and small.

Over in the expanding Ko Olina development on Oahu’s western shore, the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina opened this year following an extensive renovation. The resort can collaborate with Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, next door for larger group events, including the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s sold-out Foodtopia event, which will be held on October 29. Both hotels offer unique cultural offerings—the Four Seasons through its #FSWayfinders series, showcasing art, culture and history through visiting local artists, while Aulani’s ‘Olelo lounge celebrates the Hawaiian language.