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How to Book Activities & Tours in Hawaii

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Are you  going to book activities and tours while in Hawaii? Being a good consumer when planning your Hawaii vacation can save you time, money and frustration, and ensure that all your memories of Maui are great. Good consumerism can apply to anything, and making a reservation for doing an activity or taking a tour excursion in Hawaii is no exception.  Here are some tips for travelers from the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. You can get this and much more information from DCCA at their web site.

travel agencyThere are a few different ways to book an activity:

  • Direct with the tour operator–You can usually call the tour company directly to book or make a reservation online.
  • With an activity desk or hotel concierge–These are the booths or desks you see in the lobby or around town. Activity desks can also sell tours online.
  • With a travel agent–These are agencies that also sell other kinds of travel services, like cruises or airline fares. They might be location-based or online.
  • As a discounted or free gift after having attended a sales presentation–These are activity desks that also ask you to attend a time share or other pitch in order to claim your reservation.

Who Can Operate an Activity Desk?
The State of Hawaii regulates activity desks, and an activity desk must obtain a registration from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affair’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division before it can operate. You can find out if a company is properly registered as an activity desk at the CCA web site or by calling (808) 587-4272.

What Information Are You Entitled To?

An activity desk must clearly display the name and telephone number of the activity provider whose activity is being booked or sold. And, an
activity desk provider must disclose to you, in writing, if a discount offered for an activity requires you to first attend a sales presentation.

What Should You Look for Before You Book Directly With an Operator or a Desk?

An activity desk should be able to provide the following information, or get the information if they don’t have it immediately handy:

  • Where the excursion or activity is located and figure out how you’re going to get there
  • Where you will need to meet and whether transportation to the site is included
  •  What’s included in the cost, and if there additional fees like equipment rental or meals
  • If the activity is appropriate for you, and you meet the restrictions or requirements the operator may impose. Assess whether you are able to meet the physical demands of the activity. Some high adventure activities may not be appropriate for pregnant women or individuals with certain health issues.
  • What the cancellation policy is.  Be sure you understand it. Make sure you understand under what conditions a refund may be available.

 Pro Tips:

Be wary of deals that require you to book 60 days in advance. (Most credit card companies will only allow you to dispute a charge within 60 days of purchase.)
Ask if there are any limitations on what you can bring. Plan ahead if purses, handbags,or backpacks are not allowed.
Ask if you can bring your camera and if you can take pictures or video. If not, ask if pictures will be available for purchase.
Stay cool, drink plenty of water and don’t forget reef-safe sunscreen.

Bringing Generations Closer

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We’re often asked what the minimum age is for the classic rappel tour, as families with active children enjoy the prospect of creating memories on Maui with their children. Rappelling and outdoor activities are great for bringing multi-generational families together.  Some children and teens even decide, after taking their rappel tour, that canyoneering is their new sport of choice. The outdoors rock!

The minimum age for the Rappel Maui classic tour is 10, with a minimum weight of 70 lbs, and a minimum waist measurement of 22″.   “What’s the maximum age?” one guest asked over the phone.  For the classic tour, we don’t necessarily have one, and  during the summer of 2017, an 81-year-old man completed a Rappel Maui tour with his family of two generations. He was not the slowest or the least graceful person on the course, and he went out for a nice dinner afterward. Renaissance man, indeed.

Whatever your activity level and appetite for adventure,  there’s probably an outdoor activity on Maui for you to discover. Thank goodness it’s a jungle out there.  Call us to discuss your multi-generational outing or ask about a senior discount.

 

When is the Best Time to Visit Maui?

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Many travelers and explorers know that, when visiting a new place, timing is everything. The best time to visit Maui depends on what you’re most interested in experiencing. According to some experts, the best time to visit Maui is NOW.

Here’s a rough guide to what happens on Maui, when.

If You Want to See Whales
These big, beautiful creatures begin arriving sometime in October, and wow us with their gigantic displays until April or even May (for those who didn’t get the memo.) You can catch the water aerobics and synchronized swimming from shore, often without using binoculars. If you want to get up close and personal, take a whale watch tour, or paddle out in a kayak or outrigger canoe. You can even spot these big beauties from a helicopter or small airplane.

If You Like Warmer Temperatures–or Not
Some like it hot. If that’s you, visit during the months of August or September; those are typically the months with the hottest average temperatures. January and February are usually cooler. Note that, because of Maui’s varied topography and the way that the mountains effect the weather patterns, there are places in Maui that stay warm all year round (Kihei, Wailea and Lahaina), and places where the nighttime temperatures can dip down into the 40s during winter time (Makawao, Kula and the Haleakala summit). There are even times where there’s a fine dusting of snow at the very tip of Mount Haleakala, which is at 10,000 feet above sea level.

If You Want to Catch the Trade Winds
If you’ve spent any time at all in the islands, you’ve heard of Maui’s two types of wind, kona winds and tradewinds. The trades are from the northeast, blow during most of the year, and keep things nice and temperate. These winds are more common April through October. The kona winds blow from the south or southwest, and usually bring with them a cloud of vog from Hawaii Island. Vog is the volcano gas from the Kiluea volcano across the channel, and can cause a hazy air quality. These winds are more common during the fall and winter months.

If You Want to Miss the Stormy Season
From June to November, there’s an uptick in tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Central and South Pacific. While it’s rare to encounter direct hurricane landfall in the Hawaiian Islands, foul weather bands bringing heavy rains can stretch out, reaching parts or all of Maui as the hurricanes pass by. These rains are usually short-lived, but bring with them the threat of flash flooding. That means that streams, rivers and gulches can swell unexpectedly and surprisingly quickly with dangerously swift and high waters. Don’t go unguided and unaccompanied on hikes along stream beds, even if they’re dry. It’s common for visitors and locals alike to become stranded or much worse by flash flood activity. This video is an accurate example of how easy it is to become a victim of changing conditions. Remember, the weather overhead does not always dictate water levels; it’s often the weather you can’t see, miles away that decides whether you need to be airlifted to safety. When active storms near Hawaii are sending big wave swells our way, be aware of breaking waves and rip tides when swimming in the ocean. Listen to the lifeguards and heed the red flags that may be posted on the beach warning of dangerous shore break–they really mean it.

If You Want to Miss the Crowds
There’s a dramatic drop in visitor activity in September, just after the high season finishes reaching its peak in August. This nice, quiet period lasts until the fall holidays. Other relatively low activity periods are January and April, with the busiest season being the summer months. These lull periods are great times to visit the island, as the weather is pleasant, and its easier to make reservations for tours and restaurants. Most tour operators even offer generous discounts during the slower seasons.

If You Want to Experience a Celebrity Sighting
During the holiday seasons, it’s common to see one of Maui’s famous residents or homeowners casually enjoying the aloha spirit in towns like Paia or Wailea.  Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Steven Tyler, Oprah and many other legends make Maui their home for at least a portion of the year. Sometimes you can catch an impromptu number or two from the likes of Willie Nelson or Mick Fleetwood during a live music set. You can also catch surfing celebs like Kai Lenny, Bethany Hamilton, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and a whole cast of surfing royalty doing what they love.

If You Want to Witness the Beauty of one of the Most Remote Places on Earth
Come anytime! There is no bad time to take in the natural wonder that is The Valley Isle. From rainforest to desert, and from hanging ten to beachcombing with an umbrella drink, there is ample opportunity to experience island time.  Safe travels!

Where’s What on Maui

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You’ve probably noticed that, even though it’s a smallish island, getting directions around Maui can be somewhat confusing if you’re a first-timer who’s unfamiliar with the towns and unique directional cues you’ll get from locals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to catch on to what’s where and how to get there.

Cardinal Directions

First off, north/south/east/west are infrequently used, unless someone is referring to the sides of the island.  You’re more likely to hear island directional cues like mauka, makai and upcountry. To go in the “mauka” direction means to go away from the ocean; going “makai” means to go toward the ocean. “Upcountry” is the area at higher elevations up Mount Haleakala.

There are also leeward and windward mentions, but this is usually in relation to weather patterns. When Maui’s tradewinds are blowing, Hana, Kahului, Makawao, Wailuku, Kapalua, and Napili are on the island’s windward side; Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Lahaina, and Ka’anapali are located on the island’s leeward side.

Where You’ll Find What

  • Kahului is in Central Maui, at the isthmus of the island between East and West Maui; it’s where the Kahului (OGG) airport is.
  • Maalaea is where one of Maui’s harbors and the aquarium are located. It’s also near the park & ride lot where we meet you before your tour.
  • Lahaina is on the west side, along with Kaanapali–a long stretch of resorts, beaches and shops.
  • Kihei, Wailea and Makena are on the south side.
  • Makawao, Pukalani, Kula and part of Haiku are all upcountry towns.
  • Paia, Sprecklesville and part of Haiku are on what’s referred to as the North Shore.
  • Because of its remote perch at the very end of the eastern coast, Hana is…Hana.

Where the Streets Have Long Names: A Pronunciation Guide to Maui’s Places

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One thing that first-time visitors to Hawaii mention are the seemingly complicated Hawaiian names found on street signs and maps.  Be assured: there’s a way to get through words that look like vowel soup.

Look for the okina or break up long words with lots of vowels.

An ‘okina is a character that resembles an apostrophe or a tiny, upside down, superscript 6. It marks a very brief pause between the syllables of a word, a sound you can hear in the word “uh-oh,” for example.  (This is also called, for you grammar nerds out there, a glottal stop.) Pronouncing the vowel and consonant sounds separated by the ‘okina allows you to break down the word into shorter, simpler parts, but you can also do this with longer words in which there is no ‘okina. This is also useful for when the ‘okina is absent from traffic and street signs.

Look for vowel pairs and syllable couples

Note that some vowel pairs are not pronounced separately, but together as one sound, unless they are separated by an okina.  “Au,” (pronounced like “ow”)  “ei” (pronounced “ay”) and “ae” (usually pronounced “eye”) are such pairs (called a diphthong).

Practice with common names

Try this method with some of these street names and cities:

Mokulele–broken up into 4 parts is easy to pronounce phonetically:  Moe-koo-LAY-lay
Honoapiilani–broken up into 7 parts is pronounced: Ho-no-ah-pee-ee-LA-knee
Kaahumanu–is another 5 part word:  Ka-ah-hu-MAH-noo
Hookele–broken into 4 parts, with the stop happening between the two Os:  Ho-oh-KAY-lay
Haleakala–broken into 5 parts: Ha-lay-ah-kah-LA

Kihei–very simply, in 2 parts: KEY-hay
Kaanapali–properly pronounced in five parts, with the stop between the As, but commonly pronounced in four parts, without the stop between the two As: KA-nah-PAW-lee (or ka-AH-nah-PAW-lee if you honor the okina)

Note that the emphasis on some words will vary from person to person, just as with words in other languages. Often the authentic pronunciation differs from the casual dialect that has evolved over time. You’ll also hear some widely accepted pronunciations of Hawaiian words that are incorrect, but most locals use them. One such example is Hali’imaile.  The way that you’ll most likely hear it pronounced is “HIGH-lee-MY-lee.”

Most Important: It’s OK to slow down

Remember, while you’re driving around Maui, that slowing down to read those long street names is OK. Speed limits are low, and if you’re on vacation, a change of pace is probably why you’re here. Take your time, both driving, and “talking story.” Discover the island with aloha and be safe.  Welcome!

How Does Weather Affect a Rappel Maui Tour?

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WHEN IS THE WEATHER WET IN HAWAII?

Some recent weather history on the Hawaiian Islands: the summer of 2015 was a very active one. It marked one of the strongest El Niño patterns in recorded history, which meant that warmer water temperatures along the equator brought higher numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes across the Pacific Ocean. El Niño was blamed for other strange weather patterns on the mainland that winter. There was flooding in some parts of the world, and severe drought conditions in others well into the spring of 2016. Here in Hawaii, the storm activity that crept across the Central Pacific made for noticeably wet weather. In 2016, that spring and summer never dried up; the moderate to heavy rains continued for the rest of the year, with some areas of the island receiving twice as much rain as usual. In early 2017, the weather began to settle into a more normal pattern; however, the weather in the rainforest is very unpredictable. If you are wondering what the weather is going to be like during your scheduled tour date, you may have to wait until 48 hours before your tour, unless a larger front, system or tropical storm is forecast. Also keep in mind, weather can vary wildly from shore to shore. It’s common for the weather in Kaanapali to be dramatically different from the weather in Haiku.  We can tell you how much rain has fallen or is expected at the activity site within the next few days.

WHAT DO WE DO WHEN IT RAINS?

A near-falls descent.

When heavy rain falls over the northern part of the island, it impacts Rappel Maui tours in a few ways.  We operate rain or shine, and we tell all of our guests to expect at least a little rain, even if it’s a few minutes of mist. There is frequently rain in the rainforest, and it’s evident from how lush and green the surroundings are at the activity location that is just a few miles from one of the wettest parts of the island: Hana. If heavy rains or prolonged periods of steady rains cause the streams to swell to levels that are unsafe for swimming, we operate the classic tour on a normal schedule and use alternative rappel stations that are a safe distance from the water course. Sometimes those stations are right next to the waterfall flow, ending in the ponds, and other times, when the falls are roaring and raging, we use jungle walls and cliffs that are farther away from the stream flow. The times when we do not operate due to weather is when extreme conditions cause road closures, landslides or widespread outages.

SAFETY FIRST

The main role of your guides is to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable day. Safety is their first priority, and a generous portion of their attention is spent on looking out for one of the least forgiving dangers of rappelling: flash flooding. There are times when the water in the streams is not high or swift, and there’s blue sky above. Danger is not obvious to the average guest, but the guides opt to use rappel stations not directly in the water course. What gives? The local papers are full of accounts of visitors and locals alike getting stranded–or much worse–after seemingly safe conditions turned ugly within the period of a few seconds. When guests ask guides what made them veer from the preference of using the waterfalls, there’s usually a good reason based on ground saturation, the weather upstream, and river gauge readings taken before the tour began. Guides don’t take chances with your safety or theirs; if invisible dangers change your tour, and you’re unsatisfied or concerned, please call the reservations line to talk about your personal experience.  And if you’re ever interested in seeing for yourself what can happen when untrained explorers are caught off guard, this video and accompanying story is an excellent cautionary tale.

 

Adding Vocation to Your Vacation

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It’s easy to call a place like Maui paradise. It’s a warm, sunny climate with stunning scenery everywhere, and blue waters teeming with sea life. Even so, Maui is home to populations of people, animals, plants and places that need help.  If you’ve ever wanted to make your vacation about something more than recreation and relaxation, there are lots of activities that are interesting, stimulating, rewarding, fun AND give back to the communities that are often underserved or land in the shadows of big tourism.  Because #themoreyouknow…

IF YOU’RE AN ANIMAL LOVER

You can take a shelter dog to the beach for a day of out-of-the-kennel-and-into-the-sunshine fun by way of the Beach Buddies program at Maui Humane Society.  Because Maui has a limited adoption pool and pet overpopulation problem in an isolated and remote place on the globe, animals can wait a long time to find their forever homes.  Not only can you have a Maui dog for a day, you can also visit Maui’s cutest critters at the shelter, volunteer your time at one of MHS’s free spay/neuter clinics or stop by to take a tour and make a donation. Everything helps. Learn more.

IF YOU WANT TO END HUNGER

Maui’s COSTCO is one of the busiest locations in the United States.  When doors open at 10 AM, there’s often a line of people waiting that stretches out into the parking lot.  Because many COSTCO purchases are big purchases at a great value, many visitors end up with more food than they can consume during their time on Maui. There are multiple food drop off locations for you to donate unopened, non-perishable foods to Maui Food Bank. Learn more.

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE THROUGHOUT THE ISLANDS

Charity Walk happens every May, and raises millions of dollars for charitable organizations all around Hawaii.

IF YOU LOVE READING OR MOVIES

Did you know that Maui has only one major book retailer on the island? You can make media and materials more accessible for all by donating any books, magazines, DVDs and other media that you’re not taking home with you to one of the three used bookstores operated by Maui Friends of the Library.  There’s even a super convenient location where you can donate and shop at the Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului. Learn more.

IF YOU LOVE THE OCEAN

Visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei on your way to South Maui’s beautiful beaches. Not only will you learn more about the weather, the ocean and undersea life, you’ll have a beautiful view of the water and Haleakala. Learn more.

On the third Saturday of each month, you can join the Surfrider Foundation and a collection of Maui’s community groups to conduct Beach Cleanups. Learn more.

IF YOU WERE ON VACATION WITH CHILDREN

Did you buy toys, beach toys and larger or bulky baby/child supplies that you know you’re not able to pack? Donate these items to a Goodwill donation drop. There are four donation center collection centers to serve Maui. Learn more.

If you’re not able to give your time, talent or treasure to the places you visit, you can always do your part by limiting your environmental impact on the places you do visit.

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Follow signs and instructions when visiting natural preserves.
  • Don’t walk or step on reefs.
  • Don’t bother or touch wildlife/sea life. Leave turtles and seals on the beaches alone. (There is a fine waiting for you if you don’t.)
  • Dispose of your garbage responsibly.
  • Respect the culture.
  • Bring or buy reusable shopping bags.
  • Respect park and private property boundaries.
  • Instead of using chemical blocks like sunscreen that bleaches and kills the coral reefs, use clothing and swimwear to protect your skin from the sun.
  • And, best of all, educate yourself on the challenges that face the places you love, even if you don’t live there. The problems that Hawaii faces are just like the ones you might know from your mainland hometown, but are often exacerbated by occurring in one of the most remote places in the world.

The Hawaiian Island chain contains some of the most extensive coral reefs found in the world. They are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Let’s keep Hawaii beautiful so that you and many future generations will be able to appreciate it again and again.

Choosing a Rappel Maui Tour

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Now there are two tours to choose from: The Classic Rappel Tour and the Extreme Zip Rappel Tour. Not sure which tour is right for you? Compare tours below, or call us at 808-445-6407 or chat with us online to tell us exactly what you’re looking for, including the availability of private custom tours.

 Classic Rappel TourExtreme Zip Rappel Tour
DurationApprox. 6.5 hoursApprox. 8 hours
Number of Rappels34 or more
Waterfall Rappels?
(Water level permitting)
YesYes
Lunch Included?YesYes
Climbing Included?NoYes
Weight RestrictionMinimum 70 lbs, maximum 250 lbs. Waist must measure between 22 and 54 inches.Minimum 80 lbs, maximum 230 lbs. Waist must measure between 22 and 54 inches.
Intended for Ages10 and up14 to 65
Price Per Person$219 plus tax$279 plus tax
Days OfferedDailyThree tours per week

What is Rappelling, Anyway?

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q&a

Aloha!  In this Question and Answer post, you’ll find out what rappelling is.  We’re happy to discuss it, especially since most of our guests are unfamiliar, and we like to welcome first-timers to the sport whenever possible.

What is Rappelling?

Rappelling is the practice of using ropes, a harness, belay device and other equipment to descend a steep terrain. It’s an important part of climbing, caving and canyoneering–the exploration of canyons.  There are a few kinds of rappelling styles. The kind that you’ll perform during a Rappel Maui tour is either:

A standard rappel, during which a person lowers herself down vertical terrain with her back toward the ground and her feet in contact with the rock, and walks down while letting the rope slide through the  device. (The angle of the rope through the device determines the speed of the descent.) Here’s where you can learn more about the standard rappels you’ll do during the Classic Rappel Tour.

OR,

A free rappel–we also refer to this as a “zip” rappel, during which the climber slides down the rope through free space between the rope’s two anchors. In the case of a Rappel Maui zip rappel, the high end of the rope is attached to the top of a jungle wall near the top of the waterfall, while the other end is attached to an underwater surface in the pool below. Thus the rappeller makes a rapid descent down the rope from the top of the cliff and zips down into the water, which slows her to a stop.  You can learn more about the standard and free rappels you’ll do during the Extreme Zip Rappel Tour.

Do You Still Have Questions About What a Tour is Like, and Whether it’s for You?

We’re here!  You can call us at 808-445-6407. You can email us at dropoff@rappelmaui.com. Or you can chat with us from your computer or mobile device.

Take a Holiday Rappel or Any Day During #Aloha365

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Planning your trip to Maui during one of the major US holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July or Memorial Day? Wondering if you can Santa visits Rappel Mauibreak the routine of spending the day making turkey dinner and doing something totally unique and wild instead? Fear not!

A Rappel Maui tour is one of the activities on Maui that delivers just the thing every day of the year. You can call it a commitment or convenience. We call it #Aloha365.

And because the major US holidays are a little quieter than most other days, your chances are greater of joining a smaller tour group size. Make the holiday memory of a lifetime by asking Santa Claus for a waterfall adventure. In fact, Santa spends a few days with us every year, brushing up on his rappelling skills just in case he delivers gifts down an especially tricky chimney.