Figuring we’d be a little jet lagged, I had the concierge at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea book us a 2-hour snorkeling tour to Molokini Crater with a 6:30 a.m. start time. After all, that’s 9:30 a.m. in California. Kai Kanani is their tour company of choice likely for a launch point close to the hotel, cheery service, onboard luxury and the staff’s robust knowledge of the ocean. Plus, we were the first and only boat at Molokini Crater this early in the morning.
With no wake-up call required and fuel from a little room service, we hopped in our rental car for the five minute or so drive to the Makena Beach and Golf Resort, the catamaran’s launch point.
Finding the resort proved easy even before sunrise. We pulled up to the complimentary valet and then the concierge directed us to the beach where we’d check in and board the boat. As we were walking down the resort’s outdoor paths, the sun was just starting to peak over the horizon revealing our catamaran out at sea.
Except, this wasn’t your average day out in the ocean. With Hawaii feeling the brunt of Pacific hurricanes and another hundreds of miles away threatening wind and rain, the ocean was choppier than usual. Which means loading a catamaran in larger-than-normal surf proved a bit difficult. Rather than calmly wading through say knee-deep water to the boat, we were instructed to strip down to our bathing suits and pack all belongings into trash bags (which is why I don’t have any “before” photos).
The catamaran reversed to near shore and back out again on repeat in between sets of waves during the high-adrenaline boarding process. Expert staff guided soaked passengers on to the catamaran like it was just an average day on the job. Maybe it was, but it getting on the boat was surely exhilarating and generated tons of passenger laughter—especially from my 8-year-old.
It was smooth sailing once past the break. Guests settled in while nibbling on a continental breakfast during the 3-mile or so ride out to the crater while staff covered safety, snorkeling basics and a little trivia about the crater in a witty, casual manner.
All gear necessary for snorkeling was provided including masks in a variety of lens strengths to suit those who wear prescription glasses. Waist floats and boogie boards rounded out the offerings. My daughter and I started off with both but eventually ditched the boogie boards as we kept crashing into each other—clumsy snorkelers that we are—but they are certainly helpful for unstable or tired swimmers. By the way, knowing how to swim isn’t a requirement for this tour because of the safety gear, calm water and expertise of the crew.
The benefit to such an early morning tour is that we were the ONLY boat at the crater. As you can see in the top photo, multiple boats turn up throughout the day which means literally hundreds of people will snorkel around you. I can’t imagine being in the water with that many people. Molokini Crater looks larger in the photo than it feels in real lilfe. You are also not able to set foot on the crater as it is a protected bird sanctuary. This means the scenery above the water is equally beautiful.
The water is extremely clear (they say up to 150 feet), but I’d recommend a long GoPro stick for underwater photos as it is also deep. The black triggerfish cooperated for photos by staying near the surface. Don’t be misled by my photos… there are so many fish to see including parrotfish, yellow tang (pictured below), Moorish idol, raccoon butterflyfish and more that my short camera handle couldn’t capture. Sometimes eels and white tip sharks can be seen, too. The fish are certainly not shy when it comes to close contact with snorkelers, however.
The ride back to Makena beach was very smooth. Unloading proved less dramatic than boarding and everyone appeared to have enjoyed the journey.
Shave ice is sold at the activity hut near where we departed Kai Kanani. Even though it wasn’t yet 9:00 a.m., with all of the swimming, I figured she deserved a big heap of it.
Unfortunately, Turtle Town was removed from our agenda because the tropical storms created poor visibility in the area. Not only would turtles and other sea life be difficult to spot, but sharks in murky water may mistake humans for tasty turtle meat. The upshot is that we spent more time snorkeling around Molokini Crater. Even without Turtle Town (and, I do love turtles) this tour was still very, very worthwhile. We’ll just have to do it again.
If you are even the slightest bit prone to sea sickness, I would suggest taking a Dramamine or similar before boarding the tour. Not only because of the boat but I felt tiny bit of nausea in the water because my body was swaying back and forth with currents. One tablet later and I was fine. My daughter gets motion sickness though and was totally fine for the entire trip.
A total of $133.33 inclusive of taxes and fees for one adult and one child was billed to my room at Four Seasons. I would call it money well-spent and highly recommend the morning Molokini Express tour with Kai Kanani. Book with them and be the first boat to Molokini Crater.
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Have you been snorkeling around Molokini Crater?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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